San Pedro – Public Market, Malecon and Beyond

“Last night I dreamt of San Pedro

Tropical the island breeze
All of nature wild and free
This is where I long to be
La isla bonita”

Madonna had it right when she sang this song.  My friend MJ at my farewell party sang this song for karaoke unknowing that San Pedro was the township I was headed for.  I shed a few tears that night.  And what a party it was!!!  I was blindsided.  I had no idea that I was walking into my own party.  Not even when I saw all my friends sitting at one table.  Clearly, one of my dimmer moments.  San Pedro was calling me.  Now it’s said that the San Pedro that Madonna sang of is fictitious, but, maybe we’ll claim it for ourselves anyway.

DSC04280San Pedro is an interesting town steeped in history.  Its Malecon stretches a long way.  By night it’s teaming with activity from bars to food to music and dance, or just hanging out.  By day it’s a little quieter.  The far north east end is my favourite.  I love the fisherman’s section with their wooden boats and cleaning tables.  Lunch for two there is less than $2.00 each and includes chicken, tostones, dumplings and a fresh squeezed cherry drink.  It doesn’t look very sanitary, not much does in DR unless you are at a higher end restaurant, but I’m still alive.  Interestingly, recycling takes on a slightly different meaning here.  It’s more a re-use than a recycle mentality.  Cherry juice made from tart local cherries refills used water and drink bottles.  The chivalry and hospitality was much appreciated as one of the fisherman made a seat for me in the shade of the cleaning hut.  There is no beach in this area, but the water was clear and inviting.  I wish I had been prepared for a swim.  I suppose I could have swam in my underwear, but the thought of wet undies under my clothes … mmm NO!!!  Lesson learned:  always have your swim gear when going to a new place.

DSC03267Part of the problem with the landlord was that the apartment was to have been furnished.  He provided fridge, stove, 2 beds and 2 dressers with mirrors.  A month after living there with no living-room furniture and no table I went shopping.  Remaining unsure whether I was staying to live or returning to Canada, I didn’t want a lot of expense.  As with all my shopping, off to San Pedro I went.  I love the charm of curtains on the guagua.  That just tickles my fancy.  The guagua dropped me off at the first stop in town and I wandered through the stores.  Crossing the streets ever so cautious to not be run over or hit by one of the hundreds of moto-conchos.  After seeing some close calls it bears mentioning, here, you look both ways before crossing the street.  Lesson learned:  at ALL times in ALL places listen for traffic and look BOTH ways.  After stopping at several mom & pop shops I found one that the owners were genuine and not asking gringo prices.  They were very accommodating.  Lesson learned:  Ask for what you want and they’ll find a way.  They offered to reupholster the sofa set I chose in any fabric they had.  I kept it as is but the offer was much appreciated.  They did cut off 2 inches on the legs of all for me.  Sorry, I forgot to mention that I’m a dwarf.  This is the first sofa that I’ve ever been able to have my feet touch the floor.  The set, a small traditional wood set, was not intended for having a lie down.  It was affordable at $250.00 for the sofa, 2 chairs and coffee table, delivery and a ride home!  Another fine example of Dominican hospitality.  I have to say, like elsewhere, Dominican craftsmanship, you get what you pay for.  Dominican Republic boasts some of the finest craftsman.   Lesson learned:  be specific in what you ask.  Dominicans don’t generally ask leading questions.

This country is such a conundrum.  On the one hand you have so many wonderful traits surrounding hospitality, the sincere act of helpfulness, innate childlike enthusiasm and curiosity.  On the other hand you have the opportunists, parasites and criminals.  The latter of course exhibit the same positive traits … until they don’t!  The same can be said for all, not only Dominicans.  Lesson learned:  develop trust SLOWLY!  With their childlike “ness” you do have to remember to treat them with kid gloves.  None of them like to be in trouble, just as 10 year old boys would say, “I didn’t put the frog in your pants,” Dominicans by nature will weasel around so as to not be in trouble.  So, be gentle with your approaches.

DSC06288I believe that you should experience everything you can at least once in your life.  More often if it’s healthy and if you like it.  My Claro internet stick proved to be a failure.  I could only get a signal on the roof of my complex.  Needing a reliable internet connection I ventured into San Pedro, a 10 mile concho ride to town.  It was a very quiet afternoon with little traffic.  This was a more difficult task that you can imagine.  Not speaking Spanish presents ISSUES.  Uniquely, one of my moto-concho drivers speaks French and Spanish and I speak French and English.  Do you see where this is going?  That’s right, here we have a Haitian man speaking on my behalf to the clerk at Orange, then translating for me.  Contract signed and payment rendered, I was the proud owner of an internet connection in the form of an Orange Flybox.  The staff at Orange, a local provider, were awesome.  They provided excellent customer service.  Lesson learned:  learn some Spanish before getting here.  This 3rd world country supersedes Canada in it’s internet and communications packages.

I walk from the apartment to the highway to catch the guagua into San Pedro.  After being overcharged on my first shopping trip there was no question in my mind of being independent and smart about it.  I’m off to the MARKET!!!  The open air market in San Pedro is a rather filthy place, not all the smells are appealing.  Strays wander in and out keeping the rodent population at  bay.  It’s a dirty place, seeing one poor stray dog covered in mange broke my heart.  The country has a large stray population, many are diseased and very few get rescued.  On a note of interest, this is not a “Rabies-free” country.  The market is a maze of hallways and is confusing to the first-timer.   I  wander in and out of stalls, and stores, poke at this and poke at that.  Fresh produce is abundant and for fair pricing.  You can purchase almost everything you need here.  Spice bins similar to the Souks of Morocco.  With my purchases under my arm, I head for the guagua.  Homeward bound.  Lesson learned:  don’t buy more than you can carry.  Getting off the bus, mercy of mercies, a young man helps me carry my groceries home.  50 pesos, well worth it!

DSC05637Sitting by the main road in town I watch traffic go by.  It’s quiet for 4:00pm.  It’s not long before I find myself on the receiving end of having company.  My friend Monico, a bit of a rastaman joins me on the cement slab.  Fighting off a few ants, who am I kidding, LOTS of ants, we turn it into a game.  Flick-an-ant.  Incidently, these little red pests have a slightly sour taste.   Being the “Wonder Dwarf” with health issues I tire easily.  Damn it takes me twice as long to accomplish anything compared to days gone by.  I pull out a few pesos and send him for beer.  I’m pretty tired at the end of the day and HE has a bicycle.  He offers me a ride, but I cowardly decline remembering the falls as a child.

At the end of the day, a seat on the side of the road, a friend … and a cerveza!  Lesson learned:  a day is always better ended in the company of friends.

Recap:

Lesson learned:  always have your swim gear when going to a new place.
Lesson learned:  at ALL times in ALL places listen for traffic and look BOTH ways.
Lesson learned:  Ask for what you want and they’ll find a way.
Lesson learned:  be specific in what you ask.
Lesson learned:  develop trust SLOWLY!
Lesson learned:  learn some Spanish before getting here.
Lesson learned:  a day is always better ended in the company of friends.

Listen to the palms…


~Loca Gringa

© Loca Gringa and https://locagringa.wordpress.com

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