Hi,

Maybe you’ve lived in a small town at some point in your life? I never did, for any length of time before moving to Las Galeras and so it’s something of a revelation to discover that everyone knows my name. This includes small students with large backpacks walking beside the road and the anonymous farmer in the campo as well as the shopkeeper and grocery clerk and the gomero who repairs flat tires.

My name? It is “Memo.”

Go figure.

This name was bestowed on me by a squirrely little guy who taught night courses in Spanish at the USDA in Washington, DC. It’s apparently the familiar or diminutive form of “Guillermo,” just as “Bill” is the familiar form of William. So, to the Spanish-speaking community in Las Galeras I am known as “Memo,” and everyone does know my name.

This is true, in part, because I physically stand out here. Big, middle-aged balding white guys are a dime a dozen in the United States and are not much more expensive in Santo Domingo–but we are still notable in the village of Las Galeras. I imagine that this will change over time, and that the change will come more rapidly once the aqueduct is complete and the road is rebuilt and the world economy recovers and tourist facilities are developed in and around this little village. But by then I suppose I will be an old man.

With these changes will come a flood of large men, many of them white and a number of who will be non-European. Until then, I’m one of an actual handful of Americans here and, as one member of this small group, am automatically imbued with a certain level of notoriety.

But I hope that is not why everyone knows my name. I hope it’s because I often stop and give someone a ride on the road or because I do not expect everyone to speak English and have the good sense to be amused and a little embarrassed by my own Spanish. Or maybe because I work alongside the help that we occasionally employ around the house or in the garden.

I will never be Dominican, but I think that “American-Dominican” non-Ugly variety is a worthy goal.

So we do stick out here, but the challenge and opportunities are not very different from those you encounter when integrating into a new community in the United States.

This is the first time that I got to change my name, though.

Bill

A note about software:

Maybe you are among the legion of users who grow weary of about a million software features that you never asked for, don’t need, and find confusing. I know that I am. And Microsoft is certainly the foremost offender in this regard.

But I can’t blame Microsoft for my recent hiccup in transmitting e-mail to you.

It seems that the Internet server providing satellite access to the Internet Cafe in Las Galeras uses a clever system to detect potential spam. I think that it works like this: when it detects a single message going out to a couple of hundred people it holds the message while it delves into the sender’s address book. When it confirms that a recipient is indeed in the sender’s address book, then the message is released for delivery.

Using an e-mail list does not confuse the verification process because the software is intelligent enough to burrow down and see if members of a particular list are also individually in the sender’s address book. HOWEVER, this anti-spam verification software does seem to be confused by LISTS OF LISTS, rather than the LISTS OF NAMES that it expects to find.

And so it has recently appeared to me as though mail has gone through, when in fact it has not.

I think that I’ve got this figured out now and, be assured, you’re on my list. At least until you tell me otherwise.

We can talk about Microsoft later, eh?

Bill

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