Thursday, February 26, 2015

Paradise Found

Yep, paradise alright. Complete and total. And I must add that it wasn't hard to find. We have moved  on to the actual vacation part of our trip and a vacation it sure is. The house we rented was sight unseen, and could have been anything, but turned out to be an a perfect, incredible, heaven, and very cheap by our American standards. The rooms are palatial, as is the patio and pool area. I can't imagine ever leaving this amazing place, and I am beyond happy that we decided to stay for ten days of miserable New England winter. I find myself having visions of leaving my life behind and relocating to the tropics, which of course is very dreamy and romantic when one is vacationing in paradise, and probably a lot more work in real life.

People are always asking me why I spend so much of my life vacation planning, but here it is. I am right where I want to be, tanned and happy, with bachata playing on the stereo and a pina colada in the blender, and it didn't cost me and arm and a leg, or really more than a fraction of what most Americans pay to go to Disney World. (And I don't have to spend my days at a theme park wearing Mickey Mouse ears). I'm glad we spent so much time in the hot, dirty countryside at my mother-in-law's house enjoying the people and feeling crowded so that we could come here, spread out, and feel incredibly fortunate. Makes it even better than coming straight from home.

My mother-in-law, Erma, has been staying with us, and will do so until tomorrow, when some old and dear friends are coming from San Cristobal, the town I first loved here in the DR. Erma has done remarkably well here, considering she is so out of her element and, much like her son, doesn't particularly like to leave her house. She spends our beach days at my brother-in-law's house, claiming she is allergic to the ocean, and we pick her up on the way home so she can make a Dominican dinner as she likes to. Today we are all home by the pool, and thinking about some grilled chicken for lunch. I am not-so-secretly scheming about ways to make my life here, we'll see how that works out, I'll keep you all posted.

Grit, Hot Dogs, and Waterfalls in Pina Vieja

We have been in the Dominican Republic for five days now, in my mother-in-law's small village of Pina Vieja, where not only does everybody know your name, but everybody is also related to your husband. This part of our trip is a mixed bag of joy and headaches, as it always is. I have loved this country for a long time, it feels like home. It's gritty here, dirty and loud and completely third world, without a hint of tourism. Fortunately I have been coming here for as long as I've known Francisco, and so the people are jolly as Dominicans are, and happy to accept me as one of their own. I do wish we had a little house of our own here, as staying as a guest for this long wears on everyone, although my mother-in-law would never admit it.

We've had a few hilarious moments, like my mother waking up at 2 am to a cockroach crawling on her leg and screaming like she was on fire, and then again when she thought she felt the cockroach again, only to find out it was just the mosquito netting that canopies over our beds at night. Or the pudgy and somewhat dumb-witted girl that lives next door who is aptly named Juleisy (pronounced You Lazy) We are serenaded almost every night with the sounds of dogs fighting in the street outside our window, and blasts of music every now and again as a car rolls down the street. Trying to nap here is like trying to nap in a tent inside of Grand Central Station, just not a realistic plan.

I went dancing two nights ago with a friend who lives next door, and that was indeed a treat of epic proportions. Dancing the night away to the sounds of La Banda Gorda, something that only someone who came here with me in 1997 would appreciate. We left the disco in a rum soaked haze, ate a Dominican hot dog from a street vendor (read: hot dog buried underneath a delicious pile of cabbage and condiments), and then couldn't find anyone to take us home, poor planning at best. So we walked (or perhaps stumbled) the two or so miles home where I promptly puked up the hot dog (sorry for that bit, but that is what usually happens when I eat them, but they're soooo good) and felt into a coma until the rumble of the neighborhood woke me up. Totally worth the hideous hangover the next day. Totally.

Today we took a journey to the far off town of Jarabacoa, a mountainous region in what's known as the Dominican Alps. We had planned to visit one of the famous waterfalls, although it took us many turns to find the one that didn't involve us crossing a hanging footbridge to get to. When we finally found Salto Baiguate, a waterfall deep in the countryside, my mother-in-law (Erma) was completely horrified at the complete and total isolation of this place. I thought it was amazing. Peaceful, quiet, with a short walk down to the cascading falls. It did involve about 50 steep stairs, and I was pretty sure Erma was going to die of a heart attack or out of spite for us bringing her to such a place. We took some pictures, and then made the climb up and out of there, even more to her dismay. We couldn't swim at that spot unfortunately, so we had to head out to somewhere better. Our driver for the day, Lilo, took us to a river called Acapulco, which was great, but nothing like it's namesake. The kids swam in the cool deep river, which was sparkling clear and a lovely treat.

This is the part of our trip that I don't call a vacation, I call it an adventure. I love it, but it's not for everyone. I'm pretty happy to be in this chaotic third-world tropical place today and not buried under four feet of snow back home.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Preparing to Shovel on Out of Here

One week and two days!!!! That is how long before I hit the tropics once again. Nothing gets me through winter better than knowing I have a warm weather trip right around the corner, not even the two feet of snow outside my window and on top of my car can bring me down today.

It is no secret that I love to vacation. It is an addiction of the best kind, albeit pricey and sometimes unreasonable. I would spend most of my life on vacation if I could, but being as I am not independently wealthy I settle for a few times a year. This, I realize, is probably more than most, but we all have different priorities, and travel is what fulfills me unlike anything else.

Fortunately for me all of Francisco's family happens to live in the tropics, and none of them have the money or the visas to come and visit us up north, so we must go down there to visit them, and let our kids spend time with their abuela and get to know their heritage.

Next week I am taking the kids, and my mom, and we are going to the Dominican Republic for three long weeks, in the hopes that a longer stay will help grind in some of the Spanish that Francisco and I are terrible about teaching them at home. People are constantly judging us for our lack of Spanish at home with our kids, and I wish it weren't true, but we have not found a way to consistently speak Spanish to our children without complete and total uproar and rebellion. So for all of you who are constantly criticizing me for not raising bilingual kids, here you go. Three week immersion, of which I plan to spend the entire time speaking only Spanish. Learn or starve, the same way I did. Hopefully this will be the first of many trips like this one, to set in motion the seed that has been planted in their minds for years.

So hurry up and get here vacation! I don't want to shovel out my car one more time before the big day, but that seems like too much to ask from the weather gods, so I'll just pray for a sunny day on the 11th as we make our long trek south. See you all in March!