I never thought bad cake and earnestly-given tourist kitsch could make me almost cry.


Noises at lunch

First the chatter. The woman next to me talking about some catalogues, the makeup and the bedclothes therein. Then suddenly, rain: the incessant rush of a tropical downpour, the noise of shining ropes of water seen through the wide-open blue doors, moving to and fro in a breeze like the leaves of the mango tree across the street.
Meanwhile they are playing dominoes, you can hear the clinking rather steadily under the chatter, and every now and then a triumphant, loud clank, followed by the clatter of the remaining dominoes being knocked down, and a great sound like a moving purse as they are shifted around on the table for the next round.
The rain quiets down, for a few minutes slows to a few drops a second that I can hear, a bright patter. Then a hum ceases, the lights and AC are off; here and there a few dismayed sighs, some laughter. The dominoes continue in the clouded sunlight. Then a roar, the back-up power kicking in at just the same time as the rain starts falling hard again.



Here there are the Católicos and the Cristianos, the latter being of course evangelical Protestants. I've encountered many, and many more who say they are getting there - between faiths, not part of any religion, simply believing in God - still Catholic because they were baptized that way but soon that too will change.
I've seen as many Cristiano churches as Catholic ones: there are the Baptists, 7th-Day Adventists, the 'Biblical Christians', the Methodists, I assume but haven't seen Pentecostals. This makes sense of course. Evangelicals are fragmented, their churches smaller - there is no protestant equivalent to the cathedral, or the other great church. Greater number of churches does not entail greater number of worshippers.
Still, though, I feel smothered here. Expecting to find a Catholic country, I found a more religiously American one than my part of the one I left. It's very unsettling; and I can't help but feel that even here, even in Latin America of all places, the Church is on the verge of disappearing.

I wonder how much of that has to do with the name. In English or French we would never let Protestants accaparate the title of Christians. Is that because Europe has always had to accomodate different sects and recognize them as Christendom together, against the Infidels? Simply because of a more educated population? Of a long tradition of Protestantism?
Here, though, Catholics are not Christians. Even some Catholics talk about Cristianos as being more true to the original intent.


Santiago de los Trente Caballeros

I am in the Santiago mentioned above, which has the distinction of being the second-largest city in the Dominican Republic (i.e. the second-largest city in Santo Domingo after Santo Domingo itself) and the oldest Santiago in the Americas. It is called Santiago de los Trentes Caballeros because during the Dominican Restoration War, fought to free the country from its re-colonization by Spain, some thirty gentlemen held off the Spanish from the tall hill near the city center.

This hill is now the site of a very large white marble monument, known as el monumento, with a Trajan-style column topped by a stylized statue of a woman, presumably a figure for the Republic. This monument is visible from almost every point in Santiago and though it is not strictly speaking in the center, it has become the symbolic center of the city. People hang out there, drink, eat empanadas. Because it is the tallest point, even without climbing the monument one has a very nice view of the city.
So I can't say that I especially like it, it's not what I would call inspired architecture, but I thought of it as a nice spot to see the city and relax. I don't see why it changed when I found out it was by Trujillo, but now the sight of it bothers me somewhat. It's a reasonable thing to make a monument for, a fine public space, it's not ugly; but it is and will remain a monument imposed by a dictator. The lady on top, always weird, now reminds me of dehumanizing dictatorial art.

The center of Santiago is dust-colored. One street has blocky buildings, with signs projecting out clearly directed at the vehicular, not pedestrian traffic. I haven't really been taken off that street, but from what I can see outside of it the buildings are rather old, French-Caribbean architecture, with some nice Hispanic churches.
If the center is dust-colored, the rest of Santiago is green. Green with mango trees, avocado trees, lemon trees, palm, a pretty sort of red-flowered tree. The most striking thing about it as a city is that level of greenery and of indoor-outdoor interaction.


Water and a Machine

Yesterday I operated my first machine. It was an easy thing, not electric or otherwise powered, about 70 cm high and a soft bottle-green color. I had to assemble some brass contacts with some copper pieces that would go on the outside of them.
This sort of thing - a basic contact with a piece of sculpted foil outside of it - is done often here. The pieces of foil come attached to a long metallic tape, and mostly the contacts are pushed inside of them. For this piece, though, I would pass the tape through an aperture in a machine, place five contacts on five foil pieces, and pull on the lever which would press the contacts down into the foil. I assembled 299 contacts, and it was fun looking at the tape with the two metals shining their different colors. It looked like amunition, though.

Also yesterday we ran out of water at home. I found out about this after playing with the dog for an hour or so. When I went to eat a bit of yogurt and wash my hands of the dog, I found that I couldn't.
The water hasn't come on yet, that I know of. Apparently it's missing from some other houses as well.


Progress in Spanish

I've gotten slightly faster, more handy with grammar, better at understanding (I think). But as far as concrete data, additions to my vocabulary, I can only think of these:

Me hacen falta. I miss them. I would have thought it to be me faltan, literally 'they are missing from me,' (or translatable as 'I'm missing them.') but instead the Spanish adds the word hace to suggest that this is an emotional effect.

Al paso. Slowly. I heard this a lot at first: 'you must speak slowly to her, otherwise she won't understand.' Correctly, of course. I thought it strange that it wasn't anything related to lento, slow, until I used it myself in relation to a task on the factory floor. Generally I work fast and well, to general surprise, but I'm still slow when it comes to checking things, and said so, which is when the derivation hit me. Al paso. Fr. au pas. Walking pace, at a walk, esp. of a horse.

Various food items: mangu, a plantain paste; mofongo, a plantain paste with meat; arichuela, the beans in beans and rice. I'm not sure of the spelling on these.