Friday, December 19, 2014

Idiots in Paraiso

This is NOT a Wahoo.
We dodged a bullet last week without realizing it. Some of you fishermen may have recognized that the fish we caught was not, at all, a wahoo. It was a Barracuda. And, some of you fishermen would probably know that the Barracuda is, like, the poster-fish for Ciguatera – a dangerous toxin-based food poisoning that is acquired by eating infected reef fish. We were unaware of our mistake until the oldest son pointed it out to us after reading the blog post. We could easily have contracted the debilitating illness which has long term neurological effects. Not to mention the fact that we would have been way out in the ocean with both of us useless and, potentially, fatally ill. We can’t believe how stupid we were.

We spent the morning sort of shaky and nervous, looking for any signs of problems. Tripping on the steps, forgetting what we were doing, any twitch or weird pain had us thinking we were poisoned. Realistically, the signs would have shown up in the first 6 – 24 hours and we would have been sick as dogs. In keeping with the spirit of this blog, I reveal all of our foibles in all their glory. Feel free to think we are idiots. We certainly do.

As if that wasn’t enough to make us feel totally incompetent, here we are in Samana, (pronounced samaNA) Dominican Republic where no one speaks English. Oh sure there are a few folks at the marina that communicate in English – far better than my Spanish would ever be. They can put together the words to tell us stuff but they do not understand when we ask questions. But, for the most part, no one speaks any English. We have become dependent on the ‘Spanish for Cruisers’ book and a translator app on the iPhone.

Fear of incompetence has always been a significant personality driver for both Junie and me so this really hurts. We are both kicking ourselves for not working on this issue before we started this trip. Especially for me since I had made a commitment to learn Spanish and just kept putting it off. Oh well. Nothing to do now but muddle through it. I suppose we could consider it a Spanish Immersion.

We met some people, here at the marina, that have been living in the DR for many months. Bill was headed downtown and offered to take us along so we could get an exposure to the environment. And what an exposure it was. As I mentioned before, the marina complex is isolated from the ‘real’ world.

Junie relaxing on the veranda.

Life at the marina.
Once you pass out of the gated entrance, you are in the real DR. Motorcycles and scooters were whizzing past on the road - with multiple people on most. There are junky minivans, overflowing with people.  The road quickly transforms into the main street going into town. The number of people, motos and motocoachs (three wheeled things) grows exponentially. The noise gets broader and deeper as the shops, stalls and stands pack the sides of the street. It is crazy. I am sure that our wide-eyed tourista faces accurately reflected just how amazed we were.
Life in Samana

We were very grateful to Bill for sponsoring our introduction to town. He offered to just drop us off and let us find our own way back to the marina. Or, he could circle back to get us after he finished his business at the Tax Office. We, very quickly, accepted option B. He dropped us off and drove away. Our first stop was an ATM to get some DR pesos. Second stop was a small bakery for a couple of empanadas – ordered with gestures and a few words we knew. Third stop – ice cream! That is where Bill caught up to us again about 30 minutes later and escorted us back to the marina.

Two days ago, we had arranged for someone to come and look at our refrigeration. Once again, mostly communicated with gestures, a few words, never quite clear if all was clear, everybody smiling and saying ‘OK!’. But, yesterday, our friend showed up with the refrigeration guy. He spent about an hour diagnosing, topped up our refrigerant, charged us $40 and everything is great again.
Every cruiser will tell you that, by definition, this lifestyle means ‘working on your boat in exotic places’. In keeping with that theme, yesterday we sanded down the teak bow pulpit and all of the teak cap rail forward of midship and added a coat of varnish. Of course, that prompted a round of ‘Que! No trabaja por me?’ from the boat boys looking for work. Actually, they seemed pretty impressed that we were out doing the work ourselves. They told us afterwards that it looked ‘Bonito!’

We will take our Spanish immersion to a new depth over the next few days. We are leaving SeaClearly here at the Marina de Puerto Bahia and flying back to Richmond for Christmas. The first step was to get straightened out with Immigration. Fortunately, the young lady there also had a translator app on her phone.  Gotta love technology. This visit to Immigration is a necessary step due to the fact that we arrived to the country by private boat. The boat is, really, the entity that gets admitted to the country. You are just attached to the boat. For us to leave the DR to fly to the US, we need to be ‘dis-enrolled’ from the boat to enter the DR as people-entities. Then, we go to the airport and leave the DR. When we get back, we enter the DR at the airport, as people-entities, then come back here to be ‘enrolled’ to SeaClearly again. Interesting.

Tomorrow, we have to go back into the town of Samana to get bus tickets and some traveling cash. On our own. On Monday morning, we need to get into town again, somehow, for the 8:00 am bus for a 2 ½ hour ride to the south coast of the DR to Santo Domingo  Airport. Oh, and the bus doesn’t actually go to the airport so we have to switch to a taxi at some point. How much for a taxi? Depends on what you negotiate. But negotiate it before you get in, they say. We can hardly wait to see how foolish this trip makes us feel. Hey, at least we don’t appear to have any neurological disorders.

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