This was a trip with me and my lady, which served as an early anniversary (it'll be later this month) and a bit of a break for both of us. I'm burnt out by work and she had a week off before summer classes commence, that was this week. So this was a much needed trip out of the country for both of us. I'm only 25, so most of the afformentioned vacations above took place with family. That's cool, but traveling with my wife is an ENTIRELY different experience. She truly is my best friend, not in the mushy, metrosexual, "Let's eat ice cream together and help you deal with those cramps" kind of way. I mean in the sense that she's my road dog, through and through. We go into these trips with the same state of mind; Easy to please, make the most out of every experience, treat people well and live it to the fullest. And the same goals; Party, try great food, bond, RELAX, have some sweet sexy loving, knock back a few and have fluid conversation that we wouldn't have on American soil for whatever reason, and which will inevitably change our lives. Word.
So to give you the lay of the land, we stayed in Puerto Plata, which is less touristy than the city of Punta Cana, but still gets a good amount of visitors every year. Our resort was all-inclusive, meaning all the food, drinks, entertainment and pool, party and beach time have already been paid for. As soon as we step off the plane in the DR, the heat bares down and lets us know we're not in the states anymore. Hot and humid equals wonderful in my book, so I make a mental note to get plenty of Vitamin C via Senior Sunshine in the week we're here.
And the second we roll our bags out of the baggage claim area, we also learn where we're at; a country that's impoverished and relies heavily on the Canadians, Americans, Europeans and more well off Latin Americans that vacation here. We were greeted by about 50 people with signs offering taxi rides to the resort. I quickly shake hands with a guy that spotted me, told him where I needed to go and he directed us to our driver, an attractive, brown-skinned Dominican woman, maybe my age or a couple years older who obviously didn't speak English, hence the reason her partner was the mouthpiece leading us to her. I chat with the guy for a bit while he loads my bags and he assures me Puerto Plata is much better than Punta Cana (I told him I had been to Punta Cana on my last DR trip). Not shy, after he finished loading my bags he said "You have a tip for me my friend?" Not a problem, I slipped him a dollar, which was the equivalent of a little under 50 Dominican pesos.
After that we were off. We didn't make conversation with our cab driver, since as I said, she was either really quiet or not comfortable speaking English. Now during this 15-20 minute ride to the resort, we got to see the REAL DR, with a lot of people walking or riding scooters, some broken down houses and a whole lot of vendors selling items alongside the road. It wasn't Survivor, but the average American would have to give up a lot of comforts to live here.
Once we got to the resort, it was clear that resorts like these employ a lot of Dominicans. Those with the best English got jobs at the front desk or as waiters or entertainment. I had a moment early on that reinforced my desire to learn another language (I'm starting with French but plan to make Spanish my third). We had a guy handle our bags for us and help take them to our room, which was on the third floor. The guy who was helping us didn't seem to speak any English, and when he got our bags to the door he reached his hand out. Already used to being hit up for tips, I handed him a dollar. That would have been great, except he was asking for the room key...
Add this to the list of reasons I'm going hard with my language learning. I love to travel. And there's no reason I shouldn't be able to speak the language of the people when I travel to avoid these types of mixups. I don't know if the guy thought anything of it, but for all I know he could have taken it as an insult. I'm sure plenty of people come in throwing their dollars and treating the "help" like less than the dignified men and women that they are, and that's just not my style.
I'd go into detail about the trip, but on a day to day basis we more or less did the same thing. Wake up whenever we feel like it, go to breakfast (great omelettes), hit the pool or beach, go to lunch, hit the pool or beach, knock back some drinks and hang out til dinner time, eat dinner at one of the A La Carte restaurants, knock back more drinks, hit the nightly entertainment, etc.
On some of these days we'd kick it with fellow vacationers and compete in fun little relay games and pool/beach volleyball. On others we'd venture off the resort for a little to explore what it was like in the surrounding area.
As a whole, I came away with some key points on the trip that I thought I'd share to put things into perspective.
1) I love my wife. I talk about a lot of the differences between men and women on this blog, but those differences should be embraced for the simple fact that they attract us to each other. I'm a good man so I deserve a good woman, and I have that. We have our bumps in the road like any couple, but the more I want to branch out and improve my life the more I realize that it's only possible if you have someone like-minded to help inspire you to be better. I love to travel and experience new things, so if I was with someone that wanted to keep her world closed and stick with what she knows within the confines of her comfort zone, we'd have problems... BIG problems. It really makes life easier to have somebody that fits you.
2) I'm secure with myself and my relationship. And let me tell you, with this trip I HAD to be. On our second night, she was chosen to enter this competition called Ms. Puerto Plata 2011. It was all fun and games, but a less secure man may have had problems. During one of the portions, the contestants had to do a couple of playful, sensual, strut/dance moves to slow music and then tell their name and where they're from in their native language. Well, my wife happened to be wearing a dress that hugged her figure, and she's 98% hips and butt. So while the game was playful and her moves were PG, she got like a million whistles and catcalls. Oh, and she eventually won the competition, lol.
Also, she got hit on a lot throughout the week, both in Spanish and English, lol. Nothing vulgar or disrepectful, but a lot of Dominican "freshness" if you will. I can't count the number of times she'd come back after getting us a drink or a towel or whatever, and would have a story of how she had just gotten hit on. A lot of it I saw with my own eyes. I took comfort in not giving a !@$%@. I know that 20-year-old Samson would have ripped his shirt off and confronted the dude, or gotten the crazy/deranged face and asked her for the play-by-play on how she was flirted with and whether the dude knew I was with her or not. Please. I'm at a comfort level now both with myself and my relationship that I just laugh. And lord knows I get my share of looks and flirts, so who am I to go ballistic if she gets her share (as long as no lines are crossed of course). And besides, if my wife was looking sexy for a week with new outfits, a fresh hair-do and eyebrows arched and NOBODY hit on her or noticed, I'd probably feel a lot worse. Nobody wants to be with the chick that no one else finds attractive.
3) Travel is essential. I've been out of the country my fair share but haven't done nearly as much travel as I'd like. I really want to hit Europe and South America, and plan to do so very soon. I honestly feel that God put us here not to stay in our little box, but to branch out and experience everything that he created. Not to get too deep, but we were given dominion over this earth, so I feel that it's our duty to mingle and experience each other's cultures. We live in the age where travel is as easy as it's ever been, so really, what's stopping ANYONE from going to the post office, grabbing a passport and seeing what the world has to offer. I'm still entry level in my career, so I'm not making a fortune just yet, but if I can set aside money and make these kinds of trips happen anyone can. Travel is a big part of the reason I'm planning to start my own business. I feel like it's an important part of life and I shouldn't have to ask my boss for time off to do it.
4) Each country has its own set of race/class inequality problems. I know we often live in our American bubble and think that Black/White is the end all be all in global race issues. In the Dominican, everyone had African or Afro-Latin roots, so the dynamic was a bit different. You couldn't notice it on the resort, but when we ventured off the resort it was clear that even in an impoverished country, superiority complexes were prevalent that held another class back. Many of the beggars in the street had the more clear African features, and our tour guide pointed out that some were Hatian. He said it disgusts him how people in the country treat their own. Now that's not to say that the more Latin looking people weren't begging also, but I can't say that I saw anybody who was clearly Hatian or dark skinned running any of the shops.
5) The immersion of cultures is very interesting. I basically spent time in a country where the people spoke Spanish, had African and Spanish features, spoke English as a means to attain power, valued the American dollar, and performed heavily Latin influenced dance moves. It's amazing how different this country might look if those slave ships had veered somewhere else. My wife and I noticed how unique this blend of culture was when we saw a waitress that had the most beautiful dark skin that was black as oil and had the hips of a black woman, but was dressed in an outfit that for lack of a better comparison looked like a matador uniform. That all came down to where her ancestors ended up. Like I said, if that ship had veered a little to the North she'd probably look and act just like us, instead, she's assimilated with the culture that is dominant where she lives.
All in all it was a great trip. We had an excellent time and I think it helped our peace of mind, life experience and relationship in every way imaginable. I'm already looking forward to the next one.