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Racism, Rum and Precious Stones – The Dominican Republic pt 2

Its been a few days since my last entry. I am writing this with a bit of a heavy heart seeing as this is my last night here in paradise. Time moves fast, yep I have heard this being said many times before but it has never really meant much to me until this afternoon. I woke up and realized that time had run out on me. I guess that happens when you are having too much fun or are so relaxed that you forget all about time.

Where did I leave off last time…oh we had paid to go for a tour of Puerto Plata and Sosua.  It’s no fun waking up early especially when you are on vacation. Day 2 saw us up, dressed and done with breakfast by 8am. The tour started off nicely with the tour guide explaining the rules…we will all stick together, no going off on your own, we wait for each other and blah blah blah. I have to say I wasn’t particularly pleased to hear that I had to stay with these people all day long. Anyways one has to make the best of whatever right? 20 minutes later the tour guide starts explaining the history of Dominican Republic and Haiti.

I have to say this was interesting and I learnt a lot from all the history he explained. He said the 2 countries were one island at one point until the French and the Spanish started fighting for control of the island.

The Spanish overpowered the French and ended up with the bigger part of the island and named it Dominican Republic; hence the Spanish language. He also said the Spaniards brought Native Indians to work for them and co-mingling with them led to the complexion one finds among most of the indigenous Dominicans…they are light-skinned. There is also another group of the Dominicans who are darker – the same complexion as black people found in Africa and other parts of the Caribbean. The tour guide explained that these darker skinned Dominicans are descendants of the African slaves brought over to work. He then went on to explain that the French took the smaller part of the island and named it Haiti…if I am not mistaken I think he said Haiti means “land”. Anyways he said that’s why the Haitians speak French. He pointed out that the Haitians were dark because they are descendants of African slaves brought over to work in Haiti.

If he had continued providing these historical facts and the culture of the Dominican Republic I probably would not have gone ghetto on him. But he had to go and say this -”well one interesting fact about the fish at Sosua beach is they run away from dark-skinned people like the 2 girls sitting in front (meaning Zoe and I). The fish will come close to white people but run away from black people” – I don’t know about you but I personally like facts not biased people’s opinions, of course this was said for the benefit of the white people on the bus. Am sure they would have found it funny had we not been on the bus but since we were on the bus I don’t remember anyone laughing at this statement made by our guide a clear descendant of the mingling between Spanish colonialists and native Indians. Again maybe if he had not opened his mouth and run it on and on about the dark Haitians and the light-skinned Dominicans I might just have let him be. I clearly had not paid $58 US dollars to hear a person who thinks being light is better talk non stop about dark this and light that. I put my hand over my ears and turned the other way pointedly and everyone noticed me doing this. I had decided I had no words to waste speaking to this ignorant person. I know myself I escalate pretty fast. It doesn’t take much for me to go from zero to boiling point so because of that I avoid any confrontation of any kind I don’t like getting angry it’s just not healthy. But if one brings drama to my face girlfriend will react no doubt about that.  The dude then says out loud using his microphone of course…”is what I am saying bothering you? well I have to say it, this is a cultural tour and this is part of the culture”. I am pretty sure that fish running away from dark-skinned people is not a cultural fact of any part of the world. But then again who knows…I pulled myself up gave that guy one of my evil “kill you dead” looks and kissed my teeth then covered my ears again and ignored him. At our first stop I went to the other  tour guide and told him that if I hear any black this or dark that again I was going to jump someone…the other guide guy understood after being tag teamed by Zoe and I telling him in no uncertain terms that we were just not having it. I am happy to say from that moment onwards we didn’t hear any nonsense or rubbish meant to please the white tourists at the expense of the local black Dominicans. Turns out in the end I felt bad for this tour guide because he had these  little tit bits to share with his white tourists which he was now afraid to say and now did not know what else to say in place of all the racists rubbish he had been spouting.

Our first stop was the Brugal Rum factory. Brugal rum is exported to many countries around the world including Canada.

An old fort

The Brugal family has run this rum company since more than 100 yrs ago. This would have been an interesting tour if we had seen how they make the rum or something. But the tour takes you to the bottling warehouse in fact you don’t even see how they bottle the rum, you only see the rum in bottles then bottle tops being put on the rum filled bottles and then the bottles being boxed. You are for obvious reasons not allowed to take any pictures and I guess for those same reasons that’s why we were not taken to the rum making factory in order to keep the Brugal rum making secrets within the family. When the tour people were selling this tour to us they made it seem as if we were going to see how rum is made, alas that’s not the case. Make sure you do your homework and ask appropriate questions before booking some of these excursions because that day trip was not worth the US$58 I paid for it.

After the rum factory we made our way to the jewellery making factory. For those who know their jewellery and love it you will definitely enjoy this part of the tour. We were taken to a factory that works with Larimar a stone mined from a mountain in Dominican Republic and no other place on earth.

Larimar

History has it that not so long ago a man was jogging on the beach (I forget where) then noticed a shiny blue stone and stopped to pick it up. This stone was so unusual and beautiful he decided to take it to be examined by who I don’t remember.  The people who examined the stone realised right away that they were on to something special…the dude who found it was clever enough to ask for his stone back and take it to America were it was further examined and declared a precious stone. The dude was asked to give the stone a name and decided to name the stone after his daughter Larisa and the Spanish name for sea and voila Larimar. So back to the jewelry factory…those who understand jewelry were dazed and amazed by the craftsmanship that goes into making these exquisite pieces all done by hand. We were taken into a small room were the craftsman were busy working painstakingly on rings, pendants, bracelets to name just a few. I must say these people are clever after showing us the hard work that goes in each piece we were then taken to the showroom and bombarded with “get this; I give u a discount” and whatever else was said to us. But I being a sales or marketing person’s easy target fell for all the hoopla and whipped out my visa card which I had sworn never to use unless I was on my dying bed and needed to pay to be air-lifted back to Canada. US $184 later I walked out with a ring, a bracelet and a pendant that still needs a chain.

A few minutes’ drive from the jewellery factory we arrived at a part cigar rolling factory part Larimar and amber another precious stone in abundance in the Dominican Republic museum. We were shown different types of amber from blue amber, green amber to amber amber. It was all very interesting but by then I think I was in need of a glass or 2 to perk me up. But that was not going to happen until lunch time so like a trooper I smiled, listened and kept pace with the group. We finally made our way downstairs to the cigar rolling section of this multiple use “place”. Again this was all interesting but of zero interest to me.

 

Cigar Rolling

 

 

The overwhelming smell of cigars made me want to puke my early breakfast out. We were given the history of tobacco, I have to apologize I can’t tell you much about what was being said because I tuned out what the tour guide was saying. A few minutes after the tobacco speech, we were given a reddish/sweetish liquid thingy to taste they told us that it was Dominican Viagra. The story behind this concoction of rum, wine, honey and some traditional herbs had me perked right up and listening with a heck of a lot of interest. Apparently sometime ago there was a woman who could not have kids. She had sought help for years without any success from many different people. She finally went to this gentleman who mixed rum, wine, honey and herbs for her to drink. I am not sure how long after she started taking this mixture but the lady gave back to a total of twenty-seven kids back to back not sure over how many years. This portion became known as Mama Juana and is sold all over the Dominican Republic. I downed my little cup with no shame and sent a silent prayer to the good Lord in his wisdom to bless me with one or two only and not twenty-seven like Mama Juana. Some people in our group bought Mama Juana’s portion in bottles – who knows what secret dreams, hopes and goals people hold in the depth of their hearts- like they say in my culture …”hope does not kill”. I hope whatever reason they bought this potion will become a reality for them. I didn’t buy it because I figured I needed a man keeping concoction first before I got a baby making concoction but sadly they did not have a concoction such as this, well maybe next destination…remember hope does not kill.

At 12:30pm we made our way to a restaurant for our buffet style lunch which was included in the day trip fee.

Lunch was okay I guess one does not fly all the way from Toronto for good food at a resort but for all the other blessings and joys one finds at these resorts. I ate because a girl had to eat. I indulged in a glass of wine and was the only person at my table indulging in alcoholic beverage.  Salut to that! Now I have to take a break from the tour story and share with you why there are certain people who should be banned. I mean banned from ever leaving their place of birth.  People that are an embarrassment to all humanity the world over. These 2 ladies who had been busy bodies and know-it- alls on our flight from Toronto, started going on and on about how awful the food was and how one had to eat mashed potatoes and a piece of bread because their beef could be dog meat for all one knew; also that the cows were all scrawny, did not eat well and obviously unhealthy, that you just did not take a chance with it.  Stick to vegetarian choice and limit that just in case; they just went on and on like that. Now I have told you about how I avoid confrontation because I fear that if I entertain all this crap I will have a massive coronary attack. Luckily the other 3 people at my table were offended by these ignorant comments and piped up by saying that the cows in the Dominican were better fed than Canadian cows. That these cows grazed and ate organically more so than Canadian cows. It’s hard to change ignorance more so in a few minutes; one of these ignorant Canadians stuck to her guns and said whatever she was eating potatoes and bread only on this trip. No skin off my nose and your money fool! I thought why don’t you go back to Toronto you old bag and spend your vacation days in Calgary instead of Dominican Republic or Cuba.

When we had arrived at the restaurant they had told us that we were getting a complimentary glass of fruit punch per person. They repeated that if anyone wanted anything else other than the fruit punch one had to pay for it. Again one of these two lovely ladies asked for a diet coke. When it was time to leave she refused to pay for it saying well since she didn’t drink their fruit punch they could take it back and that would equal the bottle of coke she had asked for. The waiter tried explaining to her that this was not free but she in a loud voice would not even listen to the guy.  Zoe and the other 2 ladies at the table with us stood up silently and left the table in embarrassment. I could not get up and leave as well because I was waiting to pay for my glass of wine. In my embarrassment I took out my wallet and paid for my wine and that bottle of coke and also tipped the guy.

He looked at me and said thank you but that lady defiantly said nothing. When lunch was done we were taken to one of the best beaches in…I have to think here…am not sure whether it’s the whole of the Dominican Republic or the Puerto Plata/Sosua part of the country.

 

But anyways its one of the best beaches and that’s all that mattered to me at that time. I am not a beach person. Actually I am not very fond of the beach, half naked people, sand or too much sun. But here I am and have to make the best of it. I did what everyone else was doing at that beach…  keeping with the when in Rome thing…I rented a beach chair for $3, went in the water for a few minutes and then sat under the shade mind you sipping a pina colada in a pineapple shell till it was time to go back to the resort. The journey back was quiet I guess people were tired and it was around 5pm. End of day 2 an eventful day in the Dominican Republic.

Ciao for now Special K

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