We went to Puerto Plata Saturday so Josh (the guy from our home church that’s living with us for a couple of months) could buy some new tennis shoes. I had a couple of things I was looking for as well. Puerto Plata is about 25 minutes away and is a much larger town that Sosua. It’s not huge, but it’s got a Burger King…in a gas station… The closest McDonald’s is 2 hours away. So, we decided to try Burger King, our first time in the year that we’ve lived here. It looked like a Burger King from the States, even smelled and tasted like one, and at first glance you’d have thought that the only difference was that the menu was in Spanish. But when we ordered the lady standing behind the cash register took our order but didn’t key anything in. Then she repeated our order to make sure that she had it right, walked away to some other cash register out of sight (or maybe just an adding machine or a scrap of paper??), and returned to tell us our total. I just found that a bit odd. Then as we were eating, one of the employees came out from behind the counter with a couple hundred pesos and put them down on a guys table without saying a word. I said, “Hey, you can come put some money on our table.” John told me that it was his change. When he had paid they didn’t have change for his 500 bill (about $15). I don’t know why I still find that hard to believe since it happens ALL THE TIME. You pay for a 70 peso item with a 100 peso bill and they don’t have the change! Often times the cashier or shopkeeper will pull money out of their own pocket to try to make change. Or, as we’ve blogged about before, they’ll give you a cough drop or candy or gum as change. And speaking of, our next stop was to a little junky store a lot like Dollar General. I did find a couple of things I couldn’t live without and when I paid she was 5 pesos short on my change so she gave me 2 hair clips!! As we were walking out the door something caught John’s eye that he wanted to get. So when he paid he called to me and asked if I had 5 pesos…No, but I can give you the 2 hairclips she just gave me!
We made it to the sports store and didn’t find shoes for Josh but he did find a basketball. It was a little flat though so we asked the guy if he’d pump it up before we bought it. He said “Sure” and reached to the rack where the pumps they have for sell were hanging, took one down, pumped up the ball, and put it back on the rack! We decided we weren’t sure what else we’d need our pesos for and since they accepted credit cards, we’d pay for the ball with our debit card. The machine had some malfunction so they had to pull a phone from some other part of the store and plug it and the machine in together so it would work. It was quite the shopping day!
I was thinking about how truly “Dominican” these experiences are and that I wanted to share them with you. Then last night I tried to purchase tickets for our trip to the States in July. I can’t do it online this time because we each have a $60 travel voucher and you can’t use those online. (So you have to call, and that adds an additional $10 to your ticket price…don’t get me started!) So, everything was going good. She asked me the value of the voucher and then went on to get my credit card number and some other information. I thought it was odd that she didn’t ask for the voucher number to verify the amount. Then at what I thought was the end of the process she said, “Now, we’ll need you to mail in that voucher to us and it’ll need to be postmarked by June 12th. Well, with the way our mail runs that’s a near impossibility. After explaining the situation she recommended that I go to the airport to purchase the tickets. Fortunately, it’s not far away at all. But all I could think was, “I have to mail it to you?! Are you serious? You can’t just type in a number and pull it up in your system?” So, maybe my experiences from earlier in the day weren’t so uniquely “Dominican”!!