Published: July 6th 2012
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Santiago, the capital of the north! This is my 2nd night in the 2nd biggest city of the DR, and as I had heard from many other Dominicans, the city is supposed to be much, much better. And well, I completely agree with all of those opinions; the city is decently clean, located in the mountains, and much safer (at least from my vantage point). In addition, there are around 1 million people in a small area, so the city felt more packed, but was much better maintained. Honestly, it felt like you were back in the US in a regular big city. However, with every new city I visit of course there comes another story.

Story time!

So after lunch with my group of 7 volunteers at a tourist restaurant, Montezuma, near the gorgeous monument in the middle of the city, 5 of volunteers went back to the hostel, whereas Simona and I went to do some sight-seeing because well if I don’t walk around a new city, I will feel like I never saw it. Oh I want to add that right next door to Montezuma was the restaurant that had the theme of cowboys like in Texas. The restaurant décor down to the guy dressed up like a cowboy outside tempting you to come inside was all just ridiculously dressed. Really, what was this doing here? It was over the top in a latin way, super cheesy is what I should write. So our plan was to go to the flea market before it closed because Simona wanted some cheap clothes, and if I saw some nice flashy shoes (cheap of course) to wear to go out that are not nice brown or black shoes then I would spend a little cash (keep in mind that I only had 600 pesos on me, which is about 15 US). After a 30 min walk, we finally arrive to the flea market that is masquerading as a zoo, and what ensues is just organized chaos. I want to further add that when you donate clothes to charities or Salvage Army or something like that and then they send the clothes to the needy people in Haiti, those same Haitains take some of the clothes, cross the border into the DR and then resell the clothes cheaply. This is the reason why Dominicans wear so many t-shirts in English with the most insane messages, and of course have no idea what it says since in my opinion you have a much better time asking a Haitian a question in English than a Dominican. Most Dominicans have such terrible accents when talking in English, whereas their supposed less educated (extremely racist topic here) Haitian counterparts speak English in a very good accent. Okay so lets not digress any further!

We are in the flea market, and people are yelling that any clothes in their pile are either 10 to 30 pesos, depending on which vendor. And when I see a vendor selling new or more than likely used shoes, I go to check out the selection. What this usually means is that even though you tell the vendor that you are just looking, he shoves shoes in your face, and basically tells you that this particular shoe is always beautiful, nice, or pretty (look, some of these shoes are sinfully ugly, but keep showing them to me because I love saying “No” 30 times in 5 minutes. In reality, I am really okay with this because saying No is just so easy and well I’m looking for a shoe to just wow me so my answer right away is always, always a “No”, and if I see a good one I just say nothing and never ask for the price. I just grab it, ask for the other pair, and try to show zero emotion while trying on the shoe. I am doing well, right Dad?). After going through several shoe vendors, I went to try on some shirts, where the quality of the shirt was not good enough for me. As I am coming out of the make-shift dressing room, Simona tells one of the guys that I would like to see some shoes. I was already thinking in my head that I would like to look at shoes, I don’t need to see some shoes. See implies that I want to buy some shoes, looking means I just want to scout them out. Anyways, we follow this guy to his more “official” store containing shoes, and after picking what I believed to be the best looking shoe, I tried the shoe on even though they gave me a 40 and I’m a 43.5. Seriously, this would happen all the time there, I would say my size and then they would always hand me a shoe that was much smaller. Regardless, the shoe didn’t fit, but the owner said he had another shoe store that was “close”, so I went with him for a 5 minute walk through the maze and arrived at this store, where shockingly they found the right size for me. Mind you at the 2nd store, the two owners were arguing what price to charge me for the shoes because I don’t know a single fucking word of Spanish. After both shoes were finally on my feet, but before I could do a little walk around the store, I asked much, only because Simona was badgering me to do this (look I got all the time in the world to decide if I even like this).

Tal: How much?

Owner: 120

Tal: (in my mind that was super cheap, but I was in the middle of trying to put them on my feet, and as I have said before, I didn’t even know if I liked them)

Owner: 120 dollars, so 3,500 pesos (actually idiot if you are going to try and cheat me at least say it’s closer to 4500 pesos. You do want more of my money, right?)

Tal: Too much (with a slight smirk)

Owner: Pero, tu eres blanco! (But, you are white!)

Before I go on anymore, why would you explain your rationale for trying to charge me around 12 times too much? Moron. I thought you were supposed to sweet talk me into the deal, not offend me!

Other owner: How much do you want to pay for it?

Tal: 300 pesos (I should have said 1 peso because that is what you always respond to this kind of question, and well you really would want to pay 1 peso for it).

After an inquisitive look on the part of the owners, I just got up and walked away laughing at their faces. And right on cue, another owner comes running after me saying that they were trying to cheat me, and that I could have the shoes for 700.

Later that night, still with Simona, we went to a casino, because we heard from a particular volunteer that if you stay there long enough in the casinos in the DR, you get free drinks and chicken wings! Unfortunately, the chicken wings never came, along with the alcohol, but we only spent a combined $2.50 for an hour of not so fun slot machines. The next time I go into a casino, blackjack here I come because it is the only game that interests me (well, poker is even a better game, but I don’t have time for a texas hold em tournament). I do want to criticize these new slot machines that do not take any coins, and have extremely complicated explanations on how to win. Seriously, if 2 people with 4 degrees between them can’t get the game in 2 minutes then it is just too complicated, but that is the point. Basically, you just say “fuck it” and lose all of your money since the explanation is in lawyer English.


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