Whales, mom, independence day...
Trip Start Jan 04, 2011
12Trip End May 01, 2011
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A trip up north, a few days with Mom, then more santo Domingo life... Get comfy, it's going to be another long one!
Our first stop was about 2 hours outside of santo Domingo at a place called Cueva de Maravillas (cave of wonders) which was pretty cool- we also saw some huge iguanas that only live on this island.... But the most interesting part of that stop was meeting some people from MN! they were the only other English speakers in the whole place, a couple from Andover who are visiting a friend who moved to the DR from St. Croix. It was nice to hear some long oooo's and eh's. Ha.
Then we continued on north for a good 3-4 more hours... Don't be fooled though, we probably only went about 100 miles- but most of it was on littl gravel roads weaving through what would be the equivalent of shanty towns in the hills and fields. I am learning so much about what if means to be a 3rd world country.... However, it was so totally worth it when we got to the resort- if that's what you want to call it- a beautiful lodge-like place, on the side of a mountain, with waterfalls all over, and rooms that reminded me of summer camp. This place was 40 minutes from the nearest town.
On Saturday morning, we got up early to go whale watching- to get to the boat, wr had anout a 30 minute ride stabding in the back of a big farm truck. It was fun though, and then we saw a momma and baby humpback whale! One of the coolest things ive ever done. They can weigh up to 40 tons.... Pretty crazy. From there, we took the boat straight to an island, where we hung out, played volleyball, ate lunch, for several hours before returning to the resort.
That night, we had a nice relaxing bonfire, and the workers put on a really cool show- like a traditional tribal music/dance, I'm so jealous of their natural rhythm! Again, a lot of fun.
Sunday, we went to do some good for the environment and plant some Mangrove trees- this area was apparently hit by a hurricane in 1998, and they were pretty much wiped out. This was very interesting, because we were wading in about knee-high water, digging holes in the mud. If it helps though, it was very easy! Then we went to another cave- which was boring- then on a 10 minute hike- literally.
That was basically the end of that trip, but the beginning of another! We got home early, so I got to the airport at the perfect time- literally just as Lo was walking through customs!
That was the first of many things that went just our way during her brief 4 night stay... The resort was amazing to say the least- the bell boy took us up to our room, said "abra cadabra," and opened the curtains to our private balcony, about 30 ft from the beach. Lo was speechless, and I was more than a little impressed.
That first night we grabbed some drinks, walked the beach, got dinner and crashed hard. It was perfect though, so we were both up at 6 to start our beach day! (little did we know that it was NECESSARY to get out to the beach that early to claim your prime spot (with a tiki hut for shade- they were gone by 7, and the lounge chairs by 8)) everything about that day was relaxing and wonderful- we even had a 3-course meal for dinner!
The next day we got up early again, because checkout was at 1. This was more of an eventful day (haha). I played (and won) a few games of beach volleyball with some Germans and canadians- I even have a battle wound on my knee to prove it! Later on, after we had "checked out," I say it like that because w still had our bracelets and continued to hang out/eat for several hours after 1 while our stiff sat at the front desk, Lori got her only souvenir of the DR- an awesome French manicure!
There is quite the story behind this... First, all beaches here are littered with people selling food, trinkets, massages/pedicures, you name it.... It's actually quite annoying. I've gotten pretty good at shooing them away, as I'm no longer a naive tourist- but this lady was good. I had mass friends with one of the security guards at the resort, and while we were talking, she came up and mentioned that I should go get them some pizza... Very against the rules I'm sure... I obliged, but while I was gone, she started a "promotion" on my mother- this was one of the few English words she knew... I came back with the pizza, and Lori was hook-line-and sinker. She paid $6 (I wouldn't stand for the $10 the lady wanted to charge) and got a pretty sweet manicure. Our business-minded manicure lady then continued to use my mom as a model to entice the 3 European ladies next to us. I was proud of her entrepreneurial savvy.
We finally tore ourselves away from the beach to make the journey to santo Domingo- I say journey because we did it via guagua, which is even more fun with luggage. It all went remarkably well, and Lo got a real taste of public transport DR style (hey it was $5 instead of the $50 a cab would have cost). 2 hours later, we got to the hotel- I booked her in the "garden building," aka older/cheaper section of one of the nicest hotels in the city- also right across from my house. This time her window overlooked a school yard.
This brings us to Wednesday- I finally went to my classes, and Lo got to meet everybody. We started out with lunch at my house, my Dona went all out with the food- la bandera (rice, beans, meat-her awesome chicken with a special sauce), salad, fresh watermelon juice, arrepitas de yuca (no clue what this would be in English, but yuca is a potato-like vegetable, which is ground up, flavored with anis, then baked- really yummy) AND "orange sweet" for dessert. Wow that seem like even more when you write it out... It was really nice though because my mom got to meet/ "talk" with everyone- even Nataisha came home from school before we left.
As if we hadn't engorged ourselves enough, we went straight from there to meet Katie, Christine and Nina for ice cream at Bon. That was a whole lot easier since I didn't have to talk/translate the whole time. After ice cream, we had class at CIEE, so Lo got to meet just about everybody in the program and see my temporary school.
I skipped the second half of class so we could walk down El Conde, a shopping street that leads to the colonial zone with the oldest church in the Americas, Columbus's house, and most importantly- Lady's Night (amazing free drinks, in case you've missed earlier posts).
It was a good evening- as we were sitting outside with our drinks, my friend Carlos happened to walk by, so he had a drink and chatted with us for awhile. Thank God he speaks English, because Lo was grilling him about life in the DR!
The next morning Lo came to Bono, my other school. That required another guagua adventure, but it was good for her to see. That was the anticlimactic end to her visit- besides her almost missing her plane due to the cab driver being 25 minutes late (or right on time if you're speaking Dominican time) and some crazy traffic due to a speech from the president. Whew. It was a crazy few days, but I wouldn't change a thing <3
Oh, I'll admit also that Thursday night before all this- I was like a kid on Christmas eve- I couldn't sleep because I was so excited. Santa didn't let me down!
As if anyone is still reading, but I have one last little thing to write about.... (the weekend was great, it surprised me how much i missed hanging out with my friends! But thats not it...) February 27th is Independence day- aka the 4th of July if you're a dumb american that's had too much to drink... It's celebrated by a huge military parade down the Malecón- i would have never guessed they had so many branches on this little island! I don't know what they're called, but it range from decorated sergeants to camo to scuba tanks to horses, tents, life jackets, face paint.... There were even naval ships lining the horizon and jet/helicopter flyovers. It was such a cool experience- better than fireworks, I must admit. That night we went to a BBQ at a really nice house in the west end of the city- I even got to play beer pong. It was quite the good day.
This weekend I'm going hiking through 27 waterfalls!