Archive for the ‘Caribbean experiences’ Category
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Ever had a paint job done in the Dominican Republic?
One of our Playa Vista friends recently agreed to rent an apartment here in Boca Chica for his regular visits to this little corner of paradise in order to relax from work pressures in other parts of the world. He was very pleased with his new found home away from home… all apart from the color that is. He stated very clearly to the landlord that it was only the very decidedly pink nature of his bedroom he didn’t like. The rest of the house was absolutely fine in standard white. If he could just have the bedroom changed. Well… he went ahead; selected and bought a can of paint that he thought would be acceptable and noted it was labeled as “marfil” (ivory). The landlord’s son – very much in on the whole escapade, including the original conversation with the landlord – did the work and our friend was delighted with the outcome both the color and the standard of the workmanship.
Seeing that the workmanship was good and for the sake of uniformity he decided to invest some more and have the rest of the apartment also painted the same ‘marfil’ color. He bought an enormous drum of new paint with “marfil” clearly marked on the lid, for about 100 dollars, brushes, thinner and whatever else the landlord’s son would need to complete the job, while our friend took a flight out and went back to his work. Our friend even called and spoke to the landlord’s son to ask if everything was all right. ‘No problema!’ ‘Everything absolutely fine’. ‘Paint job all finished and ready for your arrival’. “All right then, I’ll be there in about a week to see it for myself.”… Kind of conversation.
He flew into town and hurried to his new found newly painted apartment thinking to start a relaxing hassle-free stay in town. He stood aghast at the entrance to the apartment, as soon as he opened the front door. The paint job had been executed perfectly it seemed. He was merely aghast because everything was the very same awful PINK that the bedroom had been, all mercifully except his bedroom which, at least, was still ivory. Every other room was the same totally unacceptable pink… even the previously acceptable white ceilings had now been touched up with ‘decorative’ pink center-pieces round the light fittings!
He could at least go to sleep that night surrounded by the only four ivory walls still standing in his apartment while he contemplated how he would go about rectifying the situation. Would he invest another 100 dollars in paint? – ‘probably’. Would he get the landlord’s son to do it again? – also ‘probably’. Would he have the job done while he was away again? – “absolutely not”. Would he personally check that the label indicating the color and the actual color of the paint inside the bucket coincided before the work began? – “very definitely!”
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, 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!
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
We spend day after beautiful day looking out over the azure blue of the Caribbean Sea, and as another year draws to a close we thought we would present the Caribbean Sea’s view of us and at the same time offer a peek for those of you out there who have never visited these parts. Oh and by the way a VERY PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR to all of you. Why not make it one of those exotic New Year resolutions and drop by to check up on the Caribbean azureousness, the Latin-flavoured Dominican Republic and last but not least your Base Camp and InfoCenter PLAYA VISTA Boca Chica of course!
Saturday, November 12, 2005
The phone rang! It was the operator from Verizon, the main phone company here, asking if we would accept a collect call from ‘Minga’. “Not really,” we said “don’t know anybody by that name”. The operator called again. “Is there a Peter there?” Well, we couldn’t hide from the fact that there was, but it didn’t change the fact that nobody at Playa Vista knew anybody called Minga so we certainly wouldn’t accept a collect charge call from anybody by such a name. Once again the phone rang, only this time it was Minga in person. “Hello,” she said, “are you Peter?” “Yes” “Do you know me?” “No.” “Well you do know my mother – Santana from Barahona (a coastal town to the west of Santo Domingo) – don’t you?” “No, I don’t think so”. “Are you German?” Again: “No”. “What color is your hair?” The whole inquisitorial affair was conducted in halting but nonetheless clearly enunciated English. “Can I ask you where you are calling from?” “From Po.. land”. To our ears the accent could easily have been Polish and to non-Polish experts like us the name ‘Minga’ certainly sounded more Polish than Dominican… notwithstanding the mother from Barahona bit of course. Anyway back to Minga, “I am looking for a German Peter who is the father of my daughter”. “Sorry to disappoint you, but wherever he might be he is definitely not here, so we can’t really help you… though we could ask around to see if there is anybody in Boca Chica that might meet your description… by all means give us your number”.
After a brief sortie around town there was some information here and there, but not very helpful… because a particular German Peter was apparently in town some years ago and, even involved with a certain Minga, but the Peter in question had left Boca Chica a long time ago, at which the track went quite cold. We tried calling the given number putting in the national code for Poland -actually 48 for those of you who might want to call Poland one day- but there was no response whatsoever. The investigative second part of our job revealed, surprise surprise, that the first three digits Minga had given us pertained to PORTLAND Maine in the US of A! A…ha! We tried the number without the 48 and got through to Minga straight away. In passing we couldn’t help wondering if people from that part of the world are commonly aware that a slightly lazy pronunciation of the name of their town could easily lead to a huge geographic misunderstanding.
We told Minga about our not very helpful findings, and she now explained that her 7-year-old daughter wanted to see her father, not unreasonable in itself we thought, although chancing on InfoCenter Playa Vista in a case like this certainly seemed to be a very indirect way of keeping in touch with direct relatives. Minga was now divorced from the father of her other child and apparently trying to catch up rapidly with the past. She was of course disappointed that we were not able to find out more, but politely thanked us for our help and invited us, anytime we wanted, to come and spend time with her and her two children. We definitely got the sensation that perhaps Minga would be prepared to give up on the past, if the future should have something rosier to offer!
Maybe we will take up her very open-ended invite next time we are in Poland… excuse us Portland!
Sunday, October 16, 2005
Earlier in the summer we talked about the imminent arrival of a new beer from the Brazilian brewer ‘Ambev’ (see 22/07/05 blog) and with quite a fanfare “Brahma” was finally launched. ‘Brahma’ is a pilsner-type beer and comes in a brown bottle with a distinct red and gold label impressively claiming that it has been in production since 1888.
Ambev’s Brahma represents the latest challenge to monopolist Cerverceria Nacional’s, alias León Jimenes, two main brands ‘Presidente’ and ‘Bohemia’ here in the Dominican Republic, and Ambev are evidently here for the long haul, because they have spent a large sum of money already… besides a huge and impressive PR-campaign they have also spent heavily on the building of a large brewery in Hato Nuevo with production capacity of 1 million hectoliters! The name Brahma itself has generated a certain amount of interest with several theories going the rounds of the Playa Vista bar as to its origins and meaning. For the uninitiated Brahma is actually the name of the Indian Hindu god of creation, a link that should be promotionally persuasive of itself, in some people’s books, to give it a try… however a certain learned German-Boca Chica coterie claims that the name derives from the starting letters of Brauhaus Mannheim – a German brewery – which had something to do with the brew’s beginnings way back at the end of the 19th century before it even got to Brazil.
Brahma beer might be the latest fad here, but it is clearly old hat to the Brazilians, for a large group of young thirsty vacationing footballers from the internationally renowned Brazilian teams of ‘Vasco da Gama’ and ‘Flamengo’ jogged up to the Playa Vista bar one day recently and demanded the stuff. Up to as many as 15 of them, over a period of four days, wouldn’t drink anything else and were not the least bit impressed with the local Presidente or Bohemia offerings. The regulars seem to have mixed opinions on the subject. The main commentary is that Brahma is lighter, which clearly satisfies some, for Brahma certainly has ’created’ a following, even if the new brew on the block cannot be said to be dislodging the old incumbent and market dominating Presidente quite yet.
It is still early days, which is clearly the attitude of both rival beer companies, as we remain disappointingly waiting for new promotional encouragement from either of them. While awaiting a promised batch of new parasols from Presidente (see June/July 2003 blog archives) we certainly wouldn’t hesitate in coming forward if Brahma were to ask if we needed anything to further enhance the beach area in front of Playa Vista for all our distinguished guests.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
As we live virtually on top of the Caribbean Sea it would be no great surprise to learn that there are a variety of ways in which you can entertain yourself with the water element lapping at your door. You can, of course, go swimming or fishing. But how about both with a little stint of ‘fish-sitting’ thrown in.
It was a quiet Sunday morning in the tranquil pond-like water that is our backdoor tropical lagoon and a quick underwater swim was the order of the day.
With water still largely blocking the ears after rising to the surface again, did the young boy standing up to his waist in the water really say: “Can you lend me a candle?” It was needless to say a bright sunny day, so the surprising question seemed a bit far out. “What on earth for?” one could certainly ask with reason, but as the normal attire for frolicking about in the water is a simple pair of trunks it was quite tempting to answer – “No, run right out of them actually”. “Well, in that case” he said, “could you just hold this line then, while I go to the nearest shop and get that candle… I need a float”. The picture as well as the ears were beginning to clear. The boy was fishing and had obviously been quite successful even without a float, in that there were a couple of fish on the end of a line that he was holding.
“All right, why not?” So… he untied the makeshift fishing line from his waist and handed it over. It was an extremely long tennis-shoe lace, with two moderately sized fish hooked to the other end. The fish were not only still alive but quite naturally very eager to get away. The sensation left with was very much like a cross between walking a dog on a leash and baby-sitting
Off he was, and it was time to reflect a little with fish in tow on this sunny Caribbean day. The boy did soon return with his new wax float in hand and re-took charge of the fish. Thankfully, at least for all the dogs and babies of this world, the baby-sitting dog-walking analogy ended then and there because… without question the fish were definitely destined for the pot later that day!
Monday, August 1, 2005
A seemingly unavoidable part of life here in the Caribbean is described in the single simple word “gripe” – actually pronounced “greepay” in the local vernacular. Etymologically we presume there to be a link with the English word of the exact same spelling, though markedly different pronunciation. However, the English seems to refer more to the mental rather than the physical state of malcontent. Perhaps the best translation would be “influenza”, but the variability can be so extreme that it hardly seems right to describe yourself as having “greepay” when you are writhing in near agony in your bed or in other cases merely suffering a sniffle of the nose. One explanation could be that the latter would fit into the category of mere common cold although this still doesn’t seem to adequately get to the bottom of the subject.
Coming from Western Europe we were of course used to such cold and influenza strikes being associated primarily with the colder weather of winter. As we don’t experience such a thing as winter here, we probably thought we would be liberated from such unpleasantries altogether. But of course that would have been too hasty and just a little too convenient!
On the positive side our experiences and observations indicate that it is rare for vacationing visitors to be struck down with any form of this gripe at any time of the year… however, once you overstay that initial holiday period it would seem that you become increasingly exposed to the families of viruses that of course circulate here just as well as anywhere else.
We do tend to think that we have earned some kind of protection through the years, but Mother Nature surely has her ways to show who’s the boss every now and again. Perhaps the most confounding feature of all is the variability of time in suffering from the gripe which can in our experience range from a few hours to even a few weeks and even more destabilizing it can come calling briefly, disappear almost as briefly and then return in full vengeance a day or too later. It can also appear in its stronger form at the beginning, disappear for a few days, lull you into a sense of false security and then sweep back in for another attack later.
One thing is for sure… in spite of the ‘perpetual June’ climate here on our Caribbean island the gripe is a fact of life. The locals put up with it, the newer residents put up with it and the old hands from time to time also have to take their turn. But… consolation is ever at hand making it a whole lot easier to live with the sporadic visits of the gripe in the form of swaying palm trees, near-constant blue skies and azure-blue sea… with such a panorama you merely have to sit back, take it easy and watch your good old body fend off the unwelcome malingerer while reminding yourself you really are in paradise after all!
Monday, July 4, 2005
A short message to let you all know that we are well and truly back in town – the good old familiar town of Boca Chica that is.
The reason for the scarcity of blog uploads from Playa Vista in recent weeks was the now almost traditional yearly break with the routine. It may seem strange to those of you who live elsewhere, but a holiday away from paradise does actually have its attractions. A couple of weeks back in the old continent works wonders for removing the Caribbean cobwebs, letting the mosquito bites work themselves out of the system and reacquainting oneself firstly with long sleeve shirts and then on cool evenings long sleeve sweaters.
Talking of the old continent… Europe was awash with political recriminations – oh all right the French and the British were just carrying right along with their 1000 year-old squabble – but by the end of the stay what had seemed like an issue that could determine the fate of everything from the shape and size of sausages to the outbreak of world war three was dropped like a limp baguette and the focus was suddenly on the G8 summit coming up at Gleneagles and the fortunes (read misfortunes) of British tennis players at Wimbledon.
So, as of today, we will put away our long sleeved clothing and knuckle down to some good old serious Caribbean pleasure after the luxury of that vacation in breast-beating Europe while at the same time retreating into a world that seemingly has far fewer problems… because on an island where events in the outside world are rarely talked about the cozy presumption is that they don’t exist, right?
Friday, March 11, 2005
We receive quite a number of e-mails from people responding in some way or other to our Boca Chica/DomRep blog. The norm is to be asked for more information about something to do with the country in general, Santo Domingo in particular or, of course, good old Boca Chica. We did on one occasion, October 8th 2004 to be precise, post a piece of interesting correspondence in its entirety received from Sarah Frey in order to help keep the entertainment rolling. In her letter Sarah took us back to the late 1950s early 60s. It would seem that Fred of Washington DC was in town just after her as he refers to the civil war: of 1965 we presume. A war, by the way, that was relatively easily and quickly ended but not without a little friendly help from neighboring Uncle Sam. Since then the country has been moving ever forward on its increasingly politically democratic and peaceful path.
I came across your blog- love it!
As a child, I lived in Boca Chica during the civil war, on Calle Duarte. Of course, back then Boca Chica was a sleepy little village and not much happened. I remember how people would go the park and watch the novellas (soap operas) on the park’s TV. Anyway, I bet Boca Chica is quite different these days. I will continue checking your blog to see what’s up over there.
Fred- Wash DC
We were wondering if there is anybody out there who can provide even more detail of that immediate post-Trujillo period or perhaps go back still further – amongst you native English speakers we some how doubt it, but we keep on being surprised. And thank you Fred!