November 2004 Break: Haiti and the DR

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A vacation, at last! After 10 weeks of work, the second quarter has ended, grades are turned in, and we have two days off to celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days (although I prefer to think of it as days to celebrate Deah’s Birthday). Tom is with the volleyball team in Venezuela for our tri-annual CAISSA tournament. Sue has gone to Florida to visit her sister and her mom. Christy is going with our neighbors to the Jacmel area, and I am going to Santo Domingo with my friend Nicole. Pia is also going to the Dominican Republic, with her boyfriend.

I met up with my friend Nicole and three of her colleagues from the UN and we drove to Santo Domingo. The traffic getting out of Petionville/ Port-au-Prince was horrible, but we were able to cruise right through the border because Jean Claude, our driver, has diplomatic plates and a diplomatic passport. Diplomatic privileges extend to everyone in the car, so I didn’t have to go through the border hassle or pay the exit tax (which I have always maintained is a big fraud anyway).

Jean Claude told us great stories of living in the Congo, and we all told stories about great road trips we’ve been on. Before we knew it, we were in Santo Domingo and Nicole and I found our hotel, the Sofitel Nicolas Ouvande.

On Saturday Nicole and I got up early, jogged around the Zona Colonia, and ate a huge breakfast. The Colonial Zone is a walking section of Santo Domingo, where Columbus built the first settlement on the island. His brother was the first governor of the area, and Columbus’ son lived there also. We saw the Cathedral Primera de las Americas, the first Catholic Church built in the Western Hemisphere. We walked along the Conde, a long street that is blocked off to cars that has all kinds of clothes stores, jewelry shops, shoes stores, cafes. I guess it’s like a long vertical outdoor mall. We went to an amber museum (amber and laramar are two of the Dominican’s major stones) and had a guide show us a few other things. We ate lunch at a café and were very happy with the fact that everything wasn’t blocked in and walled off like it is in Petionville (in PV, everyone’s houses, shops, and restaurants are safe and secure behind huge fortress walls. It’s kind of eery sometimes).

Saturday evening our friends Lauren, John, Grace, and Conrad flew over from Port-au-Prince and we all went out to dinner in the Colonial Zone. We ate at an awesome restaurant called Pat’e Palo which I would definitely recommend again. Then we wandered around and went to various outdoor bars and clubs, listening to salsa music, Dominican music, and Cuban music. Finally we headed back to the hotel and I got to talk to Ken and Hunter on the phone.

On Sunday Nicole and I went jogging around the Zone again and went to a café for breakfast. There we ran into the Griegs, two friends of ours from the Embassy in Haiti (see, everyone leaves and goes to the DR). We chatted with them for a while, then Nicole and I decided to get a taxi and head out to Boca Chica, a beach town about 20 miles away from the city. On the way over it rained but it appeared the storm was heading into Santo Domingo, not towards the beach. We made it out to the beach around 2 and slept in the sun all afternoon. It was awesome, and quite relaxing. Afterwards we walked up and down the beach and visited all the beach bars and shops. We met some interesting Dominicans and Expats and I used someone’s phone to call my mom.

On Monday I headed over to the International School in Santo Domingo, Carol Morgan School. I sat in on a US History class and a World History class, and met with their Social Studies dept chair and their Curriculum Director. I got lots of good information to take back with me.

I spent Monday night with a teacher from CMS, and we went to see “Collateral” with Tom Cruise (I love movies). I stayed at her house, and took a cab to the bus station the next day to take the bus home to Haiti. Unfortunately, the bus was full and I had to get another taxi and haul ass over to the other bus station. That bus, too, was full, but they ordered another one. After a two and a half hour wait, the bus finally left. We left so late that we got to the border dangerously close to closing time, so they basically just waved us through. I finally made it home around 8 pm and it was time to think about going back to work.

Also in November, the Marine Ball, a great chance to dress up and enjoy some dinner, some dancing, and some drinking with friends!  I was proud to accompany Marine Micah Batsell to the ball this year.

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