I am living with a host family in La Rinconada which means “little corner” as it is located on the corner of the large upper-middle class barrio of Esmeralda. Across the street is a fruit vendor who has a colorful display of bananas, mangos, passion fruit, plantains, oranges, etc. I am a 15 minute walk from the PUCMM (Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra) which everyone calls “Poo-kuh-mai-muh” for short. My host mother, Aracelys is sweet, caring and makes me feel right at home. I also have a host sister who is completing her study of architecture at PUCMM this semester with her thesis on the urbanization in cities in the DR.
Every morning I wake up to a delicious breakfast with fresh fruit and fresh squeezed juice. The juices of passion fruit, mango, pineapple, and papaya have been my favorites. Here, the biggest meal of the day is lunch. Typically there is rice, meat, and vegetables. A very popular dish here is “mangu” which is mashed plantains with spices and onions. According to my mom, its name originates from an “extranjero” (foreigner) from the U.S. who visited the D.R. many years ago and when he tried the dish he said “muuuuy gooood”.
As a gluten-free vegetarian, I decided to add chicken to my diet to experience more culturally relevant foods and make the life of my host mom, who cooks all my meals, a little easier. She is a wonderful cook and is very attentive to learning what foods I can eat while making 3 delicious meals for me each day. I tried “cassava” the other day which is a traditional Dominican food that’s origin is of the Taino Indians. It is a thin bread-like creation that is made out of yucca. There are some variations of cassava that are made with coconut or garlic so it can be a dessert-like a cookie or a bread-like substitute and it is especially good toasted. My mom makes delicious eggplant dishes as well. I always thought I was not a big eggplant fan but sautéed in the perfect blend of spices with onion and peppers, la berenjena has become one of my favorite things to eat here! Although wheat is common in the D.R. I have had many delicious desserts such as cakes made with maize and milk. Tonight my mom made an amazing fruit dish with cream, cinnamon, nutmeg, and honey.
This past weekend I had a chance to explore the city. With some friends I explored the area around the Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración and la Calle del Sol which is a big commercial street. I tried fresh coconut water (the coconut actually cut open right in front of you and a straw is stuck in the top). It costs RD$30 which is about US$0.70 and is one of the most delicious, refreshing things I’ve ever tasted! Vita Coco has nothing on fresh coconut milk, especially when you can scrape the sides and get the fresh coconut meat inside!
At night I got to see the night life in the city. I went to two different discotecas on Friday and Saturday night and got to put my new dance skills to the test. Although the clubs here do play lots of popular music from the U.S. and other modern music, which is referred to as “reggaeton”, they also play Merengue, Salsa, and Bachata music which is so much fun to dance to! I had a dance partner on Saturday who misheard me over the loud music and thought that my answer to “De dondé eres” (Where are you from?) was “de Ponce (a city in Puerto Rico)” instead of “de Boston”. Later we clarified that the whole time he thought I was Puerto Rican and when he found out I was from the U.S. couldn’t believe I had arrived to the D.R. only four days before and already knew how to dance so well! I think that was the biggest complement I have received in a long time. Who knows, maybe he was just charming me, but I have definitely gained some confidence in my dancing skills!
I am looking forward to blogging about my future adventures! Stay posted!