I’m just spending one night in Los Angeles before I take the flight home. Sitting in this lovely room in the Hilton In LA and thinking back to the last few days in Santo Domingo, it doesn’t seem quite so bad anymore! Bad but not SO bad!
The main thing I can’t get over is how bad and how rude service is in shops and restaurants there. I’m not even overly picky about that kind of stuff. As long as people just basically do their job, I don’t need anyone to fuss or fawn over me. But in Santo Domingo… perhaps in other parts of the country it’s different… they seem to have complete contempt for the customer to the point of hatred and they make no attempt to hide it. I don’t know if Dominicans are treated the same or it’s just foreigners, or it’s white people or white foreigners… Or maybe it was just me… I don’t know but I’ve never experienced anything quite like it… Well, except maybe Aeroflot back in the day. People you meet on the street wanting money… I’ve travelled in many developing places and I know the score and it’s not a big deal… I give away a lot of money. But in Santo Domingo it seemed so many times that the amounts the beggars expected were outrageous and then they became annoyed that you wouldn’t give that amount.
Nevertheless, I was starting to come around and think that perhaps I was being hard on them and I was just a little jaded… I was trying to understand where they’re coming from… But any benefit of the doubt I was prepared to give them totally went out the window once I got to Las Americas airport yesterday for the flight to LA. Considering what my experience was like for the nine days, it’s kind of foolish of me to expect that my departure would be smooth and hassle free..
Anyway, I was hoping for a relaxing morning before heading off to the airport. The flight was in the afternoon. I was all packed and had the taxi lined up for 11.30 a.m. so I thought I could sleep in. Then suddenly, I got an early morning desperate plea for money! One of the Venezuelans I had befriended here had to pay rent and had no money and sent a message asking if he could come round to get money. I’ve met a lot of Venezuelans on my travels… and have to count them amongst my favourite nationalities in the world. I think they’re really cool people. They’ve all essentially been forced to leave Venezuela just because it’s so messed up. This guy’s parents (both) had died and he had left Maracaibo with the just the clothes on his back (no money) and was working in a pretty horrible kids amusement centre in Sambil Mall. So, it absolutely wasn’t a problem to give money, just that I only had enough money left to pay the cab driver. So the morning ended up being spent running around the Zone trying to locate ATMs. As before in Cuba, every ATM I had used up to this point, I had had no problems with… But of course in these situations Murphy’s Law comes into play and every ATM near my place had suddenly run out of cash. After rushing around for about an hour I eventually got one that would dispense cash. So, in the end everything was fine.
I left the Zone at 11.30 and went off to Las Americas Airport. I got there in plenty of time, did the self-check in and went to drop off my bag. That’s when the problems started. To describe the Dominican women working on the Delta check-in counter as a “pack of vile bitches” is probably one of the nicest things you could say about them. It’s got to be seen to be believed.
I need a visa to transit the USA, which I have of course. Entering the US from Australia and last year going back to the US from Colombia and Panama, I encountered absolutely no problems what-so-ever. But again, given everything that had happened over the past nine days including the full narco-pedo treatment you get on arrival, it was silly to think that exiting the country would be straightforward and pleasant.
I get to the counter and Miss Bitch tells me, “You need a visa to enter the US and you don’t have one”.
“I’ve registered for ESTA so it’s ok” I replied.
Then she looks at me with a look of pure disgust and says, (I kid you not) “Computer says no”.
Her attitude went from rude to unbelievably nasty. I wish I could have filmed the whole scene… I was pleading with her but she just flatly refused. And the attitude!!! She just looked at me and spoke to me like I was complete trash. I admit it was my fault too that I didn’t have a hard copy of the ESTA approval. You get so lazy in this electronic age because everything is on computer so you only need to show ID wherever you go and all your information automatically comes up. However, her stupid computer said no and she wouldn’t budge.
I went off and managed to get some internet. Of course it’s not free so you have to mess around with signing up with a company and paying when all you need is a couple of minutes. When I got connected, I looked up the US Government immigration site and retrieved my details and rushed back to the counter to prove to her that I did have the visa. When I got back to the counter, she actually looked even more pissed off that now I DID have the visa than before when she thought I didn’t. She scowled the whole time but still couldn’t get her computer to accept that I had a valid visa. She called over the supervisor to help with the situation and all that the supervisor said was that I was taking up too much time at the counter and to move on to somewhere else. Unbelievable. It was taking all my self control not to punch her… I pointed out that I had proved that I had a visa, I had a valid ticket and boarding pass so now the problem was purely hers. There was nothing more I could do. I thought she was going to spit on me or vomit on me… The look on her face was of pure disgust. The supervisor flicked her nose up at me and stormed off and just left me with Miss Check In Bitch. She continued to look at me with pure hatred for some time and huffed and puffed a lot … But eventually she agreed to let me on the plane.
UN – BE – LIEV – ABLE. As I said before, you have to see it to believe it
I got through customs and immigration OK. I still had a fair bit of time so I went to get something to eat at the restaurant. The food at the airport was surprisingly nice but when I went to pay the bill with my credit card, the waiter just came back with that all too familiar Dominican look of contempt I had seen every day for the past nine days and yells out at me, “It was declined”. Nowhere on this trip did I have a problem with this card, not even in Santo Domingo, only him. I had really had enough by this stage… I didn’t care anymore, I just went for it and started screaming as loud as I could at the waiter. An American family suddenly rushed over to me and tried to calm me down and said, “Don’t worry we’ll pay your bill”. They probably thought I was going to take out a gun or something and start shooting. Americans are cool people too, but that wasn’t the point. Eventually I paid with another card but not before I gave him my opinion (at 150 decibels) of Santo Domingo and all of its inhabitants.
The flight went OK after that. I flew business class to Atlanta, which was nice and was sat next to guy from Tennessee who worked for the US military but had contracted Snail’s Disease in his spine while working in Uganda and was now living in San Cristobal, just outside of La Capital. He was a nice enough guy, just a REAL TALKER… He was headed to Miami to see a specialist because Dominican doctors he says are dodgy. No surprise there. We talked about the Dominican Republic and the people. He told me how much he loved living in the Dominican Republic because… and I quote exactly… “I can have a whiskey in one hand and a pistol in the other and no-one is gonna say anything about it”… He added, “And my girlfriend loves to clean the house and cook because the women here know that if they don’t keep the men happy we’ll move on”.
And for me, all of the above is exactly why I will never return.
Now I’m just in bed, counting down the minutes before I have to go back to the airport and get the flight to Sydney. I’m really looking forward to getting back home and getting back into a healthy routine. It was an incredible trip but I’m TIRED!
And with this post my friends, I sign off… at least until the next trip. Thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read my ramblings and looked at my photos. A big big hug for you!