Posted by: Lydia | August 7, 2010

Dajabon Market

Like any border town worth its rough-and-tumble reputation, our regional capital Dajabon is host to a fabulously filthy, chaotic, sprawling, and most importantly cheap market. This is where Matt, Claire (our closest volunteer), our indefatigable host mom Nelis and I spent our Monday trying to outfit our new houses on a PCV budget. Ever wonder what became of those 30 old t-shirts you donated to earthquake relief for Haiti? They ended up here, getting hawked by an intrepid Haitian entrepreneur who carries them across the border in a giant bucket on her head twice a week. In addition to the overstock from Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul’s being sold under a tarp scavenged from a USAID shipment, this market has available to the discerning consumer jeans sporting an unimaginable amount of butt bling (yes, I will be returning for some after my bank account recovers from this outing), t-shirts so tacky and be-dazzled they would make the cast of Jersey Shore blush, and every single kind of sketchy, off-brand chinese-manufactured pharmaceutical known to man….. available for purchase by the pill.

The real hilarity of this market lies in the extremely, often bizarrely aggressive vendors… particularly the ones who sell underwear. I mean.. I can understand being pushy about selling a couple of American women an entire wheelbarrow full of maxi-pads (sanitary products can be hard to come by in the developing world), however the fact that at least six women forcefully tried to sell me 20-packs of boys’ underwear is baffling, particularly after I explained (in Kreyol) that I didn’t want them because I don’t have kids. But hey.. why not excessively prepare for the future?

The most hilarious underwear-related incident happened just as we were leaving the market, when in order to get a woman selling boxer-briefs to lay off Matt, Claire told her that he didn’t wear them. I chimed in and told her that he had never used underwear as long as I had known him, and the saleslady gave us a huge grin, a wink, and sauntered off. Whether she was more amused/impressed by the fact that Matt didn’t wear underwear or that both of the ladies accompanying him knew that, we’ll never know, but we did learn that having some kind of outlandish story about why you don’t want a product is the best way to get vendors to lay off the hard sell.

Shortly afterwards a brutal fistfight broke out between a guy selling giant wicker baskets and a random passerby, and we decided it was time to get the hell back to the campo. The guagua we caught home was so incredibly decrepit that when it drove diagonally over speed-bumps to keep from bottoming out we could feel the floor flexing in a way that I don’t think is or should be physically possible. I’m pretty sure the axles themselves were held together with duct tape.

Later that evening, we got to witness an amazing feat of Dominican derring-do when the truck delivering our large housewares (bed, stove, fridge, etc etc) managed to back down the narrow, horrendously rutted and steep footpath to our new house. We moved to a house on the worst road in our campo (that is saying a lot), yet nevertheless these guys managed to get a good-sized moving truck ten feet from our door. Laziness can sometimes lead to amazing feats in this country.



  1. Can’t wait to see pictures!!!

  2. That story reminds me a bit of the merchants in Jerusalem’s Old City – the ONLY way they will leave you alone is if you start talking to another merchant – and sometimes not even then!

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