Monday, December 29, 2008

travel itinerary

How to plan a Deluxe Dream Caribbean Vacation (Peace Corps style):

Dec 13: Reid arrives finally, at midnight, two hours late. We search for a food place that will still be open and find a gourmet 24-hour hot dog stand, then go back to our hotel, a classy establishment that runs $US30 a night for a room with 2 beds, a standing fan, and hot water (sometimes).

Dec 14: We begin harassing AA about Reid’s luggage. In the afternoon, we go to the Zona Colonial and visit the Artisan’s Fair and take a quick walking tour of some of the older buildings. We spend the evening eating sushi (after a painful 10-minute ordeal of plascing the order by phone) and playing Scrabble with some friends at the picnic table in front of the hotel. The night watchman brings us an extension cord so we can plug in my laptop to play music (and use the Scrabble Word Checker program I downloaded). You couldn’t get better service at the Hilton. (Or can you?? Maybe at the Hilton they have a fulltime employee who just walks around with an actual Scrabble dictionary.)

Dec 15: We continue seeking our luggage and talk about maybe visiting a museum, only to learn that everything is closed on Monday. We consider hiring a private cat burglar to help us break into one, but tnstead, we get lunch at the American Embassy cafeteria (super classy, plus you can get lunch for under $150 pesos) and relax in the posh Peace Corps volunteer lounge, which includes a couch, some chairs, cable TV, wireless Internet (sometimes), and air conditioning (sometimes).

Dec 16: We continue seeking our luggage and visit the Museo del Arte Moderno, which turns out to contain a whole lot of art. Plus, we get Italian food at a very nice restaurant that is on the upper echelons of affordability for Peace Corps volunteers (at around $300 pesos/$10US per plate).

Dec 17: We call our driver so we can make stupid pointless trip to the airport in search of luggage, finally receive the final suitcase, and return home by first-class air-conditioned bus to my charmingly rustic cottage, where I teach Reid how to get water from the cistern and bucket-flush a toilet. We set up his bed on the finest air mattress I own which turns out to still be leaking so we also set up the second-finest air mattress I own. (Which I guess is now the finest, since it doesn’t leak.)

Dec 18: I take Reid to visit a few families in my town, thus giving him an opportunity to sit on nicer furniture than my own plastic chairs. I also use my home entertainment center (aka laptop) to get him hooked on the TV show Heroes, while we have electricity, which is sometimes.

Dec 19: I take Reid to the school Christmas party where we partake in finely catered Dominican food and dance music. Later, we also continue watching Heroes.

Dec 20: We continue relaxing around my private all-inclusive compound (it includes all the limes you can pick off my tree, of which Reid, perhaps fearing scurvy, eats many) and finish up Heroes, only to begin Firefly.

Dec 21: We go whitewater rafting in Jarabacoa and get sick. We lay around my house, slavishly attended by our personal butler. (Okay, our personal butler is just me sucking it up and going to the colmado next door to buy Gatorade and saltine crackers.)

Dec 22: We spend the morning and afternoon still being sick, then muster up the strength to go to the Museo Folklorico in Santiago—it is so important to absorb culture when one travels, you know. We also visit La Sirena, a glamorous large all-purpose store where all the most important people buy their groceries and flip-flops, and buy some peanut butter. Plus we celebrate not throwing up anymore by visiting the 5-star Italian establishment Pizza Hut.

Dec 23: Another trip into Santiago, this time to the Centro Leon art museum. Centro Leon is seriously classly, possessing both elevators AND a working escalator. Plus they have really nice bathrooms, with toilet paper, soap, and paper towels. Also, their cafeteria has Portobello mushroom sandwiches. Truly a must-visit stop on any swank Caribbean vacation.

Dec 24: A quick trip to the capital to drop off stuff at PC office, then a guagua ride to Keane’s site, a scenic suburb… er… slum (slumburb?) of Santo Domingo, where we eat approximately seven thousand pounds of delicious Indian food and have a rad time celebrating the alleged birthday of Jesus in the traditional manner: through dance parties and board games.

Dec 25: Another fun-filled day at Casa de Keane, eating cold Indian leftovers and watching movies. There is brief talk of going hiking in the nearby mountains, but we are visited by torrential Caribbean rainshowers all day. We drink the red wine we bought in the capital, which was carefully-chosen by my wine butler for its desirable qualities of costing under $300 pesos and having a picture of a cat on the label.

Dec 26: We leave Keane’s and head for the capital, where we pretty much just eat pizza, do laundry at the PC office, and hang around the Pen, the hotel favored by PC volunteers due to its low price and proximity to the PC office. I mean… due to its award-winning customer service.

Dec 27: A trip to the Zona Colonial, including the Alcazar de Colon (the mansion built by Diego Columbus; it’s nearly as nice as the accommodations to which we’ve become accustomed) and the Amber Museum, plus some shopping. We also attempted to go see the movie El Dia La Tierra Se Detuvo (The Day the Earth Stood Still), only to discover—after already having bought tickets and sitting through a long, dialogue-free mountain-climbing scene—that it has been dubbed into Spanish. I hadn’t even thought to ask when we bought tickets, since seriously every movie here gets shown in English with subtitles, except for cartoons. Boooo.

Dec 28: We return to the Zona Colonial for some more brief souvenir shopping, then visit the Parque Mirador del Sur, which Lonely Planet bizarrely described as being “riddled with large limestone caves” including a huge cave containing a restaurant. We walked over 10 kilometers (I know, it has kilometer markings) and did not see any caves, nor did we find the Cave Restaurant (the Cavearaunt, as we took to calling it) despite asking various park employees/passersby, all of whom assured us the mysterious Cavearaunt was nearby. We ended up calling a taxi to take us to another restaurant, randomly chosen from Lonely Planet, which turned out to be closed. Then we got rice & beans & French fries from a stand on the Malecon, and it was awesome.

Dec 29: Breakfast at the Embassy, then a taxi out to the airport for Reid’s flight home (first-class, of course. Well, the one above steerage, anyway). I hop on my bus back north.

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