Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Report from the DR

Well, that was one hell of an earthquake today!

I’m in the Dominican Republic this week. There’s an orchestra here in Santo Domingo and they are one bassoonist short of a full deck, so every now and then they will bring me down here to fill up the section. I’ve been coming here on and off for about four years, which makes for a great way to learn more about the town, the island, and most importantly the people.

This orchestra is partially state funded, and partially supported by private donation. The Dominican Republic is a poor country so naturally the orchestra’s funding goes up and down, but unlike orchestras back in the US it seems to be a mostly stable endeavor. The people in Sinfonica are a varied assortment, which makes for interesting concerts. The first trumpet is sheer genius, and the principal oboe and bassoon are both first-rate. The fellow who plays English horn is a full-time policeman; every now and then he shows up in uniform- complete with sidearm.

During this trip I am staying at a very sketchy hotel. The rooms at the Barcelo Lina are (mostly) fine*, and there’s a lovely pool. There is also a piano bar that seems to host a prostitution ring. The hotel certainly knows that there are girls “working” the premises, and rumor has it that you can charge their services to your room. I was in the bar once when a young lady started to work on me. I let it go for a few minutes mostly because she barely spoke English and I barely speak Spanish. I figured that telling her “I like boys” would fix the situation, but she responded “Babies! I want babies too!!” and things only got worse. My dad got a big kick out of that incident.

On another trip I stayed at a fairly grand hotel called El Embajador. It may not be in its prime anymore, but the pool is massive (it once sported 5m and 10m concrete diving platforms; it’s that big) and that scores points for me. I was there for the hotel’s anniversary. My friend Paul and I were in our top-floor room when we suddenly dove for cover. Were we under mortar fire? No- the hotel was setting off fireworks and launching them from the roof. A side note- El Embajador is seen in Godfather II. When Michael is in a Havana hotel, you're seeing El Embajador.

It seems that today’s earthquake was centered in Port-au-Prince. We were on break at rehearsal when the room started to sway. The lighting rigs above our heads were swinging to and fro, but we settled back in to work. About 20 minutes later cell phones started to go off, and we learned that a tsunami warning had been issued. Rehearsal was called, and we all headed home. All is fine on this side of Hispaniola, though knowing about the circumstances just 150 miles away is very unsettling.

More on my adventures in the Dominican Republic will be written tomorrow. I’ll tell you about things far more interesting than the hotels I stay in.

*I’ve stayed at this hotel a bunch of times, and I’ve learned that you need to do a thorough walk-through every time you enter a new room. You’d be surprised at what I found in my “first” room last night. Horrible.


  1. It's horrible to be so close to such a tragedy, and to actually have felt the cause. I remember how I felt, living approximately 50 miles east of San Francisco when the Loma Prieta quake hit, and then watching the tragedy of the Cypress section and the Mission district unfold on TV (wince). Still, SD sounds like a wonderful opportunity... Other than the english horn player, of course. I make it a strict rule never to associate with english horn players who are armed. ;-)

  2. The funny thing is that this guy can get around on the English horn! He has a baby face, so his uniform makes him look like a giant toddler recess monitor... with a gun.

  3. Doug, you missed your calling. You should've gone into Journalism.


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