Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Monument and jam session.

Here's Santiago's main monument (near which I lived last year) as seen through the gates to the Feria. Below- a jam session outside the Ballet Folklorico rehearsal. The 12-year-old kid playing accordion was AMAZING.

Feria del Libro - musical performers & provincial pavillions

Provincial pavillions for Santiago Rodriguez and La Vega, and 2 merengue tipico groups. One of them is all kids about 9-10 years old. They were called "La Mini-Banda."

Provincial pavillions at the Feria del Libro

provincial pavillions at the Feria del Libro. In front of the Samana booth, a bunch of little kids are performing a dance to reggaeton music. Dajabon and Monte Cristi won 2nd and 3rd places, respectively.

Horror films, mosquito traffic, book fair - the usual


Since the last entry I’ve gone to the movies, the gym, and the Feria del Libro (Book Fair) twice each, and the Centro Leon three times. My cable finally got hooked up so I’m catching up on the news, and I myself got hooked up with a Carnival group with whom I’ll be making my costume and participating in February’s carnival.

I’ve learned several important things. 1: the movies are apparently the exception to the usual laws of Dominican time. When I went to the cheap theater last Sunday, I got my ticket as soon as the window opened, bought popcorn and went straight to the theater to find the movie had already started – no previews. Then I went to a 7:30 movie at the nice theater on Wednesday, and it started at 7:22. Go figure. Also, apparently sometimes they just cut the movie off if they think it’s gone on long enough, although both the features I saw were spared that indignity. The first one I saw, “Andrea,” was a brand new Dominican horror movie. This is a big deal since, as you can imagine, the DR isn’t exactly a big producer of feature films. It was actually a pretty respectable production, kind of a Dominican Exorcist and full of Dominican folk religious beliefs. Like the Exorcist, it too was supposedly based on a true story and I guess the original Andrea has been appearing on TV here talking about the incident. The end kind of got a little out of control, with the ghost guy going around strangling everyone in sight, but the taxi driver was funny and the witch doctor was super cool. “Babu” has inspired me to search out the real-life brujos – stay tuned!

2) I learned quite a bit about mosquito behavior from my landlady. She was up here the other day while the cable guys were fixing my setup and was surprised to see my mosquito net up. “There aren’t mosquitos in here!” she said. “There are screens on the windows.” When I pointed out that two windows were missing screens and that I had been bit a number of times, she explained that she had left those ones off purposely. That way, the mosquitos coming in through the stairwell window would exit from the window in the hallway directly opposite. I suggested that it might be better to just put the screens on both of them, thereby avoiding the need for a mosquito evacuation plan, she said, “But then what about the ones who come in through the door? How will they get out?” Ah, logic.

3) I learned that the Cibao region is comprised of 14 provinces, and I think I can name them all thanks to the Feria del Libro, a big liteature/literacy fair going on all week in the plaza at the Gran Teatro del Cibao, near where I lived last year. The provinces have each set up stalls built in the shape of famous local monuments or houses and decorated with things like the local carnival costumes. Every day two provinces are featured and they put on shows at night. So far I’ve seen a couple of folk dance groups, an Andean-Latin experimental music group, a religious skit condemning street violence, palos (Afro-Dominican religious drumming), jazz, university pop and choral groups, and two rappers. I also saw ceramics demonstrations, academic discussions, and Verizon-produced films on the history of merengue, baseball, and telephony in the DR – very educational.

4) To my surprise, I learned that merengue típico isn’t even music! Jeez, if only I’d known earlier. This could really put my ethnomusicology career in jeopardy. This morning I went down to the Centro de la Cultura for the Ballet Folklorico’s rehearsal, but it turned out I had the wrong day. Instead I saw a photography exhibition and got roped into listening to a choral teacher lecture me on what a travesty merengue is today. It wasn’t any good to try to argue with him, since he seemed to subscribe to my landlady’s mosquito school of logic. All that can be done in such situations is sit tight, then suddenly look at your watch or cell phone, exclaim, “Oh! The time!” and take off at a run. Which is what I did.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Pictures! part 4

Scary flower bonnet baby, and my collection of porcelain farm animals (included in price of apartment). At the bottom, you can see my very secure front door.

Pictures! part 3

Here is my collection of Dominican tourist art.

Pictures! part 2

Here you have the lower floor, with the kitchen, another bathroom, and dining/sitting area. The guest bed awaits!

Pictures! part 1

Check out my apartment. These pics are of the upper floor, which contains my bedroom and bathroom. Look Ma, hot water!!

Monday, September 19, 2005

OK, I'm here now.


As I write this, I’m watching a Dominican version of “Survivor” on TV. It’s exactly like the US one, even down to the corny “jungle” music, except that they make the contestants dress in pirate attire and have skulls and crossbones all over the place. I think the idea is to recall the Dominican past, which did indeed involve lots of pirates, only I’m pretty sure most pirates weren’t wearing bikinis or daypacks. Also the voting part is taking way too long and I’m getting bored. Surely someone should have walked the plank by now.

At any rate, I’ve been in the DR two days now and everything is going pretty well. Little has changed since when I was here last year – none of my friends have any news to report – except that there seem to be fewer and shorter power outages than before. I may just have been lucky so far, only time will tell. At least there are no hurricanes, no floods, and no Republicans. So far so good!

My apartment is pretty cute, and even includes a complementary set of porcelain ducks and cow, not to mention two ceramic babies wearing flower-shaped bonnets. Of course there are a couple of oddities (besides the flower heads). It’s kind of odd that one enters through the bedroom on the second floor and then descends to the dining/living room/kitchen on the first floor. It’s a bit odder that in order to get running water on the second floor you have to turn on a light bulb (the green one; the red one is for hot water, obviously). If the woman next door turns hers on, mine goes on too, but luckily I can tell if it was turned on by me or by her by looking for the red dot on the light switch. It’s all very complicated, so the landlady makes sure to explain it to me again every time she stops by. But she also gave me pistachio ice cream, so I really can’t complain.

I’m still getting settled in, organizing my things and doing necessary shopping, so other than the apartment there’s little to report at the moment. Yesterday I went to the Centro Leon (cultural center where I worked last year) to discuss my continued work there with the archives of the late Fradique Lizardo, a well-known Dominican folklorist. Today I visited friends at a couple of arts organizations downtown and then went up to Ingenio Arriba near the outskirts of town, where my accordion teacher and many other merengue típico musicians live. I handed out some gifts, learned a new tune (“El Lunarcito”) from my teacher, Rafaelito Roman, and practiced some tambora with my friend Chiqui. Also had some of those bizarre three-seeded Dominican cherries. Everyone in el Ingenio (I call them “ingenieros”) was fine. It’s kind of weird to come here after a year that was extremely busy with a lot of changes for me and find everything the same here as when I left it. Definitely a conceptual adjustment.


Got caught in a torrential downpour yesterday. I’d just finished a major shopping expedition and, thinking it was going to be one of those cute little Caribbean afternoon drizzles, thought I could have a pleasant stroll to an Internet center where I needed to take care of some business. Whoops. The newspaper today showed all the flooded streets I was literally wading through. Drenched and a bit cold, I ended up not following through on either of my evening plans: either to investigate the movie theater or to attend the opening of the Feria del Libro, a big literary & cultural event for the whole northern region that’s being held here over the next week. Instead it was Sabado Gigante and Cristina for me.

That’s OK, this morning I made up for last night’s boredom by finally solving the Pancake Problem. My major issue last year was that I couldn’t find a place to have brunch, my favorite meal. No pancakes or French toast anywhere – not even in the big hotels near my old place. Mangu is good and all that, but it just doesn’t cut it when what you want is syrup. Well, yesterday at this store not far from my new place I was talking to the chef and although it wasn’t on their usual menu (not that they have an actual, printed menu or anything) he said he could make pancakes for me anyway. Today I went and got pancakes with syrup, toast and marmalade, coffee, passionfruit juice, and an enormous pile of eggs scrambled with veggies for about $2.50. It made me very sleepy but it was yummy. And now I have the number, so I can call ahead next time to have my breakfast there waiting for me when I arrive.

So life is good on the breakfast front. The only major issues so far have been (1) the accidental erasure of ALL MY MUSIC from my iriver and (2) the enormous ant bite on my left leg that swelled up and turned red and purple. So unattractive. I don´t think I´ll be posting a picture of that.