Friday, May 20, 2005

Santo Domingo

We take the long bus ride down from the mountains to Santo Domingo.

At a rest stop I eat chivo -- goat -- along with rice and beans and fried plantains with Jesus. We arrive at our hotel in the city at one, and we all head down to the pool, where we enjoy the sun and play nerf football in the water.

I think if I had a choice between a week at an all-inclusive resort versus this experience with just our two hours of pool time, I would take this without question. In the past I was always the type to never leave a resort, content to lay in the sun with a drink in my hand. I can't imagine any better way to see a country than to do what we have done on this mission.

At the pool I talk with the trip's medical director and he admits he did not the difference between and EMT and a paramedic before the trip started. He seems happy with my work and asks me if I am interested in a trip they have planned for next year with a smaller group, a first time mission into Boliva. I tell him I am very much interested.

I will be sharing a room with Alexander and Jesus. I make a note to myself to ask my friend Annie for extra ear plugs she said she has. Jesus dons a red suit and wears a mini sword, giant dagger on his belt. He says it is dress befitting a "rey," a king, which he claims he is, a king of Barahona, the Dominican town where he is from.

We go shopping for two hours. I buy a Presidente tee-shirt, a set of dominoes, rum for my father, some jewelry for friends, and some CDs -- bachattas and merengues from a street vendor.

At night we eat at a restaurant where I order a Dominican platter of shrimp, meat and eggs in rice and beans, accompanied by several more Presidentes.

I go in the casino where I find myself in a game of no-limit Texas hold'em with a table of crazy dominicans. Texas Holdem is a game that requires patience. While I fold continuously, the Dominicans play nearly every hand. When one wins, he gets up and does a merengue dance while the live band blares the music closeby. "Ladron! ladron!" one accuses the other when he catches a long shot card to win a pot. "Te Quiero, Maria, Te Queiro," another tells the dealer when she deals him a winning card. A waiter brings out a plate of meat and onions and fries for all the players. I am continually amazed by the wildness of the play. When one raises another, the other calls with a poor hand. It is as if to fold to a raise is a sign of lack of manhood. At one in the morning I finally get my hand, and win a big pot, walking away a $1200 peso winner for the night. (About $50 US). The next morning I give the money to Jesus to use in his work for God.

When I go back to the room after cashing out of the poker game, I can hear Jesus snoring from down the hall. Alexander has both pillows pressed against his ears. "I can't take it anymore," he says.

Jesus is sleeping on the floor due to his bad back. We debate rolling him out onto the porch, but he is a former Olympic death match fighter, and his ceremonial sword is by his side.

"I'm not moving him," I say.


I would like to thank my long time friend Annie, and long-time, but not much anymore occasional partner on the volunteer ambulance, and now an awesome ER nurse, who told me about the trip and helped me hook up with the group going. You're the best! Come back and ride the ambulance some day.