For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter and haven’t been subjected to my bragging tweets this last week, I’ve been on vacation. My girlfriend and I spent ten days road tripping around the Dominican Republic, and it was just magical. We swam under rainforest waterfalls, discovered hidden beaches, took moonlit walks on the beach, and ate like calories didn’t exist in the Caribbean. One thing we didn’t do, however, was speak a word of Spanish, which proved to be tricky. I downloaded Dualingo about a week before we left, but sadly, it teaching me how to say, “I like to drink milk” wasn’t much help. Instead, here are some phrases I would have much rather known.
“I have a girlfriend, and have no need for your services.”
Here’s a fact you won’t find in any travel guide: The upper peninsula of the Dominican island is not only home to many picturesque beaches, but also to many much-less-picturesque prostitutes. I first became aware of this fact when I noticed that most of the couples I saw canoodling at the beach bars consisted of old white men and native girls 40-50 years their junior. My suspicion was confirmed when we were directed to a bar called “La Bodega,” which translates to “The Store.” Subtle. While my girlfriend went to the bathroom, no fewer than four different women approached me, whispering in Spanish and caressing my face (and in the case of one particularly aggressive one, my ass). Had I known the above phrase, I could have said something other than “No…no…my girl…oh god” while swatting at their hands.
“Stay in your lane, you drunk asshole!”
During my research, I learned that the Dominican Republic has been ranked the third worst place to drive in the world. Not only are there no rules, lanes, or traffic lights, about a third of the population zips around on mopeds, weaving between cars, and ignoring the laws of the road (and occasionally physics). There were many times when this line would have come in handy, from when I had to off-road my ATV to avoid a bus that decided to play chicken with oncoming traffic, to when I almost collided head on with a car that was driving the wrong way down the freeway to get back to the exit it had missed.
“How do I pay this fucking speeding ticket?”
Despite there being zero traffic laws to speak of in this fucking country, ya boy managed to get pulled over by the one un-bribable cop on the whole island for a speeding violation. Or maybe a traffic light issue? To be honest, I couldn’t understand a word the guy was saying, and I was mainly focused on not getting put in a Dominican jail so I pretty much just nodded and smiled. Had I known that my other option was the Dominican DMV, I probably should have chosen jail. This would have been a great phrase to know at any point during the two frenzied hours I spent trying to fight my way to the cashier window to pay the damn thing. Luckily, a nice cop explained to me through a series of hand gestures and broken English that my ticket wouldn’t be in the system until well after I had returned home, so perhaps I should not worry about it, which is exactly what I did.
“If you don’t let me out of this taxi, I’m going to pop you in the back of the head.”
Through a series of unfortunate mistakes, such as allowing my girlfriend to be in charge of the directions and me not wanting to seem like a bitch, we accidentally ended up in the sketchy part of Santo Domingo. Keep in mind, this is a city where even in the nicest neighborhoods, third floor windows have bars on them. And we strolled through looking like a bunch of tourists. While I realized it was pretty sketchy, I didn’t realize how bad it was until a cop pulled over, asked me where we were going, and then flagged down a cab for us with the words “This is the hood. You can’t be here.”
While that was a nice gesture, the cab driver he waved down was not in the same charitable mood. After realizing he was driving us on a tour of the city instead of to our destination a few blocks away, I started telling him to pull over while he smiled and ignored me. This would have been a great sentence to know at the time, but instead I went with “I HAVE NO DINERO, which was equally as effective. He cursed at me in Spanish, I cursed at him in English, and he stopped the car and let us out. A great time had by all.
“No thank you, I don’t want any drugs.”
I don’t know what it is about me, but apparently I look like the kind of guy that wants to buy drugs off of a fifteen-year-old Dominican kid on a moped. Was it my wind-swept hair? Was it because I was shirtless most of my trip? I don’t know, but I lost count of how many times I was approached by locals wondering if I would like to buy some illicit substances. Instead of this phrase, all I had to fall back on was my go-to, “no gracias, no gracias.”
“How much are you selling it for though, just out of curiosity, like, if my friend wanted to buy some or whatever?”
I dunno, man. Obviously I would never buy/do drugs, but the comparison prices would be an interesting tidbit to know. Just, like, market research or whatever. I like to engross myself in the local culture, you know? Really get down to the nitty-gritty and see what a place is like from the inside. I’m just saying, this would have been a useful phrase to know to glean more in-depth knowledge of the local’s way of life..
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