Formerly published in The Other Press. Sept. 24 2012
A diary of a domestic male in the Dominican
By Elliot Chan, Vacation Aficionado
Looking for some adventure and excitement when it comes time to travel? Not us! Our intrepid travel writer Elliot Chan takes on exotic locales from the unique perspective of a scared sheltered suburbanite.
The Dominican Republic is one of those countries that travel guides suggest you get a shot before entering. I don’t mean a tequila shot; I mean the doctor needs to pump medicine in you so you don’t die. So you’ll excuse me if I sound a little wary when calling it paradise. To me, there is nothing heavenly about potentially dying from Malaria or another contagious epidemic.
Regardless, I tried to be in good spirits. With my wallet, passport, and iPhone 4 tucked into my travel pouch hidden beneath my breeches, I headed out of the terminal to the charter bus. Then came my first fright. A local man dressed in what appeared to be bus driver garb calmly approached me and asked for my bags.
I nearly wet myself in terror!
Here I was, barely off the plane and already getting mugged. Fortunately for me, I watched a ton of Bruce Lee movies before I left to learn self-defence. However, before I could karate chop him, a fellow tourist, who was a white male between the age of 25 and 40, stopped and informed me that the robber dressed in fake bus driver clothes was actually the bus driver. “Oh,” I said, and then handed him four more bags to carry.
The culture shock was stunning. Hotels in the Dominican cannot compare to the ones in Vancouver. I mean, Best Western is awesome, but the place where I stayed was the Hyatt to the power of 10. I explored the swimming pools, veranda chairs, and even the buffet table. I loved the attempts to incorporate exotic Dominican culture, such as the make your own sundae bar!
On the third day after waking up from a hangover, a friendly man approached me and asked if I was interested in taking a city tour. “Is it safe?” I asked, puffing my chest out in a burly manner. He nodded his head, smiled, and gestured to the bus with 20 other tourists. “Well, when in Rome,” I said, thinking that I should have gone to Rome instead.
It was a long bumpy ride into the city. I sat beside a cute German girl, who exhausted all of the English that she knew during our exchange. It turns out that someone had accidentally given her a book of English sex phrases instead of a dictionary. The rest of the bus ride was filled with an awkward silence.
When we arrived in the city, the guide beckoned us off and suggested that we explore. Once the locals caught the scent of my Axe body spray and the sight of my sunburnt skin, they swarmed me. One after the other, drones of merchants harassed me. I bought authentic bracelets for all of my friends. I’m sure that they’ll be excited to hear that it’s a traditional accessory—at least, that’s what the merchants told me.
Afterwards, I stumbled back to my hotel room in agony. I had the itchiest bug bite on my left ankle and I scratched at it till it started to bleed. My sunburnt nose and shoulders were also peeling, which led me to believe that maybe it was a sign. That perhaps the shedding of my skin was a metaphor or a symbol for my spiritual growth. I took a moment and soaked the epiphany in.
Then I ordered room service and an in-room movie, which was Ocean’s 12.