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.
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.
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.