A Travellerspoint blog

April 2015

Hide and Seek

in an abandoned resort

sunny 30 °C

Hide and Seek in the abandoned resort may or may not have been one of my ideas…

But when Mimi, a good friend of mine told me all about an abandoned resort that was her favourite place on earth – I simply had to go there. I asked Timpe and Hod (who had gone with Mimi) if they would like to go again, and if so could they lead the way for me. And soon enough, the idea turned into hide and seek with a great bunch of people from the castle. We had to postpone it once due to good wind (meaning every kite surfer dropped everything and ran to the water), and then when it was looking like postponing was going to happen again we had to make the final decision – wind or no wind, surf or no surf, hide and seek was happening.
And I am so glad it did. The place itself was ginormous. Over 500 individual house style apartments – each that once had at least a bedroom, a desk, a bathroom, wardrobes, and some with kitchen facilities.
There were houses that had multiple bedrooms and clearly once housed families on vacation.
There were giant eating areas and restaurants, one that was out of bounds for hide and seek due to the large population of bees living within its walls - and having 2 severely allergic game players, both without their epi-pens (oops, sorry parents)…
Abandoned swimming pools…
Abandoned mansions…
An abandoned swim up bar and pool house that felt as if it once housed some amazing parties…
Abandoned and ancient generators for power beside an unrestrained well in the ground…
Even the pool equipment was abandoned and flooded in its underground bunker…
And everywhere we went, the eeriest feeling filled the air. It was as if a million families and friends had partied. Had posed outside their cabana and peered into the cameras with beaming holiday faces and their arms wrapped tightly around each other’s shoulders. The couples who had shared their honeymoon, the sibling fights, the lovers tiffs, the nights of passion, the races to the swimming pool to do the biggest divebomb. The giant reception hall stood unroofed and desolate after being witness to thousands of people who had checked in and checked out probably to have no idea of the fate of their beloved 5 star holiday destination.
The looters had come, and everything was gone – from the toilets to the light switches, and even to the tarnished bronze drawer handles now on their way to Holland to be a Christmas present for my friend’s mother.
And a little piece of all of the energy the resort had ever seen, remained where it was ingrained into every single piece of flaking paint and broken roof tile. Where I looked around in dismay and could see what the not so far future inhabitants/ cultures of earth will see when our current society wipes itself out with its greed and over consumption.
When the future generations will walk around in disgust as they observe how we could leave everything so broken and empty, how we can close the doors and walk away from something that once was our dream purely because it no longer served us. Because the price for selling it wasn’t enough so it was better off that no one had it, even in a country where there are hundreds and thousands of people living in mud huts surrounded by dust and debris. Somehow to someone, it seemed better to shut the doors and walk away forever rather than donate the structurally sound buildings to families in need around the country.
However, the remnants of the rubble are now home to one beautiful, smiling, kind Haitian family of squatters who have rigged up the best property in the place with running water from a hose and electricity – luxury to many people in these parts of the world.
And to us, it was a huge desolate playground for adults, where ever corner held danger and excitement. Where all we could do was explore and search and stare in amazement at something that was once so full of life.

Posted by chasingsummer 09:57 Archived in Dominican Republic Tagged buildings parties caribbean adventures Comments (0)

Los 27 charcos

The 27 waterfalls

sunny 30 °C

Los 27 charcos / The 27 waterfalls were possibly one of the most amazing natural occurrences I have ever been able to see and explore. I was so pleased I made it there as it was one of the huge draw cards for sending one of the emails to the Castle and my wanting to go up to Cabarete in the first place. Johanna, Sarah, Nicholas, and I packed our bags and headed off to Puerto Plata to stay with our friend Brandon – aka machine man. He was house/ cat sitting for a Korean lady who had left behind the strangest wide eyed cat in the entire world – great for staring competitions. We set up the living area as a giant slumber party due to a bed shortage and headed out for giant pizzas for dinner.
On the way home, we found a group of guys doing some work on a building using a cherry picker. Now, most people who know me may not be aware that going in a cherry picker is a lifelong dream. Yes, I have trampled my way through ancient Mayan temples, eaten off the floor in a Cambodian orphanage, danced in the tropical rain on a tiny Carribean island… but what will soothe my soul – A CHERRY PICKER! And boy, was I excited when they boys loaded me up into this battered and tattered death contraption and flew me high up into the air with a million jolts and bumps.
Even though it was night time, and the floor to the cherry picker was anything but stable, I was able to look out from the highest height as I clung to the flimsy metal structure and see the Caribbean Sea by night, the ships floating past and the city spread out before us. The others were amazed at how high we kept on going up, I was amazed that the angled cherry picker didn’t throw us out or collapse beneath us! But somehow it didn’t and it dropped us safely back to about 3 meters high where a ladder and a friendly giant helped me back down with the words largest grin on my face and a heart pumping with adrenalin.
The adrenalin was soon followed by a whole lot more as we woke up early the following day to head off to one of the world’s only natural water parks. Of course, what adventure isn’t quite complete without hitching a ride in the back of a pick-up truck for the final kilometre?
We had arrived early so to be able to do all 27 waterfalls. There were options available to do 1 – 7, 1-18, and then all 27 but you could only do them all if we arrived early enough. The other part of arriving early was to skip the crowds, which we managed to do. For most of our 4 hours of adventure, we were all alone with our guides. The tour guides we had were slightly crazy and super kind. I was wearing the worst shoes in human existence and slipped over in the mud multiple times as we hiked up the hill on the way to the top waterfall. The hike up took over an hour and that in itself was worth the measly 500 pesos ($15NZD) we had paid for the entire day’s adventure.
We saw caves on the way, painted ourselves with mud, hid in the trees and scared each other, and jumped and splashed through mud puddles.
It didn’t really matter how dirty we got as we knew we were going to be swimming the whole way down. 90_DSC00805.jpgDSC00807.jpg90_DSC00842.jpg90_DSC00844.jpg
And sure enough, it wasn’t long before we hit the top!
And then we were throwing ourselves off waterfalls of all sizes
Into pools of the clearest blue
Sliding down natural rock slides like my favourite scene from one of my childhood movies, The Goonies.
Some of the rockslides were short but had the best drops at the end of them.
The canyons as we walked between each waterfall were amazing and we could see where the river once reached to hundreds of thousands of years ago.
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There were ladders to help you climb, and in other parts you had no other option but to scramble up or jump off.

As we walked back at the end of the day to make the bus, we all felt as if we had achieved something amazing. It wasn’t hugely taxing physically but some of the jumps and slides did take a lot of mental preparation. Especially as I ended up hurting my elbows going down the first slide the wrong way meaning every slide after meant I was slightly apprehensive to go down! But there is nothing like scraping down a waterslide on the bones of your elbows to remind you to lean forward the next time you do it so you don’t do a 180 turn in a bad way!

Many people had told me it wasn’t worth it, that it was a tourist trap, and that it was too much physically! However, as usual these people had not actually gone (and didn’t share my deep love of waterfalls and jumping) so of course I had decided not to listen to them and as a result I had one of the best days of my life. I was so grateful that I followed my heart and went along. I went with the best group of people possible too, there was just the right amount of fear, adrenalin, excitement, laughter, and competence. We made a great team, and I’d go back there in a heart beat.

Posted by chasingsummer 16:00 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (0)

Making a difference

medical center translating

sunny 30 °C

One day in Cabarete, I was walking down the street with a group of girls from the hostel when an elderly lady approached me and asked if any of us spoke Spanish. We told her that I could, and she then proposed a little piece of voluntary work.

The concept:
A group of medical specialists from Canada were coming to the Dominican Republic to work for a week in a building in Callejon de la loma (better known as Callejon, the main Dominican Street as opposed to the main gringo street in town). There would be doctors, dentists, dental hygienists, optometrists, nurses, paediatricians, and pharmacists who would give free care to as many people as possible over a 7 day period of time.

I agreed to do the work, partly because of my love to do work that actually matters and mostly because of my desire to get more experience translating so that I can do more work that actually matters…

I signed up to work for the pharmacist as I was terrified of seeing in people’s mouths, and unwilling to have close contact with super sick people due to my hopeless immune system. However, on the first day I found myself put immediately with the optometrist as the pharmacist didn’t really need translating because the Doctor’s translator was the best person to translate the prescription, rather than doubling up the job.

It was a swap that turned out to be the best thing that could have happened (thank you universe!). Our job involved testing people’s eye sight by giving simple reading tests or wall tests so as to prescribe them the appropriate seeing glasses. I realised how magical what we were doing was as soon as we helped the first person to see – there were tears of joy, hugs, kisses, promises of fresh food delivered to us, and so forth for the rest of the day. On that first day, we helped over 100 people to see life better, it was an amazing feeling. One of doing good for people, of making a difference, and of using whatever we can inside each of us to make the world just that little bit better. And the feeling reminded me of my old job in New Zealand with Applied Theatre of restoring hope in others; of how it used to be before I lost the hope and faith in myself due to the lack of quick results and bureaucracy.
I quickly realised over the following week that my Spanish is now good enough to resume working in my career. Not yet in editing, but most definitely in teaching. I was called upon by doctors and dentists throughout the week to translate when it was a particularly thick accent or someone spoke too fast. Most of the translators were second (or third or fourth) language speakers and I quickly realised how much deeper my comprehension was. The Caribbean accent is very thick and lazy but due to spending so much time here over the last year, I didn’t have any trouble at all and was able to translate efficiently and with smiles all around.

One of the things I learned about translating is that the patient sees me as the doctor, even though I am just the voice. So they will talk to me, they will expect me to be the one to give the magic answer, and they will plead their case with me. And somehow, when that is then translated by me the urgency, the desperation, and the truth of the situation is somehow lost. It just becomes another story amongst many. Yet when that person is talking to you from the depth of their soul about how they need only $3500 pesos ($100NZD) to save their eyesight from cataracts, it is impossible not to feel that impacting your own inner being. We were only able to provide eye glasses as we did not have the equipment nor the time, skills, and space to do operations or medical procedures.

Speaking of space, it sure gave some perspective to the optometrists in the first world. I bet very few of them have worked on one side of a desk with another optometrist and translator seated on the other, both prescribing used eyeglasses from plastic bags after just a simple test. With two dental hygienists within a metre of us, scrubbing and scraping the build up on peoples teeth with translators describing basic dental health. Where behind the hygienists worked two dentists who’s arms were so sore from pulling hundreds and hundreds of rotten teeth all day long that they often needed to stop for rests because they could no longer feel their muscles. Amongst the 6 medical professionals and the 6 accompanying translators were lines and lines of people waiting for their turn, in a room with 30 degree heat, no running water and at most parts of the day - no electricity, meaning no fans! All watching with anxiety, scared to have their teeth pulled or worried that the glasses that would be their prescription may not suit the shapes of their face. There was the little girl who the dentist refused to pull her tooth, he asked me to explain to the mother that she was only 8 years old and far too pretty to live a life without a front tooth. I explained to the mother in the nicest way possible that the tooth wasn’t damaged enough to be pulled and it could be easily saved if she went to a local dentist. And the girls face lit up – both because we had saved her pain, and also because the strange white man who didn’t speak her language had come all the way from Canada and thought she was pretty. I knew she would remember us forever – either at 16 when she looked in the mirror because her mother took her to the real doctor and saved her fate by spending a few pesos wisely, or with kindness because we tried and hatred towards her mother for not listening and giving her the complex of having holes in her smile.

There were the little old men who would light up when I spoke of being in the country to dance bachata and merengue, who told me of their youthful days of dancing to the same music that I have come to love more than any other. There were the teenagers who pouted and lied about their vision until they got the glasses they wanted, the ones that matched their sanky haircuts. I had to laugh as I remembered being in the same situation years ago, spending hours and hours with my own mother as we chose each other glasses – that suited our eyebrow lines of course!

It was an amazing experience and I was so happy and proud to be a part of it. I learned that I need to be doing work that matters, and I also learned that my Spanish is good enough. That maybe I am finally one step closer to bilingualism as I have dreamed about for so long.


Posted by chasingsummer 09:23 Archived in Dominican Republic Comments (0)

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