Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bring on the DR

In January, I got an email from Dana declaring she needed a vacation as winter in NYC was driving her nuts. We scored this packaged deal for an all-inclusive resort in the remote Samana Province part of the Dominican Republic. The low low price for the flights, hotel, food, and booze should have tipped us off that the vacation would leave something to be desired. Although, I returned with a suitcase full of stories, so lets begin…

I’ve never been to the DR, and the only story I know about it involves a menagerie of NYC teachers, a called off wedding, and some seriously hilarious revenge facebooking…but that is another story for another time.

On the flight from Chicago to the DR, I sat next to an overly obese man. At first, he was sitting in my window seat, so I asked him to move to the aisle (the row was only two seats, a window and an aisle). I thought I was doing him a favor because he could then spillover into the aisle instead of cramming his girth next to the bulkhead. Well, he seemed offended when I insisted on putting the arm rest down between us because I wanted a barrier to preserve my space. I knew it was going to be an uncomfortable flight when he asked for the seatbelt extender and at its greatest extents did it fit.

In the layover in Atlanta, I was amused by a kid eating at Arby’s with a McDonalds T-shirt.

Another failure in fashion at the airport.

The next hiccup happened after I landed. Dana’s flight from New York landed two hours before mine, so she agreed to wait at the transport company for me. Well I rushed out from customs and ran right past her at the transport company kiosk. The terrible thing is that they didn’t have any chairs at the kiosk, so she sat on the hard airport floor for two hours reading a book. She didn’t see me either, so I am now out of security looking for her or a sign with my name on it. After searching high and low for her, the name sign, and the transport company kiosk, I finally started to ask for help. Being the ignorant American, I hoped upon hope the information desk would speak English. Wrong. Through some hand gestures (explanatory, not rude) and writing (she would read English, just not speak/hear it) I got across I was looking for my friend who has already landed. Some scary men were trying to be helpful and tried to pull me into the parking lot. I am sure they were actually pulling me to the right van, but I was having nothing of it. About an hour later, the information lady found me and said my friend was in customs. She probably heard there was a young American girl sitting on the floor by the transport kiosks (just outside customs) and figured “hey that is silly…I bet she is with that other silly American girl who is wandering around the airport”.

Of course it was a comedy of errors. First, I ran past them and exited the secured area. Second, my flight landed 30 minutes early, so the sign guy wasn’t expecting me and didn’t stand out in the arrivals area. Lastly, I don’t speak a word of Spanish (thank you for nothing Senora Tolman).

Moving on, I’ve already mentioned the 3 hour 45 minute drive to the resort in my encounter with duty free shopping and TSA. Yes the roller coaster ride with massive pot hole, no marked lanes, and endless horn honking (even at pedestrians who were walking in traffic).

It became apparent our first day why the trip was so cheap. The resort was situated on the very tip of a peninsula, jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. The forecast every day was cloudy, windy, and cool resulting in super choppy water and uncomfortable beach front lounging. The one picture I have of me laying out, I’ve used my sarong as a blanket to keep warm. The days were raked with rain and maybe 5 minutes of sunshine each morning. The beach put up red flags during our entire stay which canceled all water activities like kayaking and snorkeling.

During one of the more prolonged rain showers, I stayed in to take a nap. Dana went out for a jog and didn’t come back for two hours. When she came back, both her palms and knees were bleeding. She took a route along the cliff and slipped on the slick coral rocks. We joked about her chewing gum and walking at the same time. No serious damage but one knee was a three band-aide scrape.

Since running was too extreme, I found other ways to exercise. The “water aerobics” consisted of five minutes of hopping around in the water and then twenty minutes of shoulder massages. No wonder everyone was fat. I swam a couple of “laps” in the ocean but stopped after a few because of the zero visibility and fear of large predators.

The evening entertainment was musical shows the staff performed. Night one was a Celtic review that started with some of the worst lip-syncing I have ever seen. The main character looked like a transvestite, and the dancing was so cringe inducing we left after 10 minutes (and even that was too long).

In lieu of watching the evening shows, we tuned into the in room TV. All but two of the stations were in Spanish. One was E! Entertainment and the other was NBC from Casper Wyoming. We actually tuned into Casper Wyoming a lot more than E! because frankly there is only so much E! you can take. Due to the time difference, we were always catching their 6 o’clock news. Sometimes the goings on in Wyoming were the highlight of the day.

Being at an all-inclusive resort has its perks such as all the free booze you could drink. Too bad the bartenders didn’t know how to pour drinks. Every drink contained rum…every drink. You order a drink, and the first bottle they would grab is rum. I ordered a screwdriver which contained rum and tang mix drink. Dana got a strawberry daiquiri which was rum, sprite, and grenadine. Dana remarked once “this margarita tastes more rummy than usual.” They must have watered down the booze because the drinks were weak. Even though the entire resort smelled like pot, we never got into the party spirit although a group of mid 40 bachelorettes were intoxicated screaming up a storm (we’re going to party tonight…who hoooo!).

With the lack of immediate activities, we attempted to off resort twice. The first time was a 5 minute walk to town which was super short lived. We were warned by other tourists that a family of four were mugged the day before (dad beat up, wife and kids okay but traumatized). We lost our nerve quickly, but not before taking pictures of the strange signs.

The second time was towards the cliff Dana fell on while running. The scenery was gorgeous, but after about 15 minutes of walking in palm fields, it started to feel like deliverance. Plus the trail petered off into two jungle covered semi-tracks. I interrupted two staff member’s special moment in the bushes and a little later passed a sign/question? I guess it could be considered a massage (question mark).

The ride back and tense battle with the airport is documented in this story. Maybe I’ll leave the DR for the club med doctors…and the midlife crisis bachelorette parties.

Safety standards in the case of fire

The wildlife. Cranes, turtles and wild horses oh my.