Thursday, August 12, 1999

Dajabón, Dominican Republic

We crossed the border to find a hotel. I looove the Dominican Republic. I love lukewarm showers and rickety beds and I have an extremely wide tolerance for latina chicks on scooters. When I got here I felt so good I had the nerve to spend half an hour in the washroom sink doing laundry by hand.

Crossing over puts Ouanaminthe in perspective, though. What had seemed like a respectable city, relative to others in its country, takes on a whole new light when compared to Dajabón just across the river. Ouanaminthe spreads like alluvial silt toward the source of the border crossing: walking toward it the fan of huts gives way to braided motocross paths, and all the jostling bikes fuse into a gauntlet beneath the pillars of two towering wapou trees, a frame of superhuman proportion for what you see when you walk through: a seething, milling pedestrian bridge leading to a checkpoint that looks a little bit like Angkor Wat. Beyond that is the Dominican Republic. At first the buildings look vaguely similar—same clay finish, same watercolour tints. But they house public libraries and music academies, and the streets are neat paved squares, and the men fixing their trucks on the roadside don’t look desperate to earn their day’s wages, but more like they’re puttering in the street in front of their homes. And then you realize: all of Ouanaminthe is a shanty-town for Dajabón, their entire existence centres on earning scant pesos and making Dajabón tick.

And where is the morality in saying I love the Dominican Republic, and still I do. And if the contrast is only striking because of proximity, how much worse will be my love for Canada when I return, but still I will?

[The wapou trees]

[Entrance to Dajabón: slack chain, bridge, iron gate, checkpoint]

[The waterfront at the base of Máximo Gómez St., Santo Domingo]


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