Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bienvenido a la República Dominicana

I just recently took a trip to la República Dominicana.  It wasn't my first time there, but it was my first trip to Santo Domingo.  Actually, the cities full name is called Santo Domingo de Guzmán.  But hey, no need to get all technical and stuff, Santo Domingo will do.

I was only there for a few days, and there was a lot to take in.  While I didn't get to do and see everything I wanted, I managed to squeeze in a few things.  A few of the touristy things to do in Santo Domingo are to walk along the Malecón, visit the Acuario Nacional, La Catedral Primada de América, and walk and shop on El Conde.  I'll write about those a little later.  Today I'm going to tell you about what you really come here for, the Spanish.

Let's get to it.

My Spanish adventures started well before I arrived.  It was a pleasure to land in the Miami airport and immediately being able to start speaking Spanish.  There was nothing out of the ordinary to report though, until I got on the plane.

The sobrecargo or asistente de vuelo (flight attendant) was serving drinks and I asked for a coca, short for coca-cola.  I picked that habit up from my experiences with Mexican Spanish, it's a very common way of asking for a coke.  Anyway, he paused for a moment and then asked "coca-cola?", to which I replied "".  It wasn't until a few days later that I found out why he asked.

It turns out that in Dominican Spanish the word coca is short for cocaina, not coca-cola.  Imagine my surprise.  Needless to say, for the rest of my time there I made sure to ask for a coca-cola.  In fact, I'll probably use the full name from now on.

The weather in Santo Domingo is really nice in the morning before the heat really kicks in, so every  morning I actually did quite a bit of walking, and along the way I would always greet people with the ever-so famous buenos días.  Funny thing is, everyone greeted me with buen día.   It didn't take me long to catch on and get with the program.

The next thing I noticed is that they use aló to answer the phone.  Given that I'm accustomed to hearing bueno, this stuck out like a sore thumb.

Now let's talk about colmados.  Colmados can be found all over the Santo Domingo.  A colmado is something like a store at a gas station, where they sell things like sodas, snacks and basic groceries.  The true hallmark of a colmado is that you'll find several chairs out front where you can just pull up a seat, chit-chat, relax and even drink a beer.  Here's a photo:

Moving right along, let's talk about getting around the city.  A very popular and economic way of getting around is via a mototaxi, also known as a motoconcho.

Mototaxi's are everywhere in the city.  While I never personally saw a mototaxi with that many passengers, it wouldn't surprise me.  Got luggage, bags or something else to carry?  No problem.  These guys are experts and can transport you and your belongings with no problem.  Although notice I didn't say safely.  These mototaxi's weave in and out of traffic like crazy.  I'm surprised I didn't witness any crashes.  One of the cab drivers I rode with confirmed my suspicions that crashes do happen every so often.  I like to experience the local culture, but riding a motoconcho was too much for me.  Also, a mototaxi is typically a moto, or motocicleta (motorcycle), but it can also be a pasolo, which is a scooter.  Don't quote me on this, but  pasolo might be a Dominican word. I'm working on trying to confirm that.

Like most countries, you can also catch a taxi.  But like me, you probably wouldn't take this taxi.

This particular taxi (and yes, people actually ride in cabs like this) is called a publico. A publico is a shared cab.  Multiple people get in and pay the fare to their destination.  I didn't try a publico, maybe next time.

There didn't appear to be a standard for cabs, One time I rode in what was a fairly recent and well kept Honda Accord that seemed brand new.  And the next day I saw this.  Go figure.

Since we're on the subject of transportation, here's a phrase for you.

Hay mucho tapón

Didn't catch that?  How about if I rephrase it?

Hay mucho transito

Still no luck?  OK, let me explain.

Hay mucho tapón 
Hay mucho transito 
There's a lot of traffic

Don't ask me, I just report the Spanish as I learn it.  While everybody knows the word trafico, which is standard Spanish for traffic, I never heard anybody use it.

I'm going to call this a wrap for today, but don't worry, there's more to come.  I tried out some new foods (long time followers of my blog know I love to eat) and I still have more words and experiences to share with you.

¡Hasta la próxima!


  1. Hey Rodney,

    at the risk of sounding indelicate....

    the phrase "hay mucho tampón" has the sense of "to jam," or "to cram" or even "to plug." I'm not sure if it's borrowed from french or if it's native to Spanish but I'm pretty sure it's related to jamming a cork in the neck of a bottle. You can also refer to a traffic jam as an embotellamiento, so it's similar in that respect.

    In French a "tampon" can be a stamp, a hard bumping, or an ink pad (see how those are related?), and I think in Spanish too, a tampón refers to an ink pad.

    In any case, the feeling I get from both languages is "jam."

  2. Thanks for the comments JP. I also just found out I can't read my own notes. That should have been "tapón", without the "m".

  3. haha well in that case, a tapón is DEFINITELY a cork! :)

  4. Nice! You're very observant. I want to know more about what you heard.

    When I was in the DR a few years ago, I took one of the public taxis and also rode on a mototaxi. You only live once :)

    In Colombia, they usually say trancón for traffic. In Medellín, they also said taco.

  5. en santiago casi siempre decimos 'saludos' en vez de buendia

  6. FYI, in parts of central and south america, they simply say "buenas"