Monday, July 7, 2008

¡Feliz Día de Independencia!

I hope all you ‘Muricans had a good Fourth of July alla. We sure had a good one here in the DR! July 3rd was a little rough, though, with over 9 hours of travelling. First of all, about 2 hours to get from my site to the capital, where I reconvened with some other PCVs at the PC office. We all quickly checked our mail (where I hit the care package jackpot, thanks, everyone!) and picked up our free, outdated Newsweeks, then scurried over to get our guagua to Pedernales.

The majority of inter-city travel in the DR is pretty easy. There are several large bus companies which have nice buses, with big cushy seats and air conditioning, and these buses go almost everywhere. Regrettably, the southwest—one of the poorest areas of the DR, blessed with a proximity to the Haitian border, mountains, and poorly-maintained roads—is neglected by these large bus lines. The only way to get there is by small, van-like guaguas. These guaguas are not air conditioned and lack the cushy seats of their competitors.

These guaguas also make frequent stops, since they will pick up and drop off people anywhere along the route, unlike the more regulated larger buses. Thus, our alleged 6-hour trip to Pedernales ended up being over 7 sweltering hours, punctuated by inexplicably long stops.

But we did make it there eventually! We ate some greasy pizza (Dominican pizza is related to Dominican spaghetti, although it is generally far less terrible than the spaghetti) and did a little dancing at the local park before crashing in our hotel rooms.

The morning of the Fourth, we (around 70 volunteers and friends) headed out to the Bahía de los Aguilas crammed into the backs of two large trucks, followed by a short speedboat ride. (Shockingly, the boat captains gave us all lifejackets—this in a country where seatbelts and helmets are unheard-of. Of course, it’s also a country where few know how to swim, so I suppose that might account for it. Or perhaps they have just heard tell of the litigious nature of gringos.)

The beach itself was gorgeous, although I have to admit that I think Playa Esmeralda is a little bit more gorgeous. But this is like saying that Godiva chocolate is a little more delicious than Lindt chocolate—technically true, but that doesn’t mean they’re not both amazing. The water was amazingly clear and blue, the sand was soft and white, and we were the only people in sight. A few people had snorkelling gear that they passed around, and we found starfish and stingrays. (Nobody got stung.) Someone brought a Slip ‘n Slide and set it up on the beach. Many people bore bruises and scrapes as battle wounds from the Slip ‘n Slide, but no serious injuries.

Unfortunately, our plans for camping were scratched—the Bay is a national park and they had just closed it for camping because sea turtles were mating. Double-unfortunately, we didn’t see any sea turtles, which are most active at night. Probably just as well, since we’d been hearing rumors of a possible tropical storm and the wind was starting to really pick up by the afternoon, although the weather was perfect other than that.

Saturday morning we headed back to the capital. Luckily, this time we had a much more efficient guagua driver and made it back in the standard 6 hours. We spent the afternoon watching trashy television in the Peace Corps lounge followed by a trip to the S Bar for some delicious, delicious falafel.

Sunday, we returned to our sites. It’s nice to be back in my Dominican home, although I still long for out-of-site food. This week I’m supposed to start my technology day camp, but our inversor is broken so I’m not allowed to use the lab, and also no one showed up for the first day. I did hear from two parents that their kids would come tomorrow, but we’ll see about that. Oh well, maybe next summer.

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