Colmados are not self service. You ask for what you want, well actually you demand it by screaming "dame", which means give me. It doesn't matter if anyone else is being
served, you just shout anyway. He or she who shouts loudest is served next.
You can buy just about anything you
need. Many things are sold loose, such as rice, flour, sugar, washing powder and things you might not expect like cornflakes, oil, vinegar, soya sauce. You just take a container in and they fill it up for you. There are always vegetables available such as plantains, yellow bananas, yucca, green peppers, onions and potatoes, tomatos and celery. As far as meat is concerned it is restricted to chicken, which is usually in a washing up bowl and
comes with feet and neck, smoked pork chops and of course salami.
A large percentage of people buy on credit and carry around a little piece of cardboard with what they owe on it, torn off a packet of something. Then when they get paid on the 15th or the 30th, or the 25th for government jobs, they take their piece of cardboard to the colmado and pay it all and then are given another torn off scrap of cardboard.
As well as being the main place for food, the colmado doubles up as a bar at night - and all day Sunday - and the main social centre of the neighbourhood. There is usually a television in one corner and the colmado fills up for baseball games and the daily soap opera programmes. At night everyone gathers and sits on the ubiquitous plastic chairs and drinks beer and rum.
There have been two key subjects in our colmado this week. Firstly the lack of street water, which has been turned off for over a week now whilst the tanks are cleaned apparently to stop the spread of cholera which has now hit this area. We have had a large tank in the street to use for water - how that is more healthy I am not really sure. The second topic has been the road which as you remember was full of mud. This morning a steam roller was driving up and down it, so we now have compacted mud and I was told that they are going to set fire to the road with petrol and then pour black stuff over it. I am not sure exactly how that is going to work, or if it is a Dominican way of tarmacking a road. I am sure that it will be a delightful experience as the whole street is set on fire.
Watch this space as they say.