I live in a barrio in a little town in the middle of the Dominican Republic. A barrio is translated as a neighbourhood, or a suburb. However it is not quite wide tree lined roads with pretty detached houses and beautifully manicured lawns.
Each town has several barrios, and they all have names, most of which are totally incongruous such as Black Barrio and Pretty Barrio. The houses tend to be of all different kinds although some barrios will be poorer than others. My barrio has beautiful two storey houses next to brightly coloured wooden huts with zinc roofs.
The streets are all dirt, although for some strange reason there are pavements which no one uses as they all walk on the roads. When it is hot the dust gets everywhere and in the mornings and evenings all the women stand in the front of their houses with hose pipes watering the road to try and cut back on the dust. When it rains, the roads become a mud bath. Every road has a little gully running down each side where the dirty water flows from each house – a little like Elizabethan England. Luckily the sewage water goes into septic tanks.The main thing all barrios have in common is the noise. I am awoken in the morning with the sound of chickens, cockerels, geese and dogs. Everyone appears to have at least one dog, and they don’t live in the house, rather they lie in the street in front of the house. Occasionally there will be a barrio dog howl at around 6am which can last for up to 20 minutes as dogs from different areas join in.
Then we have the street sellers. I think you could survive here without ever leaving your house, as a constant stream of people walk past shouting their wares. The earliest are the Haitian women with washing up bowls balanced precariously on their heads. They sell avocados, peas or corn on the cob. The avocados are 10 pesos each (20 UK pence or 25 US cents) or two for 25 pesos. Obviously mathematics is not their strong point.
Then we have chicken man in his beat up truck selling fighting cocks, big chickens, baby chicks and guinea fowl; popcorn man who has a dustbin bag full of it; pork scratching man who will give you your scratchings in a piece of brown paper with half a fresh lime; shoe shine boys; ice cream lads; the rag and bone man; vegetable man who always shouts out sexual innuendos about the size of his plantain bananas. The shoe repair man comes past around once a week, as does the saucepan man, toilet paper man, DVD man, and the brush and bucket man. Occasionally the washing machine rental man rides past on his motorbike hanging on to the twin tub washing machine, which you can rent for just under 2 pounds or 3 dollars.
I love barrio living, as apart from being assaulted by all of these noises all day, and don’t get me started on the music which blares out from every house, the people are so friendly and there is a real sense of community.
Lindsay de Feliz lives in the middle of nowhere in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, one stepson, 8 cats and 3 dogs. She was formerly Marketing Director of various financial companies in the City of London, and left the UK around 11 years ago to travel the world as a scuba diving instructor. She eventually came to the Dominican Republic on a 6 month contract, fell in love with the country and its people and stayed. Lindsay has a blog www.yoursaucepans.blogspot.com and is currently writing a book about her experiences over the last 10 years.