“No Problem” in the Dominican Republic
“No problem, no problem!” I vaguely heard Juan shout as he drove our mototaxi the wrong way down a one-way street. Getting on his taxi went against my better judgment, but it was cheap and I was tired, and he drove by at the right time. I was left with no choice but to believe his promises of safety, but as he confidently broke numerous traffic laws, my mother’s cautions began to creep into my head. As we sped down the highway, three large people and two large backpacks on one very small mototaxi, I caught myself silently reassuring my mother: “No mom, I will not die in a country far, far away from you. If I do, surely someone will find a way to contact you.” Unlucky for my mother, the more I tend to enjoy these dangerous situations, the more her voice gets drowned out.
After three days of hotels, buses, and visiting historical colonial sites, I finally felt like I was experiencing a small piece of real life in the Dominican Republic. During the thirty-five minute ride (which felt like hours) from Puerto Plata to Cabarete, we passed dozens of other mototaxis. We saw women with piles of groceries, men precariously carrying gas tanks, and children piled four to a taxi on their way to the beach. Everyone was going about his or her daily routines as I, at 27 years old, was silently trying to survive my first mototaxi ride. Despite how reckless it felt, I was so excited that even as the rain started to fall, and we zigzagged to avoid potholes, Juan’s “no problem, no problem” managed to reassure me. I started to realize that, in the Dominican Republic, the mantra was more a way of life than just a saying.
I thought about when my flight had first landed in the Dominican Republic, and the stewardess had handed me my customs form and asked “Dominicana?” A part of me had yearned to say yes, to shout that I was from this exotic place. I have never been one to seclude myself from the people or places I visit. I travel to briefly expand my worldview and to push my limits. Riding Juan’s mototaxi, something
the Dominican people
were so comfortable with, definitely pushed my comfort limits. It also made me understand and feel, if even just slightly, more connected to their culture. For a brief moment, I felt like maybe if I didn’t open my mouth and speak my broken Spanish that I could pass for Dominican. There is a part of me that always wants to feel like I belong somewhere. Feeling at home away from home is a rare gift. If only for thirty-five minutes on Juan’s taxi, I got to experience this gift. As we pulled into our destination and Juan shouted “Bienvenidos a Caberete” I realized sometimes our best experiences come when we take a risk and say to ourselves, and to our mothers, “no problem, no problem!”
Calista MacHarrie fell in love with travel during a semester abroad in Spain. She has been eating and drinking herself silly around the world ever since. Calista graduated with a degree in music education and classical piano. After graduation she led teen tours to Hawaii, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands. She has traveled extensively throughout the US (40+ states), as well as Central and South America, and feels most at home when she is wandering.