My friend Day has a sign in her office, “No More Nothing” it says in bright pink neon letters. I found myself thinking about that sign frequently during my week-long vacation; what did it mean? Did it have some kind of hidden power or was it just a trick of the mind? Was it a riddle with no punch line, a philosophical puzzle? Or was it just a humorous way to kickstart us into working? I don’t think I found the answer because paradoxically and truth be told, I got pretty busy doing “nothing’ during my week in the DR. Chilling out beach-side on a chaise lounge, sitting quietly by the ocean or just leisurely enjoying a meal and good conversation it was hard to believe that I would have to give up this kind of nothing and go back to work. There are probably not words in the English language to describe the exact moment when I realized that I could do absolutely nothing and love it quite so much. Nirvana comes close.
This moment happened on Wednesday at about 4 o’clock- this was about the mid way point of my vacation and it was a palpable moment, a vacation epiphany. The best way I can describe it is a moment of complete freedom…I re-invented myself at that moment into someone who had a blank slate, like I had just taken a giant eraser to a wipe board and cleaned it till it was shiny and new. I audibly exhaled; well maybe I had a bit of help from the Terry MacMillan book I was reading at the time. I let go of everything and just SLLOOWWED down. It’s not as easy as one would imagine, there’s a lot of chatter in the brain and it takes awhile to get it to quiet down. There is power in stillness. I should know this as a practitioner and relatively green yoga teacher. I know that I am to go to my core and be present – live in the Now and most of all Breathe but I can tell you that being on the beach, listening to the ocean and feeling the sun beat down on me definitely helps that process of internal inquiry. By this point Special K and I had already gone to the local beach, walked around, done the obligatory resort meeting and just got our bearings. I can’t say that we did all that much for most of the week….yes we took a few outings here and there but most of our decision-making centered around when we were going to eat and what dishes we were going to try. Most of the restaurants were forgettable but the buffet was ok not spectacular just ok.They cook to the lowest common denominator and even that still elicits ignorant comments from Canadian travelers who seem to delight in denouncing foreign food. I can just see their pinched red faces as they look suspiciously over their meat half expecting it to jump out of the chaffing dish and bite them. Why some people choose to travel and then complain about everything being different from home, I will never know—isn’t that what Florida is for? I’m not much of a drinker as Special K already said and when I saw the wine being poured out of large plastic label-less jugs, I was quite happy with that decision.
I must confess though that Special K did get me to imbibe in a few Mojito’s which I very much enjoyed especially in the hot sun. I could berate the underlying tensions between Haitians (aka anything blacker than brown) and the Dominicans, or some of the thoughtless comments that we heard from those who should know better like our tour guide who said that fish don’t like black people in what appeared to be a pathetic attempt to curry favour with the other White people who were on our City tour, or I could bemoan the curious set of eyes that followed us around the resort not sure if they should ask us to turn down their beds or to smile and acknowledge us as fellow vacationers but I choose not to. Don’t get me wrong, we met some nice Canadians, a Trinidadian and Jamaican couple, a pair of ladies from Toronto in similar vocations as ours and some lovely hotel workers who were extremely pleasant and helpful.
By far though our last day was our best. If we had really done this vacation right we would have reversed the order of the trip and experienced our last day first. This would have dramatically changed the trajectory of our trip but all in all we still managed to squeeze in a heavenly final day that has made a lasting impact on us both. Not to recap everything Special K already said but that day was truly special. My friend Magda really outdid herself. We were whisked away from the resort ‘compound’- by the end of the week it began to feel more and more prison like (so compound really is the correct word here)- and introduced to real Sosua/Cabarete life. Adolpho, the artist with his quiet intensity and boyish charm and Ko with his exuberance and love of his country stand out for me. They all regaled us with stories and took us around some of the hidden gems of the town, their cultural centre, the new park where a modern-day Jewish art installation is being erected There has been a long Jewish tradition and little known fact that the DR offered refuge to over 100,000 Jews during WWII. This makes for an interesting mix of architecture and culture. Sosua is brimming with excitement as it welcomes its first female and Jewish Mayor—there is an air of possibility brewing in the small but picturesque town. Every year Sosua hosts one day of a three-day jazz festival, in addition to plenty of kite flying, wind surfing and people watching.
We ate a delicious and wonderful lunch at Ko’s incredible condo (the pictures tell the story), Kathryn taught our hosts some African dancing, and the conversation and wine flowed freely. At the end of the day we went home with beautiful memories, new acquaintances, full tummies and a beautiful piece of photographic art courtesy of Adolpho. Perhaps it was best we experienced that day at the end of our trip because I honestly can’t imagine being able to top it. It more than made up for some of the other awkward moments and strange resort culture.
I learned a few things along the way too….1) Special K and I seemed to make great traveling chicks while solidifying an already healthy friendship – and that’s no easy feat. 2) Resorts probably aren’t the way to go for me – although a 5 star hotel is still right up my alley….3) A week is not enough time, 10 days would have been better. I learned what to let go of and what to keep thinking over, what food to indulge in first thing in the morning and what not to try from the buffet again (banana, papaya smoothie—I miss you). I learned that, even though wherever you go you change a bit by leaving a bit of yourself behind and taking a bit of the place with you, in the end in some strange way it’s not necessarily true what they say – you can go home again…Just maybe a little bit changed for the better.
Final thought…. Get me outta here—I NEED ANOTHER VACATION!