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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

First taste of Santo Domingo

The courtyard outside my hotel room in Santo Domingo

It has been an incredible last couple of weeks. So incredible that I am not entirely sure where to start. I think the best way is to do it in a series of short posts so that you get a taste of the richness of colour, culture, hard work, dust, humidity, heat…of the sweetness of the cacao and fresh pineapple and bananas. Of the sound of laughter and music.

I arrived in Santo Domingo on March 26th at 9.30pm. It was a hot, humid night. The air was so heavy with moisture that it left a thin layer all over my skin and hair. Myself, Leo and Arielle were met at the airport by Raleigh International’s Costa Rican Country Director, Julian, and our medic for the trip, Carolyn. Leo was coming from southern California. I was coming from northern California, and Arielle was coming from New Hampshire. Julian and Carolyn ushered us out of the airport into the hot night. The smell of burning rubbish was pungent, and the air throbbed with loud music on every corner. Neon lights. Street vendors. Cars and buses and motorcycles darting every which-way. The raw smell of the ocean wafting in the open car window told me that we must be very close to the shore even though the sounds of rubber on asphalt, horns beeping, and music rhythmically pumping away obliterated the soft push and pull of waves up and down the beach.

We exited the “highway,” and the road followed the curve of the harbour, florescent lights flooding the bay, a giant cruise ship so enormous that made me feel like I had stepped into a chapter of Gulliver’s travels loomed, a solid white wall, above us. To the one side was the harbour. To the other, the thick, impenetrable wall of the old city of Santo Domingo. We drove through a gate, winding our way through narrow streets, between mopeds and parked cars, swerving to avoid women teetering in heels, their bosoms blossoming full and ripe out of low-scooped necklines. The small of cigarette smoke curled in through the window. Horns. As the car slowed in traffic, I caught glimpses of bar after bar, their ornate doors thrown open to the night, warm dim glow of light flooding out onto the cracked sidewalk. Inside they looked like caves filled with bare limbs. Limbs flopped into chairs around tables, hanging limply over the backs of chairs, around the dark bare shoulders of sweet smelling women. Limbs dancing rhythmically in and out of shadows that climbed the stone walls, then fell, sliding smoothly across the cool stone floors.

Just when I thought we would never arrive, the car pulled up outside the Beaterio. A refurbished Monastery, our hotel reminded me of something I might have expected to find in Barcelona. Stepping through a thick wooden door, I entered a room bathed in warm yellowish light. A number of the other participants were lounging around in a living-room type atrium. After introductions, we were ushered down a hallway into the kitchen. I pulled my heavy hiking boots off, my feet loving the cool rough stone floors. Bunches of ripe bananas hung from the ceiling. A platter of freshly cut pineapple and melon was sitting on the counter. Arielle, Leo and I, ravenous after a long day of travel, dug in – sweet pineapple juice dripping down our chins. We were all tired and a bit giddy, but also excited for what lay ahead.

Arielle and I were given the last room on the ground floor, which opened up onto a courtyard lush with palms and vines climbing up to the second story. Our bedroom, complete with two four poster beds, felt like a fairytale. Lying in bed, the blades of the ceiling fan spinning endlessly above us, agitating the heavy air around us, we talked about our lives back home. Our work. Our friendships. Relationships. We also talked about the day ahead. Exploring Santo Domingo. Getting to know everyone in the group better. I do not remember falling asleep. Just being woken by the sound of morning in the capital – the clatter of plates, laughter, and the inability to keep myself from leaping out of bed, even after only a few short hours of sleep. 


  1. This sounds lush and luscious! The colors and textures of the environment are really brought to life! And your joy in being there!

  2. Looking forward to reading all your posts and can't wait to hear more about it on Sunday!