Eureka! I´ve found it at last. Yesterday I visited "La Sirena" once again, and this time around they had a new juice available that I had never seen before (fresh juice selections vary daily). It was a pale, creamy color, with perhaps the slightest twinge of peach coloring, and the tiniest flecks of black seeds floating throughout (not visible in the phots). Guanábana, read the label on top, which in the U.S. translates roughly to soursop fruit. Not the most promising name. Despite this however, the first sip was heavenly: delicately sweet and fruity, with a slight creaminess to it. To say it it was reminiscent of a mixture of pineapple and milk would not be sufficient. No, it tasted like dreaming, and lullabies, and perhaps sunsets, and lazy days laying in the tropical shade of a palm tree. It was that good. And don´t worry, I researched Guanábana a little (after drinking it of course, because where´s the fun in knowing what you are getting yourself into?), and there don´t seem to be any adverse side effects. In fact, the fruit has been linked to reducing breast cancer. Why yes, I think I´ll have another glass :)
So in an attempt to prove to myself that I could master the concho routes, I decided to see if I could make it to "Las Colinas" mall, located several miles from my house. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived outside the large, air conditioned mall in just under 15 minutes. SCORE, I had just successfully mastered one of the A routes. I didn't really need anything at the mall, so I just perused through the shops and gawked at the scantily clad mannekins and insanely high heels that pass for Dominican fashion. There is much to be said about Dominican dress, so we'll save that undertaking for another day. Today I want to tell you about the little café I stumbled upon inside the mall, which was serving up the most delectable desserts. A whole row of puddings and parfaits called my name as I passed by, and well, I figured I deserved a little reward for my successful concho trip. The chocolate and vanilla and fruit desserts all looked fabulous, but of course, those simply wouldn´t do for me. I seem to have some kind of weird infatuation with always needing to choose the strangest item on the menu. I settled on a pale, creamy, jiggly pudding-like creation with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top. Majarete, it was called. Well the name sounded cool at least! One spoonful and I immediately recognize the flavor.....corn. weird. not bad....but not really good either. It was mildly sweet, and a little lumpy, and somewhat reminiscent of creamed corn. I ate part of it, because I was hungry, but I probably wouldn´t order it again. I guess the concho ride was enough victory for one day, I should have known I´d be pushing my luck with a strangely wobbly-looking Dominican treat.
A couple days ago I took up the mission, once again, of trying every flavor fruit juice possible while I'm here. Since I went to a smaller store for my groceries the other day, my selection was limited to strawberry (fresa), orange (naranjo), or tamarindo (tamarind). And while the deep pink strawberry jug and sunny orange jug were tempting, I settled on the decidedly less appetizing murky brown jug of tamarindo. I was being daring ok! And after the grapefruit mishap, I was sure that my next selection couldn't possibly be worse. Still, the brownish color was throwing me off and so when I unpacked my groceries at home, I threw it in the back of the fridge..not quite as enthusiastic to try it as I had been about my first juice purchase. And there it remained, nearly forgotten, until about 10:00 p.m. last night, when searching for something to satisfy a late night craving, I spotted the mystery juice. Hesitantly, very hesitantly, I unscrewed the lid and took a sip. And... It. Was. Out. Of. This. World. Seriously, it was like my mouth had never experienced true flavor until this moment. All at once sweet and sour and tangy and ice cold. It was just what I needed for my sweet tooth and I promptly downed half the jug. Why had nobody told me about this magical juice before!? And why wasn't it flying off the shelves? How could the rest of the world not be going mad over this intriguingly delicious flavor?!
The next day I discovered my answer. It seems tamarind is magical in more ways than one, and is apparently a natural "cleanser." Drinking half of the jug was not my best idea.... live and learn :/
Side note: Tamarind is actually a pod. To make the juice, you simply crack the pod and soak the "fruit" in water for a couple hours, where it will start to dissolve. Then strain, stir in some sugar (as it can be quite sour), and refrigerate :)
Conchos are the most popular form of public transportation here in Santiago. Simply put, its a car that travels on a specific route, like a bus. It costs 20 pesos (about 50 cents) to ride, and it will take you anywhere you want to go on it's route. You can grab a concho any time of day, usually without having to wait more than 20 seconds for one to come by, as long as you are on a concho route. If you are going to hop in a concho though, prepare to get comfy. Since the concho driver's main goal is to get as much money as possibly, they pack in as many people as possible: That means often sitting 2 to the front seat, and 4 to the back. Needless to say, there will be some lap-sharing going on. Also note, that when a concho driver honks at you, he is not telling you to get out of the way or just honking at a pretty girl walking by (my earlier assumptions). Honking is simply a way of letting passersby know that you have seats available. So if you are walking along, and potentially look like you could use a ride, the driver will honk at you and slow down just a bit to see if you might want to hop in. Its up to you to just wave them on or signal for them to pullover.
I have to admit I did not take this picture myself, I stole it from http://santiagoessantiago.com/. This is the "A" route, as you can see from the clearly designated "A" on the door and windshield.
Since I was a little bit anxious about getting into a strange car with strange people and not really knowing where it would take me, one of the PUCMM English teachers offered to take me around the city on a couple different concho routes. I was relieved and extremely grateful for her offer. We spent a good hour winding through the city, with Maddy pointing out places of interest and even drawing me a map to help me remember.
Ok so the map makes sense to me! sort of...lol.