Friday, January 13, 2012

Barrio Living in the Dominican Republic

by Expat Focus Columnist Lindsay de Feliz

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...

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