Daniel Jossarian Quezada Roja walks down the Malecón, a Carribean name for Main Street, carrying a generator he's delivering to his uncle's grocery store.
Electricity is not to be taken lightly here, laughs the lumbering farmboy as he lugs the faded red machine. He deposits it inside and decides that we must go for an afternoon of people-watching and rum at Boca Chica, Santo Domingo's most popular beach.
But his uncle can't quite stomach the frivolity. It's the last thing the cautious shopkeeper would expect from a boy whose entire life had just been wiped away by a hurricane.
"La vida es más importante que lo material," explains the 25-year-old. Life is more important than material things, Quezada tells me, then a complete stranger to him, for the first of many times.
And after a week of impromptu travel with him from the Samaná peninsula off the Dominican Republic's northern coast to the innermost mountain villages, I start to believe him.
An American who knows more about the Dominican Republic than Georges and Sammy Sosa is a rarity, Quezada says. While it's likely the hurricane and the baseball star are the only reasons this half of Hispañola made President Clinton's 1999 State of the Union address, neither is as important to this island as the everyday lives of its inhabitants.
See the country below.