Not sure where to start with this one.
Woke up on a ferry from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana. Arrived at the port, went through check-in. The customs officials danced, laughed, and smiled, quite different from customs in other countries.
After getting into the city, I walked around for a while. Met some locals, exchanged some currency, bought some local foods. Numerous sweet foods.
As I continued to walk, it started to rain. I ducked into a bookshop, waited it out. Kept walking after the rain. Santo Domingo has some of the earliest Spanish colonial architecture, this was the first European city in the new world.
Kept walking. Tons of lottery places, colmados (convenience stores). The people here drive aggressively, they often even bumped into me. So far, Republica Dominicana seems to me much more like Cuba than like Puerto Rico. However, Cuba and Cubans seem to have their roughness balanced more by charisma than RD and Dominicans do.
Republica Dominicana does not seem particularly Americanized. It doesn't have the blockade/animus as Cuba does, but just doesn't seem to have much American culture. I've seen a handful of shops, including a Payless shoe store and some fast food chains. There's almost no public wifi here, unlike America with its chains, or Cuba with its government spots.
In China Town, which I was surprised to find in Santo Domingo, I had some Chinese pastries. In other neighborhoods, I looked at the architectures, stores, and other components of the city.
Walking further, I ran into a bicycle "respuestos" stand, a handful of people hanging out on the sidewalk with a bunch of bikes and parts. I've seen numerous "respuestos" places here, which I hadn't seen elsewhere, it seems like a Dominican variant of "reparaciones" (repairs), a word which I've also seen on a few stands here. Since I had waited in San Juan to do repairs until seeing if I could take the bike on the ferry (I could, but for $20 which is more than I paid for the bike!), I decided to replace the rear wheel.
The mechanic set to work. Hacking together a rim from parts of my old rim and parts of another rim, the process took a while and seemed likely to fail. Eventually, in a roughshod way that may not hold, the bike did roll.
Satisfied with the bike repairs, I walked more casually. In a noisy neighborhood with numerous Africans, I walked down a street. After rounding a corner, I took out my phone to take some pictures. Right as I was about to start taking pictures, a motorcycle zoomed up from behind me, with two men on it. One of the men grabbed my phone. I quickly grabbed it back, the phone falling to the ground as the motorcycle sped off. The screen was slightly cracked, but it still works fine.
While I feel extremely lucky (and somewhat cool) for surviving so many encounters with criminals, disasters, and other problems, it also concerns me. People have often asked me about safety, and I often answer that there are risks anyways, so may as well go out there and take chances. I still more or less agree with that, but I'm more wary, and planning to take more precautions -- including separating where I carry my stuff further, and considering which places to visit more carefully.
Afterwards, somewhat shaken, I kept on walking. When I got hungry, I stopped at a colmado for a tomato (vegetable) and a fruit cocktail (fruit), then at a place for ice cream (protein) and cake (carbs). A complete meal!
Walked back towards the old town where my Airbnb was, taking in the sunset. Without much wifi around, and unsure whether this would turn into another Cuba where the Airbnb listings were generally inaccurate, I went to the address I had. The hosts let me in!
Someone called me "Americano" as I walked through the streets, I think referring to my walking out of the customary way. I think I also heard someone call me "ñoño" (nerd) from a crowded bus as I snapped a photo in the middle of the street, slowing them down.
Santo Domingo seems like a somewhat unpleasant, dangerous city. There are numerous import/export stores, car mechanics.
It rained on and off throughout the day. Hot sun much of the rest of the day.
These crimes seem to occur in smaller neighborhood streets, not busy commercial streets (but they probably also occur in busy commercial streets).
Prices here in RD seem generally low, maybe somewhat higher than in Cuba. Approximately, you get what you pay for (see "efficient markets hypothesis"). These poorer, more traditional societies offer low prices on products such as local foods, but they also lack infrastructure, resources, etc.
I just went to fill up my remaining water bottle (a larger container got lost in transit on the way over here). After a few refills and chugs, my Airbnb host came in. "A question. Are you drinking the water from the tap?" (in Spanish). Me: "Oh, you're not supposed to?" Actually, the tap water here tastes better to me than in Puerto Rico or Cuba, but maybe carries contaminants.
Took a shower. A small stream of cold water came out. Oh no! Actually, it felt just about right in the tropical heat.
Things often have a way of working out!
My (Caribbean) Spanish is improving. I'm now able to converse fairly fluently!