Because there’s always at least a little trouble in paradise
14.09.2014 35 °C
With any place, as stunning and seemingly perfect it may be, there is always a little thing or two that doesn't quite jive. Punta Cana, or more specifically Bavaro (I'm going to omit the accent as my keyboard just can't handle that right now), is no exception. As I am sure you are aware, the perks of living on a tropical island with awe-inspiring beaches and beautiful scenery far outweigh the minor grievances that pop up from time to time (or that are a little more persistent than one would like), but that doesn't mean we can't do a little lighthearted mumble-grumbling. So here they are: the twelve realities that I've discovered so far about the Dominican that kind of harsh my mellow every now and then.
1. Being a gringo/gringa (foreigner) is a great and terrible beauty.
It can be great because, hey, free stuff for the pretty white girls! (Although the words "pretty" and "white" in this context are apparently synonymous, and that description is therefore redundant.) The ladies here can have the town's locals (the male one at least) wrapped around their pinky finger in no time at all if they so choose.
But take for example the incident that I had happen to me today: sitting on the beach in all of my shining white glory, an adorable sun hat on my head to protect my precious scalp from burning, I suddenly had a local Dominicana throw herself onto the ground beside me to pose for a photo snapped by her friend just seconds later, then run away laughing uproariously. A Spanish-speaking friend of mine told me that they were laughing (and not in a nice way) at the gringa and her funny hat. Gracias, chica. Gracias.
That plus the fact that motor concho drivers and other service providers have a tendency to try to take advantage of the naive white folk and up their prices make it so that you've got to be on the lookout at all times.
So then I took a selfie with that girl's group of Dominicans behind me in all my Canadian passive aggression glory.
2. The Internet is the ficklest friend you've ever had.
It comes. It goes. It gives you limited access and causes you to perch precariously at the edge of your patio-But wait not too close to the edge because the signal only works in one little sweet spot aaaaaaaand it's gone. You can beg, plead, try to reason with your modem, sweet talk it and promise it all of life's riches if only it would just let you post that one little Instagram, but it's all in vain. At the end of the day you just have to cross your fingers and hope that the Internet god is smiling down upon you today.
3. Sometimes you might not get what you expected.
Such as that time when I dropped 80 pesos (a whopping $2.03, thank you very much) on a DVD rip of 22 Jump St from this dude at the side of the road who always has a stand with piles and piles of movies, popped it into the DVD player with a smile on my face and the promise of side-splitting hilarity to ensue... Only to be faced with an entirely different movie called Crook playing on the screen, with rough-looking mafia dudes playing the most intense drinking game I've ever seen (Russian Roulette with the gun pointed at your adversary's hand! If it doesn't shoot, take a shot! Fun for the whole family!) instead of the glorious Channing Tatum getting into shenanigans. My disappointment was only softened by the irony of the pirated movie being called Crook.
The DVD in question. No me gusta.
4. Sand. Is. Everywhere.
A day may come when the persistence of sand fails... Actually no, that day will not come. No amount of rinsing, wiping, scratching or swatting will remove those sneaky little grains from your skin, shoes, clothes, towel, hair, ear canal, fingernails, what have you... And your apartment will be in a constant state of needing to be swept forevermore. Such is life.
This is what my feet look like all day, every day.
5. Tropical thunderstorms are the most intense thing you have ever experienced.
We learned this the other day when we were all awoken at first not by the thunder or torrential rain, but by the incessant wailing and shrieking of alarms coming from outside. In my 2am-just-woke-up-what-is-happening state of mind, the first explanation I thought of for the crazy sirens was that it was police or ambulance vehicles, until I concluded that they were far too stationary. My next thought was, It's hurricane season. Is this some sort of evacuation alarm? Does that exist? If so, WHY DID NO ONE PREPARE ME FOR THIS? Then my alarmed brain also decided it would be good to ponder the fact that maybe we even had our own security system that I didn't know about, and someone was in our house. After all, doesn't crime go up during inclement weather? (Disclaimer: I have no idea if that is true. We're still thinking like 2am Krista here.) So I crept out of bed and tried to turn on the light - no power. Everything inside the apartment seemed quiet (in extreme contrast to the craziness going on outside) so I went out to the living room to watch the storm. Keep in mind that sirens are still ear-splittingly loud throughout all of this.
You know how there's always that one crash of thunder that is so loud that you feel it shake your core and it makes you stop in your tracks for a moment? Every roll of thunder was like that. The lightning was illuminating the entire courtyard so I could see all the way across the apartment complex with every flash. The crazy sirens coming from every which way ended up being car alarms that were being set off by the thunder! My two roommates came out and we sat together just taking in the extreme display of nature's power for the next half hour or so, until the storm had passed and went out to sea.
With the forecast for this week promising an entire week of thunderstorms, I can tell you that I'm just sooooo excited to go through that again. [/sarcasm]
Here's a 30-second snippet of what it was like. Even if you turn your speakers up to max, it obviously still won't do it justice!
The next day's continuing rain turned the road down to our apartment into quite the river, too. It was almost a foot deep in some spots!
6. Your self-control will be tested at all hours of the day, every day.
No amount of insect repellent will save you from the vicious mosquitoes here. They are unlike any other - tiny, nimble, daring, and relentless. All you can do is pray that one day they'll get used to your foreigner blood and not find you delectable anymore, but until that day, you'll be emptying a can of OFF! on a weekly basis. And when the insect repellent fails, you'll spend the next week and a half trying to talk yourself into not scratching the dozens of bug bites basically screaming for your attention. Even right now I'm actually in the process of dying just writing about it.
Just make the pain go awaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy.... :'(
7. Salsa does not come in bulk.
Can we get a Costco all up in here? Because with three of us girls who basically live on a diet of Tostitos, salsa, and rum and cokes, we literally go through a jar of salsa in 24 hours if the need strikes (which it always does). We thought we'd try to be economical and buy it in bulk, yet any of the grocery stores we tried only sold the little jars. At S-Trip! we get a budget of around $40 a month to put towards our "health, fitness, lifestyle, or well-being." I'm thinking I'll skip the gym and see if having an endless supply of nachos is the kind of "well-being" that they'll accept...
This is what happened literally less than one day after being bought.
8. There's time, and then there's Dominican Time.
Our boss keeps reminding us that "this isn't Canada anymore!" whenever there is an issue that needs to be resolved. Internet in the apartments not working? It'll be resolved this week, or maybe next week, or perhaps the week after that... Ordered a coffee para llevar (to go) from the little creperie downstairs on your five minute break? Yeah, you'll get that in 20 minutes, hun. Your Dominican friends say they'll be over "soon"? Don't bother waiting up - they're going on their own schedule! While I have yet to come up with an exact equation to determine how many Regular Minutes (RM) go into one Dominican Minute (DM), I've got a sneaking suspicion that DM=[RM(3)]² is the most likely bet. Will update. In the meantime, chips and salsa are a great way to pass the time waiting.
9. Rampant sexism is a daily occurrence.
As a girl, it is impossible to walk anywhere in this city without being catcalled or leered at. Men driving by on motor conchos will literally keep staring at you over their shoulder after they've driven past you, to the point where you hope that they'll crash into a wall and learn their lesson on how to watch the road instead of objectifying women. They'll make kissing noises at you as you walk by, yell out that you're bonita, try to block your way when you're going past them, ask to take your picture, and the list goes on.
On the other hand, though, Ladies Night is an ongoing tradition of literally giving girls free drinks until 11pm on Thursday nights. Still sexist, of course (is there a Men's Night? Clearly not.), but at this point I'll take it as their way of making up for a whole week of being crazy annoying.
10. The humidity will cause you to question your life choices that led up to coming here.
Disclaimer: The heat is wonderful. I am so happy to be here rather than experiencing the Canadian winter.
But oh my God, the humidity. We're talking 30 °C, but feels like 45° with the 80-100% humidity in the air. That's right - 100% humidity somehow exists, and it's defined as: "A reading of 100 percent relative humidity means that the air is totally saturated with water vapor and cannot hold any more, creating the possibility of rain." I've felt humidity in Canada, and it's rough. But it doesn't even compare to the feeling of being able to swim through the air here!
The positive: needing moisturizer is a thing of the past! My chronic dry skin has been cured!
The negative: looking like a frizzy-haired ball of sweat at any given moment, no matter how much powder and product you use, is a fact of life.
11. Electricity is expeeeensive.
With temperatures soaring and the aforementioned humidity plaguing you with every breath, nothing feels better than blasting your AC upon getting home. But hold your horses, rodeo. While a quick Google search shows that the price of electricity per kilowatt hour in Ontario is currently sitting at 7.5, 11.2, and 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour for off-peak, mid-peak and peak hours respectively, one kilowatt hour costs us 14.8 Dominican pesos - that converts to roughly 38 cents. And that's not peak hours - that's all the time. S-Trip! had to curb the electricity usage of its staff apartments because bills were crazy high, and even now with a limit of 11 000 pesos (~$280) for our apartment, we have to be super careful with our usage or else it'll be coming out of our paycheck. That means that the beloved air conditioners (there's one in every room that is remote-controlled! How fun is that?!) must remain silent for most of the day, and only get turned on for an hour or so before bed.
At least there's a pool and a beautiful beach that we can go to in order to cool down! But waking up in a pool of sweat each morning is getting a bit old.
12. The sunburn struggle is real.
SPF 50, all day erry day (and yes, I reapplied). And yet...
The picture actually does make it look a little more red than it actually is, but aloe is currently my BFFL for the next week or so. Alas, this is what happens when you fall asleep on the beach for 2 hours at 8am after a crazy night of dancing...
¡Es todo por ahora! That's all for now!
¡Hasta la vista (...baby)!