That night Nancy encourages me to go into town alone. She says that, like her, I have had a lot of travel experience. She knows I won’t be afraid to go out alone, and because my Spanish is so good (something I am quickly doubting) she is sure I will get along just fine.
I now realize why my Dominican story starts here…Nancy told me I could do it, had confidence in me being able to travel safely and confidently in a Spanish speaking country, long before I knew I would even go to the DR, especially alone.
I attend a poetry reading at the Galeria Libertad, and new art gallery – mid conversion, with an upstairs room for events. The reading is packed, and though they run out of folding chairs and many are standing in the back, a man gives up his seat for me – right in the middle of a row.
Poet Antonio Deltoro reads from his book “El Quieto” for a short time, and then a university professor and two students read really long academic papers evaluating him. If I understood a small portion of the poetry (at least the genre leaves room for personal interpretation) I am completely lost during the horrendous academic readings – I sit for an hour and a half trapped. My Spanish education, starting in 7th grade going through four years of college plus working as a bilingual counselor in schools for 8 years having ZERO value – with this master’s level literary criticism Spanish coming toward me at break neck speed.
Afterward, I peruse restaurants around Plaza de las Armas. At Ristorante 1810 two men look over my shoulder at the menu, so I walk away to let them see better. At the exact same time the waitress asks “Mesa por 3?” One man asks, “Aren’t you going to eat, did we cut in front of you?” I say, “I thought you’d prefer a table for two”. Misinterpreting what I am saying, the two attractive men look at each other, then suddenly step away from each other, insisting they are just friends. I laugh as they tell the waitress, ‘Yes, a table for three, please.’ So I eat with them.
Because my mind is mush after the poetry reading, it is a good thing that when my Spanish falters, they understand English perfectly. Yet they refuse to translate one item on the menu – Escamoles. And although they do say in Spanish exactly what it is “huevos de hormigas” I can’t remember what hormigas are. They say it is the Mexican version of caviar. I explain I don’t eat fish or fish eggs. They laugh and say, “Let us order.” They order everything – every appetizer, a plate of this, a few of those. Most things I enjoy greatly, but after a bite of their ‘caviar,’ which is not horrible, but certainly not good, I suddenly remember hormigas are ants!
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