in the DR

by sarritalewis

December 30, 2010

The journey in the DR has begun.  Arrival: the 14th of December. It has been a strange type of dance re-connecting with family and trying to connect with people about this project. This has been a  period of acclimating myself to the constant sounds of traffic and what has become a mixture of foreign voices and all too familiar ones rapping away at volumes and speeds that allude me. Smells mixed with a ting of nostalgia. Trying to avoid the feeling of arrested development that overwhelms me when I find myself regressing to childhood ways that were informed by this place they call Santo Domingo.

What a paradox this place is. I am fascinated by everyone and everything. On the one hand it seems that people are warm and friendly, performing the “pure joy of life”.  On the other hand there are constant warnings that it’s dangerous, that many people will cheat you any chance they get, people stepping over one another trying to get a slice of the good life informed by western standards of wealth. Consumer culture is a live and well here.

When I walk through the city (always accompanied by a family member) there are parts that look like Miami with it’s high towered apartment buildings and helicopter landings, a small constellation of wealth on display. Tall buildings placed on alters of the highest parts of the city.  The lowest parts, it seems,have been reserved for the socio-economic bottom of the barrel. Rows of houses connected and protected from the elements with scraps of tin for roofs and dirt floors. The disparity in wealth makes me think that I am constantly traveling between two very strange and different planets that somehow still share the same language and cultural affinities like food and music.

Then “La Zona Colonial”, the oldest part of the city which is littered with several Swedish tourist at the moment. You see them from far away with their freshly burned faces and bright blond hair. The other parts of the colonial zone are residential areas which are accessorized with electric posts that look like they are about to topple over at any moment.

It seems that everywhere we go people are dancing. Bachatta is being played at street corners at decibels so high it makes the street shake. On heavily trafficked streets you find vendors of wears that range from cell phone adapters to cashew nuts, from ice cream to window washers. If you were to wait long enough any gadget, service or snack that you could imagine would be presented to you in the span of an hour.

Still trying to adjust to the different pockets of inhabited spaces, trying to immerse myself in a language that I’ve mostly forgotten. Trying hard not to feel like a tourist constantly exotifying the other.