Christmas in the Capital

It's been a rainy, lazy, quiet day after Christmas, largely spent putting finishing touches on the preparations for my first house guests. Speaking of holidays spent in warmer climates, my parents and sister are leaving the "great frozen North" for two weeks with me starting tomorrow! 

I can't wait for them to be able to contextualize the people and places that make up my world now. We're spending New Year's at a resort in Puerto Plata but will have plenty of time in Santiago, too. I'm even planning an overnight trip to the capital, which is why I'm excited that, as of last weekend, I can now say "been there, done that" to the Colonial Zone. Sort of. Four of us - including Natalie, who could practically write a travel book on Santo Domingo - drove down Saturday morning and returned Sunday after church in Las Américas. We didn't go in any of the historic sights, but thanks to Natalie, I know the lay of the land well enough to play tour guide myself in just under two weeks. Plaza España's gargantuan Christmas tree also did not disappoint!

The first hospital in the New World, built between 1503 and 1508. 

Careful where you walk!

No turtle doves on this 2nd day of Christmas, but I'll give you two of these gorgeous green birds instead. I guess we DO live in the tropics!

Natalie and I. 

Fresh mango juice and a cachapa de pollo (Venezuelan corn pancake stuffed with chicken) for lunch. 


We wiled away the afternoon wandering Calle El Conde, a pedestrian boulevard lined with souvenir shops, artists, and jewelry kiosks. 

Me with Venezuelan seminary student Isaac and fellow missionaries Johanna, Natalie, and James.  

There's even a chocolate museum/store...

...and a Christmas tree & nativity scene made from palm branches. 

At the end of Calle El Conde is Independence Park, a solemn tribute to some of the DR's national heroes. 

The ashes of Juan Pablo Duarte, Matías Ramón Mella, and Francisco del Rosario Sánchez, three of the DR's "founding fathers," are housed in their own mausoleum under an eternal flame. 

The adorable gentleman who's been the keeper of the flame for the past forty years struck up a conversation with us. 

Dusk set in - and the city began to light up - as we made a beeline from the park to Calle Las Damas. 

Calle Las Damas, named for Christopher Columbus's daughter-in-law and her ladies-in-waiting, is lined with historic attractions. 

An 18th century sundial!

First glimpses of Plaza España...and a skating rink?!?

Yep. With artificial ice, but it was free to skate so Natalie, James, and I gave it a go. The verdict: it was WAY harder than skating on ice! I bit it once and landed hard on my left hip. 

Our evening ended with Parchis (a board game similar to Sorry! or Parcheesi) and more Venezuelan food at the Maitas' apartment (Rev. Sergio, wife Yoxa, Irene, and Andrés). Hallacas (sort of a Venezuelan tamale stuffed with braised beef, raisins, and green olives...but don't tell Isaac I called it that) are the traditional Christmas fare. 

Isaac preparing the altar for the 4th Sunday in Advent the next morning. 

Yoxa and Andrés. 

L to R: Irene, Natalie, James, me, Johanna, Yoxa, Isaac, one of the church members from Las Américas, Pastor Maita & Andrés, Venezuelan seminary student Rafael, and Rev. Willy Gaspar, who serves at Las Américas. 

Off to go pick up my new tennis shoes from Mail Boxes, Etc. before dinner. I'm a believer after my vacuum cleaner experience, and I'll be needing them if the itinerary for my family's visit looks anything like it does on paper (er, my computer). 

Until next time, blessings!