Sounds of Santo Domingo: Gazcue Neighborhood

Gazcue Santo Domingo Dominican Republic

If you’re like me, you think a trip without a camera is hardly a trip worth taking. You’re plagued by this unending urge to digitally capture your experience, to make it real, to solidify in your mind what really happened, to frame your perspective in a way that makes it easier to sum up, if only to yourself.

My way of thinking is that unlike the fleeting images in my brain, only images filtered through the camera lens count. They are the only hard proof of my journeys, bringing salvation to hard-earned memories that would otherwise fade or shift, retiring to the graveyard of my thoughts or morphing into something completely new and false.

When you revisit a photo, you notice things you didn’t pay attention to before, and find yourself with the opportunity to reflect on what you saw, to relive precious moments, to yearn for what is now over and done.

It’s the last piece of the travel puzzle, and the only final product of a trip in most cases.

But let’s take break from giving the camera so much credit, at least for a moment. What other mementos can help you revive your deeply rooted memories of new surroundings? You can’t capture the smell of a place, or the precise feeling exactly.

So consider this for your next trip: Put down the camera for a few minutes and make an audio recording.

Audio Recordings As Souvenirs

I have a small collection of audio recordings that I took inconsistently over the past year, and I’m hoping to amass even more with upcoming travels, now that I’m convinced of their value.

Some might point out that if I were so interested in remembering every detail I could simply take video, which combines the effects of visuals and audio.

But when you only have audio to go on, you’re forced to listen intently. You’re not distracted or fooled by what you see, and therefore your mind creates a distinct vision of a place.

Take my recent recording from the Gazcue neighborhood in Santo Domingo, for example. It’s a record of all the sounds the city pushed through my windows every day – birds chirping incessantly, sirens swelling and then fading out, abrupt horn honks, neighbors chatting.

The city sounds tropical, dirty, busy, alive. And it is all of those things, even if you can’t see it. Though I heard those sounds every day, they were always in the background of my life, never reaching the level of importance of whatever other sensation was directly in front of me.

The city sounds tropical, dirty, busy, alive.

Now that I’ve revisited this recording, I like to put it on in the background while I’m working. It’s especially useful during the early afternoon lull, when music is too soothing and silence is too boring. You get kind of a pick-me-up from hearing the dissonance of life in the largest city in the Caribbean.

And if you take the time to listen to my hour-long clip, which I suggest, I’m sure you’ll get a sense of the city’s personality – a sense that a photo alone couldn’t give you.

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If you still swear by the power of visuals, let me suggest a some videos I made from footage I took during my stay in the Dominican Republic, designed to introduce you to (or help you remember) this fascinating Caribbean country.

Here are a couple of videos about Carnaval, the major celebration held throughout the country every year in February:


And of course, a video of my favorite weekend beach trip ever, set to music.

Finally, a short video of some dancers at the famous El Conuco restaurant, located close to where I lived in Gazcue.

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