It’s time for another Happy and Crappy post! That went fast, didn’t it? Time flies when you’re
floating in the pool every day having fun.
We were only here for about 10 weeks but here is a summary of our impressions. This was a hard Happy and Crappy to write. Just like life, some things did not fall squarely into the “good” or “bad” category. They were mixed. So if you notice the wishy-washy nature of my opinions, as if the feng shui of the blog post is off, just know that I notice it too. This H & C will also feature some opposing opinions between Dan and me. We don’t usually have such different opinions of places but here we did.
Driving. Do you notice a theme here? Our last three countries have had this item on the “crappy” list. But this one takes the cake. I thought driving in Medellin was bad (although we never did it), but nope, the DR wins the crown on crazy driving. However, we (that’s the royal “we”… it was only Dan) did drive here. But it didn’t matter who was driving… I was a nervous wreck. Not Dan’s driving, but the fact that we could be responsible if we were to get into an accident. And even if we didn’t cause said accident, we would most likely be found at fault, for the nature of being the tourists. I always prefer when someone else is responsible.
But anyway. The driving is crazy. C.R.A.Z.Y. The motos are everywhere, passing you on the left or the right. If someone is behind a car going even MARGINALLY slower than the one behind him, the one behind will pass him NO MATTER THE COSTS. Even dangerously, on a corner. All to rectify the gross miscarriage of justice that going 1 mph slower than the passing car is going. Everyone really thinks only of themselves when it comes to stopping, parking, passing and everything else in between. The DR is always in the #1 or #2 spot in the world statistics for road fatalities and I see why. So although I never drove in the DR, it didn’t stop me from being stressed about it.
Economic Disparity. In the area where we lived, there were tourists and there were locals and it didn’t seem like there was a lot in between. I didn’t get to know any Dominicans very well, as I never was able to bust out of the “tourist” category in their eyes. I met a few very nice taxi drivers and the bagger at the grocery store, but we didn’t have any deeper conversation other than small talk. I missed the integration that we experienced in Medellin. Maybe with more time it would have happened but for our time here we were just tourists on vacation. And there was really nothing I could do to change that.
Tourist prices. Along with the tourist category I felt like the tourist prices could be a bit ridiculous at times. We tried to get discounts where we could but in general the activities were based on vacation-level economics. We calculated our monthly apartment rent equaled almost 2 years’ salary for a minimum wage worker. Our MONTHLY rent. That’s just insane if you think about it. It was a lovely apartment, though. Not gonna lie.
“It’ll do” attitude. Since we don’t own a home or a car, we didn’t experience this as much as others, but we definitely notice the “make do for today” attitude when it comes to problem solving. Whether it was fixing the faucet or unclogging the drain, or fixing the A/C on the car… it was usually done in the cheapest, most haphazard way that rarely solved the problem for longer than a day. Multiple times we ran into “this item is not in the system you cannot buy it” at the grocery store. Even though we were holding in our hands, wanting to buy it. When this happened with the elusive dairy-free ice cream for the girls, there were tears. We literally could not buy the item that we selected from the shelves.
Small Town Living. This was our choice, to live in a small town. We were ready to get out of the big city of Medellin. But we forgot that with small town living comes reduced conveniences. We had to drive to another town to do major grocery shopping. A few times we needed medical lab tests done and that involved an early morning trek as well. There was no delivery service like Rappi (delivery service in Medellin), although most restaurants had their own delivery. There was no Uber but you could find a taxi (car or moto) as long as you were ready to pay the Gringo Price.
Trash/No Recycling. There was no recycling program – not at all. Not for glass, plastics, cardboard, nothing. Everything just went into the trash. It really broke my heart every time I had to throw things away. And 90% of the food delivery came in massive boxes of styrofoam. I felt like I personally killed all kinds of marine life due to my habits. I did a small part by carrying water bottles and my own bags but I couldn’t change it all.
Weather. When we arrived in March the weather was really lovely. Warm days, really pleasant nights, gentle breezes and some rainy nights when you were tucked into bed. But as we got further into April and May it got hotter. Really hot. Like, stay in your house in your A/C all day hot. (Although, not quite “Panama” hot.) It became tiring to do errands or activities outside during the hottest part of the day. By the end of our time there, I was ready to go. 49-year old moms get cranky when they get hot. A friend told me.
DR. This does not stand for Dominican Republic but rather Digestive Rumblings. Yeah, something was … off… here. For me anyway. I never figured out what it was and it never really affected our activities (grin and bear it!) but it was there. You cannot drink the water from the tap here and food handling practices may not be what we are used to. To be fair, I had some issues that started before I left Medellin. I don’t know what it was all about but let’s just say it was… crappy. With that said, Dan never had any issues and didn’t bother to brush his teeth with anything but the tap water. So your mileage may vary.
But of course we did find a lot of things we liked about our time in the DR, so don’t be thinking we were too unhappy here.
Dan loved it. Honestly, if Dan is happy, the household runs smoother. I guess you could say that for all of us. Dan wasn’t unhappy in Medellin but it didn’t wet his Worldschooling Whistle. He much prefers the tropical environment of an island like the DR. He was very, very happy. The rest of us were mostly happy.
Weather. Wait, What? Wondering how this can be on the crappy AND happy list? Well, Dan liked it a LOT and didn’t mind the heat. Although, he didn’t go out as much as I did and when he did, he drove or walked to the pool. I walked to and around town, a lot. So there’s the difference. And yes, it was wonderful if you were in a pool of water, natural or artificial. There was never a bad time of day or night to go in the pool or ocean. It was great for my tan and the ocean (and pool) water was a perfect temperature. Dan and I had many conversations during our afternoon “floating” sessions in the pool.
Activities. There was a lot we could do. Not all were cheap, but at least we found enough to stay engaged. Zoe found an animal rescue and volunteered a few times. I found Pilates. Haley had some friends visiting and even went out dancing, Dan had fast internet and a pool. And of course there was SCUBA diving. When my sister visited we found quite a few things to do within a few hours drive.
Beautiful beaches. The beaches were amazing. Lovely, fine sand, beach chairs and service available in most places, warm water and small waves and no sargassum (the seaweed that is plaguing Cancun area beaches). It was a great place to spend time. Previously we had declared Panama to have the most beautiful beaches but now it’s a tie with the DR.
Our pool. This gets a mention all on it’s own. I got into the habit of a “daily float” where I would take the pool donut and my phone and headphones and just go out to the pool to float for a little while. It was like my own personal meditation. Dan would join me after a bit each time and we had some nice, uninterrupted conversations about life in general. We did a lot of future planning in that pool.
Amenities. We had a great apartment. Like, really great. It was clean and bright and airy and in a perfect location to walk to the beach or stores or restaurants. We got great service if anything went wrong (other than that it was rarely fixed permanently – see above) and when we needed drinking water it was delivered for about 75 cents per 5 gallon jug. We managed to get a very stable and consistent 50 Mbps internet connection at home and even found a doctor for a few medical issues that cropped up while we were here. We were well taken care of.
Location. We like that the DR is close to the USA, both in time zone and location. The airport situation is less than desirable as flights usually arrive or depart at crazy early or late hours. And on top of that, the airport is over 2 hours away. But once you’re AT the airport, the east coast is just a few hours of a flight away. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Food. I really liked the food here. The plantains, rice, beans, seasoned chicken and of course, my beloved Mofongo. I also discovered fried cheese and you just can’t go wrong with either of those two words when used separately or together. Our town had enough of an international flair that everyone else in the family found things they liked too. Once again Dan bought me a deep fryer for the house (thanks… I think?) and we found a German butcher who sold amazing ground beef. So we made a lot of hamburgers and french fries for dinner. A LOT. Haley and I found enough gluten free items, so we were happy too.
And so, did we love it? Not all of us. It was a lovely stay, it was definitely what we wanted at the moment and we’re really happy we came. But it is not a candidate for any long term home. It may stay on the list for a future vacation (depends on who you ask) and we will recall our time here with fondness. Thanks for the nice time, DR. You’re sweet. But we’ll keep you in the friendzone.