Posted by: Lydia | March 15, 2010

A post for March 11th

Entrena has been progressing at a breakneck pace this week, particularly by Dominican standards. After initially being placed in the second highest Spanish class (with folks who majored in Spanish and lived in Spanish-speaking countries.. mind you I have only had maybe six months of instruction) due to my incredible ability to bullshit en español (no, make that any language) on any subject with my fairly limited vocabulary, I elected to move down a level to work more on my grammar. It’s one thing to be able to understand mas o menos todos that your teacher says, and quite another to be able to respond with any semblance of elegant speech. Anyways, both Matthew and I are now perfectly placados in the appropriate classes, at least for the next two weeks until we take another language placement test.

On Wednesday we had the dubious pleasure of our first visit to central Santo Domingo, a lovely colonial area made miserable by the fact that it is a major tourist destination. I know I sound like a spoiled, nariz parada gringita for saying so, particularly because so much of the Dominican economy relies on tourist dollars, but I hate having to be in a place with a bunch of other extranjeros feos with people aggressively shilling crap souvenirs and jacked-up prices.

On our way back I had a mini-confrontation with a most aggressive cobrador (the assistant to a guaga driver.. guaguas being the public minibuses). But first, a Dominican cultural primer:

The Dominican Republic has a cultura muy fuerte of Machismo, and therefore all women here are subject to a constant barrage of Piropos, or catcalls (literally, compliments). Most of them (the piropos), though annoying and very offensive to those of us who grew up post feminist-revolution in the United States, are pretty harmless, and really more for the benefit of the men saying them in order to impress his friends and protect his machismo. Some are particularly hilarious, por ejemplo:

“¡Cuántas curvas y yo sin frenos!” (All those curves and I don’t have brakes!)


“¡Como avanza la tecnología que hasta la flores caminan!” (What technological advances, even flowers walk!)

Normally I don’t get too many verbal comments since I walk with Matthew almost everywhere, and saying something about your woman while you are present implies fightin’ words indeed (I do get eye f**ked all the time, but then again everyone in the DR stares at everyone since it isn’t considered rude here, and we DO look out of place, especially in the barrio).

Anyway, at this particular moment in the city, I had to take a separate carro publico (ghetto ass taxi… a sedan that you squeeze seven people into) with one of my compañeras flacas instead of Matthew to get to the guagua station, (ok not station, particular street corner where the guaguas we needed congregate) since Matt and I couldn’t both fit in the space left in the car. Without the protection of mi gringo grande, my amiga flaca and I were treated to a logorrhea of piropos medio caliente (a little more sexual than “hola americana bonita”) from a cobrador wearing a “Bada Bing!” (do they get the Sopranos here?) t-shirt until we and our (female) teachers yelled at him to lay off, en español. Usually confrontation isn’t necessary, and it is a very poor idea to respond to piropos in any fashion, even negatively, unless someone really gets in your grill. Responding can either be seen as an invitation (no means yes) or provoke a situation further, however the funniest part of this particular situation was that after we all yelled at him he asked, as if he had never spoken to us before and with the respect accorded to Doñas of 70 years old, if we wanted to take his guagua.

Typical. At any rate, fortunately his guagua wasn’t on our route so we piled into another and started our long, filthy ride back to the burbs. I must admit I was much more comfortable on that guagua than anywhere in the tourist area, and I am already losing my concept of personal space (sitting with three other people I don’t know in the back of a carro publico? ¡No es un problema!). It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to those things, particularly when you spend most of your time in a beautifully kept garden under a Carribean sky taking interesting classes.

Speaking of interesting, I learned how to play Dominican dominos today, and after an initial struggle with the strategy I cleaned house. I see much incorporation of jugando dominos into my work in my future here…..

Our Doña and I continue to bond, and creeping heat rash aside, things están continuando muy suave.



  1. So, what did you women yell back at the cobrador to make him cease and desist the piropos? (Boy, I hadn’t heard that word since I was in college!)

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