As the title suggests, I’m a bit on my way to becoming Dominican. Not in the habla espanol bit (cuz you know, that would be PRACTICAL) but culturally speaking, here are a few habits I have picked up.
1) When it rains, I take cover. Even if I only have to walk five minutes.
[rain in the tropics goes from slightly spitting to flooding the street like this in about 5 minutes. makes flip-flops mandatory footwear.]
This sounds silly, but one of the easiest ways to spot a gringa (who am I kidding, I’ll always be a gringa) is by their attitude to rain. My first few months here, when it rained I would charge on to my destination, refusing to take shelter for the five minutes of torrential downpours. Since it was rainy season, this meant a LOT of getting soaked to the bone and worrying about my laptop. However, the other day, I found myself leaving the supermarket when the heavens opened up and I just stood under a roof, and waited it out, content to let the minutes pass by while I escaped unscathed.
2) I can finally twirl with the Bachata.
[la bodega aka the epicenter of Las Terrenas nightlife]
This one might be a stretch, as if you saw me on the dance floor, it would be obvious that I am NOT Dominican. However, I have finally nailed the 1-2-3-4 step dance (or 3, depending on how your partner counts, FUN) to the point that I can twirl and fall in-line with my next step. And am half-way to learning the basic salsa moves. Which means that I dance on the level of a three-year old Dominican, but hey everybody has to start somewhere.
I may not be a master of the Spanish language, but let me tell you, I have picked up quite a few expressions from:
Que lo que? (What’s up?)
Que chevere! (How cool!)
Un tigere (a player, term of endearment for men…obvi)
Un chin (a little)
Me gusta pila (I like it too much)
That is it for now… working on a post about e-readers, as I am a new convert, but figured I could share some Dominican flavor in the meantime.
Share your favorite cultural tendencies from where you are living below.
After a few weeks of “slumming it” with my reading list, I decided to up my game and go for some of the greats. Although I am a big believer in high and low-brow fiction, sometimes I have to push myself to get back into the big leagues after bingeing on spy or mystery novels.
[has absolutely nothing to do with books… one of my fave graffiti pieces in NYC. feeling nostalgic.]
And whenever I do that, I realize how GREAT good books are. Scratch that, how utterly amazing. It makes me regret reading Gone Girl even though I literally couldn’t put it down for the entire day it took me to rip through it.
SO that being said, here is a list of why good lit rocks harder than trashier lit, courtesy of Mr. Hemingway and Mr. Naipaul. For reference, I read Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway (I know, how I did not have to read that in high school is beyond me) and The Mimic Men by V.S. Naipaul.
Now, both novels are very different. Farewell to Arms is set in WWI, Northern Italy, deals with an American who (SPOILER) deserts the Italian Army. The Mimic Men is the story of an ex-colonial minister in the 1950s who is disgraced from his (imaginary) Caribbean country of Isabella after achieving fame and fortune. But both are amazing thanks to their strong craft. Here is why:
Ok, so this sounds cheesy but bear with me. In both novels, whether or not the narrator is reliable, the skill of prose makes you trust the author completely. Not a word is misplaced. In a Farewell to Arms, Hemingway will mention the girlfriend “getting into trouble” alluding to her eventual pregnancy. We know that every word is chosen, every incident culminating in the last sentence.
Although The Mimic Men in theory has an unreliable narrator, since it is constructed as the memoir of the ex-colonial minister, we can still trust that each detail shared will foreshadow events to come. For example, as a teenager the narrator ends up in a drunken situation with his cousin and the lovechild of his father where he is goaded into either shooting the lovechild or being shot. He does neither but the event predicts his eventual exile of his country.
In lesser novels where the author is more focused on engaging the reader and creating fantastical events, allusion and foreshadowing can exist but one never knows if the author is tipping their hand on purpose or accident. The overall effect is much more satisfying when you can trust the author completely in what they choose to disclose.
As someone who struggles with dialogue, I am always looking for ways to make it more organic and reflect the way dialogue is in-person or in your memory. Often in fiction, dialogue ends up reading like a screenplay and can take you out of the pleasure of reading.
Both Naipaul and Hemingway use formal dialogue (i.e. He said, “X”. She said, “Y”.) sparingly and the overall effect is fantastic. Sometimes whole conversations are only recalled in a person’s mind, which is more true to life thereby creating a better experience for the reader.
Plus, they aren’t afraid to summarize most of a conversation, interspersing it with quotes. Based on how I text my friends and summarize my own life, I think this is a much better vehicle for interaction. That begin said, I think it is very, very hard to do well as you could easily run into the trap of telling, instead of showing.
3) The Ladies
I have been vocal in the past about my belief that the book world can be somewhat boys-club, to its disadvantage. And here is a perfect example of two books that despite having lame female characters are still not considered, by me, to be anti-women. The men know they have fucked up female relationships so therefore its ok for the women to be fucked up in the book.
That being said, as someone who admires the strong-female type, Hemingway lady-characters can be tough to read and always leave me wondering, should I act crazier in relationships? As for Naipaul, he was definitely messed up in his interpersonal relationships as much as, if not more than Hemingway. So I am not given them a pass for their less-than-moral personal life but merely staying that a non-PC view of women and relationships is acceptable in fiction, if it is obvious that both the man and woman are messed up. I much prefer that than the undercurrent of sexism in the typical “sane man is saddled with a crazy woman” paradigm. Lazy and sexist.
Lastly, in case you are doubting whether you should pick up your copy of these books, here are some EXCELLENT quotes from both.
A Farewell To Arms:
In September the first cool nights came, then the days were cool and the leaves on the trees in the park began to turn color and we knew summer was gone.
The Mimic Men
The people I saw were little people who were mimicking upper-class respectability. They had been slaves, and you can’t write about that in the way that Tolstoy wrote about, even his backward society – for his society was whole and the one I knew was not.
Share your fave good lit books in the comments below… and happy weekend. Besos.
This is teenage angst par none, with a little child-trafficking PSA thrown in. ”All I Need” by Radiohead.
A throwback for What I Watch Friday’s. Have been stuck in an Arabic-only music rut lately and found In Rainbows night on my computer… brought me back to junior year of college with my roommate Faisal, blasting In Rainbows day and night. Glad they turned up again, I forget how broody yet still musically excellent Radiohead can be.