Caves of Cabarete – July 1

Caves are so super cool. Bats, no bats, butlers, no butlers. While I’d choose a cave tricked out with a bat suit plus butler plus hot car when given the choice, when not given the choice, I’ll take any old cave, every time. I signed up to tour the Caves of Cabarete through these guys, but when I showed up the tour guide was still in bed. Turned out I was the only person who’d signed up for the tour. This was fine by me because it meant I could pick and choose what we saw and pick up the pace (I chose to speed through the parts where he showed me a “real Dominican village” – took me right through some guy’s house, which made me feel far more like a oblivious, dehumanizing, American tourist than I usually do.) so I could make it back to Sosua to catch our bus back to Santo Domingo. It also was fine by my tour guide because it meant he could say creepy  things and touch my face without any awkward interference. Everyone’s a winner!

The caves, though, the caves! The caveswere so incredibly awesome. He didn’t have a flash light, only candles (which he stopped and bought on our way there). I had my head lamp, though, which I was happy about. So, he swam across the cave and lit candles all about so it was well lit. Then we jumped in and swam. You can’t see it in the picture, but there were little tiny off-shoot caves that he couldn’t fit into but I crawled in (after he told me he was pretty, pretty sure there were no squids or other death monsters in them). This pool was so deep, too.

We then went to another cave where there were bats circling all about. I am sort of frightened by bats because they’re the number one cause of rabies in Utah, but I faced my fear and also lived my Batman fantasy. This was a lifetime high point. Unfortunately, my phone camera isn’t fancy enough to take very high quality cave pictures. But please enjoy the best I could do.

Sosua, scuba diving, barefoot beach running, beach lounging, and general luxury – June 28-July 1

If you’re ever in the Dominican, I’d suggest you spend some time in Sosua. It’s super duper touristy, i.e., nice. In the Dominican beach towns, there are tons of Europeans who decided they wanted to live the high life and moved here to start hotels, recreation shops, and restaurants. I ate some really delicious stew my first night in Sosua, thanks to a very nice German fellow. The beaches here were just lovely, so I took several low-quality photos of them with my phone.

These first two photos are of the beach where I relaxed and read the first day we were there.

The next photos are of the beach where I read that same night, watched the sunset and then went barefoot running and then lounged about reading the next morning. Oh, we also ate ice cream and went on a very peaceful moonlight walk on this beach.

Also, a little ways up on this same beach, I went scuba diving with these guys, which was very cool. Except that the sand on the way down the beach was blazing hot to the point that I thought I was going to blister. Marie’s feet were even sore from it hours later (mine were not, which I was both surprised and happy about). ALSO, this beach had some really steep, multi-flight, cement stairs you had to go down to get to it, and they were under construction, i.e., a death trap. There were no railings, only 25 ft drop offs to your doom. Luckily, we all lived.

I didn't take any scuba diving pictures, but if I had they'd probably look something like this.

Also Sosua was a refuge for Jews during the Holocaust. They had a very cool museum about it that was unfortunately closed when we tried to go to it. But I was happy to know it existed. Here’s it’s website, if you’re curious.

Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) – May 30-June 24

While I was in the Dominican Republic, I also did some work. Basically, we went house to house asking people if they, or anyone they lived with, had diarrhea or skin diseases. While Lucy (the hispanohablante) asked them stuff, Marie and I took notes about their living conditions. We also played with their kids. What follows is a bunch of pictures of our work and times with BRA. They are neither ordered chronologically or by importance. Enjoy!

Oh! Also, I don’t have a picture of her, but I have to tell you about this other really funny little girl. She told us all kinds of crazy stories, and told us (in front of her mom) how very upset she was that her dad is really ugly. I wish I had a video of her because she was amazing, but I don’t, so I hope you’ll believe me minus evidence.

The Simpsons – Every night while in the Dominican

Homer Simpson, ladies and gentlemen, as seen on main street, Monte Plata.

When I was a kid, my mom would make us watch The Simpsons every Sunday night because she hated our alternative Sabbath tradition (full-family wrestling). We would have watched it voluntarily if she hadn’t found it offensive viewing for the Sabbath. We did watch reruns every weekday, though, right before Seinfeld. Anyway, I hadn’t watched it since high school, at least, until I went to the Dominican Republic, where it played for hours every night on their English HBO. I’m happy to say that it’s still really good. As is Futurama.

Other things I watched which were less good included Kristen Stewart and Corbin Bleu’s debut performance in Catch that Kid, the Robert De Niro and Drew Barrymore downer Everyone’s Fine, the final half of 27 Dresses (which maybe is good if you see the beginning, hard to tell), edited There’s Something About Mary from my roommate’s iPod on the couch at sex hotel, the first half of edited The Ugly Truth, or probably any other partial movie, for that matter.

I was really excited when my Christian classic, Fireproof, came on (I told you that’s how I roll), though. The show House is good, too.

Jarabacoa – June 10-12

Jarabacoa is a gorgeous mountain town that’s pretty touristy. I had some firsts here: first time I got hit in a face by an oar while rafting, first time I learned about the importance of audience when making chronic disease jokes, first time I ate groundhog, first time I saw a waterfall featured in the movie Jurassic Park. It was a big weekend for me.

Beautiful valley where the former Dominicanpresident has a house.

Our guide said when water wasn't being used for electricity, all this rock would be covered in water.

We did some rafting, and that was lovely. A kid hit me in the face with his oar, and I bled a lot, even though the wound was small. That’s because my face was wet, so blood flowed like a river from it. I told my roommates it was probably an inconvenient moment to let them know I have AIDS. They did not find that funny at all, which I realized was because they hadn’t spent their lives around celibate Mormon kids who, 99% chance don’t have AIDS and don’t have to worry at all about it. If there’s any possibility any one a person regularly associates with might be contracting a deadly disease, it’s no longer joke-fodder. Mental note made. Continued rafting.

About half the group jumped off a 20+ foot ledge (not pictured here) into the river. I nearly chickened out, but the guide told me I had to either jump right then or go back, and I didn’t want to be ashamed forever, so I jumped. No regrets.

When it gets really rainy, cows, and cars, and all kinds of stuff fall off this thing. There were car parts strewn about below.

We also did a gorgeous hike. It was preceded by a gorgeous motoconcho ride. The former president of the DR had a house in the mountain valley we rode through. Lovely lovely lovely.

Smoke spewing from our bus. We carry on, undaunted.

Oh, on our way back, our bus broke down. We didn’t stop until absolutely necessary, and then we waited by the side of the road outside Santo Domingo for a new one for an hour or so. The first one had a backed up toilet. The second one had sharpie vandalism all over all the seats. Also an odor, if I remember correctly. International travel!