Portland and Poland – the Dominican Connection

Saturday, November 12, 2005
The phone rang! It was the operator from Verizon, the main phone company here, asking if we would accept a collect call from ‘Minga’. “Not really,” we said “don’t know anybody by that name”. The operator called again. “Is there a Peter there?” Well, we couldn’t hide from the fact that there was, but it didn’t change the fact that nobody at Playa Vista knew anybody called Minga so we certainly wouldn’t accept a collect charge call from anybody by such a name. Once again the phone rang, only this time it was Minga in person. “Hello,” she said, “are you Peter?” “Yes” “Do you know me?” “No.” “Well you do know my mother – Santana from Barahona (a coastal town to the west of Santo Domingo) – don’t you?” “No, I don’t think so”. “Are you German?” Again: “No”. “What color is your hair?” The whole inquisitorial affair was conducted in halting but nonetheless clearly enunciated English. “Can I ask you where you are calling from?” “From Po.. land”. To our ears the accent could easily have been Polish and to non-Polish experts like us the name ‘Minga’ certainly sounded more Polish than Dominican… notwithstanding the mother from Barahona bit of course. Anyway back to Minga, “I am looking for a German Peter who is the father of my daughter”. “Sorry to disappoint you, but wherever he might be he is definitely not here, so we can’t really help you… though we could ask around to see if there is anybody in Boca Chica that might meet your description… by all means give us your number”.
After a brief sortie around town there was some information here and there, but not very helpful… because a particular German Peter was apparently in town some years ago and, even involved with a certain Minga, but the Peter in question had left Boca Chica a long time ago, at which the track went quite cold. We tried calling the given number putting in the national code for Poland -actually 48 for those of you who might want to call Poland one day- but there was no response whatsoever. The investigative second part of our job revealed, surprise surprise, that the first three digits Minga had given us pertained to PORTLAND Maine in the US of A! A…ha! We tried the number without the 48 and got through to Minga straight away. In passing we couldn’t help wondering if people from that part of the world are commonly aware that a slightly lazy pronunciation of the name of their town could easily lead to a huge geographic misunderstanding.
We told Minga about our not very helpful findings, and she now explained that her 7-year-old daughter wanted to see her father, not unreasonable in itself we thought, although chancing on InfoCenter Playa Vista in a case like this certainly seemed to be a very indirect way of keeping in touch with direct relatives. Minga was now divorced from the father of her other child and apparently trying to catch up rapidly with the past. She was of course disappointed that we were not able to find out more, but politely thanked us for our help and invited us, anytime we wanted, to come and spend time with her and her two children. We definitely got the sensation that perhaps Minga would be prepared to give up on the past, if the future should have something rosier to offer!
Maybe we will take up her very open-ended invite next time we are in Poland… excuse us Portland!

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