Our fantastic trip to Santo Domingo had two purposes: 1) as a day out to celebrate the boys’ birthdays and 2) to let each of them chose a present from a bigger selection of shops than we have here in Nagua. We had a fifty per cent success rate. The day trip was amazing and everyone had a great time. Sadly, the shops in the area where we concentrated our search (La Zona Colonial) only ranged the same limited items as the shops in Nagua. Apart from new footballs for Ben and Zach from a sports shop we already knew of, our arms were not aching from the weight of our parcels as we climbed aboard the big yellow bus to begin our journey home.
Our quest had been to find some new basketball shoes for Ben, some Mecano from Matt, a scooter for Zach and Katie just wanted to find a toy shop so she could chose “something for my dollies”. Nevertheless our day in Santo Domingo was brilliant; the big yellow bus, the fabulous display of photos of Great Britain as it prepares for the Olympics, running around the park, eating pizza and ice cream and visiting the most amazing interactive children’s science museum. When it was time to go back to the bus stop we all had big smiles and the disappointment of not getting any of the items on our shopping list was long forgotten.
Arriving back in Nagua on the dot of 6pm, we walked our usual route home. We passed a shop at the end of our road which we don’t usually take much notice of, except to say hello to and accept sweeties from the very friendly owner who we see a couple of times each day. It is a typical Dominican shop selling a bit of this and a bit of that, some of it new some of it second hand. There is always an enormous hanging display outside of all kinds of different goods – belts, handbags, shoes, tee-shirts, bananas, industrial strength lingerie – and Zach often races through the display on his way home from school and comes out the other end wrapped in an enormous girdle or with a bra capable of supporting a couple of cannon balls around his ears.
As we walked passed on our way home from the bus last night, Ben noticed a basketball shoe in the window, of exactly the sort we had searched high and low for in the capital city. “Mira!” (look!) he said excitedly and asked if he could try them on. I had been forewarned by a friend about the risk of spotting shoes that you like in the shops here. And the danger is there will only be one shoe! Upon entering the shop to look at the shoe Ben had spotted, it became obvious exactly what she meant. This shoe shop definitely wasn’t Clarks! Shoes were piled in higgledy piggledy heaps all over the floor. There was not a “pair” of shoes in sight, they were all singles! (Presumably this is anti-theft device which will only be partially effective here – motorbike accidents sadly cause a noticeable number of one-legged young men).
Not to be deterred, we picked up the shoe Ben had spotted in the window (amazingly in his size) and asked if it had a mate. After much frantic searching in the piles, the owner came up triumphantly waving another shoe that looked like it might be a match. Apart from the fact it was a different size and for the same foot, it was perfect, we were really getting somewhere! In the meantime, Katie had spotted a sparkly silver shoe that she had fallen in love with and decided a pair of sparkly shoes is what she wanted for her present, the dollies would have to wait! The shoe she had chosen appeared to be a loner and fortunately Katie’s disappointment came in the form of the shoe being too small so we need not search through the piles for its long lost partner.
By this time quite a crowd of the owner’s family had gathered around us to offer assistance. Gringos with four children in a shoe shop has to be reason to offer the red carpet treatment (The people in Clarks back home used to put up balloons when it was time for me to buy school shoes for all the children, knowing that a nice £200+ sale was coming their way!). They kept passing Katie all manner of sparkly shoes in a variety of sizes and she sat on a little stool, fully embracing the role of Cinderella, as she tried on shoe after shoe after shoe. I was dreading one fitting and her falling in love with in, only to face the bitter disappointment that alas it was a singleton and if we bought it for her she would have to hop everywhere! Occasionally she would find one that fitted that she liked and if a frantic search for an exact match was unsuccessful the assistants would just offer her another “similar” one for the other foot (taking little account of whether or not it matched the one she was wearing!)
Somehow, miraculously, the matching shoe for the one Ben had chosen was found and fitted perfectly. Matthew decided to give up a pointless search for Mecano and chose a pair of trainers that had been found for Ben but were too small. And then, as if by magic, the owner’s wife emerged from the bottom of an enormous pile of leather and canvas, grasping the Holy Grail of shoes; a PAIR of sneakers in Katie’s size, made of rainbow coloured sparkles with pink laces and sporting pink and silver “diamonds” on the toe caps. Katie’s face lit up like a moonbeam and Rich and I stood holding our breath while she tried them on, hoping she would not face further disappointment if they didn’t fit.
She carefully put them on, impressing all of us as she deftly tied the laces herself and, oh marvel of marvels, of a pair of shoes that fitted her perfectly. So, only about £25 lighter, we exited the shop with three children with a new spring in their step, dancing up the street in their new shoes, providing a perfect end to our perfect day. And only one challenge now remains, where on earth we are going to get a scooter for Zach?