Try this for size. Get on a plane in Santiago, D.R., fly to JFK, change over to a smaller carrier and mosey on over to vieux Montreal.
No big deal?
Try doing it after having been in the DR for 5 years straight.
Last time I stepped on foreign soil was New York City in 2001. I took a deep breath of Big Apple Air (cough, cough) and felt that if I could make it here, I could make it anywhere. And then some Looney drives two planes into the twins. I reversed on my heels and headed back dirtsides.
So let’s try this again. This time vieux Montreal up there among the frogs, because my brother just happened to have married a Quebecois. Nobody is perfect.
I just didn’t realize how… uncivilized I’ve become.
Handling the airport is tres facile. Just follow the rules and instructions (written, by law, first in French, then English) and we will get along fine. No problem with the organization and establishment that borders on OCD a la Monk. I can handle the well-behaved customs officers that tell you with a Quebecois twang to have a nice steee. That they call the subway a metro is fine by me too. So is the fact that you get fined for littering (not that I ever). And that there is a Tim Hortons at every street corner, right across from Starbucks. And that they have electricity 24/7.
What baffled me was the hot water.
I get to stay at the cookie-cutter house of a Spanish sister in Plamondon, the only one painted in blue outside and neon green on the inside. In a part of town where everyone and everything looks cloned, this is quite a visual relief. I twisted open the faucet to scrub the DR dust residues from my features when my hand nearly froze. Brave people, those Canadians, I figured, washing in freezing water.
Then it hit me. I recalled from the times that I myself have lived in a civilized nation (Germany, that is) that often the second faucet was not broken (as is to be expected back dirtsides) but is the key to hot water!
Needless to say I went from freezing swiftly to scalding. Finding the balance is not that easy.
Lesson learned the hard way. Later on I spread a map of the city out on the huge bed while thinking of my hammock and then proceeded in whipping out the large knife on my Leatherman to cut said map into manageable pieces.
As I sat there, knife in hand, unable to handle cold-hot water faucets, and feeling out of place as a bikini model in a church, a terrible realization hit me.
I had gone Crocodile Dundee.
The rest of the trip should be interesting.