28 Feb 2012
Reflecting back on my 2 week journey to the Dominican Republic and Haiti it was a challenge of a life time and since I love challenges, I had a great time overall. At times it was stressful, at times my stomach turned seeing stuff I was not used to and at times my experiences had me in tears. At other times my heart and soul were so full, I felt so alive and connected…
A couple things before I proceed with my trip report, my mileage was tainted since I have very limited Spanish,French and Creole speaking skills. Also, I went saying to myself that I would not publish “poverty” images but everyone has their own idea of what poverty is. The people of both the Dominican Republic and Haiti are very proud people and so what we might view as poverty, they view as their life with pride. None the less, my trip report will show images of kids without clothes, people begging, pigs and goats eating garbage, meat for sale that is covered with insects……not poverty images in my opinion rather I’m just showing life as it is.
Once upon a time a long long time ago a boy was born with a sense of adventure, he was a junky seeking adventure everywhere he went. This boy grew up wanting challenges and once he overcame them he searched for more and more. In his 30’s he was happy visiting and exploring Jamaica since it offered so many challenges but after 5 years he soon got bored. With high airfares to Jamaica the boy said fuc it and booked a trip to the Dominican Republic and Haiti to amp up his adventure. The boy had a month to learn Spanish, French and Creole but gave up after 3 weeks because he was either lazy or wanted more of a challenge. Armed with $3300 in cash, a few cameras and an Ipad he was ready to explore.
Since a trip for me is about making as many connections before and during the trip, I escape from my introverted shell as much as possible and become the nice and maybe annoying “hey how are you, where are you from, what are your plans” type of guy as much as possible. It all started at the airport in Boston when I talked to pretty much everyone to form some connections. Come to find out that almost my entire flight was Dominicans that spoke no English. We did little hand gestures pointing at each other and then our luggage to say “watch my stuff while I venture off the the bathroom”. Finally a middle age backpacker sat next to me and we chatted about our journey in English. I didn’t know then but where she was staying was on my short list of places to visit….a connection.
On the plane ride I talked to the guy next to me that owns an import export business running between Boston and the DR. I think he felt pity for me arriving in the DR at 330am with really no clue what I was going to do other than find the bus depot and take a bus to Sousa. He offered me a ride with his friend/driver that I accepted since the dude seemed like someone I could trust. This was my first taste of Dominicans being helpful to travelers in need/without a clue.
Arriving in the DR was a joy, a really quick exit from the plane, a brief stop to pay my entry fee, a quick pickup of my luggage and I was outside with maybe 15 minutes of landing. This sort of ruined my plans of a 1.5 hour wait in the airport, a 30 minute taxi ride and catching the first bus at 6am (the first bus was really at 9 or 930 am). With a $1000 in each of my socks and the rest of my money spread out all over me and my luggage we headed off to the bus depot. After several yells of “watcheee, watcheee, watchee” (watchman/security guard), my new friend found out that the bus depot didn’t open for another hour or so. We ended up passing time exchanging some money for me, trying to buy beer after hours and just chatting. Finally the watchee let me in the gates and my new friend gave him some money to make sure I was safe until the offices opened. I tried to pay my friend for the ride or even for the gas and with his Dominican pride he refused my offers. Without a doubt I will repay his kindness when I connect with him in Boston.
During the next few hours I sat outside as people began to pour in for the early morning buses from Santiago (STI) to the capital Santo Domingo. Almost everyone using the Metro bus were business professionals and as such they would greet every single person on the bench and every single person would greet them back. In no time I was getting good using the Spanish words for good morning, lol I must of said it 200 times that morning. Once the bus stationed opened I went to use the bathroom only to find out that they had no toilet seats=nasty. I walked 200 yards to the Caribe bus station only to find the same thing and that their bus station was a real dump. I finally accepted that I was going to have to clean the toilet bowl and sit on it since my hovering skills while taking a dump don’t exist. Long story short, I ended up taking the Caribe Tour bus since it left at 830am instead of the nicer Metro Bus Tour that left at 930 am.
The bus ride was pimping, nice nice seats like JetBlue, a bathroom in the back but air conditioning that would keep frozen meat frozen. Since I was forwarded about this I had on my Mexican pullover and my Rasta hat to keep my head warm. I drifted off to sleep after an hour only to be yelled at that I had to get off the bus. Since I took the Rosa Parks seat in the back, I noticed the entire bus was empty except for me. I had no clue what was going on but a long story short was we were changing buses and my luggage was already on the next bus. On the next bus you needed cold weather survival gear in order to prevent frost bite= it was very very cold! At one point the couple sitting across from me away from their kids ended up in a tight cuddle with their kids to prevent freezing to death. Fast forward a little and our bus arrived in Sousa and nobody knew where we were in relationship to the town and where we were staying. Adding to our confusion, God decided to pour down some rain…
So, I’m sitting on the side of the road with a large suitcase, a backpack full of camera gear and an over the shoulder laptop bag in the rain and I need to get get out of the rain. I offered a motor bike guy $100 Pesos for a ride to “Rocky’s” which he accepted with joy. Come to find out the ride should of been maybe 50 pesos but I didn’t give a fuc. While the ride was only 1/2 of a mile he had to stop a few times to ask directions. In case you are wondering how me and all my luggage fit on a small motorbike, my large suitcase rested on the handle bars and me and my stuff fit on the back.
Arriving at Rocky’s was a relief since I finally was able to call a place my home for 2 days. I talked to Rick the owner and since I couldn’t check in until 1pm (3 hours) I left all of my luggage in his lobby and gave him all of my cash except around $50 for walk around money. Walking to the beach I sort of laughed to myself that if he wanted to fuc my vacation he could with all of my luggage and all of my money. I knew better since Rick is a stand up guy on one of the forums I did some research on so I had no doubts that my money and luggage would be safe. I ended up exploring the off/on beach vendor areas that might of lasted maybe a mile long without any beggy beggy buy now sort of crap like in Jamaica. It was a really enjoyable walk with plenty of stops except the ocean was in a foul mood that prevented swimming. I found some “Jamaican” food place and greeting the owner in Patois I knew he was just playing the Jamaican part to sell his overpriced food.
Back at Rocky’s I ran into Mr Robert from the forums and he ended up giving me a tour of the town, took me to buy a sim card for my phone and to exchange more money. A simple tour turned into beers on the beach, a tour of a high priced bar with a menu….. um a menu for doing stuff with the dozens of women that had price tags on them. At another bar we met another guy from a forum who was leaving in a day but was smuggling back a mother load of dick pills that he bought for either 20 cents or 70 cents each in BULK. Oh the joys of a country where you can walk in a pharmacy without a prescription and walk out with all sorts of pills.