This is a real-life, moment-by moment post about getting sh!t done on an island in the Caribbean.
First, here is a picture of our view from our deck.
Boooteeeful, right? It gives you the impression that all day, every day, we are lounging on the deck, deciding if we should chill out at the beach or the pool, deciding which drink we should order from the beach-side cafe. This has all happened at one time or another during our stay and probably more than your average American… we get that… but it’s not EVERY day.
Case in point…
A few weeks ago I was hunting for a board for my jigsaw puzzle. If you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time you’ll know how I love my decidedly travel-UNfriendly hobby of jigsaw puzzles. We weren’t going to be in the DR for very long but we did have some down time. I do most of my puzzling when Zoe is doing homeschool and I cannot be too far away because she can’t seem to do anything without the presence of a warm body within 10 feet (but I digress). So these weeks in the DR are an excellent opportunity for some puzzle time. But I need a board, which allows me to move it around so I don’t monopolize the dining room table.
Here are the steps that were taken to secure said puzzle board.
Step 1: Send Dan out to the stores. Securing my puzzle board is usually his job, in all of our countries. Off he goes to the hardware-ish stores. He checks variety stores, car repair stores and even pharmacies. Nope. He returns home empty handed, except for a distressed sheet of cardboard that would not work for puzzling. Sad Dan. Even Sadder Allison.
Step 2: Ask the expats where to get a board. They recommend the first hardware store Dan went to. They mention something about a hidden area with wood. That sounds like a
porn movie treasure hunt.
Step 3: Return to the hardware store with Dan, determined to ask the employees, not just look for the items. Merchandising is done differently outside the USA. No need to display all your items, you have to trust your customers to ask for what they want. Dan is not a fan of this method and usually does not ask. Don’t be like Dan.
Step 4: Ask at the friendly-ish service counter where I can get wood. “Downstairs” they say. Downstairs? There’s a downstairs? Where is this downstairs you speak of?
Step 5: Follow 4 different and distinct employees who lead me OUT of the building, out to the street, to the next building over, down an alley way and behind to a … LUMBERYARD! The hardware store has a hidden and not really “downstairs”, lumberyard. Perfect! Despite being hidden, it was exactly what we needed.
Step 6: Wander around the muddy lumberyard in our tourist flip flops and shorts, trying not to get run over by bulldozers doing things, trying not to get our feet muddy and trying to find the right kind of board. I’ve given up trying to fit in. I’m pretty sure they rarely see tourists wandering around down there.
Step 7: Find what we’re looking for. Yay! Locate the gazebo where there’s a guy with a saw who will cut it to size. Double yay! Take the piece over to the guy. He tells me I need to go upstairs for the receipt. What? Upstairs?
Did I mention it’s a really hot day?? I’m sweating. And it’s not simply “UPSTAIRS”, it’s a long way away, around a corner.
Step 8: Follow guy who leads me to a “help desk” in the lumberyard. Watch while “downstairs” Help Desk Guy meticulously writes out a receipt (twice, for some reason) and gives it to me. I was hoping Saw Guy didn’t really mean “upstairs” and that Help Desk Guy will do all that I need.
Step 9: With little paper in hand, follow Saw Guy through some secret hardware store basement, up a spiral staircase (yay, stairs, finally!!!) and back to the friendly-ish service desk where I started. OK, well at least I learned about the infamous “stairs” and the shortcut they provide back and forth from the hidden lumberyard.
Step 10: Give service desk guy the paper from downstairs guy and prepare to pay.
Step 11: Wait. And wait. And wait. Wait some more. Take pictures for the blog while waiting.
Step 12: Surmise from the employee dude’s conversation that this board is “not in the system” and “has no code” and “does not exist”. I stand there and stare at him, letting him know that it indeed exists because it’s “downstairs” and I’m here to buy it and I will wait for him to get a code and get it in the system. Either way, I’m not leaving until that board is in our car. I ponder how to politely say, “Figure Sh!t Out” in Spanish.
Step 13: Wait some more. I was waiting so long I honestly thought the guy helping me went to the bathroom with digestive issues or something. I’m about ready to order food for delivery or go to said bathroom myself because…. #digestiveissues. Dan is “downstairs” in the lumberyard waiting in the car. At least he’s got A/C.
Step 14: Guy finally gives me a piece of paper with a price!! Success! I try to hand him my money. Nope! Gotta go to the other desk for that (if you’re counting this is now desk #3 with paper #2). Fine. I go. I pay $8. They stamp my receipt. Paid! Success! Almost!
Step 15: Now I just need to cut my board. I go back downstairs (actual, now) to lumberyard and go to Saw Guy with my stamped paper. He has to run and help someone else so we wait. We wait some more. Dan is waiting in the car until…
Step 16: Dan gets impatient. We’ve got the boards, we’ve paid, we have our little pieces of paper and a saw is sitting right there. Why wait, he says. So he starts cutting it himself. No safety glasses, no blade protector guide thingamajig, no finger-safe blade. I start looking up the closest hospital from a safe spot behind a stack of wood because I’m pretty sure this is going to go south, quick. I alternate between looking up hospitals and taking pictures of Dan about to get injured, for the blog.
Step 17: Saw Guy comes running over, declaring our activity “very dangerous!” (no sh!t Sherlock) and takes over cutting for Dan. He has exactly ZERO more safety equipment and, I’m sure, way less life insurance than Dan. But Dan relinquishes the death saw to Saw Guy. He cuts, he doesn’t lose any limbs or his life. The two boards were not exactly the same size like we asked, but it’ll do. We thank him. We leave.
Step 18: As we exit Hidden Narnia Lumberyard, we have to show the receipt to the guy at the exit. He doesn’t even look at the paper. He nods his approval and waves us on. I’m thinking at this point I could have just waved my grocery store receipt at him and skipped all the waiting upstairs.
Step 19: Start puzzling! I finished two 1000-piece puzzles in a month. I was a happy puzzler.
I give you this example as a way of saying that it’s not like we are on a permanent vacation here. Sure, we go to the beach and do nifty things like whale watching. But we also try to get through the normalcy of life just like everyone else, with the added challenge that foreign countries ALWAYS provide us with. Sometimes that feels awkward and like you are the first person EVER to have done what you are trying to do. And the process we have to go through is many times equally incomprehensible. We ask ourselves “why do they do it this way?” and we answer ourselves “because they did it this way yesterday”.
Thankfully, I’m fully versed in the “ask around if you don’t see it” concept, as well as the “pick out what you want but go somewhere else to pay” concept as well as the “after you pay, show the guy your receipt as you leave with the product because evidently you can’t be trusted” concept. (#Costco) It’s been done in various locations around the world. When you travel a lot you eventually find familiarity in the differences.
After the Great Puzzle Board Treasure Hunt of 2019, we got home and Dan and I … wait for it… went into the pool.