Through Their Eyes by Lindsay de Feliz
I had been living in the Dominican Republic for a year and had a return ticket to England which had to be used within the year, so I decided to go back to the UK for a couple of weeks and as I had enough points I also decided to take my then boyfriend, now husband, with me. He had never left the DR, so amidst great excitement, we sorted all the paperwork for his visa and headed to the airport in Santo Domingo. I really had not considered what it would be like for someone who had never travelled. We arrived at the airport.
“Now where we go?” he asked.
“Check in,” I replied.
“What is shecking?”
“It is where they take your luggage and weigh it and decide what seat you will have on the plane and give you your boarding pass.”
We headed to check in, and I explained that the luggage had to go on the scales.
“Why they weigh luggage? “
“Because the pilot has to know how much weight the plane is carrying so he can put in the right amount of fuel,” I replied patiently.
Danilo put the suitcase onto the scale and then jumped up next to it.
“What on earth are you doing?” exclaimed the check in lady.
“You need know how much I weigh,” he replied.
I pulled him off the scales and we then had a long conversation in Spanish about the fact that they only weighed the luggage and not the people and that yes it was stupid and they should weigh the people first and yes thin people should be allowed to take more luggage than larger people but they were the rules.
I then had to stop him running to drag his luggage off the conveyor belt as he thought he would never see it again and couldn’t believe it would be waiting for him in London and eventually we boarded the plane having had to pay the man at immigration US$100 when he said the visa was probably false and it would take a couple of days to check it – unless we paid up and then he would know it was not a fake visa.
As he was looking open mouthed at all of the buttons, and the television screen, Danilo asked, “When will my mouth go around to my ears? Chi Chi said (a friend who knows everything) that is what happens when you fly, as it is so fast”.
The questions were nonstop and eventually, having changed planes in Madrid, we arrived in London.
We reached immigration and he whispered, “How much do I have to pay lady?”
“Nothing, there is no corruption in England. You don’t bribe anyone.”
The immigration lady was fine and allowed me to translate and we were through in no time but for the first time ever in my life we were stopped and searched by customs, and this was to happen in the future every time we flew together. Profiling at its best.
We reached the hotel, The Mad Hatter in Waterloo in London, or as he called it, The Crazy Hat, and having checked in we went to our room. In the corridor outside was a shoe shine machine.
“What is that?” he asked.
“A shoe shine machine,” I replied.
“Nooooo. Shoe shine is young boy not machine,” as he checked out how to shine his shoes which had to be done every time he passed the machine.
He had never seen a bath, never used hot water to bath or shower and came running out of the bathroom with toilet paper in his hand, “There is no bin for the paper,” he hissed.
“Put it in the toilet, we don’t use bins in England,”
“Nooo it will block. No want block toilet.”
“It won’t block we have thick pipes here.”
He was awestruck wandering around London, having never seen a double decker bus (we always had to sit upstairs and duck every time we went under a bridge), never been on an escalator, a train, a tube train and had a total melt down on the Docklands Light Railway.
“There is no driver!”
“No it is driven by a computer.”
“But what if electricity goes? “
“It won’t. This is England. The electricity never goes.”
The pressing of the pedestrian button to cross the road was accompanied by great excitement waiting for the little green man to appear on the other side.
“Hombre verde, hombre verde!” he would shout, causing other pedestrians to smile or giggle.
The train journey to my parents’ home in the country was peppered with squeals of delight every time he saw a rabbit in the fields. There he was amazed that the pigs had little houses and the horses wore coats and that the ducks on the duck pond had not been shot and eaten.
He couldn’t get over that white smoke came out of his mouth when he blew out (it was cold), and that some thatched houses had “grass” on the roof – just like the palm leaves in the Dominican Republic.
He wore four pairs of underpants as ChiChi had told him his willy would shrink due to the cold, and couldn’t understand why the chickens for sale in the supermarket had no feet on them.
Watching him and being with him in London was like being on a journey with a cross between ET and Crocodile Dundee. I have never laughed so much or looked at things in a different way and realized that those who are able to travel freely to so many places and experience so many cultures, without the need for visas, really are blessed.