PHRAGMENTS FROM PHYLLIS: A trip to the real South

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014

I've spent the last week in the Dominican Republic with my friend Susan. I went last year, and I am hoping against hope that by next year at this time, Susan will be making plans to return to the U.S. permanently.


But before I left, I had to get Cade and Payton's schedules set. That meant setting them up for Early Risers each day this week so their dad could drop them off and scheduling them both to stay each day until 3 p.m. so their Opa could work nearly a full day and then pick them up by three. It also meant that I set up everything for their lunch each day except the sandwich – to make it a little easier on Scott.


All the preparations – in addition to collecting a litany of items to take to Susan (things she can't get easily in the DR, such as Lance crackers, K-cups, purple pens and such) and packing for myself – reminded me of a long-ago conversation. When my kids were in elementary school, one of the carpool kids' moms was having gall bladder surgery, so while she was still in hospital, I picked up her son one morning. He proceeded to explain what a tough time his dad was having.


“He's having to be mommy and daddy this week,” said the child. Unfortunately, it was the wrong thing to say to me. I retorted, “No. Your mom has already done all the work. She spent all last week rearranging her three school carpools, two Boy Scout carpools, one Girl Scout carpool, various church activity carpools, making sure everything was set for your lunches each day and more. All your daddy has to do is get you up, dressed and fed breakfast. After that, everything has already been taken care of.” The rant was lost on the kid, but it made me feel better.


I felt a little like that as the day finally came to embark. The one drawback to travel to the DR is that the plane leaves at 5:50 a.m. from Charlotte. As a result, this time I got up at 2 a.m. to get to Charlotte on time. And both that flight and the one from Miami to Puerto Plata were on time, thank goodness. I had a window seat, so that was good, too.


Once in Sosua, where Susan lives, I found she was finishing up the week of school before spring break. I once again got to watch her first-graders' annual Easter egg hunt – an event that doesn't change much from country to country. It took about five minutes from beginning to end, if you don't count the time it takes in the aftermath. Susan requires everyone to put their unopened eggs in the center of a circle, and the kids are each allowed to choose a couple of eggs until they're all divided up evenly.


On Friday, we headed to Riu Merengue, an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Plata. It's a lot like being on a cruise, I think – unlimited drinks and food all day, a variety of activities to choose from, entertainment, shopping, a beautiful beach and several pools. It's mostly heavenly, although after three days of eating steam-table food, it all begins to taste alike. But the drink of the day is always frozen, sweet and delicious, whether you opt for alcohol or not.


Watching people go by as you sit on the beach, or by the pool, is certainly entertainment in itself. There were folks from Russia, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and more.


Among the lessons I take away from watching all these people at Riu are: Unless you're 8 years old and skinny, a Speedo may not be your best choice. Obviously, if you are a 60-something pot-bellied man, it's really not a good look for you. The same, in my opinion, is true of women over 40 in a bikini – even if your tummy is pretty flat. And please, I know other cultures are more tolerant than many of us in the U.S., but really, to a 70-something woman wearing a bikini bottom and nothing else, no, just no.


We're now in Santo Domingo, where Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492. We traveled by bus – not a bad choice since the bus was roomy, air-conditioned and clean.


We will be doing some sightseeing in the city's historical district. We have already found several nice restaurants, and we'll be doing some more serious shopping here. Santo Domingo even has an Ikea and a Payless. Who could ask for more?


And in another couple of months, Susan will arrive in the states for the summer, at which time I see even more shopping.


I ask again, who could ask for more?


One more thing: I hope everyone has a happy and blessed Easter. I know I will upon my return.


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