Saturday, March 30, 2013
The Dominican Republic is a study in contrasts.
The airport is a work in progress; so not attractive. Flying in was no problem, however; all my fears regarding the trip in were unfounded. I got to there with my luggage intact, paid my $10 to enter and went on my merry way. Susan was there to meet me, as planned, and we ordered pizza for dinner - from a place run by the dad of one of her students. Sadly, the pizza wasn't all that good.
Thursday, I spent part of the morning at the Garden Kids International School, where Susan teaches first grade. She has 17 energetic kids, who remind me of the students I used to teach at Mead Hall - cute, personable, polite. And while so much reminded me of Mead Hall, the cost of this private school is $350 a month. Imagine. And the teachers are dedicated and go the second mile for their students. Susan has been there five years, and I am so impressed with her efforts at the school. I don't know that I would be brave enough to do what she's doing where she's doing it.
We met her friends for dinner on Tuesday. Also ex-patriots, they run a restaurant at a resort at Hideaway Beach. We sat on the beach and enjoyed the view and the food.
I helped with an Easter Egg Hunt on Friday. The kids behaved just like American students on the last day of school before a week's vacation.
When school was out, Susan and I headed to an all-inclusive resort called Riu Merengue. This place was gorgeous, and it has one advantage over a cruise. Not only is everything included - activities, food, more food, etc. - but if you are so inclined, they bring you slushy, sweet drinks (alcoholic or not, it's up to you) all day long. They come to you on the beach, in the lobby, poolside, you name it. The food was very good, although a few things didn't taste just like you'd expect. Beef is a bit weird, but breakfast was excellent. And the coffee was, of course, to die for. (Why don't American restaurants heat the cream?)
We shopped, of course. And while I'm not good at dickering for price, Susan has lived in the Dominican Republic long enough to know how much things sell for. She saved me a bundle. If I had been on my own, I would have paid way more.
We also went to Ocean World. There were shows including dolphins, sea lions, sharks, tropical birds and even two tigers who spent a great deal of time in the water. That seemed odd to me.
On our return from the all-inclusive, our ride detoured into Puerto Plata. Here we were riding along in a BMW, while most people get around on a moto concho - much like the motor scooters we saw in Italy. In addition, there are lots of cars that would likely be in a junk heap in the U.S. The streets are mostly dreadful, and in town, the buildings are in large measure in need of a facade improvement program.
Susan's condo is lovely, with all the amenities you'd want. She has satellite TV, so I could even watch HGTV. But just down the road is a slum.
The scenery moves from verdant and beautiful - Susan compares the beauty to Costa Rica - to sad and depressing.
I suppose there are places in the U.S. that compare, but between Tom's trip to Honduras and mine to the Dominican Republic, I have come away with untold lessons in appreciation. We in the U.S. have so much that we take for granted. We expect so much that so many Dominicans can only dream of - things most of them will never have.
So as we enter Holy Week, I am thanking God for all the blessings in my life. This Easter will be particularly joyous for me.