• close family • small boat • big world •

Public Underwear, the Chicken Man, and So Much More

November 13, 2014

by Paula
At anchor, Luperon, DR

Ever walk down the local main street to the most popular restaurant in town, only to see all your laundry hanging out to dry?  Does your dentist’s office play loud meringue music?  How many lately times have you seen someone delivering bags of bananas by burrow?  Such is life here in crazy, lovely Luperón, the town where we’ve made our home for two months.

The imprecise process of cement-mixing
We’ve grown fond of a very different way of life here. The pace is slow and easy, and people are remarkably friendly. But efficiency is unheard of, and many services are simply not available. Everything here is amazingly inexpensive, but you’ve got to take the diminished cleanliness and inconsistency that comes with it.

Laundry at the local hang-out, Wendy's
That laundry I mentioned? Oh, what I wouldn’t give for the ease of a real Laundromat. There aren’t any here; not a one. Marina Luperón does have a tiny DR-style washer along with a hand-cranked wringer that cruisers can use. But the power is often off and, when on, the water probably isn’t running. I’ve never been keen on doing laundry in a bucket. Most of us give our bags of dirty clothes to Papo, the local boat-services guy. He passes it along to his mother-in-law, whose half-machine-half-hand-washing gets hung out to dry on a clothes-line strung across the street from JR’s, the local gringo bar. Clothes get super-clean, but that’s because
they can still use detergents with phosphates in them here. We watch the soapy water stream past in the gutters toward the harbor – it is a major cause of the poor condition of the water. We see laundry all over town – on barbed-wire fences, roof tops, wherever there is space for it. There’s nothing like seeing friends pass by your dangling underwear to keep you humble

Our cobbler, Anulfo
Anulfo's Zapateria
Boat-life is tough on sandals and four of ours have recently broken – torn straps or a damaged sole. No Teva-sandal replacements available here – just crummy flip-flops or fake crocks. Rather than throw them away and buy more as we would have done in the States, we had them repaired. Anulfo is the man to see at Luperón’s zapateria. Of course, they weren’t finished on time and we had to come back the next day. But he did a great job and repaired all four shoes for just 370 pesos – about $8.50. You can’t beat that.

Our favorite vegetable tienda is sometimes packed with goods that overflow to the sidewalk outside. But other days the dirty, crooked shelves are bare. It’s hit or miss as to the quality, and sometimes there are crates of rotting lettuce or shriveled broccoli. But most often the produce is remarkably fresh and everything is dirt cheap. Just be careful, because a swarm of ants hitched a ride on our latest bunch of leeks. We stop by a curb-side cart for fruits, tayota, avocado, and agua-coco (coconuts used for their refreshing water). We always come away with a bag-full for under 200 pesos..

The butcher
Need some meat?  The “super market” has a residential freezer packed with frozen chicken and ground beef. You can get fresh meat from the butcher, who will grab a hunk out of his freezer and hack off a piece for you with his huge cleaver. Don’t mind the flies – just cook it well.

Daniel, the Chicken Man
Who needs to cook chicken here, anyway, when every place in town serves delicious pollo dishes for next-to-nothing? We love the chicken man, as he is lovingly referred to. Daniel works seven days a week at the curb-side grill outside his house, right off the town square. He prepares chickens over a wood fire in the oil-drum that has been modified into a charcoal grill. Amazingly delicious, you get half a chicken, marinated onions and boiled yucca for only 150 pesos. Or, opt for just the chicken and you get a whole bird for just 200 pesos. That’s under five bucks!

We don’t have a printer on board, so we head to Elsa’s small shop in town when we need to print shipping labels or school work. The wait can be ridiculous – 45 minutes at times – but it gives me a chance to practice my Spanish while I read Cosmo en Español. My printed pages slowly emerge from her ink-jet printer and cost a quarter each – one of the few items here that is pricey. And those printing labels?  You can’t ship anything here unless you rent a moto-concho or hire a driver to travel to Puerto Plata, a half-hour away. Mail service is totally unreliable, so go with UPS or FedEx and pay out the nose.

Eggs are not kept cold -- but they last!
We recently went to the local dentist and got our teeth cleaned for 600 pesos each – that’s about $15. It wasn’t the most thorough job, but it was good enough, and the lively meringue music helped ease the anxiety of being at the dentist.

Neat-freaks or germophobes won’t last a day here. The streets are littered with trash and the ever-present liquid running through the gutters looks like toxic waste. We saw the owner of a colmada packaging shredded cabbage for sale. She set her grater on the sale counter and scraped the cabbage into a little bag with her hand, between exchanges with customers. Want to wash your hands in the bathroom at the local hangout? Be sure to drip-dry, since the single hand-towel hasn’t been washed in weeks.

The "big" grocery store
Starbucks?  Ha ha – that’s a good one!  No such thing as a coffee shop at all. I can’t recall any place that sells brewed coffee here, either. While DR grows and sells coffee, the beans for sale in the grocery store are pretty light and flavorless. Greg re-roasts the beans in our cast-iron skillet to get them to his usual dark & intense standards.

Luperón ranks at the top of the beer-onomy scale. Your standard beer is larger than the dinky US bottles and costs 100 pesos at the local bars. Quite a deal at $2.50 for 22 ounces. You can buy an even bigger bottle at the Supermercado; they sell a liter size!  And rum is even cheaper than that. The kids and I buy our bottled water for 45 cents each.

No store too small -- a local tienda and it's interior
Marine parts?  Forget about it; nothing here. Office supplies?  A paltry supply, at various tiendas or from the young guys who walk the streets with a rack of goods slung across their shoulder. But if you want some amazing peanut brittle, fried yucca, or casaba bread, you’ve come to the right place. Local women or kids wander through town selling their freshly-made treats for a few pesos.

We certainly aren’t in Kansas anymore. A part of us is eager to get to the wealth of goods and services available in our next stop, Puerto Rico. But we love it here in Luperón, and we’ll miss this quirky existence when we move on.