After a couple weeks here we finally started working our way in the town’s comfort zone. Saturday night a few of us were invited to a Quincinera, at first I figured it would be kind of lame because my families’ invitation was addressed to Maria Carmen & Family (my 10 year old host sister) and the quincinera celebrates a 15 year old girls birthday, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The ceremony was closer to a wedding than a birthday party and there was quite a bit of choreographed dance… which doesn’t make it sound that fun… but I swear it was. The whole town showed up for it and they hired a super party guagua that played the music so loud that I my ears are still ringing. There was plenty of free beer and food and everyone was dressed up. I took pictures and will upload them when I get some better Internet speed. It was a good chance to hang out with the brothers and one of their friends ended up as the quisai-groom dance partner for the Birthday girl because the original guy broke his leg in a motorcycle accident a couple days back.
Our other big activity on Saturday was a trip to Santiago that included a little tour by Joel’s host brother (the same guy who took us through the jungle), thankfully he knew his way around Santiago way better than the hills over La Cumbre. We saw a couple monuments (that were all originally monuments to Trujillo but changed after his overthrow to monuments of the revolutionaries), a really old army base that had some pretty creepy prison buildings (I mean they could have at least taken the shackles of the wall, its not like they’ve used them in the past 50 years) and a few ancient cathedrals. We also got pizza from pizza hut and (minus the lack of mountain dew) it was a lot like being back in the states for about 45 minutes. I also became the first PCV in our group to be sexually assaulted after an old crazy lady snuck up and copped a feel on me in the park . . . I was surprised and disappointed that the first action I saw in the Dominican Republic was from an old crazy lady.
Sunday we got to take Michal’s family’s horses out for a ride, actually half of them were mules, but we still got to ride around for four hours like we were in the wild west. There was some really beautiful scenery and some new towns discovered. I thought that we were in a pretty rural area right off the Highway in La Cumbre, but as it turned out, there are a few trails that lead down into the valley were there are even more little towns. We stopped in the American’s free clinic and talked to the doctor who gave me and Ann the ride to la Cumbre the first day so that I could get my sun glasses (which I forgot in his Jeep 3 weeks ago) and he told us to watch out because the horses here have a little more attitude and do a little bit more of what they want. There was one point when my horse got thirsty and decided to walk up a creek for a little ways, and I had to get a stick off a tree to hit it and get it to move, the problem was when you hit it, it would buck. I think it might have been one of the Asses because it was certainly acting that way.
At one point we were going up a hill that was too steep and Michal’s horse fell backwards and scared the crap out of all of us. Luckily, Michal is tall enough that he just stepped off it as it fell, but horses aren’t supposed to fall down so it was kind of intense. Luckily it was pretty close to the highway and we just went up the rest of the way and it was calm again. I got a few good laughs out of my neighbors when I rolled up to one of the Colmado’s on a mule, I told them I bought it but none of them believed me. You can get a horse here for 150 bucks! I’m thinking that if I am out in the campo I will have to get one; I assume it would be a lot like having a dog except you could ride it around.