On Wednesday we had our first outing from the training center to visit the historical Villa Bellisa, a distiguished old estate next door to the American embassy which was once home to one of Trujillo's cronies. Located in Santo Domingo's upscale Gazcue district, the property is now home home to Peace Corps Dominican Republic (PCDR), housing its administrative offices and medical unit, plus a lounge, two libraries and a computer lab for the use of visiting volunteers. After a tour there, we were shown the way to a nearby pension (hostel) where volunteers often stay when visiting the capital.
Next we were shown the way to Clinica Abreu, the facility used by PCDR when a referral is needed for a specialist, blood/urine/stool test, or such a thing as an X-ray or MRI. Here we were broken into two groups, the first of which I was told got a riveting 20-minute overview of the clinic's oncology department before Doctor Ariel established that he was supposed be leading the tour and devoting less time to things like how to cure cancer. I was part of the second group which had the misfortune to losing about ten minutes when 12 of its member got stuck in an elevator that had an eleven-person capacity.
Next came a stroll down the pedestrian-only Conde street whose quaint 19th-century highrises lend it a certain european charm, somewhat broken by the conspicuous presence of KFC and vendors hawking rosaries and plastic sunglasses. Conde deposited us, amid waves of German and Dutch tourists in a pidgeon-filled plaza where the new World's oldest cathedral can be photographed from the comfort of Santo Domingo's Hard Rock Cafe, a few scant yards away. On Sunday we will get a tour of this district led historian, Lynn Guitar. It won't all be fun and games, though, as we are assigned the task of negotiating by ourselves the three busses and two carros publicos needed to get there at back. It's times like these that I am grateful for my Spanish.