Visiting Santo Domingo

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 07/31/2019 - 14:39

The place where I'm now staying is in the Zona Colonial (the old colonial part of town). It's near the coast, near the port where I arrived. I've seen a number of the architectural marvels. Today I plan to go out and walk around some more. I'm not generally the most interested in this type of sightseeing, but in certain circumstances I like it. Here, in the first European city in the New World, where Christopher Colombus, Hernan Cortez, and others walked, I find it particularly appealing.

In addition to the fascinating historical buildings, there are of course tons of touristy gift shops, restaurants, etc. Personally I don't find those that appealing, but I guess that some people do, and I can kind of see the appeal. Still, for food and other purchases, I often prefer to try the authentic local stuff, i.e. the stuff that doesn't say "authentic" in the marketing materials.

I've just been reading some local information provided by the Airbnb hosts, including a pamphlet in French. I've seen a number of other visitors around the old part of town, including some French-speaking tourists.

Santo Domingo does have beautiful architecture. In general I like Latin architecture (along with food, music, etc.). I think the culture has an aesthetic quality that resonates with me. Do you have any favorite cultures?

Second Day in Santo Domingo

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 07/31/2019 - 13:50

While Republica Dominicana seems to have not much in the way of public wifi hotspots, the residential internet from my Airbnb seems somewhat fast.

Another challenge and interesting part of traveling to so many countries, e.g. while island-hopping the Caribbean, is constantly having to figure out new currencies, etc. In Republica Dominicana, there's a national peso. One US dollar equals 50 pesos. It makes the exchange math fairly easy. Some representative prices so far (US$): ice cream $0.50, juice or soda $0.50, sweets $0.20, rent $10.

Dominicans seem to hang out often without doing much, which makes sense in this weather. I think that explains the level of development.

There's much to do and see when first arriving in a country! That makes the first while the most exciting. So much new stuff! Also, so many chores.

In Puerto Rico I camped out much of the time. Here I'm staying at Airbnbs. Last night had my first shower in a long while, it felt super!

Thunderstorms and rain predicted throughout the week here. In Puerto Rico, we had sunny weather for days on end!

I think I'll stay for a week or two in the capital, Santo Domingo, then head east around the coast. I'm already feeling somewhat ready to carry on, I want to do RD fast. The default tourist permit is for 30 days, and so far this is my least favorite Caribbean country I've visited. I'm still going to investigate an extension to the tourist permit, and I'm hopeful that I'll like the surrounding country more than I like the capital, as was the case in Puerto Rico.

This seems like a day where I have a large number of small, easy tasks. Other days have a small number (e.g. 1 or 2) of large, hard tasks. Some days are ill-defined, where the major task seems to involve figuring out the task(s).

During travel, the importance and difficulty of daily activities intensifies. One has fewer resources, and more struggles. Still, it feels more productive during travel. Even on an "off day" when you don't get much done, you still can make some measurable headway on the road, or try some new culture.


Santo Domingo, Republica Dominicana!

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 07/31/2019 - 13:42


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!


Caribbean Spanish

Submitted by eagle on Fri, 07/26/2019 - 12:10

Caribbean spanish: weakening consonants instead of vowels.

Caribenos no like their "s"s

RD y PR, parte de una region linguistica

Ico/ica diminutivos (RD etc.)
T + vowel + ico/a

Warmer weather, more vowely


Spanish: 2nd most common 1st language!

Caribbean Spanish: born in Republica Dominicana.

Spaniards from the southern (?) coast arrived in the Americas, where they encountered lazy islands and loosened their speech.


Puerto Rico politics

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 07/25/2019 - 15:43

The governor of Puerto Rico just resigned, over some type of corruption protests. While I don't generally have an opinion on Puerto Rican politics, I've noticed that they're spending millions of dollars on the roads, which are already usable, while the water remains basically unusable.

More in Puerto Rico

Submitted by eagle on Thu, 07/25/2019 - 13:08

Can't wait to leave!

It's Thursday morning at seven AM, and there are numerous Puerto Ricans drinking and smoking!

There are disturbed neighborhoods in some areas. Often poor, sometimes artistic.

Things come into shape, patterns emerge. When you do something repeatedly, ignorant or forgetful of previous occasions, you often get comparable results. For example, I just added stuff to my calendar, and it turned out to fit in almost mathematically with items I'd added to my calendar years ago! Or seeing the same neighborhood I was in weeks ago, and having almost the same experiences and reactions.

Engineer (v.): To make something work more efficiently.

Writing (n.): Information & Inspiration!

Marketer (n.): Someone who deceptively panders to base emotions to manipulate people for profit.


San Juan notes

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 07/24/2019 - 19:23

Sitting in a book shop. Maybe going to RD today. Otherwise, stuck on this island.

Now in a part of San Juan, Puerto Rico that I've mostly seen already. Sort of a busy, yet not particularly nice, area.

There are enough things to see and do, but it's so dense that I'd rather get to a quieter place. However, I want to stay near enough to the ferry station that I can walk there any day that I decide to go.

Puerto Rico is a fairly noisy country. It's more like American noise, with cars and somewhat angry music (but also somewhat festive). I prefer Mexican loudness, which is more festive.

The island of Puerto Rico is a small chunk of America that broke off into the Caribbean.

People come in different shapes and sizes. Each shape or size is adapted to the place where it evolved. In Puerto Rico, there are facial features and body types which show some heritage from the first Asian settlers. The overall profile seems fairly Latin, with its mix of Asian and European features. Nowadays, numerous Puerto Ricans show typically American features, such as the obesity of an American diet.

One huge frustration of traveling on islands is getting onto or off of them. I keep getting stuck in situations where I'm ready to go, but for various island-related reasons it's impractical to leave. That can leave one feeling frustrated. However, it does also afford a chance to take care of some other things like unfinished chores. However, I'd still prefer just to go anywhere whenever I feel like it, as one can more reasonably do on a continent.

The humidity of the tropics is, as I've previously mentioned, really annoying me. Swollen sinuses, etc.

I feel like I've already commented on most of what I think or feel about Puerto Rico. I guess that ties in with the feeling of stuckness. If I still had different perspectives, then I probably wouldn't feel stuck.

Also, on returning back to the capital, I still agree with many of my thoughts and feelings from the first time. I guess I have some consistency, at least.

An island has a sense of sovereignty. Even if it's not sovereign, which often happens on islands, it's isolated enough to have a distinctness to it. The island is more independent (as its use in metaphors suggests). An island off an island, or an island off an island off an island, feels respectively more isolated, sovereign.

Are outside/inside reversed? Should we call "indoors" the wild, and "outdoors" the houses we build?

San Juan does have a large number of attractive young adults. I guess each place has its pros and cons.