Our trip to Dahabon on the Haitian border was, how should we say, "interesting". Dahabon is on the river that separates the two countries about 50 kilometers inland from the north shore. To get there we drove a narrow backroad from Luperon to Imbert, then picked up a wider road in better shape to Santiago, then got onto the fourlane main east-west highway of the country. When we got to Monte Christi on the coast we turned south onto an unpaved road that went for about 20 kilometers - crazy driving around giant potholes and dodging oncoming cars going way too fast. We arrived and checked into the Gran Hotel in the city center about 6pm and then wandered about town looking for a beer. At a great little palapa bar, we met "Raoul", a guy dressed exactly like Fidel Castro including the 45 in a holster, and Pepe, a guy from Philadelphia. He came over and introduced himself and chatted with us for a while. I spoke to him in Spanish and didn't realize until after he went back to his table that he was speaking English the whole time - a little embarassing! The next day we got up early and went down to the bridge. All around in the streets were piles of shoes and clothes and pots and pans and linens and pretty much anything you could want. The Haitians arranged items like a department store on the street in that there was a shoe alley and a sheet road and a handbag sidewalk. I saw a set of Revereware and haggled with an elderly lady for one of the sauce pans. I asked her how much and she said 250 pesos and i said 100 pesos - she said 200 and I said okay. I drove a hard bargain. A $100 pan for $6 US! The bridge was gated and guarded, with Haitians crammed on the other side beating the bars and shouting. On either side of the bridge we saw lines of Haitians wading across the river into the DR carrying tons of stuff on their head or people on their back, No one paid any attention. On the DR side down by the river were over a hundred trucks loaded with food - bananas, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, bags of rice and beans, pineapples. The Haitians were piling the food onto pushcarts and wheeling them up to the bridge to make the crossing back to Haiti. The carts were so loaded that it took 6 to 8 people to move them. The poverty of the Haitians was overwhelming and very very sad. It was difficult to be there very long and we left before noon. On the way there we went through the tobacco and rice growing area. We took the mountain road on the way back and traveled up snaking roads that went through canyon lands, lots of rivers, and large pine forests. This country is beautiful and botanically diverse. The soil is generally very rich and the mountains go straight up and are covered with greenery. Last week we road a bus south across the island to the Caribbean capital Santo Domingo. This city of 6 million was first settled with Columbus' second voyage in 1493. It is considered the first city in the New World. Most of the Zona Colonial was built in the first 20 years of the 16th century. It is a classic walled city with towers and parapets and lots of cannon everywhere. The old town, bounded by the cochina walls, is suprisingly large. We checked into the Hotel Conde Peralba and got a room on the top floor that had a balcony that opened onto the pedestrian mall - Calle Conde - and the cathedral park. Really nice place! We wandered about looking at museums and churches and old homes. Diego Columbus, Chris' son and Governor General of Santo Domingo, built his house in 1511. We wandered through the rooms and were amazed at the 500 year old furnishings. We also toured the Colonial Real or government house where the business of laws and taxes and impeachments occurred. Besides models of Columbus' ships and scale models of the city, the Real contains a fabulous collection of armor and weapons. Trujillo loved the different arquebuses and crossbows and swords and demanded that foreign dignitaries present these gifts when they visited. Happy 4th of July America!