Tuesday, September 27, 2005

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.

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