We were somewhat on our own schedule Sunday so we hired Jose, one of the drivers Vision Trust uses, to take us around. Jose met us at the Fiesta Hotel and brought us back to Herrera where we joined the church group from Michigan at the service in the open-air structure at the top of Tia Tatiana School. This is a great way to connect with the culture and the people in the community. I love hearing Doris sing and watching how people get into the music--even the young ones. It's pretty much a two hour service--double what us Catholics are used to-- but they translate the sermon for the "Americanos" which is one of the contributing factors to the duration. Here's a look around:
We decided to play tourist after church. Our first thought was to go to the big mercado central near the Colonial Zone but when we got there it was closed. Since the last few trips involved walking through the area with a big group on a rather tight time-frame, we decided this would be a good opportunity to wander the area on our own at a leisurely pace. Most of the stores carried the same type of touristy merchandise but Jay and I were drawn into a cigar and hat shop where I couldn't resist a lavender Montecristi fedora from Ecuador--the real thing in Panama hats. Jay bought a cigar for a gift (because it just seems like the cool thing to do in the Dominican--even though Jay's not a cigar smoker) and then we went in search of where to have lunch before heading to our next stop, Los Tres Ojos Caves. We like going off the beaten path which led us to La Casa del Mojito--a little hole in the wall Cuban restaurant along a street with no other commercial businesses. And even though it doesn't look like Jose is much of a smiler, he is absolutely THE nicest guy! We managed to communicate despite his minimal English and our minimal Spanish,,,,there's always the universal language of food...and favorite Dominican baseball players... that Jose and Jay engaged in. For the whole lunch experience, click on the slide show below:
After a delicious lunch of ropa vieja for Jay and some kind of pollo with a delicious brown sauce for me and a beef dish for Jose, we headed out of the Colonial Zone to our next destination--the caves. Along the way we passed a huge monument which Jose told us was built to commemorate the 500th year anniversary of Columbus coming to the New World. The monument is called Faro a Colon and it holds the remains of what is thought to be Christopher Columbus. The structure serves as both a museum and a mausoleum. At the top there are rotating beams of light that form the shape of a cross in the night sky and are so powerful the light can often be seen as far away as Puerto Rico.
Onward to the Los Tres Ojos caves which we came upon after driving past a strip of parkland that seems to go on for a couple of miles. It seemed like it must have been Santo Domingo's version of Central Park. The fee for the caves was 100 pesos--about $2.25--each. The caves were pretty awesome although it wasn't like we were crawling around. You walk down long stairways built out of fossil rocks and stand at the base of each of the caves. In one cave we paid 25 pesos to ride a raft from one end of the cave to the opposite opening. The light, the color of the water, the greenery and the surrounding area were all a stunning vibrancy of dark and light contrasts. Click on these slides to come on down with us:
We headed back to the hotel where we were going to meet up with Nelson and Sammy to have a voiceover session for the videos we're putting together to tell the story of our projects here in the Dominican. If you haven't already picked up on it, these posts are partly to entice you to join us on one of our upcoming trips--we're planning on going November 7-12 and most likely our spring trip will be April 28-May 2. As you've hopefully picked up-- it's easy to mix in a little fun along with the work we're accomplishing.
With a 3 1/2 hour layover in Miami, the best discovery we made was the Centurion Lounge in the American Terminal. Free buffet, free drinks, free bread pudding, and free express chair massages and manicures. Even with a delayed departure due to heavy rain in Miami, we didn't mind the wait for the heavenly skies to clear.
On our way home I looked at the TV screen on the back of the seat in front of me and there was my rainbow assuring us of Nick's presence and reminding Jay and me to value these DR experiences to thrive in joy--the joy of giving back and getting so much love in return.