During one of my many trips to the Dominican Republic, I once traveled from the Capitol to a place called La Vega. That’s not a big deal itself, but the story is that I didn’t take a plane or a fancy bus, etc. I took this trip using unofficial local public transportation. Let me put it this way, I remember being on a bus with a live chicken. I can’t remember all that much from these days, but I’ve never forgotten the chicken when I think of this trip. When I think back to this now and some of the events that occurred, I realize that I took some highly unnecessary risks during this trip.
For one, I had no real idea what I was doing or where I was going. I had only received some verbal directions on where to go and connect to the next leg of the trip. It wasn’t like taking the MTA, but like an unofficial civilian run kind of route. If I remember correctly (I might not) it’s kind of like the “underground” Flushing bus you can take back and forth from Chinatown. It’s known, scheduled, but not a government or official route. So the whole time I was scared and hoping I did not end up getting lost out there.
Second, I’m not a local and the people I encountered know that. I had a few encounters with some sketchy guys who were testing to determine if I had my wits about me. “You lost friend, come here and talk to us, we’ll help you out.” Fortunately, I speak Spanish and had visited Santo Domingo often enough to sound knowledgeable despite my appearance and mannerisms. Mind you, the same thing happened to me when visiting in PR, I’m Puerto Rican, but they know I’m not local and also try to get over on the outsider.
After meeting up with my ex-wife on a different leg of the trip, we encountered a situation that could have gone really bad. Some guys were trying to hit on my ex wife thinking that I didn’t speak Spanish and that I was probably a chump.
“What are you doing with that white boy, you need to be with us.”
They were sitting behind us so I rose up from my seat, puffed up my chest and flexed on them. I spoke in Spanish and very firm letting them know to back off that this was my wife and I wasn’t some chump tourist they were gonna punk. They tried to challenge me further as if to say are you ready to die over this and I made it known that I was. “So what’s up bro?”
This is where I draw the line and I won’t be backing down. They then calmed down and backed off, but I know that could have gone really badly for me. But, I think sitting there and not doing anything could have also escalated the situation, so I opted for the more aggressive option. Sometimes the wolf wants to see if you are a sheep or a bear.
I can’t remember all of the details of this trip, but I’d strongly encourage that tourists or those not familiar with a country stick to the beaten path. When visiting a foreign country the risks of going rogue are far too great. I’m not sure what possessed me to do this, but all things considered I think I was very lucky during this trip.
By the way, I did eventually make it to La Vega and had a wonderful time with my ex wife’s family. The country is beautiful and don’t let my story discourage you from visiting. This is not meant to be disparaging to the country where my son was born. I just happened to take a long full day trip whilst completely unaware of what the hell I was doing. That’s never smart and a risky thing in any country.
Just a life long New Yorker sharing the journey through my lens. Please take note of a post’s date. The views I express here are subject to change and evolving as I grow and learn.