Friday, February 22, 2019

Violence in the Dominican Republic - The Incident

I promised to tell you about what I call The Incident, which may also explain why I haven’t blogged much recently.

It was Tuesday, February 5 and Danilo and a Canadian lady staying with us were in his rustic gym in the back garden. She wanted to get fit and so after they had done their exercises in the gym, they would go for a 15- or 20-minute run. I heard them in the gym, but I was busy collecting articles to do the news for DR1 – the expat Dominican Republic forum.

It was exactly 9.30 am when I was interrupted by a lady messaging who wanted information about the Police Good Conduct report in the DR, and I was about to reply to her when a man slid open the patio door to the garden and walked towards me. I had never seen him before but in his right hand he had a gun, pointing at me. He stopped about 6 feet in front of my desk.

I didn’t have time to ask him anything before he started screaming “Don’t look at me” which he did several times. I asked him calmly what he wanted, and told him to calm down. I would have used the English saying “Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” but am not sure how that translates to Spanish.

He said he wanted money, and I replied that I had some but not a lot, and asked him not to hurt the dogs. I had one each side of me, just looking at him. I told the dogs to stay and shut up and stood up – he made me put my hands in the air – and went to the dining table next to my desk where my handbag was.

I reached in for my purse, which made him start waving the gun about, and was about to get the money out of my purse when he stopped me, so I put it down on the table. He then screamed at me to lie on the floor. I kept telling him I did not understand as I wanted to know if he spoke English and also, I had no idea why he would want me to lie down.

He pointed to the corner of the room behind the dining table and I sat down. He told me to turn around and lie face down, and put the gun to the back of my head. I asked him not to kill me. But there was no reply and he did not speak again. I took my glasses off and lay them next to me on the floor before lying down.

He then twisted both arms behind my back and sat on my back – there was no way I could move my arms or my body. I assumed he was going to tie me up. I should be so lucky. Then he put some sort of cloth or towel in my mouth and covered my nose with it as well and held it tightly in place with his hand which by now had a surgical glove on it. I could not breathe in nor out. A most peculiar and uncomfortable feeling. I tried to fight to move my head and my arms as I was desperate to breathe but each time I did, he smashed my face into the tiled floor. I tried playing dead (as I have seen that work on the television)  and again he grabbed me by the hair on the back of my head and hit my face against the floor.

I had hoped there would be chloroform on the pad – but there was nothing, and I just wanted it over with. And then after around a minute, it was. Blissful nothing.

Meanwhile, Danilo and the guest returned from their run and he heard someone running through the woods. Danilo quickly approached the house on high alert and immediately saw I was not at my desk. He scanned the room and saw me lying on the floor in the corner, face down. He turned me over and my eyes were open but unseeing. He and the guest quickly put me in the car, unconscious and set off at speed for the hospital. Soon I began thrashing around, then talking nonsense and then the guest noticed a large baseball sized lump appearing on my temple. It grew and then opened showering her and me in blood and continued to bleed profusely. I was then able to say I had been attacked – until then they thought I had just fallen over – and I thought I might have been shot in the head.

At the hospital following x-rays and a cat scan it was confirmed I had not been shot nor did I even have a fractured skull. The lump on my head was drained, cleaned and stitched. My mouth was cut everywhere inside – no idea how and I was covered in bruises. I was admitted for twenty-four hours and the next day was home. The bruises have mostly gone now, but I have been left with neurological damage on my left side so I need more hospital visits and tests to see what is causing it and if it can be cured in any way. I am hoping just time will heal it.

You will be wondering how I felt during all this. Well I felt no pain at any time, but being suffocated is not pleasant at all. I have no idea how long it would take to kill someone but I don’t think I could have managed much longer. It appears he heard them coming back from the run before the deed was done, so smacked me hard on my temple with the gun, hoping that would do the trick. Takes more than that to get rid of me! I was pretty sure I was going to die and the only thoughts I had were that I hoped Danilo and guest would not return or he might kill them and I did not want him to hurt the dogs – which he didn’t. My overriding emotion, once I had worked out fighting him was not working, was total acceptance of what was to come – I just wanted the discomfort of being suffocated to be over quickly. So, I was much calmer than I would have thought I would be in that situation.

And the perp? It took me a few days to work it out. He looked Dominican but he didn’t. He dressed like a Dominican but he didn’t. He spoke like a Dominican but he didn’t. And I have never heard of Dominicans suffocating people. This guy had done it before – I felt like he was a professional. It turns out he was Venezuelan – there are tens of thousands in the Dominican Republic now, having fled from their country, and yes, he had killed by suffocation a few times before in Venezuela. It was a total random attack as he was scouting out houses which back onto the woods to rob. He thought the house was empty as he saw Danilo and the guest leaving on their run, hence he was surprised to see me, and as he did not want to be identified he had to dispose of me.

Several different police forces came from all of the surrounding areas. They were very pleasant but they took no forensic evidence at all, not my clothes, nor fingerprints, nor did they search the area. The local prosecutor was very professional as was the medical examiner who had to assess my injuries.

So, all’s well that ends well – and the current level of nerve damage is liveable with, assuming it gets no better or worse. I am very very thankful as the ending could have been very different. And it's another chapter for book 3!!

Around eight hours after the attack.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Holiday in England

Wrist slapping time as it has been over 2 months since the last post. I do have a raft of excuses such as being in England, followed by the flu, followed by what I am calling The Incident which I will explain about in the next blog post.

So off I went to England - alone, as there was no visa for Danilo and Chivirico. It was a long journey to the airport, around 12 hours on three different buses but it was simple enough and the long distance buses are very comfy with aircon, big seats and wifi so it was actually nice to relax.

I was met in Punta Cana by my great friend Ilana and her husband Pedro and spent a lovely night and the next day with them and Ilana's friends before being taken to the airport for the 8.30 pm flight. Fab flight and I had three seats to myself so I managed to sleep all the way to England. This was my first time on a plane for 12 years and they had certainly been upgraded with seat back TVs and loads of channels to choose from.

Mum met me at the airport and looked exactly the same as the last time I was in England some 12 years ago - how you go from age 74 to 86 looking the same I have no idea but just hope I do the same!

To be honest it was all a bit overwhelming at first. We stopped about an hour from the airport so I could get some coffee and smoke a cigarette  - not necessarily in that order - and as I had no English money I asked mum for 10 pence to get a coffee. She laughed and gave me a 10 pound note - around US$13. I walked into the store and there was the coffee machine. First I had to choose what type of coffee I wanted and there were a million choices most of which I had never heard of - so I pressed cappuccino. Next, small, medium or large. Did that, got my cup, put it in the right place, out came the coffee and then it told me to use my App. No idea what the machine was talking about so I went to the cashier and she told me to use my App to scan something. I explained I had no idea what she or the machine was talking about,  so I paid in cash (think around 2.50 pounds - bit more than the 10 pence I expected). What was it with all the Apps - they had invaded the country, everything was scanned or Apped or whatever - I think I was the only person paying in cash in every place we went to.

I stayed for three weeks. I spent time not only with my mum but my aunt and uncle, brother, sister and brother in law, cousins, friends and it was quite simply the best holiday I have ever had. The food was out of this world, all the things I cannot get here, and I managed to put on 10 pounds in weight! Rather than telling you all about it in words, here are just a few of the pictures I took over the three weeks.

Fresh raspberries and cream
Roast lamb, sprouts, new potatoes, peas, mint sauce!
English breakfast!
The local town, St. Ives, Cambridgeshire

Mother's cutlery drawer - so organised!

Sister's spice rack - alphabetical order of course


House in mum's village. I had forgotten how beautiful England is.

Local pub in Houghton where I spent many a misspent hour in my youth!
Another house in the village I grew up in, Houghton

Frosty Christmas morning in mum's back garden
Christmas lunch including PARSNIPS and Yorkshire pudding. Beef barbecued by brother in law, Gary.
I went through a whole range of emotions in England - not sad ones at all. It was so lovely to be with family and I had forgotten how much I loved them all. It was also interesting to compare life in England with my life in the DR, and rather than explaining it here, please do go to Janet Given's website and blog where I have done a guest post for her on how I felt. When you are on the site, do check out the other blog posts and the rest of the site ,as Janet is a well known writer and author and I know you will enjoy browsing. I came across her when I read her book At home on the Kazakh Steppe which is about her time in the Peace Corps when she did just what I did and gave it all up and ended up in Kazakhstan. Fabulous book and well worth a read!

In a few days (I promise) I will blog again to keep you up to date. In the meantime, here is Grumpy, the mangy boxer who turned up here a few months ago. Not mangy anymore!