Massiah's Message ~ Hola from the Dominican Republic PDF Print
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Written by Monique Massiah   
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 20:52

This month I went for a stress-relieving vacation to the Dominican Republic. As we landed in the country I immediately loved it. Everything is so green and warm. I will try to describe the country and some of the funny facts about it that most people don't know.
First off, this made me giggle. Latin singer Julio Iglesias owns the international airport. You heard me, Enrique Iglesias' dad, the same man whose songs my parents tortured me with as a child, so much so that even today when you say his name I shudder a bit and recall his trademark trills. Yes, he owns the country's only international airport. Each time anyone enters the country by that airport they pay a small fee that goes into Mr. Iglesias' pocket. Now you might be wondering why a private person owns the main airport, well that's because I'm told almost the entire government is corrupt. From the cops for hire, who carry machine guns and shake down drivers for money (we actually saw that happening) to the last five education ministers who are all in jail for stealing funds.
Second, I know I should be realistic, but I swear everybody there is beautiful. Sure there are still extremely overweight people, old, young, sick and everything else, but each of those people I met and saw on the street was beautiful. Maybe this is just the foreigner in me thinking that everything new is beautiful, but I've lived in the Caribbean before. Most people on that island I met looked like a mix between Alex Rodriguez and Iman. I also felt like everyone in that country had this energy that got them moving in the morning. It seemed like they carried an energy-filled jacket that fueled them throughout the day. I mean, people were dancing merengue on the street and it wasn't set up.
But nothing is perfect anywhere, as I learned on our first night. The power went out after a huge lightning storm. On the other hand, the great thing about our resort was that there were hardly any North Americans, therefore hardly any English and a great way to practice Spanish. Most of the guests were from Russia and other Spanish-speaking countries. That first night I think I learned over 50 different swear words in Russian. Did you know that it's a 12-hour flight from Russia to the Dominican Republic? So I guess they had a good reason to be mad. I was amazed at the number of people that walked on the beach at night. Not only was the beach public and anybody could come up and rob or kidnap you, inexperienced swimmers can easily be swept into the ocean and not be recovered because it's pitch black at night. By the end of lunch on our last day I could have throttled the guys with the bongo drums announcing the meals. It seemed like they got louder as I tried to escape them.
One thing that amazed me about the hotel was that I only saw three bugs or creepy crawlers – one grasshopper on my balcony (I was surprised it could get that high), and a couple of sandflies. If you know me I have a great dislike of lizards. I think I was traumatized after spending time at my godmother's home in Barbados. She and her husband are environmentally-friendly people, so they didn't have screens on their windows. I would swelter in the extreme heat every night, and lay awake in my bed as I could hear the lizards’ feet drumming against the rooftop non-stop through the night. That seriously creeped me out. Most residents live in the hills as the tides are strong. They experience lots of hurricanes on that island and sea salt destroys homes built on the beach. Lizards also enjoy the hills.
The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Unlike that country which has been stricken by earthquakes, corruption and despair, the Dominican Republic has fared pretty well. Make no mistake it is still a very poor country, but it is one of the most prosperous of all in Latin America.
If you've never visited the Caribbean, maybe it's just me, but it seems like the air and amount of sun is just perfect. I spent many days sleeping on a lawn chair soaking in the sun and breathing in the sea air. It is still very dangerous for tourists because of the amount of crime and people can definitely tell where you are from because of your accent.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the Dominican so much was that I could be anonymous in a crowd. The country is a mix of different races speaking primarily Spanish. If you can speak Spanish or French there you're set. The country is primarily Spanish because it was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and named La Espanola for Spain. The country's constitution was modeled after the French and is still translated into French from Spanish. In 1821, after 300 years of Haitian, French and Spanish rule, the country became independent.
The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean country besides Cuba.  There are about 10 million people living there. Almost half of the country's population lives in the capital city of Santa Domingo.
Walking down the street briefly in Santa Domingo was strange. I've been to many large cities like London, Paris and Tokyo, but I've never felt more in danger than the day I spent in Santa Domingo. Our bilingual tour was only allowed off the tour bus in certain parts of the city and for short periods of time in the morning. We were told to remove any jewelery because pickpockets would likely tear them off us.
For the afternoon we walked for about four hours through the city seeing the historic sights. I will never forget being followed down the street by beggars trying to sell cheap jewelry.  I will also never forget as our tour guide was explaining the French history of the island to us outside a European Union office a French official stuck her head out of the window to tell him to be quiet. Sometimes people forget that they are only visitors in a foreign country. Man, it was very funny when our primarily French Canadian group gasped at her rudeness and someone yelled right back at her to shut her window if she didn't like the sounds. I admit it was kind of cheeky, but some people really forget that they're not at home.
At that moment I also could see why the Dominicans fought for their independence.

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