Posted by: Lydia | January 15, 2011

¡Fitzcarralodo Vuelve!

Matt and I returned from a 16 day vacation in Nueva Yol this Saturday, and in a single epic day of traveling, managed to get from the very appropriately named JFK airport in NYC to our site, which in my opinion is the furthest place possible from Santo Domingo in the country, in a mere 14-and some hours.

Our trip home was a perfect reminder of many of the reasons why I simultaneously love this country yet am often extremely frustrated with its inherent dysfunctionality (it is, after all, the developing world). We blazed through customs without so much as a by-your-leave and arrived very cheaply thanks to a pre-arranged ride with a friend of a friend (technically against the rules since he isn’t a licensed airport taxi) in downtown Santo Domingo with enough time to hit up the office before catching the last bus out to our site. Utter lack of concern about rules and regulations and the awesomely ubiquitous Dominican informal economy totally working for me here.
We get to the bus station and, of course, the last bus that day to our far, far side of the country is completely sold out. No other bus goes anywhere close that day, and the other bus company’s last guaguas to the region have already departed. Lack of sufficient public transport, not to mention decent roads to our site, kind of getting me down here. Fortunately, now that I have lived in this country for 10 months, I know that the rules really don’t apply quite as strictly as a gringo Americano would normally think, so I put on my desperate and irascible gringa act and beg the driver and his helper to let us on the bus, telling them how our campo is so far and they are our only option, etc etc. It turns out the driver lives in the last stop on the line (our stop), as does his female helper, they know all about where we live (our town has a reputation in the region as being a huge pain in the culo to get to) and after some finagling they agree to sell us standing room seats despite the bus company’s policy against this (they really try and keep up appearances of NOT being like the other, more ghetto bus company, Transporte del Cibao, where you can take your goat on the bus if you want and there is always, ALWAYS room for one more).

Bueno. So here we are, standing on the bus, thinking that we are going to spend the next 7 hours parado but hey at least we are going to get home that night. Two men in the back row who are engaged in rapidly emptying a bottle of scotch wave us over (excellent, we thought.. we have to stand here AND talk to these borrachos the whole time), but no, they just want to give us their seats because they say we look tired. At the beginning of my service I would have thought that this was a clear attempt to try and rob us once we fell asleep, but now that I know how baggage is stowed on these buses (there is no way of telling whose is whose) I know that these guys are actually just being nice (contrary to popular belief, not everyone in a country poorer than America is a ladron), and we got to catch up on some sleep.

We get to our stop and lo and behold, our other pre-arranged ride is there, proving once again that in this country you really can rely much more on personal relationships than so-called professionals. This is extremely frustrating when you are new in the country, or trying to work in a new region or with folks or organizations you are interacting with for the first time, but once you get the hang of it, doing business informally or personally can be a lot of fun.. maybe even charming.
In other news, our cat made it out of our absence very much alive and well thanks to the efforts of our saint of a landlady and neighbor, Chila. Sure, most of the other work we left with people was lost or forgotten (I mean what do you expect, it was Christmas), but the one thing I really cared about; my cat, made it through fine.



  1. Glad she is good! 🙂

  2. I am so glad your kitty is still there! I bet she missed you both. Sounds like you sure know how to get around. Stay well. Love you guys! Mom

  3. Glad you made it home and the kitty survived your absence. Hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends.

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