Sunday, January 22, 2006

D. R. Journal - Day One

After anticipating my trip to the Dominican Republic for approximately three months, I am finally on Dominican soil.

Running around at the last minute to buy items; scuba suit, beach shoes, and assorted knick-knacks. I began at West 4th under heavy clouds. Window-shopping was never one of my strong suits; I could not locate anything that captivated me long enough to buy.

Walking uptown, as I stopped into Disc-o-Rama’s West 4th location, they are still out of Rendezvous by Cassandra Wilson. As I continued farther, I stopped into the Union Square location of Disc-o-Rama; they too were sold out of Rendezvous.

Walking into Paragon Sports with no great hopes or expectations, I tried to find nylon running jackets. They were all too expensive and or not the color I wanted. Back downstairs, I ventured over to the men’s swimsuits where I was approached by a rather jovial Latin female salesperson. She offered up wit, sass and a helpful hand. We picked out several suits, and when all was said and done, I opted for a green Speedo bikini.

Now, all I then needed was a scuba suit to complete the vacation wardrobe. Going upstairs to the underwater equipment I was confronted with the exorbitant prices and constricting design of the Body Glove line of scuba suits. Going round and round, I saw on the wall display pool shoes. I tried on two different styles and colors, and opted for a pair of blue Speedo beach shoes.

As I was trying on the shoes, several swim tops caught my eye. Heading to the dressing room, I tried on three O’Neil ultraviolet tops, with the help of the attractive Latin female salesperson. I purchased a blue and a green swim top.

Running home to begin packing, I then decided to wash the half-full Army bag of dirty clothes. Long before this time; 7:15 p.m., it had begun to rain. Rushing to the laundromat to place the clothes in the washing machine, and shortly thereafter to go to Petland to buy cat food and vitamins for Clancy and Maxie.
Back home, and finally beginning to pack, Rich called to tell me what time he’d picked me up. I spent the night at Rich’s house prior to the flight.

I didn’t really sleep at Rich’s. It’s always a strange to sleep in a different bed, not your own. Not knowing what to expect on the trip ahead of me, I listened to a variety of CD’s. Up until the last minute, and on into the next morning Rosa, Rich, and Samuel were packing.

The cab ride to the airport was a bumpy one, the driver was Dominican, the music was loud, and the conversation was loud and incoherent. The cab ride seems to have set the tone for different aspects of the trip.

Standing in line at Newark Int’l Airport, we were advised of the new rules regarding carry-on luggage. For luggage that doesn’t fall under the new bylines, there is a cost per pound over the allotted weight.

The trip to the Dominican Republic falls under Semana Santa, leading up to Good Friday and Easter. I take it a number of people are traveling to DR to celebrate with their families and friends.

The flight had a few moments of turbulence, crying and irritable toddlers, and harried flight attendants. We landed safely without incidence at Las Americas International Airport in the capital city of Santo Domingo.

Once inside the airport [small by US standards], I had to pay a ten dollar fee for a Tourist Pass. Thinking back to the flight, Samuel met an attractive caramel-skinned Dominicana, who fortunately had an empty seat next to her during the journey. He was in his glory, flirting left and right. I can only imagine what he may have promised her. Walking through the airport, towards the exit we were ushered by the customs checkpoint because the official knew the Pujols.
Outside of the airport, we waited briefly as the family members arrived to take us to the family home. I was immediately covered in the tremendous heat and humidity in Santo Domingo. The pick-up area was cluttered with people arriving, it was loud, busy, and it appeared that it would be easy to get lost in the confusion of this foreign land. We stood on the curb for what seemed to be a long time before we actually boarded the vehicles to depart.

Making our way to the parking lot, I knew everything would be different from that point forward. The Jeep overheated, which lead me to believe that it would be a while before we left. This wasn’t the case. Shortly thereafter we were en route, or so I thought. We drove no farther than a few kilometers before pulling over to the side of the road and they began drinking Presidente beer, acting as if they were in a college fraternity [ pouring beer over each other’s heads], and your basic Latino machismo.

Driving down the main road leading away from the airport, on the left there was the sea, on the right businesses and homes. We drove for hours in circles, one of the brother’s wives had to return a work-related document, locating the agency consumed the better half of the day. At intermittent points during this excursion, I fell asleep in the backseat of the Jeep, sweating profusely even though the air-conditioner was operating.

After running the necessary errands [why on the day of our arrival, who knows], we stopped to have something to eat, and they drank more beer. The food was good, the atmosphere festive, and the conversation loud. The meal was complete and we were once again on the road. Hours later, and I do mean hours later we finally reached our destination in Azua, a town approximately an hour and a half outside of the capital. What made it seem such an ordeal was the constant stopping to buy beer, to urinate on the side of the road, and the way in which Timo drove [like a racecar driver]?

Arriving at the Pujols residence is a bit cloudy now, after the fact as I look back on my trip to the Dominican Republic. I remember being introduced to the remaining family members, Soccoro and Arturo, Rosa’s parents. I remember going out onto the patio and looking about, surveying what would be my temporary residence for twelve days. I remember being told which room I would sleep. I may have even looked around the room in search of a mosquito net. I was just glad to be stationary, and able to go off on my own to settle down from my arrival with its many twists and turns.

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