Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Part 3 – I’m out of halves, but I still have fun left!

Room with a view

Read my first and second posts about Punta Cana if you missed them.

Although the resort is a lovely place to spend time, you could also book a short trip off the grounds to go zip lining, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, and other fun, tropical, things. There were travel agency reps in the business center who would book an excursion for you. When reading the brochures I saw an ad for a trip to the Chocolate Museum and you know they had me at the word “Chocolate.” Ultimately the trip ended up being a reminder as to why you should check Trip Advisor before booking excursions.

The Excursion

After missing my ride because of confusion as where to meet, I was able to rebook a ride on another shuttle which took me to a courtyard with several different buildings all guarded by a man at the gate with a shotgun.

Shotgun

I would guess the armed guard was there to protect the cigar factory, not the chocolate store or the gift shop, or perhaps all that was a front for some illegal business going on in the back. Who knows? Needless to say, it made me feel a bit uneasy, particularly because the shuttle wouldn’t come back for another hour, stranding me at this location. The Choco Museo was basically a store. There were some exhibits about how chocolate is made, and there was a glass window where you could watch them working with the chocolate, but the tour was mostly a way to get you to sample chocolate and listen to them pitch products. Sorry, but I have no desire to buy chocolate shampoo! That said, my tour guide was sort of adorable. He spoke English very well, but he was still a smidge away from being totally fluent. During the “tour” he couldn’t remember the word for candy sprinkles, so I told him and then he asked me to write down the word for him. I admired that because it showed that he wanted to do his job well, even if that job was hocking chocolate to tourists.

Chocolate Museum

Surprisingly, I found the cigar factory to be more interesting than the chocolate store. (I will give you a minute to recover from the shock. Actually, take two minutes.) I got to watch two guys rolling cigars as another tour guide talked about the process. One guy was so hardcore that he was smoking a cigar while he was rolling cigars. My guide told me that the other guy had been rolling cigars since he was 12, which I think was meant to impress me but just made me sad about poverty and the lack of child labor laws in the Dominican Republic.

Cigar rolling

Thankfully I was able to find the right shuttle to take me back to the resort before darkness fell. On the way back the driver was listening to “One of Us” by Joan Osborne which made me feel strangely comforted. Not because the song is about God or about God riding a bus like I was, but because it was a song I recognized and because Joan Osborne went to the high school I would have attended if I hadn’t applied to the magnet school downtown. All of which made the world seem a bit smaller and more manageable. They listen to Joan Osborne here. I will be ok.

Class Tension

As you can gather from my posts, the vacation was really lovely. The only thing that left me a little uneasy was the unspoken class tension at the resort. Most of the visitors are white people who can afford to spend several thousand dollars on a vacation. Most of the hotel staff have darker skin and working class jobs that probably don’t pay enough for them to spend several thousand dollars on a vacation. Everyone seems to be aware of this without every saying anything about it. I felt guilty that I had been sorted into the group with the better privileges not because of anything I’d done, but because of where I’d been born and what my brother did. I almost wanted to whisper to the staff, “I can’t actually afford this vacation! I’m not like those other gringos!”

However, I would not have been able to tell them that if I’d tried because my Spanish is crap. It is so crap that I don’t even know how to say “crap” in Spanish. Before the trip I thought I would do rather well at understanding and speaking basic Spanish, because it’s the foreign language I know the most of. WRONG! I understood almost nothing. Technically I took five years of Spanish throughout middle school and high school, but they made us start over every year so I didn’t learn crap, literally. But I can really conjugate those -ar verbs!

Which is too bad because of the weird incident I had with the maid. Earlier in the day she’d tried locking me out on the balcony where I was reading. She’d come out to sweep and when she closed the doors I heard that *click* sound and became terrified I’d be trapped on a third floor balcony for God knows how long before my brother returned. I knocked on the glass and she opened the door. Then when I sat down again she closed and locked the door AGAIN. I got her to open it again, but I don’t think she ever figured out why I was so worried about the door.

Porch

Then, later that day she came back to the room and started pointing at the bed and showing my brother and me some numbers written on a sheet of paper and I still to this day have NO IDEA what she wanted. I don’t think it had to do with the balcony. I also felt like a total jackass for not knowing enough Spanish to have a basic conversation with her. If I’d thought of it at the time I would have opened up my laptop and tried to use Google Translate to have a conversation. There was a meme going around Facebook awhile ago asking what two words of advice you’d give to your younger self. Mine would definitely be, “LEARN SPANISH.”

Seriously though, the next time I visit a foreign country remind me to learn some of the language first. I remember feeling like a jackass when I visited France too, but did not seem to learn from that experience.

Airport Cat

Eventually all vacations must end, otherwise they would become our real lives and we’d eventually need to take vacations from them. Our shuttle got us to the airport over two hours early, which a paranoid traveler like me loved though everyone else seemed annoyed that they had so much time to kill. I was listening to music when I noticed there was a cat in a courtyard area of the open-air airport about 30 yards to the right of me. After oohing and awwing at the adorable little kitty I went back to listening to my music. A few minutes later I looked down beside me and saw this:

Airport cat

I would like to think Airport Cat chose to take a nap beside me because he sensed that I was a friend to kitties. However, it’s more likely that the position of my luggage next to the bench provided enough cover that he felt safe enough to catch a few Z’s. Airport Cat attracted the attention of several different children who came by to pet him. Several people asked if he was my cat which sort of offended me. You think I would let my cat run around an airport without so much as a collar on?! What kind of kitty mama do you think I am?!?! If I’d been more enterprising I would have simply said yes and charged them a dollar to pet him.

Airport Cat moved on after about 30 minutes. I hope he’s doing well. God knows an American airport would never let a cat run around like that so easily. I hear they use cats to sneak drugs into prisons, so who knows what a terrorist could do with one. The Punta Cana airport didn’t care much about boarding zones either. Americans get really worked up about what zone they get to board the plane on, but for our flight they called everybody at once, zones be damned! The most awesome part was that they let passengers board through both the front and back doors, which really sped up the process.

The airport

My flight back to the states was much quieter and more chill than my ride on the party plane to Punta Canta. I listened to music most of the way, but skipped any tracks that had anything remotely to do with death. “The Funeral” by Band of Horses? Skip! “‘Til the Casket Drops” by ZZ Ward? Not today! I realize that airplanes are one of the safest ways to travel, but every time I fly I briefly consider the fact that I could die in a horrible crash before reaching my destination. No need for my MP3 player to remind me!

I got through customs surprisingly fast and made my connection without any problem. I had to sit in the very back row which meant I didn’t have a window. That sucked, but I was also in the only row with an empty seat, which was awesome. Still, it was disorienting when we were preparing to land because I had absolutely no idea how high in the air we were. We could have been five thousand feet up or five feet above the runway. I had no clue.

Given the choice between a seat with extra space and a seat next to the window, I would have chosen the window. I do love the view.

Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away
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KalynsKitchen • March 6, 2014 at 10:42 am

I loved reading about the trip; you deserve more fun in your life! (Don’t we all?)

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JenFul • March 6, 2014 at 1:48 pm

@KalynsKitchen – Thanks, Kalyn! I’m never sure if I’m boring people to death about my travels, but I like writing them so I’m able to read them again years from now and remember the fun I had.

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Margaret S. • March 6, 2014 at 2:19 pm

Iā€™m intrigued about what the maid was trying to tell you with the numbers on paper. How much to tip her? What time of day she would be cleaning your room (and locking you onto the balcony)?

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JenFul • March 6, 2014 at 2:28 pm

@Margaret S. – I think it will forever remain one of the great mysteries of my life. The best guess my brother and I could come up with is that when I left for my excursion I interrupted her before she’d completed her checklist of tasks. So maybe she came back to see if we wanted her to finish? I really don’t know.

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momtaxijulie • March 6, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Haven’t read your blog in ages, must catch up! Love your witty story telling :)

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Cristy • March 6, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Have you considered being a travel blogger? I found myself really looking forward to parts 2 and 3 of your adventure to the Dominican Republic. I would read about your travel to anywhere!

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JenFul • March 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm

@Cristy – Well, I’d have to travel a lot more to be a travel blogger. And I assume I’d have to actually review places instead of just telling people what I did when I was there. I dunno. I’m not against it in principle but I don’t see how it could actually happen.

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AquaMarine • March 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Yay! Glad I stopped by the blog to see if you’d written some new entries. I’ve missed reading your blog. You’re a talented writer and I enjoyed reading about the DR. Keep the stories coming!

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Cristy • March 8, 2014 at 4:10 am

@JenFul – You are right, perhaps I’m being naive about travel blogging, but I still think you have something here. In my opinion, reading about what you did in NYC, Pigeon Forge, and Punta Cana was both helpful for travel prep and entertaining. Definitely better than reading a boring “review” about those places. For example, I now know to anticipate an hour pre-show with tiny $4 drinks if I ever go to the Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction- totally informative, but made me laugh! Is there a market for a book of informational, yet humorous, personal essays about travel? I would read it!

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Kathy • March 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Jen, have not been following for a while. I come back to you struggling with weight. I’m sorry. I have issues too, albeit not as big, but you need to get a grip. You know what to do. Do it.

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JenFul • March 10, 2014 at 3:53 pm

@Kathy – Hi, Kathy. I did a search for your email address in the comments left on this blog as well as on pastaqueen.com. I noticed that they have almost always been preachy, giving me advice I did not ask for on how to live my life. I’d appreciate it if you stopped reading my blogs and no longer left comments. You will no longer be disappointed by me and I will no longer be annoyed by you. I think it’s best for the both of us. Thanks.

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kathy • March 10, 2014 at 10:28 pm

Jenette, sorry you are offended. I do find your blog posts witty. Please accept my apology.

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JenFul • March 11, 2014 at 2:55 pm

@kathy – I tried to email you about this, but I got a bounce message, so I’ll post it publicly instead:

I accept your apology, but I also want you to know why I find your comments annoying. After doing a search on your email address I found these examples:

You criticize me for eating fish and chips in London: http://pastaqueen.com/blog/2009/05/european-travel-journal-day-2-london-city-tour-and-greenwich/comment-page-1/#comment-23034
You tell me I have “weirdo feet”: http://pastaqueen.com/blog/2009/03/explain-the-shoe-thing-to-me/comment-page-1/#comment-21739
You call the strawberries I bought “suspicious”: http://pastaqueen.com/blog/2010/05/a-winner-and-mutant-strawberries/comment-page-1/#comment-39051
You tell me I shouldn’t be wearing the same shoes as my mother. This one particularly pissed me off because I thought this experience was very endearing and showed the close bond my mother and I have: http://pastaqueen.com/blog/2010/06/i-am-my-mothers-daughter/comment-page-1/#comment-45016
You tell me I am wrong to be annoyed that people can’t spell my name properly: http://pastaqueen.com/blog/2011/04/what-name-can-be-spelled-only-one-way/comment-page-1/#comment-186131
There are also several about my weight and how I should be managing my weight http://www.jenful.com/2014/03/punta-cana-dominican-republic-part-3-im-out-of-halves-but-i-still-have-fun-left/#comment-15026 , http://pastaqueen.com/blog/2011/03/igigi-by-yuliya-raquel-review-and-50-gift-certificate-giveaway/comment-page-1/#comment-185686 , http://pastaqueen.com/blog/2010/01/happy-fifth-fativersary/comment-page-1/#comment-26919 , http://www.jenful.com/2011/10/my-injury-free-segway-tour-of-charlotte-nc/#comment-4988

As you can see, there is a pattern of critical behavior here. No single comment particularly stood out at the time (except for the one about my shoes), though they all irked me to some degree. But when you look at them as a whole I hope you understand why I felt the need to call you out on it.

If you do continue to read my blog and leave comments, please refrain from leaving messages like this or I will ban you.

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kathy • March 11, 2014 at 10:46 pm

Dear Jennette,
In my defense, I honestly was trying to be helpful and honest. Although, that has pissed people off before. Again, I believe you are smart and funny. Take care.

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Deb K • March 15, 2014 at 7:07 am

I find your writing about your travel experiences to be descriptive and enjoyable. I am not bored in the least and like the details you share. Then again, I think these remarks apply to all of your entries. You have a way of making the ordinary interesting, not that going to Punta Cuna was ordinary – I meant that about other posts!

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VeeGee • April 22, 2014 at 11:35 pm

I’m kinda late to be commenting on this, but I guess my OCD brain is making me! I was thinking about your resort experience and happily reliving my own holidays in Bali when it occurred to me: the maid was probably asking you what time you wanted the Turn Down service in the evening – like when they come back and fluff your pillows and turn down the blankets etc. In Bali it was memorable because the maids left frangipani flowers with “Good night” written on the leaves. Ahhh…

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JenFul • April 23, 2014 at 11:22 am

@VeeGee – That is the best theory I’ve heard and sounds fairly plausible. I’m trying to remember if the numbers on the paper could have been times, but it was too long ago for me to be sure. Thanks for possibly solving that mystery!

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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

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