Tuesday, January 15, 2013
I know the words "vacationing" and "traveling" are often used synonymously, but in my eyes each represents a distinct way to visit a new places. My time spent in the Dominican Republic was primarily a "vacation" (as posted about here), because we spent most of our time lounging at the beach. Towards the middle of the trip, however, I started itching for an adventure, which to me is more appropriately classified as "traveling."
Through our resort, we were able to schedule tours of the island for the last two days of our trip (my sunburnt body was grateful). One of the first places we visited was Los Tres Ojos, or "The Three Eyes," a beautiful system of caves in the Santo Domingo area. It was my first time seeing natural (as opposed to manmade) caves in real life, and it was absolutely gorgeous.
We also made a stop at a sugar cane plantation which I found to be pretty awesome. I bake with sugar fairly regularly, but I never really considered the origin. Apparently, sugar cane comes in stalk formation, and to extract the sweetness you have to squeeze the juices out and cook it. On our tour we were each given a piece of the sugar stalk and instructed to chew on it to enjoy the sweetness.
I really loved a stop we made at a classic Dominican marketplace, mainly because it was so different from anything I had experienced before. I'm talking, middle of the market, dead pig hanging from it's legs, kind of different (I figured the imagery was graphic enough, I didn't need to post a picture). Really though, it reminded me of that market scene from the Disney movie Aladdin (even though we were in the Caribbean as opposed to a fake Arabian country).
Hands down, my favorite part of the trip was a stop we made to a typical Dominican home. The family who welcomed us in, allowed us to take a peek around, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a rooster hanging out on the kitchen stove (second picture below)!! Most eye opening, however, was that in spite of the home's modest size and lack of electricity, the people inside seemed perfectly happy and content with their situation... I felt really inspired. They were extremely welcoming and brought us into their backyard to eat cocoa straight from a tree in it's purest form. This will go down in history as the day I learned that cocoa beans are actually white...it makes me seriously consider how processed chocolate must be.
They also had a coffee bean tree in their backyard, and as a self proclaimed coffee-holic, I thought it was so cool that they allowed us to pick the beans from the tree, mash them ourselves with a mortar and pestle, and then cook it over an open fire stove. There was no need to add milk or sugar to the coffee, it tasted absolutely amazing all on its own. My trip to the Dominican was great because it provided me with a peek into another part of this beautiful world we live in. I must admit, however, after touring the island and seeing the widespread poverty throughout, it was a bit unsettling returning to the gorgeous resort we were staying at. I understand that tourism is one of the few industries that keeps the Dominican Republic's economy afloat, but it really made me appreciate the fact that I come from a family that's able to take nice trips abroad.