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.