Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Night in Veron

After our first week of classes in the Fundacion Ecologica Punta Cana, much of the crew was feeling varying degrees of anciness ranging from 'let's go to the mini-mall and get Wendy's' to 'We're gonna pregame in the common room, then hit the happy hour at Playa Blanca, and from there hit the clubs,' and everything in between.

8 of our lil group of 12 decided while en route to the mini-mall in the free resort shuttle to have the driver take us to Veron, the closest town next to Punta Cana. It's too small to be on google maps which already makes it legit. For a small fee he'll take us to a bar he says is legit by the locals' standards and everyone agrees to go for it.

After several minutes of driving on Veron's main street, passing innumerable mini-marts all blasting either bachata, merengue, or salsa and one dope looking Harlem style lit up Basketball court along the way, he drops us off at Veron Tropical. Immediately a waiter whisks us over to a table. I was very down with the looks of the place. Open area but with a thatch covered roof, lots of tables all surrounding the nice dance floor in the middle, some strobe lights and a smoke machine..and yes, lot's of beautiful women. I should mention that of the 8 of us, Patrick and I were the only male reps (seen in picture above, waiting in Punta Cana for the shuttle to show up). We all sit down at our table and I order a Presidente (THE Dominican beer), Pat orders a vodka cranberry, and the waiter comes back with 3 tall boy Presidentes, a handle of Absolut, and a small oceanspray cranberry juice. Naturally the men were ordering for the whole table, how silly of us to forget this!

Looking around, I was catching the eyes of a few of these local ladies. And they were smiling right at me. Add to the fact that the Celtics were looking real good against Orlando on the slightly banged up big screen tv and the night looked pretty promising. So as I'm drinking my beer and assessing the situation of the dance floor and watching the C's pour it on the Magic, I'm getting pumped up and start a conversation with a dude who works there who was also watching the game. Pierce hit a dagger three so I was talking my man The Truth up to this dude. The guy is more interested in the ladies Pat and I are sitting with and wants to know which of them is my wife. I say 'nah man I have no wife, no lady friend. Pretty single. Como se dice single?' Libre, he says. 'Word, soy libre. Viva la revolucion!' And we both give a fist pump in the air. I ask him how many of the ladies in the bar/dance hall/club he thinks are libre, and this is where I hit reality. He shakes his head and says, "no, no..por dinero." And lemme tell ya, reality bites. We're in a de facto whore house. All the women in the place. Oh, man! And here I am thinking that a few of these women are giving me looks and smiles because I'm fresh blood in small town Veron, because I'm a silly gringo, because who knows why. But now it all makes sense--these girls are interested in one thing and one thing only, mi dinero..caramba!

I guess it was good that I found out sooner rather than later. On one level, a man's ego should never get too high--it's not healthy. So it put me right back down on earth to realize these ladies didn't like me for me. On a much more practical level, though, it probably saved me from some possible trouble because I undoubtedly would have tried dancing with one of the mistresses and there's no way things would have ended well. With my newly acquired knowledge and dashed hopes of getting to know the locals in a more naive and honest way, I still decided to dance with one the women who had been eying me. After all, I figured, I am finally in a real situation to try some latin dancing and I have nothing to lose because I'm a silly white boy in a whorehouse who can't really keep up either way, so what the hell? I tell the woman, "no puede bailar por que soy gringo de estados unidos, ensename a bailar por favor!" We dance and I lead her pretty horrifically offbeat while also trying to talk to her in whatever Spanish I can come up with. Even though I didn't really know what I was doing, I succeeded in twirling and spinning her a few times, enough that she more than once gave me a surprised smile. After the dance ended though, she claimed it was too hot so we parted ways. I thought that was gonna be it...

Sometime later we were getting our cash out to pay the bill and something like the 5th dude of the night comes up to me and asks what the deal with all the American girls is, if we need a ride anywhere let him know, if we need drinks let him know, which of the girls are single etc etc. Like we were the pimps or something--it was pretty ridiculous. As he is talking to me, the woman I danced with comes over and interrupts and with the help of his translation gets the message across that she wants to come home with me. I am flattered, and I do crush on that smile of hers, but I am skeptical because of her profession. "Lo siento, no tengo dinero..." He explains that she doesn't want money, that she'll go home with me for free. "I looove you!" she exclaims with a coy smile. Ok, soI am admittedly very unsure of what to do at this point. I try not to over think in this sort of situation so I decide to take a chance and go with it. "Vamos, lady!" The two of us take deck outta there and grab the first taxi we see back to the resort. This was last night, and she is still with me right now, sitting next to me as I type this. As ridiculous as it sounds, I think I've finally found the one! Listen, Ellenas might be a prostitute, but it's not her fault. With no education, money, or other options...I mean, everyone's gotta make a living...right...? Whatever you're thinking right now, get used to it people, she ain't goin anywhere anytime soon.

Anyways, everything happened up through the part of me being unsure of what my next move should be. In reality, I decided there was no way taking this woman home could end well no matter how pretty the smile. Instead I distanced myself and the 8 of us piled into our waiter's sedan with all six girls in the back seat and Pat and me up front.

It was only the next morning at breakfast that after relaying the story to our T.A. she informed us that indeed Veron was pretty well known for its prostitution. Great, thanks for the heads up on that one! All in all, it was a pretty fun night. Big C's win, funny experience all around, nice bonding moment with the group.

I'll post again in a couple of days max with an update on my research project. I just emailed in a 6 page proposal a couple of hours ago so we'll see how things are shaping up when I hear some feedback on it.

Much love to everyone and shavuah tov
Love, Jonah

Monday, May 24, 2010

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Hellooo Everybody (aka Mom, Zoe Jick, and Debby Iken),

Been a while since my last post, and much longer since anything consistent. This is about to change...

I just wanted to say Hola from my semi-resort room in Punta Cana. I arrived in the hot n humid Dominican town at 12:30 this afternoon, and I will be spending the next five weeks on a Columbia U summer science program doing research in the Punta Cana Biodiversity Center to fulfill my remaining six science credits while also having a legit good time. After the program ends in late June, I will take a ferry out to the D.R. village of Las Galeras and meet up with a couple, Cindy and Jose, where I will learn some organic farming skills (part of the ever growing WWOOF movement) until mid August.

So, since I just got here today, I don't have too much to report just yet. There are 12 of us on the program--pretty tiny by all standards, with a T.A. from Spain named Lisa and our professor, named Jane. [Edit: Actually, her name is Jenna!]

Going Kosh will be very tough. It will include rice and beans. And rice and beans. And sometimes pizza for dinner. This diet, coupled with the fact that we are not allowed to throw our toilet paper into the toilet because the sewage system is still one of the 'developing' things in the country (so instead we dispose of it in a garbage pail next to us), is reason enough to keep checking the blog this summer because there could be some very interesting, and potentially quite smelly, stories that come out of it.

With that, I am going to do my reading and pass out.

Much love,