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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Turismo Policia Encounters

This visit in Santo Domingo has been quite entertaining. The night of Indepence Day, we took the students to some live music and fireworks. The fireworks were far and away the most elaborate show I have ever witnessed. They had the equivalent of a grand finale every five minutes for over half an hour. At one point they lit a bridge on fire. At the actual end of the show, they also had a firework of the Dominican flag. The most entertaining part was not the fireworks, however, it was the unbridled appreciation for them. Instead of the sedate "oohs" and "ahhs" heard in the United States, there were screams and shrieks of joy with nearly every burst.

The morning after Indepence Day, we left the Colonial Zone, headed for Faro a Colon (aka the Columbus Lighthouse, an entertaining thing to research if you are interested) and the caves Tres a Ojos. Once we reached Faro a Colon, we were greeted by the Tourism Police, who were incredibly concerned about us walking from place to place in the city, for fear of pickpockets. They insisted upon providing us an armed Marine escort to the caves.

Tres a Ojos was incredibly. It is a set of caves formed by a natural sinkhole. Initially it was all one cave, however, now it is multiple connected caves with four lakes, three of which are underground. Although built up enough to have stone steps, the national park creators did an amazing job of building in such a way that it is easy to get a feel for the original value of the caves and to ignore the steps and handrails.

Walking back to the ship, we again faced the Turismo Policia at Faro a Colon. This time, instead of an armed Marine, they provided us with one of the head police. He drove along beside us in an unmarked car, getting out of the car at every intersection and any place with people milling about(even simply taxi drivers). When we reached the bridge that crossed to where the ship is docked, he bid us farewell, but had arranged for a pair of motorcycle police to escort us across the bridge, going against the flow of traffic! While I appreciate their organisational responsibility to ensure that we thrive, unharmed, in their country, it seems overzealous to spend so much time protecting a group of eighteen with almost no valuable items and a decent amount of streetsmarts. We had previously walked through less safe neighborhoods unscathed and only run into friendly people (not including the ever adamant show shiners and beggers in the safe Colonial Zone).

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