Friday, May 5, 2006
The last time (February 15th) we were on the subject we more or less took the story of visitors to our island of Hispaniola up to one of those black-historical points in human history: the near extermination of the Taíno Indians which then leaves us to cover just the last 500 years or so.
By a clear margin the most famous of all visitors since that time is Christopher Columbus (whose name by the way in Spanish is not quite so famously known by English speakers to be Cristobal Colon). For such a prestigious visitor you would expect it to have been the all-expenses paid trip that it was but not such an obvious thing back in 1492. He was of course the first white man here and by default the first non-Indian visitor and the first ever person to come with a return trip-ticket. His all-inclusive ticket, along with many of the other paradise-seekers who came at that time, was paid for by the Spanish crown and it was the Spanish themselves who abruptly changed this style of paradise-seeking visitor when they started bringing in slaves from Africa who clearly had no hope of any kind of return ticket and were disgracefully brought in for no other reason than to replace those badly decimated Taíno Indians as laborers.
After that the next identifiable group of arrivals, in any significant numbers, was the French who took advantage of the Spanish being distracted by their insatiable search for greater wealth in other parts of South America. The French concentrated on the north and west of the island thereby explaining the current division between French-speaking Haiti and Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. Interspersed in the early years the English too had their own style of visits with their particular specialty being pirate trips also usually all-inclusive. Most notable of all was that of Sir Francis Drake who just a little along the coast from us very successfully held Santo Domingo to ransom in 1586. By the end of the 19th century both Haiti and the Dominican Republic had established themselves as fully fledged republics even if it came with the usual bubbling turmoil you get between neighbors and visits, at least to this side of the border, both from Haiti and overseas have continued apace in one form or another ever since that time.
For example quite a sprinkling of Chinese can be found here including an up and coming Chinatown in Santo Domingo – as of writing an arch-type entrance way is being constructed, funded by Chinese businesses, at the intersection of Avenida’s Duarte and Mexico to designate the area. The Chinese began arriving from other Caribbean islands together with even greater numbers of other natives seeking regular work and opportunities from the 19th century onwards. Considerable numbers of Americans arrived in the early part of that century to set up plantations as many of the Europeans had done in the previous centuries and then the US army made its first visit in 1903, they certainly must have liked it because they came again in 1916 and stayed for a full eight years. They came again in 1965 but moved on much more quickly this time for they were gone by the following year.
Arabs formed the nucleus of another group of visitors, mainly Lebanese with lesser numbers of Palestinians and Syrians who first started arriving towards the end of the nineteenth century and continued to come and stay through the following century. A visit to one of the principal shopping areas in Santo Domingo, namely Avenida Duarte, reveals names on shop hoardings here and there directly reflecting this, one of the most familiar being the large department store under Lebanese-descended ownership: Plaza Lama.
A peek back to the last century shows that the most notable single groups with, at least, intentions to settle entered the country from the 1930s onwards. Many founded agricultural colonies that unfortunately very often didn’t work out as planned but of these groups there can still be found legacies of their presence here. Among the groups were German Jews (1930s), Japanese (after World War II), and Hungarians and Spaniards (both in the 1950s). Then more Chinese came from Taiwan and Hong Kong in the 1970s and 1980s actually making them second only to Haitians in numbers settling in the country.
Nowadays we have visitors all the year round of course and from all around the world, the majority of which return home tanned and relaxed, some choose to stay on and become ex-pats like ourselves and perhaps still the largest group who come in search of their own paradise or at least to escape the ravages of that desperately unstable seemingly impossible to govern neighbor of ours Haiti.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
We are back on the good-guy theme again. We are a full year on from those articles regarding Massachusetts Man and Philadelphia knight-in-shining-armor but true to the vein of those stories those two individuals have been up to their good deed tricks again this past “winter”. More stationery supplies delivered and yet more teeth filled at their expense. They are but two examples of the good works that we hear of from time to time: we are sometimes visited by coordinated groups who take time off from their chores while in this country to enjoy a day at the beach and fortunate enough to find them relaxing down on a sun lounger in front of Playa Vista and hear their stories of “trying to make a difference”.
The other day it was rather back to the individual although in truth it was more like a group rolled into an individual. It was when he started pulling medicine after medicine out of his pocket to show examples of what he was offering to some of the under privileged people in these parts that we started taking serious notice. He is not a doctor -actually a historian- but in his vast experience of visiting poor neighborhoods, particularly in Africa, he has learned of the immense usefulness of basic hygiene knowledge and of always being ready with a bag of over-the-counter medicines and ointments. He has been doling out toothbrushes, dental floss, pain relievers, muscle relaxing creams as well as clothing mainly in Los Conucos (near Juan Dolio) on his latest trip although his first visit to the Dominican Republic saw him in the Las Terranas neighborhood near Samana. As the conversation progressed it became increasingly obvious that the man is actually a full-on professional humanitarian with the story deepening at each example of his attempts to put something back into life that has seemingly treated him well, though be it after a very difficult beginning.
His official move into the humanitarian arena began when he coupled his academic background and his belief in the power of education with his desire to give and formed the non-profit organization “South African Book Drive”. You can read more details regarding the man and his efforts at:
His efforts have led to more than three million books being distributed across southern Africa and he related to us his plans for helping further in the Dominican Republic. He talked of wanting to bring in 400 pounds of clothing a month and set up some academic programs in English. We naturally wish him the very best with his projects and suspect that he might be quite successful when we note that his organization is backed by a preponderance of people from the very same state of origin as Massachusetts Man.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Is supermarket shopping ever a frustrating experience for you?
We thought you might like to try this story out for size about a good friend of ours who went on a little local expedition for a few simple goodies and came back with absolutely nothing. Just to emphasize the point you should know that our friend, though an ex-pat, speaks fluent Spanish and remember that this expedition did not take place in one of those old communist countries, nor even in a current one such as North Korea or Cuba, but in the heart of our largest city, Santo Domingo, in one of the largest stores of the normally very well stocked and attended larger supermarket chains. So large indeed that the chain proclaims itself with the name “Jumbo”.
On entering the store he marched up to the regular meat counter where the previous week -by the way- he had been delightfully satisfied with the service of 100 grams of fillet of finest beef. So much so that he wanted to have the very same again this particular week. “No. We don’t sell it by the pound”. “You can buy the entire chunk of 10 lbs or not at all!” It was candidly not true, but the trickiest dilemma of all for our intrepid shopper was to convince the assistant of anything… least of all to give him just one tiresome pound of the delicious meat.
So he sloped off to get some 100% cotton socks. At the sock counter he couldn’t find what he wanted so he enlisted the “help” of another assistant. She pointed him to a section of what she thought he wanted. She rummaged very briefly and turned over a pair of socks and said, “There you are, that’s what you want.” Our friend looked at the label and noted instantly that it was clearly printed “100% polyamide.” He then said to the assistant, “Look here, this says 100% polyamide and I said I wanted 100% cotton.” “Yes that’s right, exactly the same thing,” she unhesitatingly and proudly responded. Totally nonplussed for an answer, our friend was now quite bewildered as to how to move on, in what way and where, let alone respond to this declaration.
He had actually come specifically for these two items, although he now realized with this mental buffeting there was another purchase he could make that could perhaps save his day. So he kind of drifted in the direction of the delicatessen stand for that third and face-saving item. He waited at the counter for several minutes while the lady on duty continued wrapping and packing various items with cellophane wrapping… not for anybody in particular because there wasn’t anybody else around. He then called her over and asked for 250 grams of cured ham. “Yes, certainly right away,” she said and went right back to her packing position and carried on packing. Our man waited a further five minutes meanwhile a number of other customers had gathered around in the hope of making purchases. The lady who had by now amply demonstrated her packing skills was called over again and began to attend directly to the other customers’ requests but not our friend’s who saw another period pass by without any movement on his request. He asked again (-actually he confessed to shouting this time-), “What about my *&%*#! cured ham?” “Oh, we don’t have any of that,” she said.
That was the end of our friend’s “Jumbo” experience and his relationship with them. He walked out completely empty-handed and flabbergasted, vowing never to return ever again to that particular store on the Avenida Charles de Gaulle. He acknowledged he was thankful that capitalism really does hold sway here, because there are plenty of other supermarkets to choose from after all, as he relaxed with a drink in the Playa Vista bar recounting this particular supermarket adventure to us.
We heard that his next trip was nothing but successful not a single hitch but true to his word not at the Jumbo chain but at one of their big competitors, of course, Supermercado “Bravo”.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
We are currently in ‘Semana Santa’- literally ‘Easter Week’ – which to the unfamiliar is a great festive time for the locals here in Boca Chica in particular. People arrive in droves from nearby Santo Domingo to enjoy the balmy breezes, the sun and the sand of ‘The Capital’s Beach’ and quite naturally to also escape for a few hours from congested city life.
Of course, this is just one week in the perennial life of sun and sand on Boca Chica’s fine beach, and more than rumor seems to indicate, that currently Boca Chica is finally getting the attention that it deserves… not just from the locals, but from the authorities in the Big City too.In January (see archive Jan 27th) we referred to an initiative from Politur – the police arm of the Ministry of Tourism – an initiative that allegedly has been taken to put some new order into Boca Chica. Our watchwords were ‘time will tell’… and that unfortunately remains the case. The changes we have seen are a reduced number of stray dogs roaming the town, the cordoning off from cars at the ‘Andres end’ of the beach and in addition Politur have laid down the law, several times in fact, to us and all other legal businesses regarding our facilities and practices. They have made very clear the importance of presenting only invoices with the properly registered business name at the top, and that all those invoices when paid must be franked with an official “PAID” stamp clearly flaunting the business name. This is all to help eliminate illegal practices, particularly overpricing. Regrettably we continue to hear of and witness the illegal operators carrying on just as before without even a reprimand concerning their entirely illegal and unprincipled “businesses”. We remain however sitting on the uncertain fence on this one and patiently still keep the subject in the “time will tell” category.
On a different subject, but related to the further improvement of Boca Chica, a time-frame was actually bravely put forward by the Minister of Tourism recently. He officially mentioned a period of four months, specifically beginning at the end of the current month to be precise, during which four of the nation’s beaches, including that of Boca Chica, shall have major rehabilitation work carried out principally to reverse the sand and coral reef erosion that has taken place over the years. A European company with expertise in this area has been contracted, and the contract is said to be worth €13 million!
We at Playa Vista look forward to seeing you on a newly revamped Boca Chica Beach within well… four months?
‘Time will tell’ now won’t it!
Friday, March 31, 2006
The numbers of stories filtering out from our delightful Hispaniola island quite frequently point to the – shall we say – idiosyncratic nature of the local people, and we at Playa Vista freely admit to being complicit sometimes in adding fuel to the fire… for, where else would we get a really good story? However, to try and bring a semblance of balance to the picture we take the opportunity here to shed light on some idiosyncratic behavior of people from another part of the world.
Far be it from us to be part of the great big stereo-typing conspiracy, but we do note by way of introduction that the individuals concerned in this story come from West Virginia which our many American friends tell us has a reputation all of its own.
The central figure in our story arrived in Boca Chica fresh from the Panhandle State to marry his true love having decided on a previous trip to commit himself to a new life and a new wife here in our corner of Caribbean paradise.
Four days after the wedding day the man unexpectedly turned up in the Playa Vista Bar. We naturally motioned to congratulate him on his new start in life… but the scar on his hand sent the conversation in another direction. He then pointed to another much larger injury on his upper thigh. “What happened?” “I don’t rightly know,” he said… but then started talking somewhat abstractedly about a fight in the midst of his wedding ceremony! He said he had spent the last four nights in prison, precisely the amount of time that had passed since the wedding itself, we couldn’t help noticing, and reflection on that point delivered us very quickly to the conclusion that a new start in life was not the first thing to be congratulating him on after all.
To be honest we were left in complete confusion because our man was accompanied not only by his good traveling companion, also from West Virginia, but by a plain clothes policeman although not apparently under any kind of restrictive orders. Our man seemingly was visiting good old Playa Vista as if he were a ship seeking some kind of shelter in a storm. The West Virginia friend added to the plot of puzzlement by hissing out of the corner of his mouth that our newlywed had no money and we should watch the level of credit we allowed him.
Bewildered we were, to say the least, but let it go at that, believing it was a matter between two friends, seemingly the police and probably a newly wedded wife somewhere in the background.
Quite some days went by and the supportive friend appeared calmly and coolly at Playa Vista again thereby in our minds immediately dispelling the notion that there was any kind of urgent problem to deal with. Newly married West Virginian had, according to the friend, at some point since his arrival gone “a little crazy” caused numerous problems for himself and others around him and he, the friend, was now merely trying to help get him back to the USA… only there was a complication in that the friend had had his passport stolen! We had to applaud the support the friend was providing naturally assuming that after the substantial delay haste would be the order. However… the friend clearly wasn’t going to give up on his vacationing quite yet as he enjoyed a few relaxing drinks at the Playa Vista Bar and a manicure that afternoon on top of whatever else he had been doing on the intervening days.
Again quite some time later, strangely on Super Bowl night actually, our main actor in the saga turned up again, precisely on time for the football game and a stiff whisky. Ironically he was a true fanatic of one of the participants that night namely the Pittsburgh Steelers who were vying with the Seattle Seahawks to be crowned Super Bowl champs, but we swear that he never saw a single play… not in any of the game he was supposed to watch at Playa Vista that is, for sure. He was far more interested in loud and not very clear-headed conversation with the other bar-guests around him, people who were actually trying to watch the game. We and the agitated bar-guests frankly breathed a sigh of relief when the troubled West Virginia man slipped off his bar stool and sauntered out at half time.
Yet more days further on and the vacation-loving friend was in the bar again explaining the same story about getting our man out of the country, but it still wasn’t easy because actually neither of them had passports by now and also their plane tickets had expired apart from any other problems that might be involved! The friend, being exactly that, listened to our report of the visitation on Super Bowl night, again took his time, had a few drinks and very supportively paid for his friends unpaid bar tab from that infamous Super Bowl night.
He shook our hands, wished us well and commented again on how he really must get the guy back home for some real help. All well and good we supposed… although we did see the friend again as recently as last week. We are just left to wonder what the West Virginian word for ‘mañana’ is!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
There are a lot of different people who pass through the Playa Vista area in the course of time… one way or another and for one reason or another. An old Caribbean gentleman used to do so on a regular basis. He was tall, with decidedly negro characteristics, a bit of a stooped back, grey hair under his baseball cap and going by the distinctive and unforgettable name “Napoleon”. He was polite and very gentle mannered… and like many in any third world country looking for some kind of an opportunity. We really were not in a position to help, but we would, as we usually try to do with polite gentle mannered people, have a little interchange of conversation and wish him luck on his way.
Some years passed by and apart from bumping into Napoleon once on the bus we hadn’t seen or heard of the man for a long time until the other day.
Napoleon walked into Playa Vista with a more determined stride than we ever recall and greeted us very amicably. He was his usual friendly self and asked after us and how things were going. “How is business?” he asked. “Not too bad, but of course we can always use more customers even though it now is the middle of the higher season”, we replied. “Okay, I have a couple of friends who have apartments over in Andres and they can help you bring in a lot more customers.” “My two friends come from Puerto Principe by the way!” All right we thought. No harm in talking. Perhaps his friends have some lodgers who want to spend some time at a nice place right on the beach away from their apartments occasionally.
There are a lot of promises made and a lot of promises often not completed around these parts but the next morning, a Sunday incidentally, bright and early Napoleon was here with his two friends. They were two brothers, well dressed, polite, Spanish speaking but genuinely Haitian from the main city in that country, Puerto Principe, and they did have a SINGLE apartment in Andres where they personally were living. Well…out of courtesy we explained our set up silently wondering what kind of business proposition they could possibly have. “So, what do you want us to do for you then,” the younger brother a bit surprisingly said. “Well… if you can bring in substantially more customers then fair enough and you would be entitled to some kind of a commission, naturally,” we said.
There was quite a bit of eye shifting at this point and a slight clearing of the throat before the younger brother announced that their work fell into the category of “mystic”. Mystic? We honestly thought that perhaps it was some kind of show they put on, and we explained that we were not really big enough for a performance of that nature. The older brother then, after some more eye shifting, explained that it was “spiritual” – the way they planned to bring customers in that is. The penny then finally dropped: Puerto Principe, Haiti, Mystic, Spiritual…, my goodness, VOODOO!… we were staring straight in the face of the little known business arm of the world famous voodoo tradition.
The eye-shifting was now on our side of the table as we backtracked on our willingness to discuss promotional ideas with this particular “technique” in mind anyway. We then wished Napoleon and his friends the very best of the day and good luck with their many clients they said they had waiting for them in Andres. As they understandably, due to our lack of enthusiasm for their voodoo specialty, walked disappointedly out of Playa Vista the power supply abruptly failed!
Now, as we all know that power failure isn’t exactly uncommon in these parts we were left merely to wonder if it was just the usual problems that cut the electricity off at that moment… or could it be that voodoo trickery has been behind the last 40 years of electricity distribution problems in the Dominican Republic?
Saturday, March 4, 2006
We are sure you are all dying to know what is happening to lamp number 25 in our street: Calle Abraham Nuñez… aren’t you?
Now, we all know that our little world is full of surprises and we thought that one day, whenever that might be, we would have light once again shining down from lamp number 25 at the entrance way to Playa Vista. We weren’t entirely wrong but neither were we entirely right thanks to that exquisite surprise factor.
We left you in early February with quite a tale of promises promises promises and following non-accomplishment all starting before Christmas. From February we decided to track the continuing promises and non-accomplishment for entertainment’s sake. Each telephone conversation was directly with Ramon number 1 and his statements on getting the light fixed were noted like this:
February 7th: In one hour!
February 9th: Today!
February 14th: Today!
February 16th: We can’t send the crane just for one light so we are liaising with Politur (the
tourist police) but it will be attended to this afternoon!
February 17th: We are right now with the police on the beach checking all the lights just
around the corner from Abraham Nuñez and we will fix it when we get there!
February 20th: We are coming with ladders (what happened to the crane?) right now, honestly
right this minute!
February 21st: It isn’t fixed? I will investigate why my order was not carried out!
February 22nd: The driver of the maintenance team was injured when hit by a motorcyclist. He
should be out of hospital this afternoon and there is even a possibility that he
could get there tomorrow!
February 25th-27th Independence weekend holiday!
February 28th HURRAH… JOB DONE!
… OR WAS IT?
On the 28th Ramon number 2 arrived with a very modern looking hydraulic crane, spare bulbs, photo cells and two helpers. Within 10 minutes lamp number 25 was reconnected and had a bulb replacement too, for good measure. Wonder of wonders… we actually saw the lamp working for the first time in months!
Later that day as dark descended the light came on and shone brilliantly for… shall we say about… 25 minutes when its splendor was rudely interrupted by one of the country’s infamous power cuts. The electricity came flooding back fairly soon spreading through the cabled veins of the Boca Chica system. It relit everything and all the lamps in Abraham Nuñez… EXCEPT LAMP NO 25!
Surprise? You bet ya!
The next day Ramon number 1 was called again to thank him for sending his men and the, well… 25 minutes of light. Was Ramon number 1 surprised? Certainly.
However the real surprises were still waiting for us in that, in spite of zero attention from anybody at all, that night the lamp suddenly burst into full life again all on its own … and actually shone brightly for the entire night. The really exquisite touch though is that one more night on… and lamp 25 was once again back in the dark!
This story about the ongoing battle between light and darkness is hopefully soon to be continued with perhaps more enlightening news…
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Here we are able to present yet another enlightening and certainly entertaining Dominican Republic Boca Chica story, this time at the expense of one of Playa Vista’s best friends from the cold North who reports with such descriptive pathos we quote him word for word.
Taxi to the bus station – Caribe Tours in Santo Domingo – was fine, arriving at 6:25. Headed to the ‘Bileteria’, asked for ticket to Sosua – “No” – “Whadya mean, no?” – ” Last bus at seven” – “But it’s only 6:30″! – “Bus full”!
Oh my God! Recurring visions of last year’s rescheduling. “Only bus is to Santiago at 8PM” – “OK. I’ll take it” At least it would get me beyond half way. I ask at the ‘Informacion’ if by any chance there’s a bus from Santiago to Sosua. The girl consults with another and says there is and that it leaves at 10:30… exactly the time the first one gets there. She assures me that it will connect! An hour and a half later, just to be sure, I ask the driver as I’m boarding the bus, if the other bus will wait for this one. He tells me there is no other bus, well not Caribe Tours, anyway. I will have to get a taxi to another bus station in Santiago for the bus to Sosua.
On the way, the air conditioning is so cold that water is condensing on the luggage rack and dripping off a joint above my head right onto my glasses. I recline the seat a bit more and soon my chest is soaking wet – can’t move, the bus is jam-packed.
Arrive at Santiago and there is one taxi who tells me there is no other bus station or company! I figured it was the old trick to get me into his cab and there was no one else around to ask. “That’s it,” I thought, “I’ve missed the plane again and I’ll be stuck here until morning.” He says he’ll take me all the way to the airport. I figured that if it cost $180US to get from the airport to Boca Chica last year, that Santiago to Sosua is going to be around $80US and I knew I hadn’t got anywhere near that much on me. “Mucho dinero.” I say. He pulls out a cell-phone, punches the keypad and shows me the figure RD$1600. I didn’t bother to figure what that was in dollars – I just put my hand in my pocket and pulled out what I had – 1640 pesos. Whew!!! “Bueno!” I said… grabbing at the offer like a drowning man, which I pretty much was.
I still had four hours to be safe for the plane and I asked him how long the trip would take. He told me about an hour and a half. I had noticed, whilst negotiating with him, that both his eyes looked in different directions but it wasn’t until we had been traveling for about ten minutes that it became fairly obvious that he couldn’t see worth a damn. He never exceeded 40MPH and overtaking cars were whizzing past us by the dozens. When anything came towards us in the opposite direction, he would slow almost to a standstill and, at the last moment, swerve violently away from it, the right-hand wheels gong off the edge of the road. Of course, he had to slow down for those really bad, pot-holed patches, but he would jam on the brakes on smooth roads for potholes that weren’t even there! I was convinced that we were not going to make it all the way without some terrible calamity. On top of all this, the radio was on at full volume the whole time and the window on my side wouldn’t go up, so when it started to rain near Puerto Plata, I got soaked (some more). The rain reduced what little visibility he/the cross eyed chauffeur had, and with it, our speed down to around 20MPH. The whole trip took two and three quarter hours.
The saga is not finished yet, my friends. When, after the long wait with only 40 pesos in my pocket, which is insufficient to buy any refreshment at airport prices, I reached the boarding gate clutching my precious obligatoric $10US only to be told that I had first to go to another desk and pay a departure tax of an additional $10US. I told them I hadn’t got it and had not been advised that I would need it. “Well, you can’t get on the plane until it’s paid!” Arguing the point was futile – they took away my boarding pass! Then one of the agents at the gate made an announcement to the waiting passengers asking if anyone could lend this gentleman the necessary sum. Three people instantly stepped forward with $10 bills and I was saved. Believe me, at that moment, I was on the point of breaking into tears of relief!
Everything went smoothly after that, and my wife had a $10US bill with which I was able to repay the kind lady from whom I had borrowed it. I was so glad that it was all over, that even the twenty centimeters of snow that started to fall as soon as I arrived, seemed quite welcoming.
It must be pointed out that the recurring visions of last year’s rescheduling that our indomitable traveling friend had, were due to the fact that, because of a long sequence of quite different crazy occurrences, he completely missed his plane in Puerto Plata!
Well back in the cold North we asked our comrade if his unplanned departure-adventure would put him off visiting the Dominican Republic and good old Playa Vista again? “It would take a lot more than that episode to discourage me. Of course I’m coming back again” he stoically responded without hesitation.
So… thanks to the good old bull dog spirit we look forward to seeing him again very soon, and naturally we at Playa Vista will be waiting with open arms to again offer the kind of welcome that such a spirited and playful actor on the Boca Chica stage deserves.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
The discriminating historians amongst you never commented on our blog of 19th February 2005 when we referred to the Taíno Indians as being the original inhabitants of Hispaniola… only actually true if, as most people do, you take the origin as to when Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492. The ingenuity of archeologists and of our modern ways of accessing information help to reveal, that our currently very visitor-friendly island has actually been popular with guests for upwards of 4000 years!
The very first batch is supposed to have arrived about 2600 BC! Unlike today they came exclusively from locations equally sunny and warm, thereby provoking the obvious question, “What on earth were they trying to get away from back home?” Anyway… the route’s starting point seemingly was eastern Venezuela and followed a sequence of natural with-current island-hopping bringing the true original inhabitants, the ‘Arawak’ Indians, to these shores. The trip was so popular that it was repeated and again we are at a curious loss as to know what could have possibly instigated it. The second migratory wave of other Arawak-related Indians referred to as ‘Saldoids’ occurred a couple of centuries before the time of Christ. These particular Indians, according to those curious archeologists, have left quite a trace of their sophisticated culture through remnants of their ceramic creations.
It is debatable as to where exactly the third group of visitors arrived from. Either, it is believed, along the same tried and trusted route using the equatorial currents or in successive steps up from the Peruvian-Andes. In similar fashion to the other two groups they absorbed, or eliminated, the previous migratory group and were known as the Taíno Indians. They held sway on the island for something like a thousand years and, in spite of their having eliminated the Arawak Indians, called themselves ‘Taíno’ which somewhat perversely is said to mean “friendly people” in their own language. Of course this was no different from the Spanish of the 15th and 16th centuries who probably also regarded themselves as quite friendly in spite of their similar eliminatory tendencies, as they presided over the decline of a Taíno population estimated at 400,000 dwindling down to under 3,000 in less than the first 30 years after their arrival. It was though generally recognized, even by the Spanish of the time, that the Taíno’s general passivity contributed to their rapid demise. Either the ‘friendly people’ got slack in their 1000 years of untroubled living here or perhaps those Arawak Indians were just too much of a push over right from the outset… who knows!
It is of course a relief to know that today you don’t have to muster any sizeable group together, nor furnish yourself with the latest weaponry or even paddle great distances in a canoe to get here. You can just hop on a plane even on your ownsome, and within a few relatively trouble free hours you can be enjoying something of that accommodating welcome once upon a time probably afforded by those ancestral Indians!
See you soon then!
Sunday, February 5, 2006
Streetlamp number 25 stands proudly, though somewhat tiltingly, in Calle Abraham Nuñez magnificently illuminating the public road and area between Playa Vista and Hotel Europa or, rather, we should say… it used to. “Interestingly enough” this lamp became profoundly inactive the week that EdeEste (the local electric utility company) decided to disconnect our service because we kept insisting we had not consumed the huge quantity of electricity they suddenly were claiming -five times the usual level, “no way Jose!”- and that we wanted the matter fully investigated. Unknown to us, at that point anyway, the routine here seems to be quite simply that you pay what the monopolistic high and mighty EdeEste request because they do not have a genuine mechanism for thoroughly and professionally investigating invoiced anomalies.
When finally, after months of what turned about to be futile correspondence, we realized that arbitration in the eyes of EdeEste means: pay up whatever the company dictates and when finally, after making good use of our brand-spanking new propane-gas driven generator and our good old inverter, we were reconnected with the traditional electricity network, sweetened only by the minor token victory that the questionable meter was removed from its former position in the public street and installed inside Playa Vista, we requested that the dear company also investigate the non-functioning streetlamp number 25.
It took two full weeks or more and numerous phone calls to identify that it is not after all EdeEste who deals with streetlamps, but the local council… who ominously do have a reputation for being somewhat slow off the mark even in a country of slow starters.
Many many phone calls and then one fortuitous visit put us in direct contact with “the” man responsible – Ramon. He said, of course, “mañana” with some conviction though, because he explained they had another streetlight that also needed looking at nearby. Mañana naturally passed without any change to the situation whatsoever, and a call to Ramon gave the explanation that they were short of a mechanical crane. The following week the secretary in Ramon’s office made up her own story and said it was because they were out of bulbs in the storehouse! A couple of weeks later and Ramon, after being chased down on the phone again, asked, “Uh hum, exactly where is this lamp then?” A couple of days later hoping to speed things along we also provided the lamp’s individual identification code, “number 25”, as all of you also know now. Some days later Ramon was able to confirm indeed that lamp number 25 was not working. He had seen it with his own eyes.
One obviously good-humored and unusually pro-active day yet further on in time Ramon dramatically announced he was sending his chief assistant the next day… which helped us recall being told in no uncertain terms earlier on in the venture, that Ramon definitely didn’t have an assistant and only he himself could handle a matter such as this. ‘The assistant’ – another ‘Ramon’ – surprisingly, did turn up! When we explained the difficulties we had had with EdeEste and the coincidence of the street lamp suddenly being inoperative the same week we had been disconnected, he said AHAAA… and nodded his head vigorously indicating that he knew exactly from previous experiences what had happened. No light bulb failure, just a simple menacing harassing disconnection by you know who! He said he would fix it the next day… oh yes, mañana again. That was on a Saturday. Tuesday we phoned the first Ramon and asked what the problem now was. He said that there was no mechanical crane available! Amazing how circular the world is, ain’t it?
Quite a performance already and now we are just waiting for the finale: ‘The Ramones and The Light Show’ to get good old streetlamp 25 back into action!