Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Republica Dominicana

Sitting down with my breakfast plate this morning, I sank into the bright orange padded chair. Soon after, a waiter brought me cafe con leche while I thought about the fabulous bed I'd woken in and the shower I would soon be taking. On the tranquil terrace I sat with my meal and coffee for nearly an hour, marveling at how the majority of travelers must experience the Caribbean.

My usual morning at an island consists of balancing my chronically overful coffee mug as I climb a ladder. Getting a plateful of breakfast and hoping that there is a dry spot somewhere on deck (as it gets washed just before breakfast) so that I can sit down. After eating quickly and washing my dish, it is go time. Motivating students to do dishes and get ready to leave the ship for the day.

While I love that and would not dream of traveling the Caribbean from hotel to hotel the way we are traveling aboard Gamage, the luxury of twenty-four hours off, away from the ship and students is a moment in Eden.

Our transit from Trinidad to Santo Domingo was fantastic. For the first time, we had a voyage without seas over six feet. Our repairs to the hull stood strong, which was great. Unfortunately, there had been talk of stopping briefly in Gaudeloupe, which had me excited to practice my French and buy cheese, but we did not have a need.

We did, however, walk on American soil-an addition to the itinerary and unexpected until the end of March. I fell in love. Mona Island is a nature preserve fifty miles west of and owned by Puerto Rico. The island is home to hundreds of birds-most of whom I did not get to see, huge iguanas, and shoulder crabs-softball sized cousins of hermit crabs. It also is a great snorkeling and spelunking site, although we only had time to snorkel. Someday, when it is not hunting season for wild boar and ferral goats, I hope to return to camp and explore this amazingly beautiful island. Perhaps I should get my dive certs first, as the diving is apparently also top-notch.

And now, I am relaxing in Santo Domingo. It is a fascinating city with an incredibly history. Santo Domingo was the first true city in the New World (ignoring all indiginous populations of course) and boasts the first two story residence, university, and hospital. Today is actually Independence Day, celebrating the DR's independence from Haiti. Tonight there will be fireworks and an orchestra playing at our dock. Sometimes I marvel at the coincidental timing of things. If the ship had not needed a few repairs, we would have been here a week ago and missed such festivities.

In light of timin and itineraries, it appears that we will miss one island in Honduras and spend a day or two less in Belize, but we are still heading West and thus far the wind has been in our favor for most passages, so I am hopeful.

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