Archive for the ‘Helping hands’ Category
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, 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…
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!
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!
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
This story also began quite some while ago with our ‘Pennsylvanian knight in shining armour’ observing a woman diligently and happily cleaning the floors of the business next door to the apartment he was using during his stay. He had quietly watched her on each of his sojourns to Boca Chica: She was always punctually at her place of work without complaining and always a smile on her face at 8.30 in the morning. She had an equally smiling young daughter, Gabriela, who in almost the same way as her mother furnished a big smile without a full set of front teeth. Unfortunately the mother’s front teeth had all long since disappeared, but her daughter had lost just the one in recent months due to falling from a motorbike in an accident. Our man from Pennsylvania big-heartedly decided to help out and with the permission of the mother offered to pay for a new tooth to be prepared for Gabriela. The mother was shyly, though gratefully, accepting and the local dentist was consulted. As Gabriela was still growing it was advised a denture with one tooth would be the solution for now and perhaps a more permanent job could be done in the future. Our generous friend was actually in for more than he bargained in the end, because it turned out that Gabriela needed more than just a new tooth – it seemed that she had never visited a dentist and needed 4 cavities filled, repairs to the other front tooth which had been chipped in the accident, full cleaning and then during the treatment an abscess was discovered that needed root canal treatment. Our gallant Pennsylvania Man stayed the whole course visiting with Gabriela for each treatment, paying the full bill on each occasion and confided to us at the Playa Vista bar when the job was finished that he believed it was well worth every penny. The mother was just as delighted and not a little hopeful that if she keeps smiling when our Pennsylvania Man returns next time she might just get the same attractive overhaul!
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Every cloud has its silver lining. The cloud, if you should remember reading our blog of 08/04/05, was the frustrating delay we experienced when we finally made our move and asked Verizon to take us into the modern world with a high-speed DSL internet connection. The silver lining is now double layered for we remain not only as pleased as ever with this new service but we are also able to announce laptop friendly WiFi connections anywhere within the Playa Vista territory including the sunbeds on the beach! This service – that finally scatters away the remains of the cloud and lets the sun shine through – is available to all good Playa Vista customers free of charge and is made possible by the kind sponsorship of DR1, via their donation of a wireless broadband router and the installation skills of good old Rob.
Wednesday, May 4, 2005
We are pleased to say that we have a couple of genuine ‘good-guy stories’ in the pipeline for you… the first goes like this:
Massachusetts Man, our good-guy number one, has developed quite an onerous but benevolent habit of carting something like 150lbs of produce down from Boston to donate to the local Boca Chica high school “Elvira de Mendoza“, and this he now does a couple of times a year. In good old entrepreneurial fashion he saw a market opportunity that he has developed over the years… with the single entrepreneurial omission that he doesn’t make any money out of it!
One fine day he noticed a lot of good paper was going to waste around him at his place of work. The match up was that he in his mind’s eye saw this paper being well used in poor old Boca Chica and where better than one of the local schools he thought. He had the brilliant idea that a lot of the notepads and business paper pads, when finished with, could simply be recycled by using the blank obverse sides. So, he made a point of asking all his work colleagues to put these pads and papers aside for him. From this simple beginning he has extended his product range asking all his friends and colleagues for any kinds of paper pads, pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners or anything of that ilk, that they might be able to spare to add to his haul. Not satisfied with that he also visits the local dollar stores just before setting off to see if he can pick up some additional inexpensive bargains to make up the full load. This is of course working very much counter to pure entrepreneurship because this now involves money actually coming out of his own pocket. However, a recent market diversification has him back on track spotting an opportunity for low value products with large potential demand. He came across the chance of 200 free sample tubes of toothpaste with toothbrushes and promptly stuffed them also into one of his carrier bags and brought the whole thing down to Boca Chica. Once in town he phones the school to make an appointment with the principal of the school in order to present his offering. She, as well as all the contented recipients, is quite rightly very thankful and everybody is now more than ever looking forward to welcoming the creative and generous packhorse the next time he can make a run.
So… if you see our Massachusetts Man struggling through either Boston or Santo Domingo International Airports you might like to give him a hand with his baggage knowing that it is all in a good cause. Perhaps others of you out there have some other creative ideas along the lines of Massachusetts Man’s… we would be only too pleased to pass the information on and keep the supply of good intentions running if that were the case.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
A good and trusted friend of Playa Vista came to us with a very discomforting personal story recently. For a living he teaches in an inner city New York high school, by all accounts not the easiest job in the world, and clearly a man deserving of his summer vacation in the warmth free from all the stress and strain of responsibility that he usually bears. Well… he is such a good and trustable friend that another New Yorker, but Boca Chica resident, asked if he would look after his dog for a couple of weeks while he sorted a few personal matters out in the Big Apple. No problem said the trusted friend in a telephone conversation before he arrived. The day after his arrival and his supposed holiday began he was thus in charge of a young and extremely healthy male dog in his hotel. Unfortunately, not long passed before said dog got entangled in a very serious encounter with two other long-term resident dogs ostensibly due to his desire to satisfy a natural instinct with the female and the other male being somewhat reluctant to allow this kind of hanky panky in his territory. Anyway… the virile dog was held fore and aft by the two other dogs and our valiant teacher friend called for water – thinking that a nice big bucket of the cold type might quell their dispute. Unfortunately the hotel maid came running with merely a cup, but full nonetheless, that had zero effect on the snarling dogs even when she offered to refill it. By this time the dogs were getting into a serious frenzy and our vacationing teacher now had to prove his valor and came rushing with a large broom. He succeeded by finally separating all the dogs after a considerable struggle only to find that his charge was quite badly mauled down one leg. With blood dripping from the wound he then arranged and paid for a vet to visit and apply the necessary treatment including administering antibiotics.
This in itself was a very sensitive point because our teacher knew only too well the sad story of what happened to wounded lover boy’s doggie predecessor to whom the owner was very attached. On one ordinary Boca Chica day a vet visited and injected the dog merely as a precaution against an illness picked up by one of the other resident dogs… and within 48 hours the poor dog very sadly died of a seizure.
Nevertheless… under the supervision of our good teacher the battered dog spent a couple of days recovering under the bed, but having got through several responsibility hurdles our teacher friend was now very apprehensive about letting the dog out of his sight let alone out of the his hotel room. Meanwhile he had to feed, walk and clean the dog as usual. Our baby-sitting teacher was really on the job and was last explaining his concern to us that he still hadn’t had the owner confirm his return as planned after 2 weeks which would leave our teacher a full week to finally get down to some more traditional Boca Chica relaxation after his hard day’s night working like a dog!
Meanwhile seven years later:
The dog did indeed fully recover and our teacher not only enjoyed the rest of his vacation but has continued to visit Boca Chica over the years but I believe he never offered to look alter anybody’s pet again!