The following is a series of events and thoughts that began with the intention of reading a newspaper as a means to study for an internationally recognized Spanish certification (the DELE) and serves to illustrate the random connectedness that a life of traveling provides. All within a half day.
I headed out to find a public car to go into the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo. Public cars are like taxis; actually more like buses in that they travel specific routes, and usually you’ll get to ride in a 20 year old car with at least 4 other Dominicans (not including the driver). I came to the junction in front of my barrio and a public car had just dropped off someone on the other street, he yelled to me and I said “Parque Independencia” which is a general endpoint – you can get out of the car anywhere from here to there for $0.50. He did a U-turn in the middle of a busy road.
At a good cross street to walk South to the Colonial Zone the driver asked me more specifically where I wanted to go. I said “toward Parque Independenica” and he responded “that’s far” to which I thought, “True I should just get out here.” I set out on foot South toward Colonial Zone and passed by some Colonial homes where I could feel the air conditioning flow out of an open window into the street. Air conditioning and gas street lights, and old men sitting, drinking coffee outside small “colmados” (cafe/diner/store).
I sat down at a cafe in front of the oldest Cathedral in America (Cathedral of Santa María la Menor) and started reading yesterday’s news. I chuckled to myself that “yesterday’s news” gets such a bad rap, yet to me, it holds immense value. First of all, it’s usually free, and for the purposes of learning Spanish, it’s an excellent tool. I read an article about how insurance companies in the United States are starting to use the online records of people’s lifestyles, habits, activities, diets, magazine subscriptions, gym memberships to calculate premiums. Just think if Google sold our information to an insurance company . . . despite the disutopian consequences, some of us would enjoy better premiums I suspect.
A guy sitting at the next table was speaking English, so I asked him where he was from. He told me that he’s from England, but he’s working in Haiti with the World Bank, but he’s not there now, because it’s not safe. I pointed to the front page of my (yesterday’s) newspaper and said “because of the Cholera and the Elections?” “Absolutely,” he responded. He was reading a technical article about the efficacy of Microfinance’s long term positive effects, and he encouraged me to read up on the information provided by the Center for Global Development before my trip with HOPE International this week.
I took a break from reading the newspaper. Actually, I took a walk and threw it away. I considered buying today’s news, but I’ll wait until tomorrow – when it’s free. I settled on sitting in Columbus Park (Cathedral of Santa María la Menor) and read about Screenwriting. I realized that most movies try to grab your attention in the first 10 minutes, and statistically, this is the point when the audience will stay attuned to the story, or let their mind drift.
A pigeon crapped in my book.
I suppose that further illustrates the page I was reading about “inciting” incidents. It’s the tool in movies where the story suddenly surges forward. I realized that if I was to keep the rest of these pages “pigeon free” I really should head back to get my haircut.
I picked up another public car. Only 3 of us in there this time. We were driving up over the bridge and I saw another public car waving some bills out the window. It was immediately clear to me that this other public car driver wanted some change from his friend, my driver, and what they were going to attempt to do was to make change while driving on this bridge. The bridge has two lanes, and the SUV behind us did not appreciate the slowed speed so he passed us on the left. Yes, with only two lanes. The cars got close and the driver reached into my window; I grabbed the big bill, and my driver gave him the change. Transaction complete. My driver said “thanks.”
(I realize that my mother reads this blog, and while she would prefer that I not take part in such activities, it certainly makes for a good story doesn’t it?)
I saw a small sticker on the interior of the dashboard: “D’Reyes Peliquleria” – the name of a barbershop. I get out of the public car and start walking home, and lo and behold there is “D’Reyes Peliquleria” to my right. “Sure, why not, I’ll go in. I think the mid-traffic transaction was fairly positive, and this guy is associated with the driver.”
Listening to the conversation in the barbershop, I realized, then and there that while the DELE is the internationally recognized foreign language exam for Spanish, participating in a conversation about the barber’s brother’s baseball team in a Dominican Barbership could signify the highest accreditation. See, the only part of the conversation I understood was when he pointed at the poster on the wall and said that they have a game tomorrow night at 7:30.
I walked back to the house, only 3:00 in the afternoon, and I decided to take the DELE within the year, and possibly take up the invitation to watch the barber’s brother’s baseball team sometime this week.
What a half-day.