Posted by: Matthew | May 17, 2010

05/14/2010 – La lluvia ha llegado ya.

After settling affairs at the Peace Corps offices this morning, Lydia and I walked to the US Embassy for cheeseburgers.  About the time we received our orders, the sky opened and let loose a torrential downpour.  We finished our lunch and decided to wait about 10 minutes for the rain to let up, but when it became clear that this was going to be a multi-hour episode, we decided to brave the weather and leave for our long journey to the other side of the city.  Almost immediately we were soaked through, but pushed on; wading through ankle deep torrents of rushing brown water and accumulating pools in the streets.  We were picked up by a charitable carro publico driver, who brought us as far as Maximo Gomez gratis.  We sallied once more into the breech and swam the remaining mile or so to the nearest metro station, literally wading through the wake of passing traffic.  Water surged down the sidewalk and the steps of buildings while rain accumulated in our underwear; running down our legs.  Cobradores pleaded with us to board their guaguas, if just to escape the deluge.*  Welcome to the rainy season.

Finally we made it to the station with a slight chill but high spirits.  After a disapproving grunt from one of the guards, we proceeded below ground, trailing water as we went.  We bought our tickets with a sopping 50 peso bill.  Below, as we waited for the train to arrive, we realized that our fellow travelers were perfectly dry and staring at us with a mixture of disapproval and disbelief.  We didn’t understand how this could possible, but couldn’t keep from laughing like crazy people.  It was later explained to us by our Doña Julia that most Dominicans are willing to wait out the rain under whatever shelter they find themselves when it comes for however long it takes for the weather to clear.  In this scenario, our compañeros de viaje must have been waiting in the train station for well over an hour (and would likely wait a few more).

After the train, we hitched a ride on a ramshackle guagua the rest of the way up Autopiste Duarte.  Our driver was crazier than usual, which probably explains why he was out driving in the rain in the first place, but this served to get us home faster than usual as we bypassed traffic jams with short jaunts on the sidewalk or blistering thrusts through unsuspecting neighborhoods.  We did encounter one delay as the driver decided to help another’s broken down guagua by literally pushing it down the highway with the nose of his own vehicle.**  This was very hilarious.  Shortly after pushing the little guagua off onto some side street, where it rolled happily away towards the nearest gomero, we arrived at Los Alcorrizos.  Debarking after running one last red light, we walked home, hung out our clothes to dry, and proceeded to wash the acid rain and unknown street-water contaminants off our bodies.  All in all, a fantastic day.

*In general, Dominicans tend to fear getting wet or rapid changes in body temperature.  This can include standing barefoot on room-temperature concrete after taking off your hot shoes or simply walking in the rain.   Although not entirely clear to me as of yet, I suspect it has something to do with getting sick, but the way they talk about it suggests they may fear immediate bodily harm as well.  Neither case explains the propensity for la cerveza super fria and thrice daily shockingly-cold showers.

**Lydia and I lovingly refer to this practice as a “Dominican tow-truck service.”  While the car pushing car technique is widely practiced, one shouldn’t be surprised to see a motoconchero pushing one of his compatriots with a free foot on the muffler of the disabled motorcycle.

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