Hot Times in the Dominican Republic


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There is a breeze coming through the gate doors now, lessening the oppressive heat that stays in this casa much of the day. There is no connected air conditioning here, which was an unwelcome surprise, not at all what this B&B had advertised. There are ceiling fans in most of the rooms, allowing for restless sleeping, plus the fans - especially if you are directly beneath one - make the heat almost tolerable. We sweat so much, which is actually good for releasing toxins, but we need to drink tons of water to replenish fluids that are continually lost. Since I've been here in Santo Domingo I drink at least twice as much as I do at home, and still I'm probably dehydrated. Our poor kidneys are overworked!

My youngest daughter Laila and I had planned on travelling to Vietnam to visit my son (who is in the Foreign Service), daughter-in-law, and my grandsons, but their schedule changed, so that didn't work out for this June's excursion. Laila suggested coming here to the DR, and then visiting Jamaica, so I agreed. We had toyed with the idea of also going to Haiti, but ruled that out for several reasons. There are many places we could have gone, but both of us wanted to go somewhere new to us, and relatively close, so here we are in Central America in June instead of winter, when most tourists come. I dislike being cold, but after four days of being in this heat without AC, I am finding 90+F temps coupled with high humidity a little trying. And there's nowhere clean nearby to swim.

Santo Domingo abuts the beautiful Caribbean Sea, but here it is unswimmable because of all the litter tossed on the beaches or thrown into the water. As we walk along the city's sidewalk running above the shoreline, not only can we see islands of trash floating in and out with the tides, but we also see garbage everywhere. If Santo Domingoans love their city, as signs profess they do, why aren't there programs in place to clean up the city-wide trash? Why aren't there trash cans anywhere? I saw this in Ecuador too, but not on such a massive scale. Ecuadorian bus riders are encouraged to keep the busses clean by throwing all their trash out of the windows! Such strange thinking, to us at least. Do they think about where it will go? Is this a Latin thing, tossing trash everywhere, blighting their cities and the environment? In any case, because of all the tons of garbage on the beaches and the floating islands of it in the water, sadly there is nowhere near here that's clean enough for swimming, although we've seen young boys who do swim amidst the trash.

It was very hot when I lived in Thailand, but I taught in an air conditioned school, biked home to constant fans, and went swimming in the Gulf of Thailand every afternoon. Sleep was sometimes hard at night, but every day I had several hours respite from the heat, intermittently lowering my body's core temperature. Here in Santo Domingo, that's been rarely possible, as most museums and places we go do not have AC. It is simply a fact of life here.

As we are staying in the city, each day we visit three or four museums. Laila is a history teacher, so this appeals to her desire to learn as much as possible about wherever she travels. I enjoy museums too, usually on a lesser scale. Most of the museums here are small, but a few are very extensive, and truly, as the American Automobile Association (AAA) names them, gems. Today we visited Tres Ojos, magnificent large caves with four small lakes. Tres Ojos reminds me very much (only on a much reduced size) of the stunning Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, and the lovely grottos in Rosh Hanikra in Israel. These caves and lakes are very beautiful as well, but it is very warm basically walking through a jungle forest. I use colorful bandanas to try to keep the sweat out of my eyes; here in Santo Domingo my useful bandana gets sopping wet in a very short time. After Tres Ojos we ubered to Faro Colombo, the Lighthouse, a seven storey building built to honor Cristobal Colon and his travels. The people who live here in the DR, unlike at home in the US, hold him in high regard. Even his ashes (or remains) are housed in a marble monument here at the Lighthouse. This is another impressive museum, not only full of historic details about Columbus's voyages, but also with room after room highlighting countries around the world.

As I meandered through all these rooms I fell into a meditative state and realised how many countries I have not yet set foot in, all the places there are in the world that I don't yet know, and began to wonder if I could find the courage to just leave on my own, without any tours or plans, and spend months or years exploring new countries. Bill promises to retire, so we can travel together, but he doesn't. So my choices are to continue on unhappily freezing through the Maine winters (growing older by the minute), or to leave again, as I did when I moved to Thailand for half a year awhile ago, but this time just getting up and going, with only the first destination country in mind. Am I brave enough? It would help to have a willing travel mate to share the unknown. But what an adventure that would be, to move from country to country as the whim took me (or us), travelling and learning more and more of this world and its people until I tired of the adventure, the international travelling life, or died enroute to or in someplace new, exotic and marvelous. Or maybe I'd find a place or places where I'd want to settle down for awhile, or forever. I can't know that now, but this desire to see the world, this need, this calling, is strong within me. Would you like to come too, be my companion on this exhilarating, intoxicating, and wanderingly random journey?

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