Archive for the ‘Boca Chica Dominican Republic’ Category
Friday, April 30, 2004
As you may or may not know the municipality of Boca Chica consists of the town of Boca Chica and the associated and contiguous district of San Andrés, nearly always abbreviated to just ‘Andrés’. To make an easy distinction between the two, one could describe Andrés as the area centered on the sugar refinery with its distinctive red and white chimney about a mile to the east of main town Boca Chica where most of the tourist traffic is. However, both look across to the Caucedo peninsula a little further to the east where there has been a considerable amount of development activity in the last few years.
From the vantage point of the Playa Vista terraza we have been witness to what portends to be a considerable shot in the arm to the local economy principally from the newly constructed ‘mega port’ which although inaugurated last week with a terrific firework display and presidential blessing, has been receiving ships for the past five months.
The only evidence of man’s engineering over in that direction used to be the arrival and departure of airplanes as they headed to and from the runway of Santo Domingo’s principal international airport located in the middle of the peninsula and by the way no more than a convenient 10 minutes by taxi from our own central location. Over the last three years the skyline has changed quite dramatically but it is at night that the developments are particularly notable, as they are all accompanied by quite spectacular lighting arrangements– the kind of unfailing electric show that would be the envy of quite a number of parts of the country that are often subject to complete and extended blackouts.
Conveniently we overlook the scenery directly from the west and can see the sun sink behind the peninsula… sometimes with its own inimitable display at the same time as the electrical illuminations are set in motion starting at the tip of the peninsula where there is a jetty for the large gleaming white storage tank located immediately alongside. As we scan inland the next major lit-up structure is that of the 300 megawatt electricity generating station which was stated to have been funded by the World Bank to provide economic power to both this country and supply down on to Haiti, although we have yet to hear of a follow up report on whether any energy eventually reaches our beleaguered neighbor. Then begins the mega port itself with a row of five up-to-the-minute technology giant cranes shipped in from China for loading and unloading of container ships tied up at the 600 meter wharf. All in all quite a light-show. Our bar has, over the last couple of years in particular, been visited by a range of seamen, workers, technicians, experts and managers associated with the various construction projects from various countries and we have it on good authority that the mega port development has been rigorously managed and controlled and kept on time and within the tolerances laid down. The port has potential for roll-on-roll-off ships as well as cruise liners, which a lot of people around here hope will also soon choose to dock in Boca Chica with their, for the Boca Chica area in general, equally valuable cargoes.
The night scene will, by the way, be so much more viewable from May 1st because the Playa Vista bar will no longer be throwing customers out just after sunset, but will stay open for the full spectacular entertainment until 10 pm or thereabouts – we just had to satisfy the increasingly vociferous demand to enjoy a nightcap and the million dollar view from the Playa Vista Terraza!
Meanwhile seven years later:
The cargoes brought in to the Caucedo port have continued to grow unabated and is now established as a major multi-modal port in the Caribbean. The port has clearly added employment over in Andres although direct advantages have been little felt in Boca Chica and the arrival of cruise ships appeared to be just another of those disappointing rumors.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
For better or for worse an atypical quiet period has fallen over the Dominican Republic. For those of you who are DR ‘watchers’ you will know that there is an important general election coming along in a month’s time and, in spite of the tremendous fanfare of public rallies and noisy street cavalcades put on by the main political parties, all the public sector offices strangely seem to take it as given that everything should be put on hold or seriously decelerated at the very least. Even stranger that once a new government is elected then there is a further three month hand-over transition period of even less activity before the wheels start rolling again.
For those of you who are DR-economic watchers you will note that a certain quiet has spread to the peso exchange rate too: consistently in the range of 42 to 44 pesos to the US dollar for quite some weeks now – a stability that is very welcome although it remains to be seen if there is a direct link between this and the pending election itself!
Quietness currently also extends to us in Boca Chica as the Easter break is over and people feel a far less urgent need to escape from the cold north. This week we have even noted a number of our regular long-term Playa Vista visitors packing up their belongings before making the return trek to ‘summer it out’ back in those northern latitudes.
So, pop by for a quiet drink… and stir things up a bit!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Election talk is very much in the air again – for 2012. After two successive terms in charge Leonel Fernandez has recently made it clear that he is not going to seek a change in the constitution that would allow him to run again. So the run off in 2012 could even be a complete repeat of 2000 which saw Hipolito Mejia of the PRD defeat Danilo Medina of the PLD leading to a disastrous downward lurch in the value of the peso by 2004. Based solely on currency values the incumbent PLD has done an unbelievable job. The peso started to strengthen once the new Fernandez administration took over in 2004 and has remained in the 33 to 37 range ever since!
Thursday, April 8, 2004
Dogs are great… they are after all man’s best friend! Unfortunately at the same time it has to be recognized they, just like their human friends, can be noisy, dirty and even malicious. In many countries dogs are kept as household pets, because the friendship offered clearly outweighs any of those negatives. Many Boca Chica residents have their pets too, but for those of you who live here or who have visited, you will know there are at times hordes of the non-domestic type in town also. It is difficult to know where they come from… almost like asking whence came original man. Anyway they roam freely around, scavenge for food often easily obtained from sympathetic visitors or restaurants, sleep an unbelievable amount of time in the comfortable shade under sun-beds or parasols and generally hang out untroubled by anyone or anything. We have rarely seen any maliciousness from them, in fact their somnolent, humble subservience allows them to live largely in harmony with their human neighbors. A medium-sized black and white mongrel going by the name of “Bandida” had for several years adopted one of our good customers as patron. It was astonishing to see her loyally turn up day after day in October last year in search of her patron completely oblivious of the fact that he had flown up to Canada for the summer. Since his return Bandida and her patron have whiled away the winter quite happily until last week when the local health authorities decided that something should be done about the number of those free-wheeling stray dogs. The action must have been carried out swiftly, without fuss and even under the cover of darkness because we have yet to hear a single report as to how almost the entire feral dog population disappeared from one day to the next.
It has had a direct affect on us at Playa Vista: our sleeping time is far less interrupted by what had become increasingly noisier night-time bark-ins. However – Bandida’s patron is visibly unnerved by the loss as is Bandida’s summer stand-in patron… because of course she was playing the field!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Over the intervening years dogs have continued to come and go but the relative plague at that time has never been repeated. Unfortunately it would seem that even the dogs are saying something about the lack of authority care and attention given to the town by voting with their paws.
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
At this time of the year the day-time temperature is beginning to warm up a little as the sun gets higher in the sky and we move towards the “summer” months. We have noticed the usual end-of-March slackening off in visitor activity on the Boca Chica beach although Easter, known here as Semana Santa, will be on us next week and this usually brings hordes to the beach especially from Santo Domingo. The numbers are so great that the authorities provide temporary parking lots on the edge of town where it is obligatory to leave your car and walk the 10 minutes or so down to the beach because unless you are resident or have a special pass entry by car is not permitted. Not only that but also the beach will be closed at six o’clock promptly every day and anybody still in the water at this time will literally be dragged out onto dry land and sent home packing to prevent people having too good a time.
We will do our very best to make sure we are fully stocked for the occasion, although we don’t like to over count our chickens especially as we have had difficulties from time to time in getting the requisite supplies even from Coca-Cola and President beer and we are not, for a change, talking about umbrellas.
Taking up two recently mentioned themes: a member of the Red Cross team working in beleaguered Haiti was visiting the bar this week and confirmed that although there was very little affect on the Dominican Republic of the troubles next door, the authorities here are aware that if ignored there could be a spill over so they have increased the military presence down towards the Haitian border. Apparently there are numerous check points after passing the border but once through Barahona the road returns to normal.
Talking of a return to normal… there is a rumor that the Hexenkessel will be returning to its previous location in Boca Chica main street exactly as it was, with the reopening planned for May 1st!
Happy Semana Santa!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Semana Santa continues year after year to be the biggest beach occasion in the calendar. In sharp changing contrast the world knows how dramatically the Haitian situation has deteriorated over the last couple of years and emphatically, as explained in recent posts, the Hekenkessel return was just a rumor.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
Here in Boca Chica we are fairly used to quickly changing business operations.
In one fell swoop in the autumn last year the three bar establishments Madhouse, Route 66 and Bar Austria were closed down suddenly all showing off the short and sharp official “CLAUSURADO” sign for days on end.
The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months without any clear answer as to why they weren’t selling their usual fare. The owners tended to just shrug their shoulders when they were asked if and when they would be opening again. The unconstructive shoulder shrugging obviously got the better of them because they started touch-up decorations, then moved onto structural alterations followed by major decorative refurbishment and even name change before they finally all opened up again under their new colors: for Boca Chica connoisseurs they are now known respectively as “Gibi”, “Nicolas” and “Dominican-Suiza Bar”.
Meanwhile last week saw the surprising closure of “Hexenkessel”, a very popular feeding and watering hole located in the centre of the high street. A friend of ours was staying for the week and had set upon this restaurant for his daily breakfast. Round about day four he came back to ask if by any chance there should be an alternative breakfast place, because, as he explained, just as he was asking for the Hexenkessel menu a large truck pulled up and the workmen onboard began loading all furniture, fixtures and fittings in sight into the truck. As he saw his eggs, bacon and orange juice disappearing off with the truck and nowhere to sit he naturally left, but was just a tad curious to know what was happening with his favorite breakfast place.
He gave us a few more reports later on in the morning and indicated that business seemingly wasn’t over because a large consignment of beer was being delivered. He then later saw the large truck return and start off-loading the furniture, fixtures and fittings. He clearly relaxed his attention thinking that all would be well again for his breakfast the next morning, but… another independent report came in saying that the restaurant had been stripped entirely bare once again.
Well, the Playa Vista spies – alias the Playa Vista regulars – were ‘sent out’ into the Boca Chica environs to find out how such a well run, reasonably–priced, popular restaurant could suddenly be no longer. The days went by, but there weren’t any reliable news reports… not even any shrugged shoulders or owners waiting with paintbrushes to give a touch up to the décor. It would seem that the restaurant will not reopen, in that location under the same ownership anyway. Our most reliable source tells us that the restaurant owner was unhappy about the arrangement with the landlord and decided to up anchor and remove all his belongings after the authorities had, first off, mistakenly removed them believing them to belong to the landlord… who knows for sure?
What is for sure is that this particular disappearance is a loss to Boca Chica although we have now heard that members of the management are trying to see if they can reopen the “Hexenkessel” in another location. We wish them the best of luck!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Very recently over a lengthy period of time and with quite a display of workmanship the old Hexenkessel, that never did show its face or name in Boca Chica again, looked like it was due for a very serious relaunch. The upcoming new business name was flaunted on banners and placards as “Duende del Sur” (Goblin of the South). Suddenly the work stopped with an opening almost in sight. The lot remains completely vacant and rumors kind of repeat the old Hexenkessel demise story. The landlord stopped playing ball again. Two of the other venues have continued to function but under changing arrangements. The old Route 66 is now named Piano Plaza – Discoteca Gimandi and the name Madhouse has returned though be it occupying just a slim sliver of the old premises the rest being occupied by a Spaghetteria and New Pizza Da Luigi. The most unfortunate happening though was to the Dominican-Swiss bar which currently has no name plate hanging up because a recent fire burnt the entire place to the ground. It is said that sparks caught light in part of the palm leaf roofing. Hope does spring eternal though because men were soon seen re-laying the cement floor.
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Talking of neighbors, or more accurately stated ex-neighbors, we would like to relate a story regarding the neighbor/ex-neighbor on our east side who for quite different reasons, almost never pleasant but always entertaining, focused our attention through the years.
The bombastic and dramatic Italian arrived next door some months after we established our own position on the Boca Chica beach here at Playa Vista and immediately set about upping the commercial operations of the property in all sorts of more or less legal directions: discotheque, gaming machines, Jacuzzi and internet café not to mention his beach bar and restaurant business closely linked to his hotel up the road.
Unfortunately his commercial enthusiasm got the better of him from time to time – as for example when he tried to squeeze us for RD$100,000 simply for the privilege of being his neighbor, meaning having our buildings adjoining what he saw as his wall though of course for fifty years it had always been a communal wall, and the time he outrageously installed a big air and noise-polluting generator on his second floor right up to our private apartments – and the authorities had on occasion to actively participate in his supremely egoistic planning, whether invited or not, such as the time when the police felt it necessary to remove his out-door speaker system to allow people in the neighborhood to get their full quota of sleep. So exuberant was he at times that officials often had to repeat the message concerning the extreme inconvenience he was causing to others, but in the case with the speakers he seemingly got the point loud and clear although not until the second time around, for he surprisingly never attempted to replace the replacement speakers that were also removed !
One of his more inventive schemes was a giant advertising board about six feet in length with the laconic message ‘PIZZA’ which he placed jutting out at a 90 degree angle from our communal wall blocking off a considerable part of the view from our terrazza. The local council inspected, rightly deemed it totally unacceptable and ordered him to remove it. His creativity was in the anticipation of such a move and after considerable blustering he seemingly gave in but cunningly simply slid the sign back in flush with the wall on its ingenious in-built roller system. Soon after, with the official inspectors well out of sight, he tried his luck and slid the sign out again and again and again sliding the infamous sign in at night and when he scented that the inspectors were due to visit. The changing personnel at the local authority were along the way increasingly less diligent, and this cat and mouse game went on for some considerable time until last year, when an extraordinarily sudden and powerful wind threw its full weight along the beach and utterly and completely destroyed the sign snapping it off flush with the wall and breaking what remained into quite a few unrepairable pieces! What was even stranger was that the inventive man had passed on from this world almost precisely at the same time!
Shocking though this was, not least to his family and his very very few friends, the pleasing sequel to this from our perspective is that the poor fellow’s very friendly and understanding widow now has taken charge and given us a personal promise that no new sign will be repositioned while she remains in charge.
Mother nature sure works in mysterious ways… especially in Boca Chica!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Alvaro was the man’s unforgettable name and his wife was true to her word. She sold on the business to another subsequently and there has been quite a long string of owners all trying their luck ever since, each one also Italian but none anything like our first splendid ego example… thankfully!
Thursday, January 29, 2004
The key story of the week in our town, not to mention every other town in the country, is that of demonstrative inactivity. We began Monday with a national holiday ‘Founders Day’ – in other words the celebration of the founding father of the country Juan Pablo Duarte. We all leapt back into action come Tuesday only to have our normal pattern dampened again on Wednesday and Thursday with two further days of national inactivity celebrated by those who choose to show their dissatisfaction with the current ‘economic situation’- largely read ‘governmental situation’- and withhold their labor in what is termed a ‘general strike’. The particularly worrying aspect is that it does happen around here that some people take the matter further than stating their position and add violence to their demonstrations. In November a forerunning national strike day was called for and held, and by the time burning tires, cars and general garbage had been cleared away there was also a count of eight fatalities in Santo Domingo. Wisely, various authorities have been calling for the need to demonstrate peacefully this time around and it would seem that the calls have helped, although the latest count of only one deceased in Santiago during yesterday’s strike was also accompanied by at least 32 wounded in skirmishes in different parts of the country.
Meanwhile, here in Boca Chica and Playa Vista we have mainly run counter to the national trend and been our usual active selves. Indeed there were comments around the bar yesterday noting how much more effective one could be paying bills and changing money because of a very rare situation: not the slightest sign of people waiting in line at the bank or the electricity company… although there were other inconveniences such as the fact that the water company workers had chosen to support the strike and even our pizza maker decided he would lay down his tools and rest his dough.
We would say that the mood in our immediate vicinity was busier though calm as people seemed to have chosen to sit out the general inactivity at good old Playa Vista.
We cannot help noticing though, that news of the situation here is rippling all the way up to the cold US north, because we had an ABC news camera crew doing interviews and taking footage from our terrazza… so you should be able to hear more of our comments on the subject as well as for once experience some shots in full color of Playa Vista and 50% of the management when they finally edit their program and transmit it sometime in February.
Meanwhile seven years later:
It is rare for a year to pass in the Dominican Republic without a general strike or two to be called. Perhaps just like in any other democratic country it is difficult to see that the working man and woman, for whom they are called, gain very much from it. However Dominicans do at least know how to enjoy themselves when they get that day off!
Thursday, December 25, 2003
As we come from a continent steeped in the Christian culture and here and now are living in a country that has inherited much of that same culture, we recognize this day as significant in the calendar for a lot of people. Naturally, each country has its own variation of this day and the Dominican flavor follows a common European theme of big family gatherings on Christmas Eve accompanied by large feasting and carousing in their own homes although the giving of gifts is not something that takes place until the day of the three kings (Los Tres Reyes) which is January 6th.
Anyway… back here at Playa Vista we were presented with a very pleasant Christmas Eve scenario. One of the most gorgeous sunsets bathed the horizon and the assembled regular customers. So compelling was the naturalness it was clear that the customers were giving themselves over to it more than usual. The sunset was sublime, the temperature was ideal, there was not a stirring of any wind and quite significantly there was hardly a sound to be heard on the beach because all the locals surprisingly had upped themselves and headed for their home parties quite some time before. It was peaceful, gentle and full of goodwill to all men as the group raised their glasses on more than one occasion wishing each other good Christmas tidings. The sun dropped out of sight and almost immediately popped up the glittering shininess of Venus hanging directly above a barely formed crescent of a new moon. We couldn’t help thinking that the star of Bethlehem was shining down on Boca Chica at that moment – Happy Christmas folks!
Meanwhile seven years later:
We gradually learned that it was more or less the same pattern each Christmas. We cannot be sure if the star of Bethlehem shines down on cue every year though. Whether it is shining or not where you are we would always seriously advise you to enjoy yourselves.
Sunday, August 31, 2003
Everything is as rosy as it comes here in our little corner of paradise just every now and again the material world gives us a straight uppercut just to remind us that we after all live in the world of inertia. We had been on rather a good run without many interruptions of late to the regular smooth service, but suddenly last week we were back trying to walk through the “molasses” again. It was late Friday night (of course) and the telephone started playing tricks just at the same time as the computer (of course). Saturday both the phone and the computer were down and first off the local phone company, Codetel, were called. As we have a special business account they would be out to visit us in 24 hours. Great. By Sunday afternoon no show and when we, after the regular trek to the nearest usable public phone, asked what had happened – 24 hours on weekdays not weekends stupid! Oh god, of course, and thanks for not mentioning that yesterday when we called!. Monday came and went and still no show. Tuesday morning off to call again to ask why? The engineer couldn’t find us! For those of you who don’t know our location, we are in the dead centre of town on a small street with very few businesses where the monthly bill always arrives correctly and where no engineer had ever previously had difficulty in locating us. We had now missed Tuesday so we got another appointment Wednesday between 9 and 4. So, Wednesday at 3.15 we made another call to Codetel because we were getting a bit worried based on our previous experiences – How would this globe trotting engineer ever find us? Was he really looking for us? Did Codetel even exist beyond a voice at the end of the line? and other similar outlandish questions. The cool response to that call was that the appointment was still valid because it was not yet 4 o’clock. So, they insisted, with absolutely no recognition of our genuine concern for what was likely to happen, that we just wait again! Another hour later when nobody turned up off to the jolly old public phone to point out exactly how our fears were well founded and ask how could we possibly ensure that a visit was going to be made at all. They now offered us something they called a “numero de reclamacion” which we interpreted to be a kind of complaints number. It certainly wasn’t linked to any form of financial recompense for the inconvenience caused. It was rather as if it was now finally recognized that we actually had a problem and now that we had passed through the complaints initiation rites they would actually consider doing something about it. The man we dealt with after giving us the requisite number assured us that somebody would definitely visit us by SEPTEMBER FIRST! (four days hence). Now what was all that talk of 24 hours 5 days previously!
Nearly everybody around here has their favorite Codetel story; Codetel in fairness being a company by and large operating with 21st century systems simply with the occasional gaping glitch, and this is for now, ours besides being (by the way) quite a long way round to explain the delay in getting the blog entry out this time.
See you all later, si Codetel quiere of course!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Codetel actually disappeared off the radar screen for a while during the time that it was owned by and became known as Verizon. However a few years later a joint venture of America Movil SA and Mexico Telmex bought the company and determined that the old name of Codetel was so very fondly thought off they would go back to the good old ways. The new management team from America Movil SA and Mexico Telmex clearly did not read our blog.
Friday, August 22, 2003
The Pan American Games are over and the enthusiasts on our island seem to be very pleased with the outcome, not least the haul of 10 gold medals and even more silver and bronze for the Dominican team across a range of sports from 400 meters hurdles to table tennis. After the voluble celebrations of the Brazilian soccer silver medalists at Playa Vista and the coming and going of many other participants we are now left with our usual summer influx of visitors, the peaking summer temperatures and most important of all our truly international range of friendly customers who trek from even further afield than the Americas to visit our little town with surprising regularity. We ourselves have been experiencing a little streak of high temperatures in the last few days but that has to be tempered with the knowledge we are getting people from middle and southern Europe cooling down here in their escape from exceptional heat and forest fires back home.
Meanwhile seven years later:
Global warming is given as the reason for such peaks of heat. However, the coast of the Dominican Republic seems to continue to bask in that accurate perpetual June observation from Christopher Columbus