Now I have to write a “favorites list” about the Dominican Republic that does not include La Sirena (the Dominican version of a Wal Mart Super Center).
Here are the top 5 things I loved about the Dominican Republic while working there as a summer student adventure / community service trip guide last summer for Rustic Pathways:
5. Baseball (surprisingly)
While at a day camp in Las Lagunas de Nisibon, I found myself playing baseball (the Dominican national sport, pride, and past time) for the first time since terrifying grade school PE classes. When it comes to baseball, I remember I generally would jump back away from the plate whenever the ball would approach, but in the DR, I actually made contact between bat and ball. My kids did great. The best part for me was being in awe of the setting of the gorgeous place where we were playing. It was surreal playing under palm trees.
4. Learning to dance.
DR is the home of bachata, and salsa is also immensely popular. On her program Latin Beats and Caribbean Sights, Brielle shared with us her undying love of salsa, dance in general, and Zumba. I had never danced before aside from ballet, tap, and jazz lessons in ridiculous costumes as a 4-year old, and I was wary. Brielle made it super duper fun and also instructed in a way that we all achieved small successes quickly and felt confident. Overall it was a confidence booster, and dancing with Brielle is really one of the experiences that will always stand out for me when I think back on my amazing summer working for Rustic Pathways. In an upcoming post I will speak more specifically to the salsa lessons at Rancho Baiguate and the particulars of the Latin Beats program which was different from my Life in the Bateyes program.
Unfortunately at this very moment I can’t find a picture of Brielle teaching us, though I know I have a bunch. Instead, here’s a picture of us about a month ago on San Francisco Bay. This clearly has nothing to do with her teaching the dance lessons, but at least you get to see the person I’m talking about.
Here is a picture of my notoriously gigantic head enjoying the beach at Playa Macao about 45 minutes north of Punta Cana. While in Punta Cana proper, I wasn’t particularly impressed by the beaches lining the resorts. The resort beaches were only okay. Punta Cana beaches didn’t smell great either, because a lot of seaweed was washing up. Playa Macao is truly gorgeous north up the coast, with mountain vistas, turquoise water, and really beautiful palm trees.
Typical of many beautiful places in the DR, it has a pollution / garbage problem, and there are organizations that set out to remedy this situation. In an upcoming post I will speak more about this matter and talk about an organization we got to know while there that concerns itself with what can be done for the DR’s waste problem / lack of sustainability.
Playa Sosua up on the northern coast by Puerto Plata (where Columbus landed) was particularly exquisite as well. I will write about this beach in the near future.
2. The food at Rancho Baiguate.
Kate, Brielle, and Kayley loved it as much as I did. Maybe they loved it even more. We would squeal whenever we would survey the buffet.
I’ve already shown other pictures of the food at the ranch earlier in a post raving about how cool Rancho Baiguate is.
Rancho Baiguate is a family-owned adventure / relaxation lodge in the mountain / rafting / adventure region of Jarabacoa. Every day they put out a fantastic lunch and dinner buffet. Rancho Baiguate was the place in DR where I had my best meals. In general however, I didn’t love Dominican food; I love really spicy Hispanic food and found food in the DR to not be very flavorful.
1. Dominican children.
The majority of my Service in the Bateyes program involved running summer camps for little kids in bateyes– poor sugar cane communities. Also, the majority of our service projects– painting murals at schools, paving a play-area for a school, digging and planting a garden at a school, etc, all served children. They were boisterous, lively, loud, giggly, playful, mischievious, and fun to be around. They are adorable, too.