Los Haitises

img_4993Los Haitises National Park was established in 1976 on the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic. The biggest attractions to this area are the Forests of Mangroves, the Caves, and of course the Whales in January.

Tours

There are countless tours of the Islands: Bird Tours; Whale Watching; Cave Tours; Boat Trips and Canoe Tours. The park is only accessible by boat.

The going rate is usually around US$60 per person for a full day including lunch. It is always best to pay in Dominican Pesos (DOP) and you will often get a better deal this way.

All the tours depart from the dock in Samaná but most tours will offer transport from your area.

There are tour guides who speak English, French, German and Spanish (maybe other languages too… just ask!)

What to pack?

  • Swimwear
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Water

The caves can also be quite slippery so sturdy shoes are better, but definitely not essential.

Tours can be pre-booked online, or there are always places in the towns nearby to book. Here are some of the tour companies:

Moto Marina Tours

Tauro Tours

I hope you enjoy!

xx

 

From the perspective of a Hermit

My shells have certainly been changing these past weeks. With my other half, Izzy, shipped off to London to process her visa, my mattress has been on the move: Bombita – La Hoya – Cabarete (one night and one night only) – and Santo Domingo…

Every morning either Tiff or Nico has been dropping me off at Escuela Copa Bombita in time to observe the array of blue t-shirted chicos arriving at school – always an eventful affair. The kinder kids waddle in heading to a classroom of choice, usually with a Disney backpack stuffed full of whatever they found on the way, always without a clue about what’s going on. On one occasion I stumbled (literally) over a pack of kinders hiding behind the Artistica door… shoeless. The older kids (ages 6-12) are more efficient with their means of transport to school; mostly arrive via motoconcho. I think the most memorable moment was when two of my grade 1 class arrived in a wheelbarrow.

At 8:15am school begins.

At 8:19am (being optimistic) the kids have formed a fila and walked to the Artistica room.

At 8:27am (again being optimistic) the riots and the background noise is at just the right level for my voice to be heard if I shout, and I can start quizzing the kids on the classroom rules.

At 8:32am I am ready to begin, unless the boy who’s pencil was stolen realises and jumps onto the back of the culprit starting yet another riot.

Well, am I being too harsh on the kids? In the remaining 28 minutes of the lesson progress is actually made. The most rewarding moment of my entire teaching career (all 71 days of it) was when I asked my 3rd grade if they knew who ‘Peso-Doble’ in the ‘Cocodrilo-Enorme’ was, and they shouted back ‘Claro! El hipapotamo!’

When the Bombita day is over and I have been given enough rice and beans to feed the entire school for my lunch (apparently I need to fatten up), I would make my way back to La Hoya to help Eve and Alice with their lessons. At the start of each of their classes I needed to introduce myself…

“hola, me llamo Sacha, vivo en Escocia”

…to which the normal response is: “ah… si! Americana”

In my most recent English class Alice had the kids all colouring in the flags of English speaking countries. I was strolling around the room telling the kids ‘bonita’, ‘muy bien’, ‘perfecto’ as all teachers do, when I saw that one of the chicas clearly had no clue what she was doing. So, in my best attempt at speaking Spanish I told her that each of the flags represented countries, that all these countries spoke English, and that she had to colour the flags like the example on the board. To which she replied, ‘no, you’re wrong, there is only one flag in the world – Dominican’.

The contrasts in this country never fail to impress. Bombita village hidden amongst sugar cane fields, where we hope to have electricity for more than 5 hours a day, and a decent nights sleep without the earless Donkey crying at 4am. La Hoya village, slightly better-off than Bombita but with their school under reconstruction so lessons all being held in churches and outside. Then there is the busy, sweltering hot Barahona. Every time we drive through the city I have to sit in the back of the truck, while we swerve through the traffic and honking horns, and say silently to the God of death ‘not today’. Between Barahona and Santo Domingo there are miles and miles of rolling mountains, covered in thick layers of rainforest-green plants and palms. Now here I am, with yet a different shell, in Santo Domingo for the weekend sipping at my Lady Grey tea in a rustic Parisian cafe in a completely different world.

Hasta Luego!

Sacha xx

a little life update

Hola!

I thought it was time to update you, verbally, on some snippets of the past few weeks. So here you go:

24th September – two weeks before…

The La Hoya girls had scooted off to Boca Chica on the Friday so on Saturday morning Izzy and I headed to the main road to catch the bus into Santo Domingo for the weekend. After the treacherous sweaty hike and 45 minutes watching buses pass in the other direction we managed to successfully hail a SD bus.

3 hours later we were greeted by our friend Binchuuaaaal (well that’s how its pronounced) who took us the ‘local way’ to the Colonial Zone in the city. The ‘local way’ involved catching several guaguas (let me just explain what a guagua is… a guagua ranges in size from a small, very broken down and definitely-failed-MOT-test car which pretends it is a public bus… to a fully air conditioned stage coach fit with horror movies and very loud Dominican music, if you’re especially lucky you will be serenaded by the locals on the bus). We then treated ourselves to a Bon and wandered around feeling very touristy, taking photos and admiring the street art.

When Binchuuaaaal was tired of pretending to be a tourist we took several more guaguas to the outskirts of the city to have rice and beans with his family. *side note: when i say family I don’t mean the usual eight siblings and parents, I mean uncles, aunts, cousins, 2nd cousins, grandparents, great grandparents… you get the point… we met them all.

2nd October – one week before…

Izzy turned 19! After a lazy morning of pancakes, opening presents (me watching Izzy open presents) and chatting to families Eve, Alice and Teressa joined us for lunch. Between us we managed to actually whip up a pretty tasty meal of cheesy tacos and fun sauces followed by pink and blue birthday cake, credits all go to Teressa for this one. In the evening we headed out into the village and were treated with espagetti (a Dominican favourite) and tubs of funky flavoured ice cream.

5th October – the week of…

Yes, you guessed it… Hurricane Matthew! Now, I am well aware that the Dominican Republic was not hit with the extreme category 4 force as Haiti was, but we did receive high winds and serious flooding. On Monday night the rain hit hard and by the evening the entire village was at least 5 inches underwater, some houses completely immersed in water, others just getting their toes wet. Izzy and I went out to assess the damage and were swept up in crowds of shrieking kids running around the village in an enormous water fight.

In the morning we all packed our bags and were evacuated in the COPA truck to La Hoya to dry off and connect to the Wifi, to let our families know we hadn’t drowned overnight.

The rain eased off throughout the rest of the week so we returned to Bombita to help sort  out the village. Luckily the lake behind the village had not overflown (probably due to the last five years of drought), so the damage was not major. A free food truck arrived on Wednesday, thank you to all those who donated money towards helping the Dominican Republic, and the village managed to get back on its feet quite quickly.

8th October

With the Hurricane passed and the damage repaired, life went back to normal again.

Last weekend Izzy and I decided to have a home-weekend. We chilled out on the beach on Saturday, ate avocados, and walked around the sugar cane fields. The most bizarre and exciting moment was probably finding ourselves in the midst of a melon fight. This involved two teams of boys throwing mini melons at each other from across the river in the cane fields. Trust me, it can get very competitive…

Anyway, that is all for now.

Hasta Luego!

Sacha xx

Loco!

So I am going to start this post with the most important piece of information through the eyes of a Brit… yes you guessed correct; the weather!

It is only Tuesday morning and already we have been gifted with a thunder storm this week. Now, back home there is a thrill in watching the lighting pierce the skies and listening to the thunder echo around the buildings. You can snuggle into the sofa with a cup of Earl Grey tea steaming on the arm rest and watch the latest episode of Suits.

This isn’t quite how the story goes in the Dominican Republic. Every evening the sun goes down at roughly 7pm and so after that, unless the generator is running, you are plunged into darkness making very simple tasks, such as taking a shower, a lot harder – especially when you are trying to avoid the cockroaches that roam around!

So as you can tell, last night I was home alone preparing lessons when the light above me flickered for a moment and then went out. Then the rain started. Now I am quite used to rain having spent the last 18 years of my life in Scotland, but here when it rains it is totally different – the whole village goes silent and everyone is housebound. I was once told this is because Dominicans melt in the rain!

This morning I woke up to the usual 32°, endless blue skies and no evidence of the hectic night before.

Now, I have something a little sadder and more shocking to share with you. As I expected before coming here the treatment of children is very different to the treatment in the UK. There is no health-and-safety-gents to ensure everyone is wearing a high-vis jacket and a ‘bob the builder’ hat, and certainly no rules against hitting children in schools.

I have witnessed countless occasions where children pull each others’ hair because one of them stole the other one’s pencil, break into fights while you are attempting to teach the secondary colours, and pinch each others’ arms just for their own amusement. But today hit me a little harder. While I was preparing for my first lesson two grade 1 boys (age 4/5) snuck into my classroom and started playing around. I ignored them while I wrote up the key words on the board. It was when I turned around to find one of the boys lashing the other with a leather belt.

I was stunned to say the least.

Petty fights are one thing, but I still can’t quite believe that four year old boys are capable of whipping each other with belts. What this led me to questions is: Where are they learning this? Who is teaching this behaviour? Why Why Why is this happening?

I would be a little naive to say that this is going to be a one time thing, but all I can say for now is that I really hope that this does not progress into anything worse and actually damaging.

Sacha xx