Tuesday, September 23, 2008

this is mostly about shopping

My mom’s whirlwind tour of the DR is drawing to a close soon, but I think she’ll be going back to the USA with a much better idea of what the DR is like than, say, your average all-inclusive resort visitor. Granted, we did have 2 days in the tourist magnet town of Puerto Plata, but we were there in the off-season, and we stayed at a $30/night hotel, rather than a resort. It was a pretty nice place—air conditioning AND hot running water (although you had to flip a switch 10 minutes before you wanted to use hot water)!—but it was on the edge of town on a very poorly-paved road, including a completely unnecessary speed bump, which made every cab ride into the city center an adventure!

We spent about an hour in total at the beach, which was fine, since my mom’s not that into beaches, and Puerto Plata wasn’t really up to my Caribbean beach snob standards. Our favorite thing was probably the cable car ride to the top of Mount Isabela, which was fun and provided a beautiful view of the city and the sea. PLUS there was a giant statue of Christ the Redeemer on the top, which I posed with for a photo (coming soon to a Facebook profile near you). The mountaintop also housed several desperate souvenir stores, whose owners followed us around shouting increasingly lower prices at us. Prices, for the most part, on kitsch that not even my mom wanted to buy, although she did finally snag a mahogany rooster at half the original price.

Her best purchase, however, was in down off the mountain. It is a framed tarantula with an utterly hilarious English text box pasted beneath it. As a special treat for you all, I am going to transcribe the spider box for you (entire box sic):


Night living animal with 8 legs, 8 eyes, and 4 lungs, a 2 parts head, thorax and abdomen which contains the majority of the organs. Can’t hear or see good, depends on special hears to detect movements. The animal is one of the biggest, aggressivest and voracioust and can be 28 cm. long. The female, bigger, eats easy the male during propagation and also her creatures when she is hungry. When feeling in danger they emit a whistle and stand up their rear legs. To defend they use their toxic hairs on the abdomen, throwed by the rear legs, which are very painful especially when they use their fearsome canine toots to inject the not human mortal but very toxic poison. They feed them with insects, small lizards, rats, birds, etc. The male lives 3 or 6 years and the females 6 to 14 years, and pairs from 50 to 700 creatures every 3 or 4 month. Lives in South America.

NOTE: Microsoft Word spellcheck had way fewer problems with the above text than you might imagine.

Mom (looking over my shoulder as I type): That’s a long blog!
Me: Like half of it is the spider thing.
Mom: Please, show a little respect: “Mr. Toots,” not “the spider.”

Another note on souvenir shopping: I realized that in my last blog entry I talked a lot about my new larimar earrings, but MAYBE YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT LARIMAR IS. I will tell you what larimar is: it is a semiprecious stone found only in the DR! It is blue and it was discovered by a Dominican dude and his Peace Corps volunteer partner in the 1970s. It was named after the Dominican guy’s daughter, Larisa, and the sea (el mar). It is kind of a big deal here, since it is endemic and all.

Anyway, after our triumphant departure from Puerto Plata, content in our knowledge that we had purchased the greatest things possible for purchasing, we returned to the capital, since I had committed myself to attend a website committee meeting. Rather than wait around the Peace Corps office all afternoon, Mom set off on a solo adventure to La Sirena, the Dominican Wal-Mart. She returned safely a few hours later, though apparently only after her cab driver stopped to ask five different people where the Peace Corps office was, and I found her sitting on the PC porch completely surrounded by La Sirena bags. You can take the mom away from the minivan, but you can’t take the minivan mentality out of the mom, I guess.

We spent the weekend mainly in my site, though with an exciting shopping excursion to La Vega. Here are some of the things my mom has purchased for my house, insisting that they will improve my quality of life:
  • A refrigerator
  • A trashcan
  • A table
  • A silverware organizer
  • A bathmat
  • A 6-cup greca coffeemaker (This makes about 2 American cups)
  • A lime squeezer
  • A pink vase
  • Pink artificial flowers

Of these I am most excited about MY REFRIGERATOR! Here is a list of things that I have already purchased and can store in MY REFRIGERATOR:
  • Ketchup
  • Ranch dressing
  • Strawberry jelly
  • Milk
  • Salsa
  • Water (I mean I already had water, but now I can drink cold water!!)

HAVING A REFRIGERATOR IS SO AWESOME. Granted, it is a baby refrigerator and it is nearly at its maximum capacity with only condiments, but it is still so awesome.

Today we took another trip into La Vega to have lunch with my friend Arianna, which was super fun! We decided to go to this vegetarian restaurant we’d been to one other time, but the only time we’d been there we had been personally taken there by a nice vegetarian Dominican woman we met, and we wrote down the address but didn’t really know how to get there. So we decided to take a taxi there, but the taxi driver also didn’t really know how to get there, so he consulted many, many people. We got there eventually and had a delicious lunch, hooray!

Tomorrow we’re planning a day trip to Jarabacoa, aka the Dominican Alps. I don’t really know why they call it the Dominican Alps. I mean there’s mountains there, but… they’re not that Alps-ish. Not that I’ve been to the Alps to compare, but… I’m pretty sure they’re not very Alps-ish.

Whew, I guess that’s about all I have to say for now! I stole a bunch of my mom’s photos, so I’ll try to post those sometime.

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