Last Friday was the Marine Ball here in Santo Domingo. Almost every US Embassy around the world has a detachment of Marines assigned to protect the Mission. Order of protection is: 1) Information, 2) People. Note to self, if we come under attack ever, I’ll station myself between the Marines and the TS info. Much safer that way.
The Marine Ball celebrates the birthday of the Marine Corps (November 10, 1775), and this year was 235 years. At the beginning of the Ball, there’s a ceremony (which we missed – I’ll get to that later), the cutting of the cake (with a sword, natch), and remarks from the Guest of Honor (in our case, the Charge d’Affairs) and an invited speaker. This is followed by dinner (really bad), drinks, and dancing. Everyone gets dolled up (formal/black-tie event) and has a great time. This year in the DR was no different.
We’re still pretty new here in SDO (4 months), and still don’t have a lot of people we can trust with babysitting. Luckily, our massage therapist (yes, we have one) is known to and liked by the boy. She was willing to help us out so we could get a night out on the town (our first since like June). We dressed up, hopped in the car, and armed with the location of the hotel according to Google Maps, set out. See, the invitation only had the NAME of the hotel on it. No address, no sector, no nothing. Google Maps told me that the hotel was close-ish to our house (excellent), but in a zone that I only know by looking at the map. It’s an adventure everyday when driving in this city, and driving in the twilight/night when you don’t really know where you’re going is even better. So, I am driving towards where I think the hotel is, no, where GOOGLE TOLD ME THE HOTEL WAS, and we’re driving through some zonas calientes (bad neighborhoods). OK, I think, you really can’t go anywhere in this city without driving through a ghetto or two, so it’s fine. We’re driving down this one street and we notice that EVERY SINGLE STOREFRONT IS SELLING TIRES AND RIMS. This goes on for like a mile. Literally 200 stores all selling the same products. (At least we know where to go for tires now.)
We end up in kind of a dead-end area (or at least in an area where we were pretty sure the hotel WASN’T), and I head south to regain my bearings. We happen to chance on the Embassy (sweet). I pull in and ask the Policia Nacional and security guards where the hotel is. After some arguing between them, they point us in the direction of El Malecón. I guess wrong, and we end up in a tapone (traffic jam) heading east to the Zona Colonial. Shit. OK, I explored some of the side streets here a few days before looking for a doctor’s office, so I can get us turned around with minimal issue.
We start heading west on the Malecón, and I get the cell phone out (you CAN drive and talk here, just like you can drive with a dog on your lap and an beer in your hand – according to our sponsor Fritz) to call for a clue as to where this hotel is. I’m told it’s in the SW corner of the city (i.e. FAR, FAR away from us), and get driving. Luckily I know more or less where it is, and barring any disasters, we can be there in 20 minutes (we still have 25 minutes until the ceremony starts). What do you know? it takes us 28 minutes to get there. We’re 3 minutes late to the Ball and locked out of the ceremony. Awesome first impression for our first Marine Ball. Luckily, several of our Consular friends (and wouldn’t you know it, table-mates) were in the same situation, and we laughed/bitched about the traffic while we politely waited outside for the doors to open.
Our table was practically empty during the entire ceremony (only two of us had shown up on time), but that quickly changed as we settled in. All-in-all, a good night with lots of networking on my part, lots of good conversation with friends, and of course, lots of merengue and bachata (it’s the Marine Ball, yes, but it’s la Republica Dominicana too).
We got home late, tired, and happy to find our boy and his babysitter safe in bed. Thanks Marines for all you do!