We had a bumpy ride our whole stay in the DR, but it was particularly true for our first month. Little A wasn’t sleeping well. he was a very active baby and had never slept well, but the Caribbean heat made it that much worse. We were constantly sick (for the first 3 months!) with one thing or another while trying to get accustomed to our new country. But worst of all was being sleep deprived. It made me jumpy, easily scared and very irritated. After our short vacation in the hotel we were back in the apartment. But we still hadn’t gotten any real furniture and the state of the apartment just made us miserable, so we spent a lot of time sightseeing in Sto Dgo.
After a whole day on hot guaguas and walking dirty streets in the scorching sun, we found ourselves waiting for a guagua on Avenida México and José Martí during rush hour. The street was overcrowded with both people and one rusty, rundown vehicle after the other. There were so many people waiting for the buses that I – in my very nervous state for the lack of sleep – felt crowded as I tried to shelter a sleeping Little A in my arms. I had just started thinking about how crazy it all was. Why were we trying to make it work here, without a car, in a place that was so dirty? It was in that moment that I saw a man walking towards my overcrowded group by the bus stop. I don’t know what made me look at him so intently, nothing really stood out about him from that far. As he approached I saw that he was only wearing shorts, and something about him was off. At the same moment as my husband suggested us taking a bus from somewhere else, I tilted my head slightly and that is when I saw it. Something red and shiny that was coming from the man’s stomach, hanging down just above his shorts. I had no idea what it was, other than it coming from inside him, and he was coming towards us. I stood up quickly and asked my husband, as calm as I could, what was that? He didn’t seem at all bothered with the situation, telling me it probably was the man’s colon. Everything came crashing down on me then. I don’t know what it was about this exact incident that became the drop for me, but while my husband explained that the colon probably was infected I just had it. I can’t take this anymore, I said, hugging my little boy tighter against my chest. Mr P seemed to understand, because he gave me a slight nod, while guiding me through the crowd. Suddenly we were in a salon supply store and Mr P was chatting with the manager. I felt grateful for the cool air conditioning, but really just wanted to get home. After a while we left, got on a guagua on a less crowded corner and went straight home.
The same night, I asked Mr P why we had gone into the supply store. You said you had had enough, he answered. When I asked what exactly he thought I had had enough of, he replied You know, the crowded street, the bad traffic… I had to interrupt him before he went on. Sure, I had had enough of that. At least until I could get a good nights sleep. But I refused to live somewhere where I could suddenly have someone’s colon in my face. I’m finding us a tiny town somewhere, I said, and we’re moving there as soon as possible.
Note: I’m trying to convey how miserable sleep deprivation made me feel, especially in the beginning. I don’t think Santo Domingo is that bad, there is a lot about the city that I do like. But that’s for later posts.