Misunderstanding of the Week!
Every time I travel to another country, whether I speak the language or not, miscommunications are responsible the bulk of the stories I tell afterwards. Whether it be in Poland, locking my AirBnb host out of his own apartment at 11pm or in Spain, shocking an unsuspecting movie theater cashier by confusing the Disney film Vaiana (better known as Moana in the US) with the spanish word vagina (and yes, it means exactly what you think), I always find a way to embarrass myself and laugh about it later. And the Dominican Republic is certainly no exception. My “favorite” misunderstanding this week was by far my excursion to the military police headquarters. In my defense, I thought it was a castle. (To be fair, the word castillo is written in bold above the arching entryway.) In any case, as I stood at the top of the hill taking in the beautiful view of Santiago, I didn’t have the slightest idea that I was walking a thin line between forgivable but idiotic gringa to trespasser. After looking around and seeing a few Dominicans staring at me, I walked into a courtyard. Still taking in the sights, I didn’t pay attention to the armed military policeman marching towards me. He shouted and began to explain (in rapid fire Spanish) why I shouldn’t be there, while another group of policemen watched from the edges of the courtyard. Instead of explaining my misunderstanding like an adult, I ran away, darting across a busy street and into a crowd of pedestrians. To this day, I’m not exactly sure what that policeman said or what exactly that building was used for, but I don’t think I’ll be heading back to find out anytime soon.
But when I’m not accidentally encountering Santiago’s police, this is what I do: