Sunday, May 2, 2004

Paradise... the first day.

Since it had been an entire year since I went away I was really looking forward to this vacation.  I have to admit I was a little worried about going to Punta Cana though, because of all the recent political unrest in Haiti.  My ex-husband had recommended the trip to us, and said that he thought the island was just as nice as Cancun.
By 8:30 am on Monday morning we were in the air.  Ray and I were supposed to have a short layover in San Juan, but due to a flight delay we were stuck at the airport for several hours.
The first thing I noticed when we stepped off the plane in Punta Cana was the heat and humidity.  I was relieved to board the air-conditioned van waiting to take us to our resort.  ‘Secrets Excellence’ was an hour away, and fortunately the roads weren't as bad as I had heard they were.  The trip was far from scenic though.  The ground was hard and dry.  Jagged rocks poked through every crevice and broken stones littered every inch.  The merciless sun scorched the fields, while emaciated livestock crowded under the few existing trees in an attempt to find some shade.  The houses that we saw along the road were tiny cinderblock shacks with thatched roofs.  None of them had windows.  The only openings were the front doors, all of which were ajar.  It was apparent that there was no running water, electricity or telephone service.  Piles of trash encircled every dwelling.  Clothes hung out to dry in most of the yards.  We passed numerous resort hotel construction sites in various degrees of completion.  The apparent luxury to which they would eventually become was a stark comparison to the hovels and ruins that surrounded them.  It was sad to think that the people who slaved for long hours every day to build such luxurious hotels would never enjoy even one hour in them.  What did these people think of us as we rode by?  It appeared that some of the construction sites had been abandoned before they were finished.  For some reason, whenever we saw a group of people, they seemed to be just…. standing around, doing nothing.  It didn’t matter whether they were construction men, store owners, shoppers or just people in front of their shanties.  It was as if the very life had been sucked out of them, and the only energy they had left was needed to just... ‘be’.  The only happy faces I saw were from a small group of children who waved to us as we drove past.  I knew that once we passed through the gates of our resort we would forget the ugliness that we had witnessed for the past hour.  But that thought made looking out the window even more sickening.  I silently thanked God for sparing my children and me a life like the one these people had to endure everyday.  There was little consolation in knowing that tourism is the only thing that helps keep these people alive.  It felt like a feeble attempt to justify a glorious vacation with a clear conscious.
‘Secrets’ was just as beautiful as I knew it would be.  Surrounded by a high brick wall and electric gates that opened into an oasis of vegetation.  Waterfalls were cascading into a pond alive with flamingos, exotic birds, turtles, fountains, palm trees, flowers and lush gardens.  The open-air lobby was richly decorated in rattan, wicker and mahogany furniture with marble floors.  Bellmen took our bags and the clerk offered us ice cold Mimosas to drink.  Bowls of fruit and baskets of chocolate were laid out.  Hundreds of candles were burning and soft music filled the air.  It was Paradise... in the center of oblivion. 
We walked slowly to our room, taking in the beauty and trying shamefully but desperately to forget the world outside the walls and fences of the compound.  A white satin banner reading “Honeymooners” was draped across the door to our suite.  At first we just stood there wondering if we had the right room.  Apparently the couple before us left it there when they checked out.  We laughed and decided to just leave it hanging.  The room was wonderful.  An air-conditioned haven tastefully decorated in tropical colors and soft lighting.  It boasted a King Size bed, a sunken, open-air Jacuzzi tub, marble floors, a private, luxurious shower, color TV, and fully stocked refrigerator.  An electronic safe was provided to store our valuables.  Sliding glass doors opened into a garden where there was a patio table, two chairs and a hammock swaying gently in the breeze.  I could hear ocean waves and distant island music promising fun and romance.  Fluffy bath towels had been placed on the bed and twisted artistically into a pair of romantic swans, and rose petals were scattered on the bed and in the bathtub.  There was a bowl of fresh fruit on the coffee table in the sitting area along with a bottle of Asti Spumante.  What more could we ask for?  We headed out to get something to eat and opted to try the main casual dining room featuring an all you could eat buffet, with scores of appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts.  There were four other restaurants available to try on other nights.  The food was beautifully displayed, abundant, and delicious.  The waiters and waitresses couldn't speak much English, but they seemed to know what we wanted without us having to ask for it.  Alcoholic beverages were also unlimited and there was a bar conveniently located at every turn.  Before long we got sleepy and slipped back to our room, anxiously anticipating a week of fun in the sun…

10 comments:

krobbie67 said...

Wow! This was a great entry. Very descriptive. I felt like I was there with you. It is sad to think of the stark contrast between the indigent lifestyle and that of the vacationer. But......tourists just might be their only hope. :-) ---Robbie

suzypwr said...

Hey, the DR is the rich side of the island. You should see Haiti! The scenery is beautiful, but everything else is very scary. After the second time I was in Haiti I tried to donate blood and was denied for a year due to a malaria risk. That was not information provided during the cruise. I think it is more beautiful than Cancun, though, and less spoiled.

babygsmommy said...

Great enrty Lisa! I too, felt like I was there with you. I don't know if you remember but Joe and I had a trip planned for Mexico too. We went to Cabo San Lucas in April. It was just like what you explained with the poverty and all. It was tough at first to not feel guilty. We eventually got lost in where we were and had a great time. I am glad you did the same! Take care, Heather
http://journals.aol.com/babygsmommy/SummerVacationsandotherinteresti

goldenchildnc said...

Certainly sounds like a great vaca but I'm distracted right now because I'm noticing your AOIL buddy icon. William Hung?!?!?!?? LMAO!

cafeteome said...

Great pictures!! A friend of mine goes to Punta Cana a few times a year and loves it there...Scary about the poverty, tho.. And the political unrest..Hmmm..paradise in the middle of strife, huh? Glad you had such a nice time..I was waiting for you come home so you could tell us all about it!! LOL!! Sharon

somenuttychic said...

Great shots of the place. Additionally, it sounds heavenly.

I can relate to the story of those dirt poor folk on the one hour ride in, however. It was was the same when I went to Cancun in Mexico several years ago: poorly built corrugated one room tin shacks that would blow over in a good stiff breeze were found right across the street for sumptuous hotels.

andreakingme said...

My heart was breaking, too, during your description of the poor conditions the locals endure. This sentence: "It was sad to think that the people who slaved for long hours every day to build such luxurious hotels would never enjoy even one hour in them." really brought it home. It just doesn't seem fair, does it? We Americans really are spoiled.

But I loved your photos and captions explaining everything. I just soaked everything in. (I've been here at your Journal looking at the photos and reading the Entries for 20 minutes now! Can I have a Mimosa? And what is that, by the way?)

I loved reading about your vacation!

onmiownnow2 said...

A Mimosa is an alcoholic beverage made with orange juice and champagne.  Enjoyed with breakfast, it not only provides your Vitamin C, but lets you start your day with a better attitude as well!  ;)  Lisa (The... Occupant)

redhdka said...

OH the room was beautiful and the rosepedals...ahhh how nice and the peacocks ...wow

echoooo1 said...

Hopefully some of those poor people are earning a living working at the hotel. The clothes were hanging out to dry because that's how you get them dry, no electricity you know. Haiti is the poorest country in the world. If you are sad about it but want to know how to help after the flood, read my journal