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República Dominicana, 2013


January 5-12, 2013

Joann and I didn’t use our camera much. I did shoot some shaky video and will try to salvage a few minutes from it at some point (grainy video of Mom dancing the merengue will be the highlight). Thanks to our vacation mates for most of the photos shown here.

Introducing the group

This was the first vacation to include both of my parents, both of my siblings, and me since sometime in the early-to-mid 1970s. I don’t remember the exact occasion, but it would have been a visit to family in Southern California. A ten-hour trip by car (one way). At least as the oldest child I wouldn’t have had to sit in the middle (on the “hump”) of the back seat.[1] This was a more comfortable trip, at least for the Minnesota contingent: an under four-hour direct flight from the Twin Cities to Punta Cana International Airport.

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But it was better in another way too: my “immediate family” has grown! My wife Joann and daughters Nicole and Tamara were there. Sons-in-law Cole and Nick, sister Rhonda’s youngest, Mason, brother Randy’s wife Ana, and Nick’s parents Steve and Sharon joined us. What a great crew!

It almost didn’t come off with the full crew. Passport problems intervened (it turns out not to be a good idea to launder passports). Mom and Dad were lucky to be there for three nights of their scheduled six-night stay. Only Rhonda’s generosity (she bought them a pair of last-minute one-way tickets from San Francisco to Atlanta) and expedited passport processing in Atlanta saved the day. Well, half of it anyway.

Life in paradise

Our van driver offered us an entertaining and informative introduction to the country during our 30-minute trip from the airport to our resort. One of the photos below shows Joann and Cole enjoying his commentary. He told us his son Manny Ramirez (not that one) was recently signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers to a minor league contract. More importantly, he warned us about the mysterious fertility power of the country’s national cocktail, the mamajuana.

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We stayed at the Iberostar Bávaro Suites. It is a beautiful, all-inclusive resort that features detached eight-plex cottages. Clean, great food, a gorgeous white sand beach. Nightly entertainment was good. We enjoyed especially the acrobatic troupe and the evening of Dominican culture that featured lessons in the national dance, the merengue. Did I mention the great food?

Safari day

A big highlight of the trip for three of us–Dad, Joann and myself–was an all-day excursion billed as a “safari.” I really don’t know that I would call it a safari, exactly, but it was an adventure for sure. We were allocated a small 4×4 vehicle for the three of us. Dad drove. Our tour group consisted of a caravan of maybe ten of these vehicles, and there were three tour guides who divvied up the tourists by language. We were with four other English speakers and a pair of Italians in our group. (The largest contingent of tourists were Russians and, yes, one of the guides was able to help them.)

Our guide Ramon was outstanding. He was friendly, knowledgeable about each of the sites we visited, and spoke clear, accented, but grammatically impeccable English. But we did learn that while he understood and answered what must have been often-asked questions, he had much difficulty with more searching questions. At some point we realized he in fact barely understood or spoke English. He had memorized his commentary along with common questions and answers. And he was able to do the same in Italian. Remarkable!

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The tour packed in a lot. We visited a working farm, a public school classroom (in session), a cigar factory, a store, a restaurant, rode horses (Joann and Dad did), enjoyed the world’s cheesiest zip line (the teenage boys who assisted us could not have been kinder or more helpful with my disability), and a beach. It was the sugar cane field where we met the impoverished, very young Haitian children who hung around while their parents worked that really stuck with me.

Three birds and a big farewell

You are no doubt asking, “How many life birds did you see?” The answer is 16. In order of appearance they were: White-cheeked Pintail, American Flamingo, Hispaniolan Woodpecker, Zenaida Dove, Hispaniolan Parrot, Smooth-billed Ani, Antillean Mango, Palmchat, Greater Antillean Grackle, Bananaquit, Rufous-collared Sparrow, Caribbean Coot, Loggerhead Kingbird, Vervain Hummingbird, Antillean Palm-Swift and Hispaniolan Oriole.

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Notes

  1. March 30, 2004. A whole lotta family, from top to bottom, left to right: Bobby, Kendall, Joann, Steve, Kayli, Rhonda, Andy / Tammy / Dean, Mike, Nicci, Cameron / Kathy, Hannah, Christian, Randy, Ana, Delouris, Ken, Lexie, Justin, Tarin, and Kynnadee (in utero).After I wrote that, I remembered another inclusive family trip–a weekend, not a vacation, but much fun all the same: Memorial Day 2004 weekend at Patrick’s Point State Park, near Trinidad, California. [^]

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