I have come to the conclusion that a month on the beach in the Dominican Republic is not enough, especially when you return to sub-zero temperatures and more snow than when you left. It’s been a hard week. Honey and I returned home at 3 am on Tuesday and were both back to work on the Wednesday and just to add to our already confused state, they changed the time to daylight savings time on Sunday!! I’ve got no clue what’s going on!!
Returning from vacation is surreal. You start in sand and end in snow. You wore shorts yesterday and today you are wearing three layers of clothing just to stay warm. I know why you feel so much freer and at ease when you are on vacation, because you’re not being weighed down by 20 pounds of additional clothing! If you read ‘Happy Feet’ then you can guess which body part had the biggest problem with this change in attire. The abrupt change in environment makes my whole-body object. Even minor aches that had all but disappeared in the warmth of the island, came raging back in total disgust over the change. My lips chafed in less than a day! I had to go buy medicated lip balm!! I had only been in the country for 24 hours!!
For days upon my return I must greet people, whom I rarely talk to, and answer the same questions and comments. “Welcome back.” “How was your trip?” “Did you have a good time?” “Nice tan.” “How was the weather?” “Where did you go?” “Wow, are you back already?” “How long’s it been?” The replies come out of me like something pre-programmed, “Thank you, good to be back.” “Great!” “Excellent.” “Thanks.” “Sunny and hot.” “Dominican Republic.” “Yes I am.” “Not long enough.” Did you keep up?? This process is repeated with every person I see, regardless of my relationship with them, for three straight days! For the next 300 days they won’t do anything more than nod at me!! Why do they all of a sudden feel the need to speak?!!! I think it’s the tan. It acts like a beacon. They’re moths seeing a flame, they just have to say something!!!
Of course, my closer friends get a more detailed response but generally I am very subdued about my trips south. I don’t tell them about my happy feet or going shopping with a Canadian, Dominican and a Brit shouting directions. They wouldn’t see the humour, they’ve been freezing their asses off in a polar vortex!! It’s always better to keep it simple. Only you, my loyal reader, gets to see and feel what I do. My friends all know I write here but I don’t exactly have the most literary friends, good people but they would rather watch television.
I will no doubt write in more detail about events and my opinion of them but to give you an overview let me start with; My time spent at the Playa was outstanding. It was hot and the sun shone every day. I was immersed in a completely different lifestyle. I did my best to speak a foreign language and communicate with those around me. Even though I failed miserably, I had the time of my life trying.
I spent time with friends; Ginger, The Earl, Rock and Stream, people I don’t see enough of. We talked and laughed together and got to know each other just a little better. Our actual face-time together has only been a few days but has spanned years. We come from different parts of the world. We have non-related lives, and yet all of us were drawn to the same plot of land on this Caribbean island. I’m not a hugger but I like hugging these people! I have many memories of the last month, but my time spent with these people are my best.
I don’t have a normal Caribbean vacation. I don’t do the normal tourist things. Sure, I go to the beach… I’m on the beach!! But I don’t sit around in the sun for obvious reasons (see: Neapolitan). I do “not-so” touristy things, like discuss fabrics and plumbing. I shop for bar fridges not cheap trinkets for gifts back home. I’ve been coming to The Playa far too long, and have too many grandchildren, to be buying friends and relatives over-priced trinkets! No one gets anything! They can have what’s left over when I die, until then NADA!! Grumpa’s rules!!!
Explaining my vacation to most people is not a simple affair, things that I would do at home I was doing in the Dominican Republic. Fixed a shower, fixed a toilet, bought a broom, are not something you tell a person that is asking after your holiday experience. But that’s some of what I did. Honey and I ventured into hardware stores, which are not exactly Home Depots, and muddled our way in a foreign language to get what we needed. Honey spent time measuring windows and beds, planning and list making. The same thing she does back home. Our vacation only resembles most resort holiday’s in one way, it took place on a Caribbean island in February.
But don’t get me wrong, I loved it! Resorts are great but you always feel rushed, like you need to make an immediate decision as to what to do next. You can’t waste a moment of time sitting idle. My holiday is not so jam-packed that there is no room for a nap. I like naps! I want a nap or two during a holiday!! What’s the point of drinking too much if you can’t nap the next day?!!! So, I’m not able to tell stories of fancy surroundings, being waited on by every Dominican on the property. I can’t tell you about taking a tour to see a cave and watching kids jumping off rocks. I didn’t do any of that. I learned about bus routes and chocolate plants and tried to learn and speak a new language. I worked at conquering my fears and embracing a culture and lifestyle as best I could. I didn’t do ‘tourist’ things! Okay yes, I did order a Pina Colada… but I did it in Spanish!!!
My holiday is the furthest thing from a vacation but it is a long way from being work. It is a subtle blend of both. I know this is because I plan to spend much more time at the Playa Magante in the future and doing things to prepare for that requires a certain amount of seriousness. Even small things like replacing a shower-head wall mount is a step in the right direction for my future. I don’t see this as anything more than an extension of my life.
I like to think of myself as a pragmatist. Anything can happen in the next two years. Saying any of them here and now would require me to ‘touch wood’, so it is best left to the imagination. Even as it stands now, with a course set, there will be many serious discussions to be had between now and then. Soon my life will transition from one phase to another and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried. “What if this’?” and “What if that’s?”, plague me. But if I think about it, the “What if’s” have chased me all my life and there is no reason to think they will disappear. The only difference will be the location I am in when I deal with them.
My holiday has become what I want it to be. It involves smiles and laughter. It has become about new things and old friends. It has become about assimilation not separation. I will never be Dominican but hopefully I will become a Canadian cousin. Every holiday I take there gets me that much closer. My holiday is not a vacation, but it is everything I want it to be and then some. All of you should be a lucky as me.