Here are some observations of the DR and Santo Domingo so far. First, the traffic is horrendous, not necessarily in numbers (Bangkok holds the record in that category), but in danger. Drivers often ignore traffic lights, and crossing major intersections as a pedestrian can be quite a challenge. Looking both ways is not enough–you have to watch for drivers turning into the pedestrian crossing lanes, which are basically ignored. You frequently have to cross at your own risk. Riding a bicycle here is out of the question, though I’ve seen a few brave souls doing so.
There are very frequent electrical outages, perhaps as many as 5 or 6 each day. They mostly last less than a minute and Dominicans are quite used to them.
Santo Domingo is very expensive. Prices are frequently higher than in the States, and restaurants add on a 10% service charge and a 16% tax. For example, I ate at McDonald’s yesterday, something I am usually loathe to do. I had a grilled chicken sandwich, french fries and a coke, a combo meal that costs 210 pesos, but with the tax and service charge, it came to 264 pesos. There are about 33 pesos to the dollar, so the meal cost about $8. Can’t eat out too much, so I stocked up on a few items at the grocery store. I did eat at a taco place last night, Reyes Tacos. They were fairly cheap at 45 pesos each and not too bad. The waiter told me they were “picante”, hot, but they were actually very mild.
So far, I’m getting around ok with my limited knowledge of Spanish, but I find myself mixing Spanish and French in the same sentence. It was an interesting experience when I bought a cell phone yesterday, but the sales lady and I managed to communicate ok. In case you want to call me, just dial 1-829-905-7998 from the States. 829 is one of the DR cell phone country codes.
Hey, I just discovered yesterday that I can see the Caribbean from my apartment and it doesn’t look like too far of a walk to get there. I think I’ll do that this weekend also. Later today, however, I have to go to the Cultural Affairs section of the embassy, Rex Moser’s office, to meet with someone from the DR Ministry of Education. Should be interesting. More later.