Thursday Things

1. As I assume you can tell from Tuesday’s post, I survived my trip to Punta Cana, despite my laundry list of anxieties and moral misgivings surrounding the trip. In what should come as a surprise to no one, I enjoyed myself significantly more than I expected and found myself feeling disappointed upon arriving home Sunday evening rather than the relief I expected to feel. Woe is me.

2. GUYS. I ADDED SO MANY BIRDS TO MY LIFE LIST. IT WAS AWESOME. For starters, there was a small pond near my room that was home to four American Flamingos and a whole flock of domestic Muscovy Ducks, easily the most…interesting…ducks I’ve ever seen.

excellence el carmen, punta cana

The flamingos were something else. They were extremely cliquey, for one thing. Three of them always hung out with each other, while the fourth was always by itself. It made me really sad! They were a lot of fun to watch, though. At one point, I even saw them using one of the outdoor showers they had at the resort for rinsing off sand, which was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever witnessed, at least from a bird standpoint.

excellence el carmen, punta cana, excellence resorts, excellence el carmen main building, excellence el carmen food truck, excellence el carmen grounds

I have a sneaking suspicion both of those species were brought in to live at the resort specifically. It’s possible that the flamingos just decided to make it their home, since they’re native to the Dominican Republic, but the ducks primarily live in South America. (I also saw a staff member feeding them at the same time every day, which contributes to my suspicions that they’re stocked at the resort.) The pond also had several other visitors at various times during the day, including a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret, and a Green Heron. Since those birds came and went (and are all native to the Dominican Republic), I imagine those were “real” sightings, not ones facilitated by the resort.

There were a bunch of Greater Antillean Grackles on the grounds. That didn’t seem so special to me until I learned that they only live in Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Puerto Rico, meaning this was a bird I could only add to my life list by being on one of those four islands. Score!


I also saw Northern Mockingbirds, Hispaniolan Woodpeckers (another AWESOME find, since they live exclusively on Hispaniola), and a Brown Pelican soaring over and occasionally floating in the ocean. Additionally, there were a TON of these one birds that I couldn’t identify for the life of me. They reminded me of barn swallows, but I’m 99.99 percent sure they weren’t. I did eventually ask a staff member, but he didn’t know. Oh well. There were multiple other birds I couldn’t get a good enough look at to identify, either. I didn’t bring my SLR to Punta Cana because it seemed totally unnecessary, but after discovering how many birds were on the resort, I seriously regretted that decision. Thus, you will be subjected to my iPhone photo of a mockingbird.


3. I bartered for the first time in my life on Saturday (in Spanish, no less!). I wanted to buy something from one of the beach vendors, even if it was just a corny touristy bracelet I’d never wear. The vendor I waved over ended up having a bunch of jewelry made with larimar, a blue stone that you can only find in the Dominican Republic–or at least he said it was made with larimar. He could’ve been lying, I guess, because I’m no geologist and wouldn’t know the difference. I also stock my jewelry collection with whatever I can find for $5 or less at Old Navy, so I’m not exactly particular about quality or value. Anyway, I thought the necklaces were pretty, so I said that’s what I wanted, and he told me it was $40. I said I only had $20, so back and forth we went until we settled on $30. I don’t know if that was a good deal or not, but honestly, I was much more excited to be bartering and to finally be speaking Spanish beyond “hola” and “gracias.” (Though the whole deal certainly could’ve gone down in English. I started speaking Spanish to the vendor when we bartered, but he had initiated the conversation in English.) I had also brought cash to Punta Cana to assuage my guilt about patronizing an all-inclusive via tipping and spending, so the whole money piece of the equation was irrelevant to me.

4. Before I left for Punta Cana, I had it in my head that I would only speak Spanish for the duration of the trip. In deciding this, I neglected to consider two major barriers to that goal: first, that my exposure to Dominican Spanish prior to this trip was nonexistent. Second, that everyone would begin speaking to me in English, which did not do much to put me in a Spanish speaking mindset.

On my last day at the resort, a bellboy came to pick up the luggage. He asked where home was and if it was as warm there as it was in Punta Cana. I knew the weather was decent-ish in Chicago by Sunday, but I certainly didn’t know how to convert 60 from Fahrenheit to Celsius on the fly, so I did my best to communicate the conditions in Chicago on Thursday (the day I left): “No, it’s not warm at all. Hay nieve.”

That was all it took! We then carried on a conversation about the weather in Spanish all the way back to the main building! I was SO HAPPY. He told me about Dominican weather and I confirmed that no, it was definitely not still supposed to be snowing this time of year. We talked about how it’s green in the Dominican Republic while everything is still (mostly) brown in Chicago, and then he told me my Spanish was excellent, which is most definitely a generous assessment of my ability to speak the language, but I appreciated it nevertheless. It was just the very best way to finish the trip 😀 Didn’t get that Spanish minor for nothing, darn it!

5. I got the stupidest sunburn on this trip. Between my family history of skin cancer and my general crushing fear of any and all medical ailments, I’m about as strict as they come when it comes to sunscreen application. Given that the vast majority of my skin had been sheathed under layers and layers of clothes for the past five months, I was particularly adamant about not going outside without sunscreen while in Punta Cana. I even put it on on the plane during our descent, since I knew we’d be let out onto the tarmac, not a jet bridge. I did so well avoiding UV rays until Saturday afternoon, when I forgot to put sunscreen on the back of my left hand and the front of my right shoulder. *facepalm* I also got burnt on my scalp, because I had my hair pulled back in a ponytail and assumed that would be enough protection. It probably would’ve been if I had pulled it back in a normal ponytail (you know, the kind you get when you flip your head over and then pull your hair back), but I had pulled it back from having it down and forgot that I had done it that way, so my part was still exposed. Fail.


5 thoughts on “Thursday Things

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed your trip! We stayed at an Excellence resort in Mexico for our honeymoon and have been wanting to try out the one in Punta Cana. That’s the only all-inclusive I’ve ever been to but it was SO nice that I’m not sure another brand could live up to it.
    And how cool that you got to practice your Spanish (even if you didn’t need to haha). I taught Latin before I went back to engineering school and can…recognize…some Ancient Greek but obviously I have little use for either of those and definitely can’t speak them. I have always wanted to learn another language that I can actually communicate with. I’ve started and stopped Duolingo for German several times over the last few years but never get very far. I’m always impressed by the progress you’ve made with it!

    • That’s cool that you’ve been to an Excellence resort, too! The couple getting married has been to one in Mexico as well, which is why they ended up having their wedding where they did, since they were familiar with the brand already. Like I said, I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but I thought the resort in Punta Cana was wonderful 🙂

      I really think the only reason I’ve kept up with Duolingo is because I’m so obsessed with maintaining my streak, hahaha. I’m curious to see how helpful it is in real life applications, though. I do Spanish on it just to give me a way to practice, but I’ve been trying to learn Dutch from it for 2+ years now. I certainly have some of the language down, but I feel like my skill with Dutch is at like 10% of my skill level with Spanish. I’ll hopefully find out next year, since I’m hoping to go to the Netherlands next spring, but I imagine that I’ll be in for a rude awakening if I try to actually use the language in a real world setting!

  2. I am so glad you had a good trip and got to see all those birds AND use your Spanish! I am totally laughing at the flamingo cleaning himself off with the shower. Ha!

    Oh! Is that a normal pony tail? I should try the flip your head over thing. Seems like a lot of work, ha! (I always do them standing up straight) I hope your sunburn goes away soon!

    • I seriously could’ve watched the flamingos all day and been perfectly happy. The way they move their necks around makes them so fun to watch!

      Wait – what?! Oh man, my ponytail-creating worldview is quickly expanding, hahaha. Generally speaking, when I want to pull my hair up in a ponytail, I flip my head so all of my hair falls down, gather it all together, flip my head back up normally, and put a ponytail holder in to keep it all in place. If I want to just get my hair out of the way in a low ponytail, I just pull it back as it is. That maintains my part, though, which is why it was a problem in Punta Cana – my part was still exposed, so it got burnt. I guess sometimes I brush my hair back to put it up in a high(er) ponytail too, but I feel like THAT is a lot of work, so I go with the head flip method almost every time!

  3. Pingback: Best of 2018 | accidental intentions

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