Saturday, April 08, 2006

From Bonjour to Buenos Dios

Hola from the Dominican Republic where we´ve come for a few days R ánd R. The two countries occupy this island in an uneasy fashion. The DR is Spanish speaking and much more prosperous than Haiti. Many Haitians work in te Dominican sugar fields near the border, where they aren´t treated well. While the Dominicans are very friendly to us Anglos. I don´t think this hospitality extends to the Haitians who are often looked down upon. Improving conditions in Haiti would benefit both countries. Hopefully, with the fresh start a new president gives, this can become a reality.

It took us about seven hours to drive here from PAP. We had a couple stops at the border where we had to pay 35 dollars each to enter the country. The road through the DR is much smoother than in Haiti and actually has white lines painted down the middle. The DR is more militarized than Haiti. We went through several checkpoints where soldiers with big guns checked our passports. They were friendly and as we got closer to Santo Domingo, the capital, they became more lax, waving us on through when they recognized our friend who was driving. He is Dominican but in a truck with Haitian plates. At one of the stops, he bought some mangoes for his girlfriend, a huge bunch of them for a dollar fifty U.S. John bought the most delicious cashews I´ve ever had in my life at another stop. We gave a ride to four soldiers in the back of a truck. Some of them were hauling bags of rice home to their families.

Our friend was a daring driver, as most drivers from developing countries seem to be. All I can say is there has to be a lot of God´s grace streaming through traffic in Third World countries. This is the only way to explain why there aren´t accidents every other second. I think car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in poor countries, and I know there are a lot, but not as many as there should be. Between the sudden stops, the lurching lane changes, the creative creation of new lanes, and the heading at highway speed directly toward another car speeding toward you, while it is flashing its lights, as you pull over into the other lane with feet to spare, well, all I can say is ai ya yi ya yi.

The DR is much greener with more trees than in Haiti. We followed one large truck that was full of tomatoes. We also saw several Caterpillar machines, mainly doing road work. The villages we passed seemed poor, but again, not as poor as those in Haiti. Some of the houses were constructed in wood and painted in bright colors. People sit out on their little front porches and talk. Right inside the border, we passed one area that was completed flooded out in 2004. Of course, Haitians lived in this area, and their homes and lives were swept away in the water. We saw the remnents of a concrete bridge that washed away, its naked base bereft of the actual bridge, so it obviously was a fierce flood.

The DR is so ethnically diverse. We see people who look Spanish, Mexican, Anglo, Indian, Haitian and they will all be Dominican, speaking Spanish. There is something so cool and universal about this. You cannot make any assumptions based on people´s apperances. We are going to explore the historic section of Santo Domingo this afternoon. More on this later.

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