We’ve coined a new formula in our household. M3+E = 🙂 . I’ll unpack that math for you. I’m a homeschool mom, I’ve got this.
M3 stands for two things: Margaret M. May, aka Teragram Yam (hint: read Margaret May backwards) aka my sister. M3 also stands for “Margaret in the Month of May 3 Years in a Row”. Because that’s how many years she’s been visiting us in May. And the +E? That’s a new one this year. Her daughter, Ellie, cousin to Haley and Zoe, came along too. Ellie is 14, so a perfect age in between Zoe and Haley. You planned Ellie’s age well, Mar. Thanks!
This is Margaret’s 5th visit to us on our Worldschooling journey. She and both her girls came to visit us in Cancun, then she came to Spain so we could re-explore the area where we lived with our parents as teens. Then a visit to Netherlands (May 2017) and Medellin (May 2018) and now the DR.
Visits with Margaret do not have to be filled to the brim to be excellent. In fact, we prefer the “on again off again” nature of a schedule, with an active day followed by a less active day. Of course, every day involves leaving the house, at the very least for coffee, getting some sun (she is coming from Oregon and it’s the end of winter, these girls needed them some Vitamina D) and endless discussions of what we should make for dinner. But we managed to fit in quite a number of activities in the short week they were here. Here are some highlights for you.
Who doesn’t love to float down a river, amiright? Or, in this case, being pulled by a large man? Because… samesame. This was a great first activity for us. We piled into the car, headed to the river and then proceeded to fall spectacularly ungracefully into our tubes. There is no other way to enter tubes. You might look all cool and vacation-y while in them but I guarantee you, even supermodels look like drunk old men when trying to get in and out of tubes.
The river water was a little low, as we are nearing the end of the dry season here. A few times we bottomed out as a group and our mule man, Heckin, (real name that we never really got right), had to pull us over the rocks. The rest of the time he either walked the river while pulling us or swam it. Either way it felt super awkward, like a human/aquatic mammal taxi driver.
We stopped for a swim in a deeper part and Haley and I regretted not having masks so we could check out what was happening under the water. Now that we are dive certified we are obsessed with what’s down below.
The river float ended with a lovely lunch set up for us alongside the river and the bridge, which we observed to have (in our engineering opinion) sub-standard construction. We enjoyed the vehicle-watching of all the various things that were going over the bridge. Lunch was tasty and even Heckin had a few servings.
Laguna Gri Gri
Our next adventure involved a little road trip. During our family’s trip to check out the whales in March, we stopped at a place for lunch that had some interesting shops, and we also saw a lagoon that seemed to be a popular tourist destination. I felt like M3+E would like both of these, so we took them back there. It was about a 90 minute drive, but only about 73 km (45 miles). That tells you how many small towns we had to go through to get there. But it was an interesting drive and on the way we played Road Trip Bingo, DR Style. M3+E were really good at the game. They have good eyes for crazy sightings on the side of the road, including very skinny cows and numerous people piled on motos. Ellie played a drinking game, whereas she had to drink her water every time we saw a lottery store. They are so numerous, she had a UTI by the time we got to the restaurant. Just kidding, but almost not.
The shop did not disappoint Margaret’s quest for small treasures, and soon we headed to Laguna Gri Gri. For the low price of $40, we got a covered boat for the 6 of us and went on a 90-minute adventure through a lagoon, out to sea, to a sea cave, a small beach for swimming and then back again. It was great, other than a few Nervous Nellies who didn’t like the waves. Or the open water. Or the fact that we had only one dinky little engine, or the questionable gas level. But I survived to write this blog so all’s well that ends well. I’ll let you guess who the Nervous Nellies are. (Hint: A and Z).
Another activity was also a bit of a road trip, but also very short in terms of distance. The Monkey Jungle is only 11 miles from our house, but it took almost hour to get there, after Google Maps led us astray and then we missed the microscopic sign that leads you down the correct road. In addition, the last 3 miles are on a very rough dirt road that induced a fair amount of carsickness and fervent wishing it would be over soon. But we got there and plopped down a rather large chunk of pesos for the opportunity to see some monkeys.
This is a pretty interesting arrangement. It’s starting to catch on in this area to have tourist activities paired with a social organization. There are tours and coffee houses that are side businesses for non profit organizations addressing an unmet social need in the area. Monkey Jungle was created as a way to rescue monkeys as well as fund a free medical and dental clinic that serves 50 – 100 local people every Saturday. We were happy to support the clinic, but $28 per person for the monkeys was a little steep. There was an accompanying zipline that you could add for $40 more (for $70 for both activities – this is per person) but we declined.
The monkeys were a hit. We’ve experienced monkeys before in Panama, Malaysia and Gibraltar, but this time they were much smaller and more friendly. They enjoyed jumping all over us, eating the cantaloupe from our plates and hanging out on our shoulders. One of them left a present on Margaret’s shoulder (#poopshoulder). The organization has two different kinds of monkeys (Squirrel and Capuchin) that they have rescued from other parts of the island and South and Central America. We learned about their care and behavior and treatment. Haley requested that we make room in our luggage for a pack of them. We were all quite smitten.
What’s with all the lagunas, Allison? Well, let me tell you.. it’s hot. It’s really hot. So our activities really centered around being in or around water. We had discussed snorkeling but the ocean waves didn’t cooperate fully for that, and a Different Nervous Nelly needed waves that were 1000% calm for a good snorkeling experience. Maybe next May, Mar.
Anyway, we found another laguna, off in the same direction as the last one. We’ve learned that the DR uses laguna for what we knew in Mexico as cenotes. We love cenotes! We have a whole section of our blog dedicated to cenotes! Margaret and Ellie both enjoyed them during their Cancun visit so we knew it was a great choice. Off we went once again in swim suits. (For those of you new to the LJT game, cenotes are natural sink holes formed by underwater rivers. It’s a fresh water swimming hole, aka amazing.)
Laguna Du Du was not at all busy and was a lovely activity for our group. It had two cenotes to choose from, one with a very high zipline. The water was refreshingly cool (read: menopausal bodies enjoyed it but Dan did not). The only other group there, a group of young adult Dominican men, were quite curious about Haley and Ellie, especially when they learned that Haley spoke Spanish. The Moms kept themselves occupied in another part of the cenote because no one needs your mom around when you are socializing and flexing your bilingual muscles.
Haley and I had masks by this time and enjoyed checking out the underwater world which included some interesting cave walls and some fish.
In between the active days we enjoyed time in the sun, floating in the pool (where’s Heckin when you need him?), walking into town for some treasure shopping, checking out a few typical foods and showing Margaret around our current home.
We introduced Margaret to our favorite show, Below Deck, and she loved it so much we binge-watched a season and a half in the evenings when we recovered from sun exposure or an active day.
So that’s a wrap up on yet another epic M3 visit. Parting is always so sad because we aren’t sure when we’ll see each other again. But we continue to refine our plans to, one day, live in the same state again (spoiler alert: it’ll be Arizona) and make up for lost time.