We took a day trip away from the resort that I was at first ambivalent about but it ended up being really awesome! We were shuttled an hour away to the city of Macao, where we rented an ATV to off road through the town and beach. We also received a funny presentation about local foods and learned about how Dominican coffee is made and other items like coconut oil, green tea and baking spices.
Leaving the resort was definitely a culture shock, and while it was expected it was still eye opening to say the least. The bordering towns are covered in trash and run down. Children and adults line the street, lingering in bars and shops and most just sit outside their homes in lawn chairs blankly staring at you as the tour bus drives by. I wonder if they are glad we bring business to these towns or angry for our flashy American touristy ways. I would imagine the latter, if I were them.
The entire tour was a little over two hours. I was nervous at first to ride in the ATV (especially with my road raging husband as its sole driver – love you Brian but you know it’s true!) but that worry quickly wore off. It was nice to change it up a bit, let loose, get dirty and learn about the culture.
We walked away with two jars of natural coconut oil, some green tea leaves that are supposed to help us naturally lose weight (you know I’ll update you on this) and a cd of posed beach pictures we took. The photo cd purchase occurred after aggressively being chased after, we bartered a purchase of from $45 to $25 a cd. When anyone warns you the people of the Domincian Republic enjoy bartering and pursuing a sale, they really aren’t kidding. By the end of the day excursion, my polite attitude was gone, replaced with a blank angry stare and stern “no more” after being asked 20+ times to look and buy a $5 bracelet. I understand there is a livelihood at stake and that everyone selling has a story and need. I’m sure certain tactics work on certain people but I found myself purchasing only the goods and from vendors who were not pushy and brash in their approach. The coconut oil and other times were said to be given 25% to the local school for children’s education, which I can only hope is true.
Exiting the ATV at one stop, this little girl stole my heart and broke my heart. She opened my door and then asked for a dollar or anything I could spare. I did not have anything on me but it got me thinking. Whether or not she was put up to that to pray on unsuspecting tourists or it is really a true and desperate need, she’s still a seven year old girl with no shoes on in the middle of a dusty road begging for money. No child should remember that as a childhood memory. We should all count our blessings for what we have and the freedom we surely possess where we live.
Honeymoon Tip: Wherever you are, find a little time to learn about the area you are in and the culture. Branch out of normal activities and try things you would deem out of your comfort zone. The memories you will one day tell your kids won’t be about the endless Mai Tais you drank, but instead will be about the little moments, you and your significant other learned, explored and loved together.