The past 24 hours gave me my money’s worth for Peace Corps experiences. Here is the run down in multiple parts (not in chronological order).
Part 1 Patranales (Possibly spelled incorrectly)
Every town in the Dominican Republic has one of these; it’s their celebration of the patron saint for that town. Depending on the size of the town it can vary from a couple days of dancing, drinking and partying to a full on music festival that welcomes the DR’s finest musical assets in Salsa, Meringue, Bachata and Mambo (lucky for me, at 30,000 people my town is big enough to get the music festival). It was supposed to happen September 9th to September 15th for Constanza but because of Hurricane Ike the party got moved to this week. It started on Thursday the 25th but I was still getting over the fever and didn’t make it. However, I did wake up to the firework show that went off at about 11:30 that night. Sadly I missed a good portion of it because I have grown accustomed to loud noises and explosions while I am sleeping. As I watched the fireworks from the balcony, I vowed that Friday night I would not miss Sex Appeal… that is the name of the country’s best salsa group.
I arrived at about 10:15 to the park where the show was going on, I ran into the youth I work with and a new Peace Corps trainee from Kansas. She was there with her 14-year old host sister and her 14-year old host sister’s husband. I couldn’t help but ask her who was chaperoning who that night. She told me they were actually both chaperoning her 13-year old host sister, who had recently disappeared with her boyfriend. I tagged along while she looked for the sister, and at the same time I looked for some juice to drink.
She didn’t find the sister, but I did find some juice. It turns out you can only by it for five dollars (150 pesos) and it comes with 400 mL (about a beer can) of rum. They only gave me a little plastic bottle (150 mL, and yes, I was taking notes on the quantities) of juice, which meant that the cranberry juice I had bought to quench my thirst actually burned a little bit. We returned to the stage area with my two styrofoam cups of pain juice just in time to watch Sex Appeal take the stage. I put one of the cups down, and told her that I am not here to suffer, and that I would not be touching the second cup. I also realized that if I was not the only one that they were selling this pain juice to, this place was probably going to get pretty rowdy. After this thought our conversation for the following 10 seconds went like this:
Me: “Hey look over there”
Girl from Kansas: “What”
Me: All those people are running it looks like we got a fight on our hands!
Kansas: Sure enough, there they are.
Me: Its funny how the military monitors events in this country, in the states its usually the police.
Kansas: Well they have bigger guns than the police
Me: Yeah but they’re never loaded, and I think everybody knows it- oh wait – he’s putting in a clip… uh maybe we should go over there for a minute.
We start to walk away but before we make it five feet the soldiers have the two fighters restrained. People shuffle back into the gap and the show goes on, actually I don’t think the show ever stopped. We watch the show for a little bit but she has to get home because her married host sister has to be home by 11 PM. I go and find my Dominican youth buddies (that are actually 20 and 21 years old, so not really youth) they offer me a seat and I watch the rest of the show from there. It was a really good view of everything, and it was one of the Peace Corps moments I had been hoping for. We were sitting on a ledge and the people below us were salsa dancing their hearts out, on stage there was a local guy who was invited to sing one of the classic songs for the band instead of the lead singer. It was pretty great because every time there was a break down, everyone on stage started salsa-ing away. In the mean time I looked up at the sky, and because of the giant floodlights that were illuminating the stage, there was a cloud of moths and insects flying overhead so thick I was reminded of Moses’ plagues on Egypt. The cloud was so thick that at one spot, directly in front of the lights, there was a clearing where people wouldn’t stand; except the poor kids who couldn’t find little salsa dance partners and instead decided to dance around swatting bugs to the music.