There is not much that surprises me anymore when it comes to living overseas. When I first moved to the Dominican Republic, every day was an adventure, every new experience was hysterical/terrifying/just plain strange. Now, it’s all sort of meh. I’ve driven down the second most dangerous road in the world (the Fahaheel Expressway in Kuwait, as documented in the Guinness Book of World Records) and lived to tell the story. I’ve seen men climb scaffolding made of bamboo and rope and THEY lived to tell the story. I’ve endured two weeks of fireworks at Chinese New Year, people staring at me walking my dogs as though I have two hippopotami at the end of the leash, typhoons on the first day of school, sand storms, and so many other things that I can’t count them. And, like I said, it’s all gotten a little mundane.
Except in my current neighborhood. I live in a nice, heavily gated/guarded neighborhood where I can walk my dogs and children run freely through the streets. It is a tiny place, made up of 60ish townhouses and you can complete a lap, walking, in about five minutes. It’s pretty, it’s safe, it’s friendly. Right outside is a slightly different world. It looks dirty and rundown. You can’t see any of the houses because they are all behind a gate and a cement wall. There are stray dogs everywhere.
And yet, that neighborhood is friendly too. And funny. The story goes that it was a military zone for a long time. After the military pulled out, the ‘badies’ started to move in. Well, the people would have nothing of it. They rounded up the drug dealers and criminals, hung them or shot them in the street, and the neighborhood has been a relatively safe place ever since. It’s one of the only places in the city where you see families and children running around after dark. I’ve never felt nervous out there…
I’ve felt more amused than anything. That neighborhood continuously surprises me. Once, I came around the corner to find a 10-foot tall Jesus standing by a tienda (little store). Obviously, it was a man on stilts… but the funny thing was that I didn’t see anyone else in a costume anywhere. Another time, while trying to leave, I had to wait for a parade, made up of people in various Halloween costumes, to make their way SLOWLY down the street. It was a random Tuesday.
Sunday, as I left to do a little shopping and get the kiddo out of the house, I drove by one of the small churches in the area. And to my surprise, there were at least 10 people dressed in full cartoon costumes- Pluto and Speedy Gonzalez to name two- doing the Macarena outside the church. I drove by slowly, amused, but not surprised, and had a smile on my face the rest of the day.
Like I said, not much surprises me anymore. But sometimes it’s nice to step back and every now and again think OIG (only in Guatemala) in a good way…
(That picture isn’t of the Speedy from my neighborhood, just a random one from the internet…)