To start out I am sorry the pictures are limited, I thought there was more battery left of my camera cause it had just gone to 2 bars (of 3) so I didn’t realize how quickly it would stop being able to take pictures. It didn’t make it past the first night.
In February, The Peace Corps celebrated 50 years of continuous presence in the Dominican Republic. It was during the in-service training for my program and Tim (our trainer/acting APCD) took us over in the morning to see some of the presentations and also to a reception at the embassy. Since we were well versed in the Community Economic Development program I suggested to Anna we sit in on the Environment Program’s presentation. One part of the presentation was Evan (an environment volunteer) sharing about a project he had started to provide additional income. The project is that he procured a few kayaks through the assistance of Columbia University and is training guides to take out small groups on Laguna Limon. I said to Anna after that it would be cool to visit. I later ran into Evan and asked if we could and he was welcoming as long as we were happy to be guinea pigs.
So after some communication back and forth the trip was scheduled and Tristian had been included because when it was mentioned in front of him, he was interested as well. It was quite a trip on public transportation. I got up around 6:15 and got a carro to San Cristobal around 6:45. From San Cristobal a guagua for the capital to the end of the line at Parque Enriquillo. From there walk a few blocks east and then north to the Parada for Miches. From Miches I got another guagua going to Higuey to get there a bit after 3. Tristain and Anna’s trip included guaugaus, a ferry, and a moto ride. With gaps waiting for the next gaugau (I’m spoiled in my transport to site timewise because I can catch one form the capital probably every 15 minutes at most, and the carro usually is less than a 10 minute wait) it ended up being a long trip. Considering Anna and Tristian did use a tropic port we would start singing the gilligan’s island theme as a joke.
Once we got there and got situated we went out in the kayaks with Evan. He pointed out some of the bird life and took us down an inlet where there are Village Weavers which have a fun spanish name (cuculattus) and build basket like nests. Then we leisurely kayaked back, showered and got dinner that he had arranged for from a Dona and then we went on to play trivial pursuit. Because we got started late, we decided to play where you could get a pie piece even if you did not designated pie piece square. Both teams managed to fill up their pies, and Tristian and I won. The next day Anna asked to be reminded who won and did not believe me when I told her, I was like do you remember winning? She did not and than Evan backed me up.
After sleeping (I shared a bed with Anna and realized it would work better if we had our own sheets after she accused me of hogging the sheet), we got some breakfast from the colomada and then got ready to head out on our official tour. Angi (officially named Victor) was our guide and Tristian and Anna shared the double. At first Angi would get a bit ahead of us and then have to wait. The lake was choppy and we were going against the waves, so I was dragging a bit. In the middle of the lake, he tells us a few fact about the lake and then we proceed on. Once we were near the island of the lack he pointed out some of the birds and plants. Then he took us into a mangrove canopy that was simply gorgeous and tranquil. After some more facts, we got to just enjoy the tranquility. Then we headed down an outlet and were at the beach. A little more than 2 hours of kayaking. Then we got lunch provided for us and were allowed to relax on the beach. Of course shortly after we got there (probably 10 minutes later) it started raining, so we never did soak in the sun. When the rain was only a spritz and we had fully digested, we decided to head back. The trip back was easier after we managed to get back on the lack, because the relaxing trip down the outlet letting the flow take us of course meant that the trip up was against a strong tide. I had switched to the double with Anna, and at times we would be stagnant when paddling and then suddenly break free. Angi asked if we wanted a break and we all thought no we want to get through this and have it done with. So while there was critique to provide to Evan and Turner (to be introduced in a minute) it was an enjoyable excursion. One thing I said, was that it takes more effort than a leisurely paddle needs to be mentioned, because tour doesn’t quite convey the effort that might be needed. But I would recommend it, the lake is beautiful and the scenery around it is gorgeous.
Once we got back to our lodgings (it was walkable to the lake) and showered, Tristian came over and we thought, why not play trivial pursuit again. This time with proper rules until the end. Once Anna had all the pieces and landed in the center we were about ready to finish, so I just read down the card until she got one right. She got the first one right, it was easy. We had decided at this point to stay another night (I as the planner failed to get the information on exactly how long the tour took and failed to account properly for travel time). Doing this we also got to meet Turner who is the new volunteer in the site, I didn’t realize, but Evan was a 2nd year and will COS this month. As of Wednesday he had a week left in Los Guineos. And Turner was coming Wednesday night for his 4 day site visit. So we stayed and welcomed him with a game of Trivial Pursuit of course. This time I was partnered with Evan and we won. Of course since we were tired and wanted to finished Evan suggested that we just get asked a question in the color of their choice until we answered, and surprisingly the others agreed.
That night it rained a whole lot more. We got up in the morning intent on leaving and getting back to our respective sites. Sadly in each direction from Los Guineos are bridges that are not adequate when the river rises. The one on the way to Miches broke a few years ago and they have proceeded to compensate with cement, dirt and rocks with tunnels shaped in directly in the river. Evan says it doesn’t hold up to any substantial rain. So we did not know when the guaguas would start coming through and hung out in front of one of the colmadas just passing the time. Once Evan finished preparing for his English class and introducing Turner around a bit, he suggested another round of Trivial Pursuit and we agreed. Well I fetched it and Anna and Tristian did not say no. This time we split guys and girls. Turner being an excellent volunteer was already working on gaining confianza with the community and was playing dominos. Since we played the game sitting in front of the colmado, we determined how it was a tad difficult to explain to the concept to Dominicans, since we could not exactly convey the concept of trivia. We also for a few questions translated them into Spanish, but that did not work very well with out level of concentration a bit lowered by lack of sleep. The long and short of it is the guagua never came and our joke of a three hour tour came back to haunt us. I would also like to point out we packed alot less than the castaways.
So that night, we actually branched out and played a new game. Anna has a name for it, but it is not a cool enough name to indicate the great fun this game is. For now it is to be referred to as Annie’s game. Each person needs 5 scraps of paper in a stack. Original rules were write anything, we changed it to chosen categories. Each person writes according to the category, then passes the stack. The next person draws something to represent what is written , places the written piece at the back of the stack and passes. 3rd person writes what they think is written, moves the drawing to the back and passes, 4th person draws a representation and places the piece written by the 3rd at the back, and the 5th writes what they think the picture means and hands the stack to the creator. Here is the stack I saved because the progression simply cracked me up.
So the next morning I woke up and heard rain coming down the spout and through is there any way we are ever leaving Los Guineos. We made jokes the night before that we would simply have to get our sites changed, because we could never leave, but we all needed to get back to our sites. I needed to be back by 3 if possible for my Construye class. Luckily around 7:40 I saw a guagua passing in the Higuey direction. This would work fine for me (either way I made the trip was about the same cost and time), and was not a terrible route for Tristian and Anna. So I head down to congregate with the rest and we wait on Turner’s porch. About an hour later an engine that could possibly be a guagua is heard, and when Tristain looks and confirms, we work on gathering our stuff and flagging it down, we shout and chase it a bit. But it did not stop, It didn’t look like more than the driver and cobrador were on it. When Even comes by about a minute later, I swear he is thinking how did you fail to get the guagua, you’ve been in the country long enough. Luckily about 15 minutes later a guagua comes heading for Miches. This time they clearly were looking for passengers and we made it on. Getting somewhere was feeling possible. So we get to the terrible bridge and the driver decides he doesn’t want to cross and will just wait for a guagua coming from the other direction and they can swap passengers. We decide to cross the bridge on foot and walk a bit to see what comes by while waiting where it is dry. After some time a guagua comes through heading towards Higuey and after a discussion we get on because either it will cross the bridge or will turn around, either way we should get somewhere. At the bridge the guagua stops and the donas begin to get off thinking there is no way a crossing will go well. We Americans decide to stay along with one or two dominicans. The driver commits to crossing the bridge and although it is not pleasant, we did not die. Then the donas get back on and we head on our way. Of course we are still worried about the other bridge, but when we eventually got to it, it was not in as bad of shape. Around noon we got to Higuey and were able to get on a bus for the capital. I got back to Cambita at 4:25, but had asked Rafeal and Nicolas to let my students know class would be at 4 and 9 (I had 11 last week) of them were waiting for me when I got there.
So the trip was fun and I don’t regret going, but Tristian says if we go again (Evan suggested going in a year to see how its progressed) it will not be May and we will schedule a few day cushion to get back to our site.