Every morning I wake up. Ordinarialy that happens every morning, in the morning... as it should. But it is a different ritual here, a different sentiment, and a different sense of fatalism about the day.
I will wake up in the morning whether I want to or not, and the roosters outside the window will crow with careless abandon, and the sun will rise in all its orangey gore, in the east... as it should.
If the electricity is still on in the morning, the rickety fan will be chopping away at the air, sending down half-hearted drafts to compliment the rise and fall of my mosquitero hung from nails in the wall to protect against forces that be and the malaria and dengue fever they carry.
The heat of the burgeoning day will drive me out of my netted fortress, and I will drag my sweat-soaked dehydrated body into the comparative cool of the bathroom where I will slosh buckets of water over my skin, my unrecognizable skin that smells of the musty bed I slept on. A sort of mouldy bread stink that permeates the pores and doesn't leave as easily as it sets in.
If the water is running in the pipes, I will refill the bucket in the bathtub for the others when they wake up. Because they too, will have to wake up.
With much reluctance they will open their eyes only to reclose them. But there is no escaping the day, and really no reason to want to try. It is far too hot to feign fatigue, and the sharp shock of room temperature water is waiting inevitabley in the bucket in the bathroom, calm and still.
After ablutions of the body, after dressing, after eating... after all the mundane morning things done to try to dull the dream I am living, I will slip out the back door, pick my way over a hole in the concrete wall, and walk through a trash-strewn patch of tangled weeds and banana trees.
The chickens will scatter, because they are chickens, and the mosquitoes will whine, because they are mosquitoes.
A young man will meet me at the next street to walk with me and a funny dirty little dog will skip along at our heels with one ear flopped, a slight limp, and tail wagging, and we will join with two others to hail a public car.
Leaving the mutt at the curb, we four will pile into the back seat of a car choferred by a stranger who we will pay to drive us up the slow-flowing arteriole of the neighborhood that joins the congested artery of an autopista that runs away from the heart of the capital.
And us in our bent and dented platelets will be dumped out against the side of the channel to wait clotted together until we can cut to the other side of the stream and walk across the bridge over the pulsing freeway traffic.
We will stand and wait for a particular guagua, and it will rush towards us with a cobredor hanging out the door shouting "Pantoja Pantoja Pantoja Pantoja" with the appropriate accompanying hand motions.
After boarding we will sit or stand among twenty to thirty other people in a minibus built to comfortabley seat fifteen. We will breathe in the river of exhaust fumes that we indirectly contribute to, until our throats and lungs are coated and an unpleasant fog settles over our tongues, because we have to get where we are going, and because we have to breathe.
The mornings are predestined and prescribed, pre-experienced and pre-described. And they happen all the same.
I made a calender out of my colourful tie-dyed and very wet underwear clipped together onto a clothesline behind the apartment in Herrera. Each hand-cleaned garment represents one day that I have been far away from the states. Each day, bright and strange, lined up and connected, waving like underwear in the wind.
Is a car wash where people go to wash their cars? Technically yes, a person could wash their car there, had they a car, and a pressing need to wash it. But most people take a taxi, a public car, bum a bola, or even walk to the car wash for other reasons.
Like drinking ice-cold Presidentes with friends (a pilsner-type beer that tastes just like the way watered-down race-horse urine smells), and dancing to the blaring bachata, merengue, and salsa music eminating from the stack of speakers under the bar roof where everyone packs underneath when it starts to rain.
It's a meeting place where you can observe guys picking up chicks (the second national sport after baseball and ranking just slightly above dominos).
"Coger una guagua" is something I do here almost every day. It is perfectly legal here in the Dominican Republic, but if I were to do it in Costa Rica or Guatemala, I would certainly be thrown in jail.
There it means to have sexual relations with a little girl, but here it is just to catch a bus, generally a Diahatsu with four or five rows of seats. But they seat many more than thought physically possible, like fish carefully arranged in a tin, with an increase in chaos near the door where people are pressed together standing up and a hot cobredor hangs halfway out into traffic chanting "Duarte Duarte Duarte Duarte" or any number of other directions or destinations.
Phrases commonly heard in guaguas are hilarious, including: "press yourselves together like last night", "lower your arms moreno, you have grajo", and "let this one out of the kitchen" (someone from the very back wants to get off and everyone else stands up and presses to the sides to create a little aislway).
Public cars usually seat seven people, with three in the front, including the driver, and four in the back. I think it reinforces the Dominican ideals of flexibility, solidarity, community, physical human contact, and uncertainty as a life philosophy.
There are no schedules for neither public car nor
guaguas, and not all drivers are licensed. You just hail down a random vehicle based on a complicated vocabulary of gestures and hand signals telling them where you want to go, and they will pull over to let you on.