Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fixing things - the Dominican way

Dominicans do not tend to have tool boxes. If they have tools they lend them to people and never get them back, or people just 'borrow' them. Those that managed to keep hold of their tools look after them carefully, those that don't, well they improvise, and no one can improvise like a Dominican.

Instead of a hammer you use a rock. Several times when the car would not start you firstly have to squeeze a lime over the battery contacts and then you hit the battery with a rock. It works every time. Instead of screwdrivers you use a knife. Any knife including the most expensive. I have got through 5 complete knife sets since I have been here.

The door fell off our fridge (no not this one). I would have bought a new special piece to fix it. No. Make holes in the fridge door with a knife, hitting it with a rock, and put a normal door hinge on the fridge. It works.

Plastic containers are used for everything as well as their original purpose. As well as being used as a down pipe, if you go to the orthapaedic ward in the local hospital you will see several bleach containers filled with sand hanging off the edge of the beds with a piece of rope. These are used instead of weights and pulleys for traction for broken legs.

The same with plastic bags. Once brought home they are not only used to put rubbish in, especially toilet paper as you can't put it in the toilet here, but every time it rains you will see all the ladies running around with plastic bags on their heads. The same when they go into the sea or the river, have to have the plastic bag on the head.

We bought a new television a few years ago. I would have measured to make sure it fitted in the place especially made in the unit. It wasn't measured and it didn't fit. Do you; 1) take it back, 2) put it somewhere else or 3) hack a piece out of the cabinet with a machete so that the television fits and the door no longer closes on the cabinet. Yes, you have guessed it. Option 3.

Friends come to stay for the night. A Dominican general and his girlfriend. They stay in the spare bedroom in a lovely mahogany bed. The headboard starts banging against the wall.
Do they; 1) move the bed away from the wall, 2) put a towel or a t-shirt between the head board and the wall, or 3) find the toolbox which was kept in the spare bedroom for safekeeping and nail the headboard to the wall with 3 inch nails.

The headboard split in two a few weeks later.

I love it though as if anything breaks you do not have to wait for a professional to come and fix it. There is always someone on hand to botch for you, as long as you have knives, string, a rock and a machete then everything can be fixed.

The burners in my gas stove have rusted away. The solution is to take out the burners and just have the gas pipe coming straight into the oven. It is unfortunately not temperature controlled - it is blast furnace or blast furnace - but it works!

Everything always works - for a time anyway!


  1. Oh, I remember it well. I lived in Sosua for 5 months in the early 80s, and the "ingenuity" never failed to give me pause. Funny stuff!