Since a group of us were going together, we decided to try to purchase tickets on Saturday to be sure that we could get seats. Only, when we went to make our purchase, we were disappointed to learn that they had all been sold out already! Scalpers had bought most all of them to resell on the streets for a higher price, completely illegal of course but nobody cares. This meant we'd just have to get their early before the game on Sunday to scalp some tickets.
I suppose I should have known then that this would be a foreshadowing of more bad luck to come.
In any case, things started out pretty good on Sunday. I was fairly productive in the morning, heading to a local café to do some school work and enjoying a late breakfast consisting of coffee and a cinnamon roll. I came home, continued my productivity with some laundry, and then met up with my friends at 3:30 to head to the stadium. The sun was shining, the streets were humming with happy-go-lucky fans, and the enticing smell of fried empanadas was drifting through the air. Spirits were high all around.
After a little bit of wheeling and dealing by Galvin, our master bargainer...we snatched up some tickets and picked out our seats in the bleachers.
First of all, two friends from the nearby town of Puerto Plata were coming to visit me and watch the game as well. Let's call them C and R to make it less confusing. Since they were arriving a little later, I purchased their tickets for them with the idea that they could call me when they arrived and I would bring their tickets out to them.
Little did I know that once you enter the stadium, you aren't allowed to leave. Cue the bad luck.
So when they called to meet up with me, we ran into some problems. I couldn't leave to go find them, and it was nearly impossible to hear them on the phone inside the stadium since it was filling up with rowdy fans and obnoxious coronets (loud horns that are sold to the fans). After about 30 minutes of miscommunication, I finally convinced the gate attendee to let me exit the stadium with the promise that I would return shortly.
Once outside I found my friends and we squeezed our way back through the crowd to our seats.
Just as we were sitting down and settling in, it began to sprinkle. Now a little bit of sprinkling doesn't bother most people, but I swear, Dominicans think they are going to melt in the rain. Soon the crowd began making its way back inside the shelter of the stadium to escape. And then the sprinkling turned into a steady drizzle and my friends and I decided that maybe we should seek shelter as well.
Worst. Idea. Ever.
The steady drizzle turned into a torrential downpour just as we made our way to the passageway into the inner part of the stadium. The entire bleacher section made a mad scramble for shelter, with everyone trying to fit into one small passageway all at once. I may not have mentioned this before, but Dominicans have a hard time with concept of order and lines..its every man for themselves here. This, coupled with the fear of rain made for a terrifying situation. I soon found myself being pushed into a riot of people in front of me and crushed by a press of people behind me. Since nobody was allowed to leave the stadium, there was nowhere to go and the frantic people in the back, still trying to escape the torrential downpour, continued to push against those in the front, not understanding why the crowd wasn't moving. It was the closest thing to a mass panic that I have ever experienced. I was squeezed so tight between people that I couldn't even move my arms. I felt terror start to rise up into my throat as I struggled against the press. Thank God those in front finally pushed their way past the gatekeepers and out of the stadium. Being stuck in that crush of people was far more dangerous than any amount of rain ever could be.
Finally we stumble outside, disoriented, and dashed for the nearest shelter. Soaking wet we made our way under a ledge of the stadium to shake off the rain, catch our breathes, and wait out the downpour.
After a half hour of waiting though, it became apparent that this storm was staying put. Over the speaker system we heard the announcement that the game was being postponed, that was our cue to leave.
If only it were that easy.
It was still pouring out so C volunteered to run for the car and bring it back.
But remember earlier how I said that there are no rules when driving in the Dominican Republic, and neither does their exist the concepts of order or creating a line? Well, now imagine you have a mountain of people trying to all drive away at the same time. Maybe you can see where I'm going with this....traffic jam.
We waited and waited for our friend to return, an hour passed by and we were still waiting.... I was starting to get hungry now...it was pushing 7:00 p.m. and I hadn't eaten anything since that cinnamon roll for breakfast. I was also starting to get cold in my soggy clothes as darkness fell. We continued waiting. I took pictures. I counted the people running through the rain. I tried to think of a happy place. We continued waiting. I remembered my laundry was on the line and was soaking wet now. Dammit. We continued waiting.
C, who was driving, was so upset with having to try to fight his way through all the traffic that he decided he didn't want anything else to do with Santiago and he was driving back to Puerto Plata that night. He dropped R and I off at R's cousin's place, since R was staying the night there. We dried off a little and called a taxi to come pick us up so we could find a place to eat. It was 9:00 p.m. when we called.
At 9:15 we called the taxi service again. We were starving after all and wondering what was taking so long. 2 minutes said the taxi service.
At 9:30 it was apparent that our taxi was not coming to get us so I called another taxi.
15 minutes later he called back to say that he was lost.
For the love of pete!
We spent another 5 minutes directing him to our location and finally, at 9:50, we were in the taxi and on our way to food.
I was ready to gnaw off my arm by this time.
When I explained this to R I think I may have frightened him a little. He tucked his arms a little closer to himself.
We decided just to head to the food court at the mall thinking that would be the easiest option.
I was relieved once we finally arrived at the food court and even a little excited once I realized this particular food court had sushi! which isn't very common here.
I ordered my spicy tuna roll and R headed over to Kentucky Fried Chicken for some popcorn chicken. We met back at a table in the middle to wait for our food. Mine came out in 5 minutes. It was beautiful, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I can't remember being sooo happy to see food.
But R's food wasn't out yet and I couldn't start eating without him.
We chatted a little while we waited, but I have to admit I wasn't a very good conversation partner, I was too distracted by the mouth watering sushi sitting right in front of me. So close...but so very far away.
Finally, after another 10 minutes, R went back to KFC to check on his order and I was left alone with my sushi, staring at me, calling to me, tempting me.
I looked around and everybody in the food court was smiling and laughing and eating. The smell of roasting chicken and french fries was wafting through the air. My stomach grumbled unhappily. I clenched me hands together under my chair and closed my eyes, nauseas sweeping through me: hungry, tired, wet and cold.
I opened my eyes and there was R, smiling with his popcorn chicken. I mustered up my best smile in return, stabbed my fork into my sushi, and stuffed a way too huge piece in my mouth all at once.
Finally....at 10:30 at night...relief.
So what can I take away from this whole experience?
Stay away from large crowds of people when it rains, and always pack a snack. Lesson learned :)