The "Something I Ate" art opening last night in Brooklyn was a success. There were photographs and sculptures on display and delicious Skim Kim food served. Above are a couple shots, one of which is of my "Comida Dominicana Tipica," which pared 3 traditional Dominican staples served in DR and served in NYC. The art will be up for a limited time, so if interested in seeing it, it is still at a very cool location in Williamsburg calle Rouge 58. You shoud go check it out!
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
For my second review I sampled a local eatery by the name of Marisco Center. An especially interesting choice for me, as I am not a seafood fan. My fellow diner made the selection and I, feeling unlike myself, chose to acquiesce. Being the busy girl I am, I chose to partake in their take out service, as dine in and delivery are both available. The food looked appetizing and the staff was helpful and friendly, offering generous samples of their fish soup as you wait. In my large paper-plastic bag combo I brought the chicken, steak, rice, beans, and yucca just a few short blocks back to my apartment to dig in and satiate my mounting hunger pangs. (Read More)
Saturday, April 23, 2011
I have been lucky enough to be included in an upcoming collective art event called Something I Ate and I wanted to make sure I shared it all with you. My pieces are still under wraps, but I wanted to get the word out there for anyone interested in attending. There are some very cool artists involved (and no, I am not talking about me) and bound to be some tasty eats.
Hope to see you there...
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
My sister, who has been married for many years, once told me a story about how she knew she and her betrothed were really in it for the long haul the first time she had a stomach ailment and he was there to care for her. I suspect she felt this way because it was perhaps the first time he had seen her weak, vulnerable and utterly disgusting. (Read More)
Monday, April 11, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Just Another Day In Paradise
I am here. In Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and, at 10 minutes to 9, I believe I am staying in for the night. Not because I am tired or scared, but because I occasionally take heed of what loved ones say to me, and in addition being asked to travel without jewelery of any sort, I have been asked to stay in after dark. As rules are meant to be broken, we shall see which one I will break first.
This deference was not the case when last night, hours before my flight was to take off I was begged not to go, by someone very important to and influential over me. It was a difficult choice to come down here alone to begin with, but then to have to clearly defy someone who means so much ... In short, I was in tears when being driven to the airport at 4 o'clock this morning.
My mood did lift, if only briefly when, at the exchange station propped up at gate 107 at Newark International Airport, I was helped by a sweet young Jersey boy. He was gregarious and friendly and chatting me up big time, and this was all before 7am. The conversation flowed and he paid no attention to the urgency in my face as I eyed my nearby gate, with my flight already boarding. The highlight of this encounter, however, was when he asked me how old I was I told him to guess. Yes, I am aware this is a foolish proposition, but I did it to prove a point. And I did. He guessed 31. I gasped. Despite the fact that this young man child clearly needs to hit up the local Lens Crafters, as I am as fresh faced as they come, a man well past the arrogance of youth would never even have ventured a guess let alone an age he actually thought possible. I would have gladly accepted 21, but no, instead I got straight up reality, and really, who wants that? I would like to think I helped this man with a very serious life lesson, at least for those of the heterosexual persuasion. He can thank me later, hopefully by guessing 31 when I am boarding another flight in the international wing, only this time well into middle age.
I boarded the very full flight, wedged into a row with 2 very nice, if rotund senoras who help no qualms about personal space. When some moderate turbulence was hit they were hail marrying like nobody´s business. Just a word of advice - if you are hesitant to fly or don't find the idea of bouncing up and down in a small metal coffin agreeable, try to avoid doing so next to old Latin women. Not known for their subtly or tranquility under pressure, they had me so jumpy I could barely finish my article in Us Weekly, and lets face it, that would have been the real tragedy.
An overpriced cab ride with Jose from the airport to Zona Colonial and I was dropped off at Hostal Nomades, a cute 2nd story housing unit with a makeshift club on the roof at night. My room was not ready, but Alex, one of the empleados here, and also one of those unfortunate souls who gets adult braces (you know you all think the same thing!), took the time to welcome me to the establishment, in spite of the fact he spoke not a word of English.
Since my room was not ready, I headed to the town square for some much needed Vitamin D and people watching. I could not have been there more than 15 minutes when Roberto, a local blue eyed (trouble) tour guide struck up a conversation. Turns out he lived in Washington Heights many years ago and used to go dancing at a place I actually know. Small world. I made it very clear to Roberto that I was not in need of a tour guide, nor was I in need of the expense of one, but he waved me off and showed me around nonetheless. We explored the Zona Colonial together and he brought me down to the river, where he left me with his number and explicit instructions on where NOT to go.
The sun was bright and the breeze off of the water was intoxicating, leading me to sit in the sun, still in my plane clothes, not thinking at all about those strong Carribbean rays and my undeniably pasty, winter-induced complexion. It seems my right of passage once a year to get a burn simply based on the fact that, in 29 years, I have not come to terms with the fact that I am, in fact, white.
Looking for a reprieve from all of the outdoor glory, I ducked into what turns out to be the first cathedral built in the Americas. It must also be known for the cathedral with the largest carbon footprint because, much like Omarion´s heart, this place was an ice box. As I wandered around, feeding my love of churches and soaking up the free air conditioning I was approached, yet again.
Now, let me say here, I do no purport to be any sort of beauty or dynamic figure. The world lost Elizabeth Taylor just last week, and I am by no means a replacement, but there is clearly something written on my face, or my killer spandex-clad ass, that says, talk to me, I care.
This leads to my meeting Dominique who I was able to deduce was not Dominican because on his accent and who thought I was not American based on my figure. I am starting to think that there is a group of men who are totally unaware that chubby comes in white too.
Alas, Dominique was Haitian and very enthusiastic about befriending me. I had to go back to my hostal to check into my room, but promised I´d be back to meet him. And I did.
We walked across the river to the other side of town where I was given lessons on not feeding the homeless children because they will soon grow up to be the men who no longer beg for candy, but instead rob me. Logical, but depressing as hell.
The lighthouse had been our original destination, but with having to not care about mankind and all, we fell behind schedule and hopped in a cab to the aquarium instead. In the cab, I actually addressed the driver as mijo, further proof that I am mere months from discounts at the movies and 4pm dinners. Much like the hood in which I reside and love so dearly, DR itself is also fraught with beautiful young men for whom I have maternal and cougaral feelings. Get Oedipus on the phone immediately!
The aquarium was my fish tank in 1989 on steroids and I was completely underwhelmed, but it did back into the deep blue sea and there is nothing that feels quite like the breeze off of water. I sat there with my Haitian homie until he scooted just one to many scoots close to me and we were off. Despite the fact that he kept encouraging me to go to his apartment (seriously?) we instead took the bus back to China town where dollar boot leg cds and crap imports can be purchased in bulk. Its nice to know some things never change.
He walked me back to a safer neighborhood and we parted ways with promises of me phoning him this evening to go out. And here, I am really torn. It would be nice to see what nightlife is like here, but it would also be nice to sleep. Decisions, decisions.
For now, I am back what I now consider a palatial estate and am trying to avoid catching up on work emails sitting in the dark corner at the hostal.
I am happy, healthy and loving my 19th country so far.
I had the pleasure of making new friends on this leg of my adventure, as always. Firstly, I met Gregori, a 19 year old street merchant and architecture student who spoke no English and had one of the most amazing sets of eyelashes I have ever seen. He and I chatted for a while whilst I lay basking in the sun in stark contrast to my fellow beach goers, as I was in all of my Princess Leia splendor, rocking a gold lame bikini and a healthy cholesterol level. Gregori offered to escort me back to Santo Domingo on the bus and I was thrilled to not only travel the way I prefer, but save 800 pesos to boot.
Next came Alex, a single father who has had his heart broken by an American woman last year and lives with his mother and daughter and was visiting for the weekend. He spoke broken English and invited me to go out dancing in Boca Chica that night, but alas, I was heading back to the city, so I had to politely decline.
As nice as it is to have these interactions when I am traveling, I have to admit that often part of the appeal of rolling solo is to have a day on the beach with me, my book and the sound of the sea. This tranquility is hindered when you are approached every 10 minutes to either offer you camarones, handmade necklaces by wait of Taiwan or a date.
Not that I am complaining.
Minutes before I was set to meet my very own boy toy and head back to Santo Domingo the cab driver, with whom I admit I had made prior arrangements for a ride returned and was most definitely not ok with me saying I changed my mind. After 15 minutes or so of arguing I, once again, gave in and got into his makeshift minivan cab and headed back to town. I think he felt badly about me being upset so he not only offered to take me to dinner, he took me to a few noteworthy spots to take pictures.
I hopped out of the cab close to Zona Colonial, accidentally leaving my English novel in the car, to patronize an art fair where I scored 2 very cool sets of earrings and discussed the making of some original crucifixes with their creator.
As difficult as it is for me to admit, not only to myself, but to the public at large, all of the young couples in love had gotten to me, as I have grown a bit romantic in my advanced age, and being in the Dominican Republic only exacerbated these feelings for a plethora or reasons. I was feeling a bit blue and meandered about for a while until I found a cute little gift shop.
I was looking for a doll for my niece and found a great one. She had an apron and curly hair and, of course, black skin. I mention this only because she was displayed hanging from the ceiling, with a string around her neck... And yes, I took a picture.
The proprietor was very well spoken and helped me with some suggestions on where to get food, what beaches to visit with the seemingly standard local generosity.
I took my newly acquired regalos and headed back through the square once more on my way to get food and go to bed.
Negotiations en Espanol
Last night was one of those night´s that restores one´s faith in mankind.
Yesterday had been ok. I got up early to go running and, per usual, it was one of my favorite things to do in a foregin place. Waking up before the city does and hearing the birds chirp, seeing the business owners washing off the sidewalks and having the Caribbean sun low enough in the sky yet still to not melt immediately is a new way to look at a new place and for me, these runs in Guatemala and Panama and now Dominican Republic have been irreplaceable.
With no luck in procuring a room in Samana for the evening, I decided to stay at the Hostal Nomades and be downgraded to a smaller room. I returned to the town square to find my blue eyes bestie, Roberto a tour guide who lived in Washington Heights for sometime before returning to DR, but could not locate him, so took a can to Boca Chica with some random man with an antiquated minivan. I had approached a group of men to simply ask for directions to the bus station. I asked repeatedly, but not only were these men insistent that a cab was a preferable, if not only mode of transportation, they were insistent in a foreign tongue. Althogh I am praised by many for my accento and my vocabulary grows larger with every voyage to a Spanish speaking country, I still cannot argue in another language, and find it often most useful to acquiese to others, not an action practiced often while in the States.
A 40 minute cab ride and I was in Boca Chica, a beach that I had heard many things about, both good and bad. And both were true. Of course, the water is warm and aquamarine, but the teenage prostitution is rampant and, although amusing to see a topless, thong toting, menopausal woman with her 20 something Dominican boy toy, it is also quite sad.
I had passed a group of older men once before, but chose not to pay them any mind. This time, however, I was literally accosted and made to sit down with this group of gregarious gentlemen, as one of them grabbed my wrist and they pulled up a wicker chair, insisting I take a seat. They were very well educated and many spoke English. Some were lawyers and poets. Others were political scientists and journalists. I felt truly lucky to have had the opportunity to sit down with a group of such interesting, and complimentary men.
They invited me to an outdoor dance amongst some ruins up the hill that happens weekly. The group seemed to splinter and I was left with Guillermo, a journalist who seemed to understand every word I said in English, yet refused to communicate with me in the same tongue.
We went to see the dance, and I had not eaten that day, so I began to salivate at the sight of pollo chicarrones y tostones from the cart on the street and immediately placed my order. Not really digging on fried fat, I opted to consume the tostones while leaving the chicken for the neighborhood's feral cat population.
Since Guillermo´s best friend lived just down the block, we headed in that direction.
As I approached the home with Guillermo and took a seat outside and I asked 'is this your home?' and he replied, yes and tonight it is yours too. This man reminded me of a past love affair but kinder and I will eternally be grateful to both he and his breathtakingly beautiful wife for allowing me to sit on their stoop and drink Presidente late into the night and talking. Talking about policitics and love and travels. Talking about language and culture. It felt very authentic and comfortable. He told me he loved me when I left and, not only did I believe him, I felt the same way.
I was growing colder as the night turned to morning and I was given a shirt to keep me warm, as I am almost always inappropriate clothing. either for the weather or the occason. For a moment I was alone with this man and he asked me to keep the shirt as a part of him and his country to take home with me. Now, this is a standard rugby shirt, nearly 2 sizes too big for me, but it will most certainly be one of my most treasured gifts from a foreign land and from a new friend.
Enough for now, before the magic of last night wanes and the reality of a new day ahead sinks in.
When Traveling, Always Pack Tampons
Yesterday I awoke to a run and another amazing breakfast served on the roof of my hostel. The winds were fragrant and powerful and although my sweating had subsided, the stickiness that is associated with the Caribbean climate remained.
I headed down to the Cafe Grecco inspired corner spot to meet up with Guillermo from the night before, as he had promised to show me parts of Santo Domingo I had not yet seen if I did not go to Samana.
I had been fortnate enough to find the cab driver from the previous day and, unlike cabs in New York CIty he remembered me, was amiable, and still had possession of my belongings, so with book in hand I headed down to the cafe to read and wait.
Dominican time began somewhere, and my guess is Santo Domingo. Guillermo was not there at the time previously agreed upon so I sat and sipped my Coca Cola light in the spotty shade and read my book, waiting for my next adventure to land in my lap. And that it did.
Felipe, with whom Guillermo had been seated the previous night came over to my table and we began to chat. He is gregarious and very charming and before long it seemed that I was spending the entire day with this engaging sexagenrian.
First stop was the bus station to drop off a couple of German volunteers with whom he had become friends. When approaching the station my eyes were delighted to discover just the part of a city I love to shoot the most. The marketplace. Felipe could see the spark of interest and after dropping the ladies off, one of whom spole 5 languges - well, he offered to walk around the market area with me, or behind me as the case may be. He claims it was to let me do my thing, but I have my suspicions. Regardless, it was an offer I could not refuse and I was met with camera shy Haitians and anything but shy Dominicans who essentially pruned their multicolored feathers the second they saw the Canon escape from my bag. There were colors, and sounds and chicarrones galore.
Felipe is a lawyer, and one of the distinguished members of the group of gentlmen I had had the pleasure of being accosted by the night before. One of the members of this group, that evidently confers every week night in addition to Saturday afternoons, to discuss politics, philosophy and, of course, the revolution was having a birthday.
I was asked to accompany my new found friend to the event, where a pork roast was promised. No pork in sight, although I sampled my first Dominican quipe while listening to the passion and watching the gesutures of this group of past revolutionaries. Unfortunately, I understood little, except that I looked like the birthday boy´s daughter and that I had nice legs. For some reason, compliments always translate well.
I had a hankering for mofongo and we decided to head out in search of some, leaving his friends to their afternoon delights. We soon arrived at a sea side establishment with the sun low in the sky and the mofongo interestingly presented, but tasty nonetheless. Felipe and I discussed how to be happy in life and familial relationships.
It seems that when I travel I must have love affiars with pre-pubescent tour guides with a sensitive soul and questionable hygenic practices or men slightly older than my father with a warm grace and a twinkle in their eye.
I was then driven around and shown parts of Santo Domingo I never would have seen otherwise, arriving yet again at a friend´s house.
Here, I was welcomed openly by the 80+ octagenarian who promised if I spent several more days here, he would have me speaking Spanish fluently and who had some of the most beautiful grandchildren I had ever seen, one of who met me at the car with a hug and possibly permanently melted a part of my heart, or awakened a part of my ovaries otherwise dormant.
I do have to say, as I have in my own neighborhood, that Dominincan children are the most beautiful (with the exception of all of my sobrinos y sobrinas, of course) and having several encounters with them on this short sojourn has made me question whethter or not to have children. Luckily, almost every latin man I have met is shocked to shit that I am 29 and barren and have no problem telling me so in an incredibly direct manner, so it is an issue brought to the forefront often and fervently.
A ride down to Boca Chica, where I was not only once again allowed to witness the prostitution problem with the beautiful young women and the vile foreigners, but I was also given the opportunity to enter the Caribbean sea sola at night and, although not exactly warm, it was peaceful and welcomed. The only problem here, was that my monthly friend decided to make an impromptu visit and put a wrench in my plans to be carefree and bikini clad. One would think after over a decade of being a 'woman' one would think ahead but no, I like to travel light and evidently a couple of tampons would have weighed me down far too much. Lesson learned.
Felipe brought me back to my hostal in hisand I immediately passed out, but not before becoming astutely aware of what exactly it is I love so much and find so nourishing about my trips.
It is rare that I marvel over a monument and pontificate about a landscape. What I do seem to cherish is my interaction with the people I meet who are more often that not, local to the are I am visiting. Traveling alone has certainly lent itself to me doing so and, although it can be tricky, I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to encounter these people.
I am sure many people who visit the Dominican Republic will remember the beautiful beaches, or La Bascilica, but I will remember sitting on plastic chairs in the driveway of a stranger´s home and watching their children play soccer or having a converstation with a nice man I have met about what is important in life using limited vocabulary and exaggerated gestures.
I suppose a theme remains in my real life as well as my nomadic one, and that is human interaction really is the meaning of life. And here, in the Dominican Republic, I have been lucky enough to interact with some of the best people I have ever met.
Back In The Saddle Again
As I write my final installment from a fluorescent lit desk in New York City, I am saddened.
My brief, but wonderful voyage to the Dominican Republic was well worth the cost and worry.
Yesterday I got up early and wandered in parts of the city I knew I was not supposed to, with my trusty camera by my side. I assumed that, since it was early morning on a Sunday it would be ok to risk it a little and wander in forbidden territory, but when taking a moment to shoot a beautiful old man selling newspapers another man from across the street yelled at me that it was dangerous to be out here alone with my camera.
With age comes wisdom, and I decided to listen to this kind stranger and, keep it moving.
I ran into Roberto from my first day in Santo Domingo and after telling him that although I had satiated my mofongo cravings the previous evening I was still in need of some mangu he took me to a local spot where the marginally polite staff who took close to an hour to prepare one of the greasiest dishes I have ever had the pleasure of consuming. While waiting, Roberto kept me company and an old Spanish man with stained shorts and wild eyes asked if I was Spanish or Italian; the day was off to a great start.
I purchased some cigars and overpriced rum, which was only to be confiscated at immigration a short time later, thanks a lot shoe bomber, and headed back to the hostel to grab my things and check out. The little boy that lives with the proprietor came over and played with me for a bit. His name was Matis and he was beautiful.
I walked down to the Conde to find a calling center and phoned my father, a very dear friend and then my new friend, Felipe. He said he was just around the corner and when I asked if he would like to go to the beach, he said he would like to do anything I would like to do. Just my kind of man!
We met and as I placed my bag in the trunk of his Mini Cooper I was sad to see Santo Domingo fade into the background, but in an attempt to keep a positive outlook I instead looked forward to the last few hours I had in DR on the beach. Felipe drove us far out of town to a resort which, although not my style, seems to be fairly typical, as I was certainly the minority in being foreign there.
The children frolicked in the waves in their loosely fitted underroos and the teenagers stalked the beach needing to be seen. It was not hot, and the cool breeze and lapping waves made me wish I never need to leave.
At the airport I bid adieu to my new found friend Felipe and promised to try to see one another again and headed into the airport, with my bag, my passport, and my memories of a country and a people unmatched.