Dominican Republic: Final Round-Up

Whew! Now that I’ve finally finished posting all the Dominican blogs, here are a few final links and miscellaneous tidbits.

Here’s my entire Flickr set from the trip, which includes many photos ne’er before seen here on the blog.

Would you like to know where exactly all those long bus trips carried me? I made a basic map of the distances we traveled:

The total distance between the rightmost and leftmost points is about 160 miles. (Click on map to see it larger.)

The total distance between the rightmost and leftmost points is about 160 miles.
(Click on map to see it larger.)

If you’d like to go through and read the posts in some kind of order:

If you just want highlights, here are two of my favorite days of the trip:

And one final comment, which didn’t fit in anywhere in the blogs, but which is very useful nonetheless: there is one marvelous bit of Dominican slang that has fully insinuated itself into my Spanish repertoire. This useful word is un chin, pronounced /tʃin/ (rhymes with “sheen”). This means “a bit /a small amount,” and is synonymous with the more common Spanish un poco. You can also say un chin chin, to mean “a teeny tiny bit.” Wikipedia tells me that the word may have been borrowed from an African language, although it does not specify which or when. A fine and handsome word.

¡Gracias por tu tiempo, y espero que te alegrara el día un chin!

January 25, 2014: Nos Vemos, República Dominicana

My very last morning… I’m sad to leave, but it will be good to be home. Elana and I woke a little early, packed up all our things, and then headed downstairs to the hotel’s kitchen to see if they had breakfast. They put together a nice plate of mangú (mashed green plantains) and fried egg for each of us; we ate, drank several cups of coffee, and talked.

After breakfast, we wandered out into the streets of Santiago for a brief walk. The sky was beautifully cloudy, a light sprinkling of misty rain had just begun, but the air was pleasant and warm, as always. (The Spanish word for a light mist is neblina, in case you were wondering.) We poked through a few food stalls in a plaza, and glanced at a shop, but really, we were just out for the sake of being out, for the sake of getting a little more city time in before my departure.

At 11:30am, Rubén’s cousin (the same one who had rescued me from the airport after my arrival) came to pick us up in his taxi. Continue reading

January 24, 2014: Rum Oxen & Stormy Skies

Today was my final full day in the Dominican Republic—such a strange thought! Elana and I agreed both that it feels like I’ve been here for months, and that it feels like all of those “months” passed by in the blink of an eye. We woke a little early so that we’d have time to pack and go out for breakfast before our hotel checkout time. The main street was all clean and puddle-lined; last night’s rainstorm had continued well into morning, unlike most of the rain I’ve seen here. We ate at a little café, where the breakfast plato del día included perfectly ripe papaya and delicious café con leche.

When we had previously had breakfast at the café adjoining our hotel, two days ago, the proprietress had told us that she’d been working on a gluten-free brownie recipe. On the way back from today’s breakfast, we popped by, and she had indeed created black-bean brownies! She gave us one for free, since she recognized us; it was so mild and perfectly-textured that we bought several more for the road.

Our plan for the day was to bus to Santiago before dark; we had left everything else open-ended so that we could explore a bit more before leaving the coast. Continue reading

January 23, 2014: A Raft in the Mountains

Elana and I stumbled out of bed at 5:40am, and were waiting at the curb in front of our lodging by 6:00am. Today, we had booked a whitewater river rafting adventure tour on the Río Yaque del Norte, up in the Central Range mountains. After our tour van collected us, we attempted to snooze a little more, while the van collected a few other people for the rafting. The sun sidled into the sky, in shades of pink, and I realized that this was the first proper Dominican sunrise I’d seen.

The total travel time to our rafting site was about 2.5 hours. During that time, I slowly ventured into full consciousness, read a bit of my book, then watched out the window as we passed back through Santiago and as the low tropical forest trees began to be interspersed with pines and other mountain-esque trees.

When we arrived at the rancho that hosts the rafting, we were delighted to discover that they were feeding us breakfast, including endless coffee. Continue reading

January 22, 2014: The Museum of Amber

Given our long day yesterday, we opted for a relaxed, slow-paced morning around our cozy hotel. We had brunch at a sunlit café that adjoined the hotel, and were delighted to discover that they offered bottomless coffee (“café sin fondo“). Our coffee-addictions rejoiced.

This country, overall, has been a very easy place to eat gluten-free, since the diet is largely meat and rice (this is actually one of the reasons why the Peace Corps placed Elana here, since she’s gluten-free too). A full 1.5 weeks in, I had my first GF issue: I asked if a menu item came with corn tortillas and was told it did, but it arrived (looking heartbreakingly delicious) wrapped in a big flour tortilla. Alas. They were very kind and apologetic, but since the café was a slow-food sort of place, this added an extra dollop of slowness into our day, while the second, genuinely-GF meal was cooked. Still, 1.5 weeks without a problem is a fantastic record.

Over breakfast, we decided that we would expedition to Puerto Plata, a city along the coast to the west of us. Continue reading

January 21, 2014: Leaping from Waterfalls

Adiós a Clavellina! We woke earlyish, and after a quick coffee and breakfast, we gathered our things and said farewell to Elana’s casita. We walked to the road that leads out of town to seek a bola (free ride)—and after ten minutes’ wait, we lucked out! A pickup truck drove by, with one of Elana’s friends in the passenger seat, and since they too were heading to Dajabón, we were both able to get a bola with them.

Clavellina farewell committee.

Clavellina farewell committee.

We climbed into the bed of the truck and cozied in, perching on the side of the truckbed and tucking our feet and bags in amongst a bunch of large, silver jugs full of fresh milk. Continue reading

January 20, 2014: The Great Binational Market

I really might have to invest in a stylish mosquito net and a tropical climate: once again, with the help of both of these, I slept soundly and deeply (which is usually not my forte). Elana and I sat on the side porch to take breakfast (cassava bread again, this time with peanut butter and honey, plus coffee), and watched the neighborhood fowl scurry about for cassava crumbs. There’s a breed of chicken here that are the most lovably ugly creatures: they all have bald necks and vulture-like heads, and often have a club foot. Several of these handsome devils showed up with their equally bald-necked chicks, and competed for crumbs with the awkward dandy roosters and wobble-faced guinea.

After breakfast, we walked to the main(ish) street of Clavellina to catch a bola into Dajabón. Continue reading

January 19, 2014: Life in the Countryside

The roosters in this village don’t know how to rooster, at least not in the traditional, pastoral cock-crows-at-dawn sense. They crowed to themselves for half the night and most of the morning. Nonetheless, I slept soundly and contentedly. When I arose—or rather, stumbled ungracefully out from under the edge of the mosquito net—Elana was making coffee, and two young neighbor children were hanging around keeping her company.

Vigilant rooster, sleepy cat.

Vigilant rooster, sleepy cat.

(Elana says it is normal practice for people to leave their doors and windows open when they are home and available, which signals to other people in their community, especially children, that they may drop in freely.
Continue reading

January 18, 2014: I Want You to Music

Adiós a Las Galeras. I awoke extra-early to take one final hot shower, since we will have nothing but cool-water bucket bathing for the next few days. After breakfast, Elana and I hugged Sarah (the Chalet proprietress) goodbye—we’d had a lot of fun talking to her during our time here. Then, loaded up with all our bags, we walked down the red dirt road once more.

There was a Rottweiler who lived on a gated property along this path. Previously, he had leaped at the gate and snarled aggressively whenever we passed, consistently startling the heck out of us. But today, he just barked halfheartedly, then gazed at us as we departed.

We had excellent bus timing all day. We were able to catch a guagua (bus) to Samaná within minutes of arriving at the main road in Las Galeras. Continue reading

January 17, 2014: El Salto del Limón

Today was our final full day in Las Galeras, and we used it well. The moment we stepped onto the patio for breakfast, we ran into two enormous, glorious dogs, and were happily waylaid by doggie affection for a few minutes.

They are, in fact, taller than I am.

They are, in fact, taller than I am.

After breakfast, we climbed into a private car (which the Chalet proprietress had arranged for us) to head to El Salto del Limón. Continue reading