First let me apologize for any lack of emailing or other communication as of recently. While I’m hoping that all of the organizations and application-senders are reading this and thinking, “ahhh she did get my email, of course I’ll hold the deadlines now that I see she intends to respond,” however it also applies to the more likely friends and family I have perhaps neglected. So, I will get to you all individually and skyping is very flexible for the remainder of my time here. As I was being a bit lazy and starting to push back more things, I asked myself, why not? Homework should not take priority over travel blogging, and it’s not like I don’t enjoy it, so I am really not sure why I haven’t been more proactive. So here it is, marking things of my to-do list like no other.
This week is Intro to Theater. Which has been pleasantly modified into Dominican Culture-Related Topics and Lessons on Productive Interviewing. I’ll take it. The plan was this: prof arrives, depart following day for our four-day excursion, return Thursday evening, and spend the following week with interview techniques to wrap up the entire course. Itinerary in hand, we departed this past Monday for our artistic endeavors and our final journey through the Dominican Republic.
With our new professor the first yet who has been strict with timing, we left at exactly 8am. This time I had Tina Fey’s new book in hand, and the next four hours breezed by in Shannon Land. The hotel we stayed at was called the Belario, and it was beautiful. With a courtyard in the middle, it carried a B&B air more so than a hotel. Also of note, this trip was talked up to be the Good Eating week. After 9 weeks (give or take) of the same two restaurants in Punta Cana, this trip was much anticipated and approached with high expectations. And it did not disappoint. The first lunch we had after checking in was at a colorful, quaint place that served stuffed eggplant in upsettingly small portions. Now nourished, we set out on the rest of what would be a busier day than we expected. (our hotel below)Taking a walking tour around the city, we passed through a beautiful church, a Larimar factory, and a cigar shop. The church was incredible. Something I’ve discovered about myself in recent years, foreign churches are awesome. I really do love seeing the unique architecture as well as the internal artwork, and just experiencing the different feelings that each emits. Typically in the DR, the churches have focused more on color and simplicity, so it was cool to finally see a decked-out cathedral. Following more walking and talking, we ended up in a Larimar factory. Larimar is a sky-blue colored stone that is the DR’s national stone. I’m not sure what it takes to qualify as a “national stone,” but these folks boast it like it’s their job (okay, maybe it is) and they sure don’t let you forget Larimar. It’s the National Stone, you know. Mocking aside, it was pretty cool getting to see a little behind-the-shop factory where the pro’s make the quality jewelry, and I was lucky enough to score a free sample. That may have had something to do with the pitiful-sounding, halfway true, No Tengo Dinero speech that I gave to a Dominican Salesman that seemed have a affection toward the gringas. Either way, I walked away showing off my freshly-made stone to all my now-bedazzled classmates. Working the system since 1991. As we just finished reading a play that takes place in a cigar factory, a large bit of the trip was spent educating the less-informed (myself topping that list) on cigars, and the culture behind them. This first exposure however, was simply a purchasing opportunity. The tour itself came later. Exhausted and smelly, we returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner. Another key distinguishing feature of this trip, was that it became our “get fancy” trip. As most of the girls hardly used any of their fancy clothes they brought, this was a last-ditch effort to make sure all clothing got some show and I figured it’d probably do me some good to brush my hair and shower. Though it almost goes without saying, I did not initiate this plan. But I had packed some nice clothing, so I figured wearing some of it in the last week was probably not the worst idea. Thinking we would be going to a fancier place than we did, we strolled into a texmex-style restaurant significantly overdressed, but still standing by our decision. It was a cool restaurant though, and entertainment was dancers that spun around on top of rum bottles. In case it wasn’t implied, studying abroad is awesome. Exhausted, we came back, tore off our dresses, and promptly fell asleep before midnight. My kind of night.
Days always seem to go by smoother when I wake up before the rest of the world. Something about some “me time” on the plante before the 9 to 5 commences is kind of great. Not much space or energy to get fancy, I started the second day reading out on the balcony in the courtyard and it was wonderful (again, studying abroad > most other things). After a lovely breakfast, we set off for a day of museums. It was pretty great. I loved just having set time to just hang out at our leisure and wander through paintings. Another love that international treasure (i meant to type “international travel” but “treasure” sneaked in somehow, and I think I like it better that way) has helped unearth. Late afternoon presented itself with a pina colada and a great lunch of steamed calamari and vegetables. As always, no complaints from my end. This afternoon we also got to visit the markets, and I met an artist that showed me around his studio, which in my mind was evidence that he was making the art rather than buying and reselling it. Alright Kiko sir, I’ll support that. You can see it when I get home :) A little more meandering, and it was time to begin the getting ready process night two. Straight hair here I come! Two girls with us have the same birthday, and although the 21st in the DR doesn’t carry quite the “responsibility” that it does in the states, it was still fun. So we celebrated the eve of, and got to go back to the awesome falafel place again and we had a great time. Later that night we went out to go dancing, which was alright. More exciting however, was the bus rides. I’ll save the details for any parents reading, because after all, we’re still alive, but let’s just say we were not always certain that would be the case. Lots of joking, bus dancing, and Dominican honking concluded a fun night out. Goodbye Santo Domingo, hasta luego. (first one is going to be what my art gallery foyer looks like, whenever I get around to opening it)
The next day was another travel day. We drove up to Santiago, with our guide, for some more museum time and a tour through the actual cigar factory. This museum was also great. It was mostly modern art, and nearly all paintings, but cool. We had less time for strolling, and that added some obnoxious pressure to the situation but overall it was a really cool visit and I gathered some gift ideas from it :)
Cigar factories are interesting. There is a very traditional method of creation that has hardly diverged from its roots in the last century. Unlike many of the other factories we visited past trips, the workers here are valued. Those with the technique and precision to roll a quality cigar are selected to be a part of the process. While there is definitely tedious work, a lot of the workers we met seemed enthusiastic about their work and clearly proud. Another fun touch is the lector. In the early 20th century, the factories hired lectors to read novels to the workers. And it is too great that they continue that tradition. A man was sitting in a corner reading the paper as we walked in, and it was definitely a little joy to see the pattern continue. Oh, I should mention. This was the Aurora factory, for those of you cigar connoisseurs. The rest of that night was wonderful as well. We went to an incredible, outdoor restaurant with its own Christmas lights and waterfall. As a birthday dinner, I’d say this seafood restaurant would have been hard to top. We went back our hotel, one of the nicest yet (complimentary toothpaste is kind of a big deal in my book) and hung out at the brightly-colored bar downstairs where we dressed in hawaiian-themed birthday attire and danced until we dropped. Which is kind of not true because we had to climb UP stairs to get to our rooms. But I think the jist is implied.
The next day was wonderful. I’m starting to realize that I just cant type every detail into this post, so I’ll end with our evening. There’s a European element to the DR. Naturally, it is the richest place where celebrities by property, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Historically it was a place (I really should look up the details) that a ruler created for his daughter who turned it down. With an amphitheater and cliffside view, this little village was beautiful in its entirety. It helped that we caught it at the perfect time of day, just before sunset with a bit of sun peaking through, but everything from the architecture to the open air added to its serenity. A wonderful Italian dinner in an open-air restaurant was the ultimate capstone to the trip, and I started another book for the ride home. Starting a new adventure as mine was ending, and it was great. A little over two weeks left on the adventure, we finished up our final field trip and are enjoying all the sun we can, while we can :) Love and smiles.