I have never mentioned it because I didn’t think that it existed. During our first couple weeks of training they mentioned a thing called the “Mal de Ojo”, it pretty much translates to the evil eye and it is an ability that Doñas and old ladies seem to use on people they don’t like. Here are some of the examples we were given: if a young woman flaunts that she has nice hair in front of an old lady and says something to offend the old lady, with the power of the mal de ojo she can make the young woman lose her hair. If a young man is driving his motorcycle around making all sorts of noise all night, the Doña gets a good mal de ojo in on him and he wrecks his bike the next day. If you call an old lady fat, you get fat. If you call and old lady stupid then something happens that makes you look like an idiot. If you give an old woman a hard time because she is whining about being uncomfortable on a guagua and then she throws up, the following happens:
It was about 5 in the morning on Thursday (3.5 days after mal de ojo) and I was on my way from Nagua back to Constanza. I am going to watch Kate’s dog Layla for the next two weeks and was bringing her back to Constanza. I had it all planned out perfectly, I was getting a free ride from Nagua to the Cruce de Abonico (from the Cacao cooperative that Kate works with, which was headed to the capital) and then I could ride in the back of a guagua with Layla up to Constanza for the rest of the trip. I would be back by 9 o’clock or so, and I could get to my meeting at 10. And that is probably how it would have worked if that old crazy lady hadn’t given me the evil eye after she threw up. Instead, at about 5:45 we realize that we are not on the highway anymore and the Driver explains that he is going to take a “shortcut” along the back roads. Now usually I am up for a shortcut back in Oregon. It is always nice to see a little country and there is always that 1 in 200 chance that you actually save some time. The problem was that in the Dominican Republic, back roads could be overgrown, covered by a rockslide or completely underwater. We drive on the back roads for about 45 minutes and after all the twists, turns and bumps the dog (which is sitting on my lap) starts making that weird burping/gulping sound that dogs make before they puke. I yell to the driver to stop the truck, he looks back at me and I say “Ese dog va a vomitar.” He stops the truck just in time for me to jump out and have the dog vomit all down my leg and on my shoe. God damn it. I wipe the vomit off of my leg with Layla’s dog towel and we decide to put her in the back of the truck for the rest of the ride. When I get back in the driver laughs and says in Spanish “That’s called a perro, not a dog. You should have said this perro is going to throw up.” Oops.
He drives for another hour or so and because the sun had come up, we can actually see the dog in the back and see how it looks like it wants to die. We finally pull up to the autopista (the Dominican I-5) and we are in Piedras Blancas. This is where I am going to be dropped off instead of Cruce de Abonico (thanks to the shortcut) and it is about 45 minutes south of where I wanted to be. Kind of like if I was dropped off in Salem instead of Portland. God damn it. I say my goodbyes and while holding the sick dog he tells me something like “buenas suerte, cuida Layla” which I later learned translates to “You are up shit creek right now, and its gonna be hard to paddle with that dog in your arms.” I found out how right he was when I tried to get on one of the Guaguas up to the Abonico and learned none of the drivers would take me because I had a dog (In this country there are two types of guaguas, mid ninetees trucks and late eighties minivans, the autopista is almost all minivans, i.e. no dogs allowed). I was hassled continuously by motoconchos (motorcycle taxis) and even by a couple regular taxis that wanted to charge me 500 pesos to get up to Abonico (that’s 15 bucks, which is kind of a lot in Peace corps standards). I end up hitching a ride to Bonao in the back of some guy’s truck and find myself about 5 miles from Abonico. Someone tells me that it is only two miles so I figure I will try to hitchhike the rest of the way on the side of the road and walk it till I get a ride… the problem with this plan was that the dog was not having anything to do with standing on the side of the Dominican I-5. She was clearly very scared; I get a motoconcho the rest of the way for 150 pesos. I think she actually liked the motorcycle ride more than the back of the truck.
When we finally arrive at Abonico, I get in the back of the truck with Layla and there are already 6 people in the back; a Haitian guy with a huge stereo speaker, a little kid with his bicycle (traveling alone, with the bicycle in 3 pieces in a burlap sack), and two couples that were coming down from Santiago for the week to party. One of the guys offers me some of the cheap rum they were drinking, I look down at my phone to check the time: 9:15 AM. I grab the bottle and take a pretty big pull of the rum; I feel a pat on my back. “Hola Cristofer! Como tu estás?” It was one of the Dominican youth I work with in the group that teaches about HIV/AIDS and Alcoholism. He was down in Bonao applying for a job. “Not so good” I tell him “I am drinking rum right now because this dog threw up on my leg.”
On the way up, we get stuck on the side of the road for 40 minutes waiting for some construction to finish. By this time the Santiago couples are comfortably drunk and one of the guys decides to show off his English to me “Hey, suck my dick you mother asshole!” He says to me, I smile and tell him that he had nearly mastered the English language and that he could start teaching soon. I looked down at the time and realized that I had missed the meeting I was supposed to be at, and that this trip was going to take 7 hours instead of the usual 3 and a half. As I sat there with dog vomit on my leg, an escojo youth next to me, the stink of rum on my breath and two lovely couples swearing at me in English on the side of the road. I realized that I had been mal de ojo’d big time.