Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Holidays in the DR

Holidays in my site…

December is a sleepy month in the DR. The first half of the month was filled with the last meetings of various community groups, wrapping up the year with Angelitos (secret santa), eating the Dulces de Navididad (Christmas sweets of apples, raisins and gumdrops), dancing to bachata and merengue and perico ripiao (very fast version of merengue), and playing a game called El Secreto.

                                                                Dulces de Navidad

El Secreto, or the Secret, is a game with many different versions played at parties. Version 1: Wrap a present and attach a chain link of paper to it, with each paper containing a sentence. A person begins, opening the paper that contains a sentence such as: he who is the biggest flirt, the girl with the lightest eyes, the cutest, and the most voluptuous. It really depends on the party and the crowd at how tame the sentences will be. The person reading it chooses the person in the room they think fits that description, and gives them a kiss, usually on the cheek. The game continues until the chain is gone and the last person opens the present. Version two: Put papers in balloon. A boy takes the balloon and a girl comes up and they pop the balloon using their bodies (usually sitting on the lap works best). They read the strip of paper in the balloon and game continues as such.

As food is an integral part of Dominican culture, there are many, many big late night meals with your bowl/plate filled to the brim with amazingly tasty Dominican cuisine (to give you an idea: spaghetti, moro- beans and rice mixed, yucca, guineo or banana served in more ways than you can imagine, plátano maduro frito or fried ripe plantain, guandules- green beans with the beans stripped out and normally cooked with coconut, bread, chicken and pork, goat, Russian salad, potato salad, stewed eggplant, okra, don’t get me started on deserts, etc.).

There is also the aguinardo (caroling a la DR), where groups of people start at one house and begin singing and dancing in the early morning hours, moving from house to house, waking people up that then join the group. The crowd grows as they move through the community.

Christmas is not as big of a deal as is Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is largely centered on the three F’s- family, food and fun. Preparation for the big Christmas Eve meal often begins the day before, and continues the entire next day. The food is set out and the massive food consumption begins. Many people pass through, sharing the meal and wishing each other a Feliz Noche Buena (Merry Christmas Eve). Some people pass through singing Christmas songs. This continues until very late (12/1 or even later) with music, dancing, and Presidente beer if one so desires.

                                                            Caroling (aguniardo) a la DR:

                                    Host parents' daughter, Yamile with excellent food she prepared:         

                                                              host parents dancing:

Unlike American culture, or at least in my experience Christmas presents are not exchanged. Santa doesn’t pass through the DR or much of Latin America from what I understand. Presents are instead given to children on January 6, Dia de los Reyes Magros, which the government changed to the 4th this year because it fell on a Monday and a four- day weekend just wasn’t long enough. Christmas day is a quite and relaxing day where people eat leftovers from Christmas Eve. It was not easy being away from family this year, and although I was quite distracted on Christmas Eve with all the festivities, Christmas Day held more somber tone for me. Luckily, some family friends were heading to the beach and invited Choco and me to come along. We stopped by Los Corbanitos, which is a remote and beautiful beach that happens to be the closest to my town (5 Km away).  Then we continued on to spend some time at Punto Salinas.

                                                    Me and Choco at Los Corbanitos

Christmas Party in the Capital…

A week before Christmas I was also in the capital going to go the Director’s annual Christmas party, held on the top floor of an apartment building that has an amazing view of Santo Domingo and the ocean. We enjoyed some Chinese food and an amazing array of deserts, and some hanging out time. I was asked to attend an event in Azua, a town thirty minutes past Bani to go to a conference hosted by the Secretary of the Environment  (with Jaime David, former Vice-president and now Secretary of Environment) at an off the road beach. Accompanied by three other volunteers and a Peace Corps driver, we finally found the event after much searching, which was to support a sort of local shrimping project sponsored by the Taiwanese government and the Dominican government.

                                                                  Outside Azua:

The beach was quite nice and the day interesting in so many words, with a flat tire on the way home and a nauseous bus passenger who projectile vomited a hot pink substance all over the cobrador (fare taker) and me on the bus ride on the way back to my town from Bani.  Good times.

The New Year….

Two thousand ten a new year and new decade has commenced. Just to think ten short years ago we were all huddled up in our basements with can openers and stacks of bottled water awaiting the impending doom of Y2K (although I was probably dancing to electronic music in some warehouse)!  This new years I brought in 2010 in Caberete with some great PCV friends and also my friend Julieta who happened to be around to celebrate!

Caberete is a beautiful beach town east of Puerto Plata. From Puerto Plata (roughly 3 ½ hours north of Santo Domingo) continue onto Sosúa, the sex tourism capital of the DR, and take a taxi twenty minutes east to Caberete, a once sleepy surfing town turned tourism and water sports destination.  We lucked out on weather really, with the day time being mainly clear to enjoy the gorgeous beach, warm water, and waves fit for challenging body surfing.  We had a nice place with a kitchen and beds for everyone on a place right on the beach. Caberete is nice because everywhere seems to be pretty much on the beach, with the main road running along the beach and nearly everything accessible to the beach. There are a lot of nice beach side places to eat and beach side bars for afternoon/night time. Accommodations are inexpensive compared to other touristy places.  It was a great time and I could not have asked for better food, company, fun and beach time. After new years we had a quick stop in Rio San Juan, a beautiful quiet neighbor of Cabarete with hotels on the cliffs of the ocean and beautiful picturesque beaches just a 10 minutes bus ride away. Gorgeous and I will definitely be going back.


                                                    Playa Grande, Near Rio San Juan:

My trip up north was just what I needed to start of the New Year running with a very work filled January.  Being back in my site feels better than what I expected.  I have already began chipping away at the mountain of community interviews I have to conduct for my survey, the breadth of the work I have to complete in preparation for 3 month IST (in service training held for one week in the capital).

                                                          Host mom phone outside house:

                                                                      Choco sleeping: