dominican-republic-summer-2008-003

I Walked Across an Empty Land, I Knew The Backways Like The Back Of My Hand

Jose 4 Comments

This is one of the lost blogs I wrote while I was at Dominican Republic. It was inspired by another Clay Burell post, regarding tourism and its caricatures. Thought I’d post it up tonight in light of the recent immigration post. I also updated a few things here and there, in brackets. Enjoy.

Originally written: July 7th, 2008

Over the last week or so, I’ve stayed in a sweet 4-star resort with my family. Looking around, I couldn’t help but notice that, for a while there, I thought we drove off the island and into another dimension, where masses of Europeans and Canadians ruled the place and actual Caribbeans from the islands were in short supply. I know I’ve been using the word surreal a lot, but just to give you an indication of what I’ve been exposed to,  I’ve hung out, drank, and danced with German, Irish, Canadian, British, French, Spanish, and Scottish people all at once, something I can honestly say I’ve never done and never thought possible unless I became an international rock star. Vainglorious, yes, but now that’s off my non-existent checklist of things I never thought I could pull off. (psh) I met so many people, I had a hard time keeping my NYC accent, often incorporating whichever nation’s representatives’ accent in the process. It wore off only after a heavy dose of Jay-Z and Kanye.

Also worth noting, unfortunately, were the droves of bratty kids that showed up to these resorts. I fully expected that the children of multimillionaire business owners, diplomats, and merchants of different industries would have impertinent children, but some of them really annoyed me to no end. For example, last night, the staff at the resort, a group of 18-28-year-olds, mostly Dominican, and all very energetic, gave a great show last night, full of Caribbean dance, and even a fire show that I fully didn’t expect from a guy I just played basketball with the previous day. During most of the performance, these little brats started ripping up little pieces of paper and launching spitballs at the staff, who still kept the show going. After about 3-4 songs, I got visibly annoyed as did most of the audience, and their parents finally pulled them off-stage.

When I talked to the Fire Man (his nickname for the purposes of this blog) about the aforementioned incident, he said, ironically and in Spanish, “Man, forget about it. These people aren’t used to actual courtesy. They’re not into the things we’re into.” It’s ironic because it’s the predominantly Dominican staff, who might otherwise be called degenerates simply based on their heritage, who acted professional while the wealthy guests of the hotel seem to lack the class and etiquette necessary to enjoy the show.

[It also led me to think of the idea of going to a country without actually being in it. We had running water, drinks all day and night without fail, all types of food and an unending supply, everyone wearing the latest fashionable clothes and the women wearing next to nothing, electricity, air-conditioning in each room, and people waiting on you almost hand and foot. Yet, these very "servants" and entertainers in the place practically work there day and night, from 7am-midnight, just for their families to survive. They're rarely at home, there's a 50% chance they'll get home when the electricity's been shut off in their neighborhood, they need to make sure someone went to the well and got them some water before they get home, their roads are run down, and they keep breakfast as simple as possible so they don't spend any money as most of these foods already cost an arm and a leg ... or their lives.

There's an obvious sense that the mostly European crowd here may believe that most of Dominican Republic is like that, and that's the image they share with their superwealthy friends and family when they go back to their mansions. Yes, there are definitely palm trees, Bacardi rum, and brown people in this country, but everything else around them was a complete abstraction, but I guess that's what vacations are for. There's no room for harsh reality.]

It wasn’t all bad though. Actually, it was a very good stay. Good shows, lots of swimming, great food, and very cordial people all around. Many of the people we hung out with on this trip were so nice and inviting for everything, especially after we proved ourselves on the dance floor and at the bar. Most of the conversations ended with, “You should definitely visit Glasgow/Dublin/London/Belfast/etc. and we’ll show you around.” Most of the conversations my brother and I had after speaking to them were, “What accent are we using right now?”

jose, [who definitely just used Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" in his title ...]

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Jose VilsonI Walked Across an Empty Land, I Knew The Backways Like The Back Of My Hand

Comments 4

  1. Sugarlips

    It’s funny how when spending time amongst other languages/accents, you start to pick it up. It explains why Madonna sounds British in some interviews, despite being from Michigan, and having lived in NYC.

    I feel you on the spoiled brat front. I’ve dealt with well-to-do children many times, and it’s a shame how many of them are not taught manners. They’ve never been told “no”, and no one’s ever really disciplined them because of who their parents are (they wouldn’t DARE complain to the well-connected/well-tipping person about their kid!).

    Holidays like yours always leave me with a good feeling. Aside from the obvious relaxation and fun, I always end up meeting such great people. I really think more Americans need to travel outside of the country, and meet with people of different backgrounds. There’s a world outside of your block, and you’ll learn just how similar everyone’s stories are to your own.

    Good post!

  2. judy d.

    this is a great post. i never stayed at a resort when i visited DR, i hear its completely different from how people REALLY live… Even the one who are professionals, have instances where the light turns off… CRAZY

    but true

  3. Angie

    Interesting… Your trip sounded fun and enlightening. I think I’m up for all the lessons you learned. **smile**
    I went on vacation this summer to Chicago. It was okay. But your trip sounds more in line with what I feel like I need. Perhaps next summer…
    Peace,
    Angie

    Angies last blog post..Transition Part II.

Leave a Reply