Monday, November 23, 2009


"Mom, if you tell everyone that the best part of your vacation was getting in a car crash, everyone's going to think your trip sucked."
"What? No one got hurt, and it was interesting!"

Interesting, indeed. On Friday my mom and I ventured out in our tiny rental car, heading west to Dajabon for the market day. We picked up my friend Mica and two girls from her town--Mica was taking the girls to the dentist in Santiago, which was basically on our way. Driving in the DR is crazy--there are motorcycles zooming in and out everywhere, a frequent lack of taillights/headlights, barely-paved roads, and a general disregard for traffic laws. But mom assured me she was up to the challenge, and the trip had been going pretty smoothly so far. So, of course, a giant truck with no taillights stopped abruptly and Mom gently rear-ended him. The truck just drove off as if nothing had happened; we're not even sure if the truck realized it was in an accident.

So: right after the impact, the two girls in the backseat are screaming, Mica is trying to console them in Spanish, I'm trying to find my glasses, the kitten is crying, Mom is crying, and like six Dominican police officers are tapping on our windows. It was hectic.

Honestly, the whole thing went fairly smoothly. I have no idea why there were so many police officers just hanging out at that intersection, but they were. I think before yesterday I have maybe seen six police officers during my entire time in the DR. Weird, but helpful. They ushered us out of the car, pushed the car into a nearby parking lot, and got a ride to take Mica and her girls to the dentist all in about ten minutes. Meanwhile, my mom consoled the kitten (still unnamed, but our faithful travelling companion) and I called the car rental company, called the Peace Corps doctor, and argued with the police officers. They wanted Mom to go to the hospital; she didn't want to go. Finally we convinced her that she should go to the hospital. Then the police wanted her to go to the public hospital; I said no. They told me that if we wanted to go to the private hospital they wouldn't help us, we'd have to take a taxi to get there. I said fine.

So, we took a taxi to the hospital. We're carrying five large bags and one tiny kitten, and both of us are bleeding. The receptionist tells me that the kitten can't come in the emergency room. Understandable I suppose, but what are we going to do with the kitten? We don't have any kind of carrier for it yet, we've just been keeping it on my lap in the car. It is finally settled that I will wait in the waiting room with the kitten while Mom gets stitches done by an English-speaking doctor. While I wait, a police officer asks me questions about the accident/hits on me. I call a friend to chat so I have an excuse not to talk to the police officer anymore.

Here is perhaps the most startling part of the whole day: Mom got 10 stitches and IV and local anesthetic in less than an hour! And it cost about US$100! So fast and cheap! Ridiculous. And then our car rental company (Budget! Big ups to them) sent over a driver and a new rental car right away. I started thinking crazy thoughts like, "Wow! Maybe we can still make it out to Dajabon today!"


Anyway, the new driver took us over to the police station. We had to wait a long time, still holding the crying kitten. I managed to get some yogurt from the police cafeteria, which we gave to kitty via eyedropper. Finally, I got to talk to a police officer and describe the accident to him. He told us we had to go to the hospital. "Oh," I said, "We just came from the hospital. We're fine."

"No," he said, "You're both injured. You have to go to the hospital and have them fill out this form saying how injured you are."

"But I only have a minor cut, and my mom already received treatment. I don't understand why you need this form filled out."

"Yes... many people do not understand why this form needs to be filled out. But these are the rules." I spent a few more minutes engaged in a Kafka-esque debate, but finally conceded to be taken to the public hospital. Sadly, we arrived around lunchtime and all of the doctors were gone, so we waited about an hour for the doctors to come back. Then we waited another hour while all the people who got there before us got to see the doctor. Then we saw the doctor, who gave us each a cursory glance and spent about thirty seconds filling out a form that said, in essence, "Cut lip" and "cut elbow."

We then went back to the police station, where I had to re-explain everything to an extremely fast-talking, mumble-y officer. (Do you know Boomhauer from King of the Hill? This was basically the Dominican equivalent.) So I kept telling him, "I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE SAYING" and finally another police officer translated for me, from Spanish to Spanish.... he just repeated everything Dominican Boomhauer was saying and I understood. Sadly, what I understood was that we were being sent to the Traffic Justice of the Peace. So we drove across town, waited in line, handed over some forms, got a stamp on the forms, got the forms back, and drove back to the police station. Like, seriously? You guys couldn't just keep one of those stamps at the police station?

Anyway, then we were free! Free... to go to the Budget Rent-a-Car office and finalize our change of car!

And then free to check into a hotel in Santiago and die of exhaustion! And also eat pizza. And also to promptly return our new car to Budget because the brakes were fussy and we were fearful of a repeat incident.

By the way, it is important that when you read this entry and envision our trials, you NEVER FORGET that the entire day has a soundtrack of "MEW! MEW! MEW! MRAAAWR!" from a grumpy, hungry little kitten. Not that I blame the little guy.

(PS pictures of Baby Cat soon, I promise! Also soon we will take her or him back to the vet and find out the sex for sure, and then I can officially name Baby Cat something besides Baby Cat.)

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