Let me give you the precursor that I had a blog post written and somehow lost it. So my patience and writing isn't as good as it was the first time....
SO- This weekend was my first trip out of the country, off the mainland. (I've been to Mexico and Canada, but pre-passport days.) I'll start at the beginning.
My boyfriend, owning his own company and having clients all over the country/world is continual getting more opportunities to visit them which was the cause of this trip. He invited me along to share the opportunity.
I've heard horror stories about going through customs, especially in foreign countries so I was quite nervous to experience it for my first time. Upon landing on the island it was a big blur from touching down to eating our first meal. Did you catch that? Customs was too easy, I didn't even realize I had gone through it. We filled out some paperwork, got our passports checked, and were out the door. I was for sure it would be an ordeal and I would stutter causing us to be detained for potentially hours. But it was no such thing.
We had been told we would have a chauffeur waiting for us and sure enough, he was waiting for our arrival. (I'll tell you more about the driver in a bit.) With the communication barrier, I not only got good at charades, but good at going with the flow. So, we stepped into a strangers car and were on our way. Assuming we were being taken to the hotel, it was a surprise when we were dropped off at a restaurant to meet with the people we were there to see. Let me rewind to say the culture shock we experienced within seconds of leaving the airport. Armed guards, loco traffic, goats y pollos on the side of the road, motorcycles with 2+ men. It was interesting.
When we got to the restaurant, James and I took a seat and both let out a sigh. I was just taking it all in. Appreciating el sol, the ocean, the warm breeze. It was paradise. The restaurant was basically on a dock that extended into the Caribbean Sea. It was like the movies, with white drapery flowing in the wind, blue water to each side, bamboo and palm trees, and drinks in coconut shells. We were introduced and talked for a while before deciding to freshen up after the day of traveling.
James and I were left alone for dinner as the host was inclined to let us enjoy our time together. Dinner was another struggle trying to communicate, but everyone was very nice and it could have been worse. For dinner we had, oysters (ostra), shrimp, calamari, chicken risotto and some interesting bruschetta. The bruschetta had roast beef, feta cheese, and banana along with some sort of chocolate dip. It was fantastic. (I'm not totally convinced that's what we ate by the way.) Even paying was a struggle trying to determine the peso to dollar conversion and appropriate tip. We managed and ended our date early as James needed to work the following day.
The next day James went to work with his clients (the reason we were there in the 1st place) so I was instructed to do whatever I wanted with the help of our driver, Gregory. So, he picked me up at the hotel and our adventure began. He took me to a restaurant where all I wanted to do was lay in the sun and have a mimosa. I set up camp and enjoyed the sun. Gregory sat behind me in the shade. I was served like a princess, having the local wait staff cater to my every need. After a couple hours in the sun, I got bored so went and talked to Greg. He is a 26 year old Dominican native so we talked about basic things and how different our lives are. I taught him some English, he taught me Spanish. It was interesting to compare cultural differences and talk about things we both understood. After that, I wanted a change in scenery so he took me to the local beach stopping along the way to get some papaya, mango, and something they called chinas (sweet orange).
We walked along the beach getting stares from locals who knew I wasn't local. As with anywhere, the people watching was fun. We had vendors trying to sell us everything under the sun including sugar cane, fruit, toys, gum, paintings, and fake tattoos. I was intrigued when I saw a fisherman. He sat down by us and started cutting up his days' catch which included; fresh oysters, fresh calamari, and OCTOPUS (or maybe squid, I couldn't understand via translation)! It was all delicious including the homemade salsa he served with it. It was very enjoyable. I gave him $20 to give me everything he had caught that day so Greg and I had our fill and saved some for James to enjoy as well.
On our way back to the hotel I learned that it was their Independence day from Spain. The streets were packed and traffic was even worse than usual. It made for a longer trip back to the hotel which caused a small panic for my boyfriend. (I didn't have service to send/receive texts/calls.) Sun burnt and smiling I got back safe.
We ended up having American food that night which I figured would be better for my stomach anyways. A few drinks at a local bar was all the night had in store and with that my short trip was coming to an end. I said adios sol and savored the last couple hours enjoying the vacation.
Customs coming back into America was interesting. I finally got to see what all the fuss was about from foreigners. It was much more comfortable being able to read and understand signs and people. I breezed through customs and security, making a few friends with the TSA agents bored of talking to people who couldn't understand them.
After a day of traveling I arrived home with a slap in the face from the cold weather.
All in all, it was a fantastic, relaxing, short vacation. I learned a lot in the few short days like;
-Radio in DR is unedited
-2 men on a motorcycle isn't considered gay
-MANY spanish words/phrases
-Whistling at a waiter is okay
-42 pesos is the current exchange rate to a dollar
-Converting Celsius to Fahrenheit and kilometers to miles
-Americans are thought of highly
and likely some more stuff I can't think of right now.
I look forward to traveling mas!