We land and applause ensues. Before our departure, a storm was brewing. Winds were strong enough to delay our flight for an hour or so but I was relieved for it. I have a love/hate thing with flying. We take off and hit some turbulence and those butterflies keep buzzing about in my belly until we are stable. Enough to make me look out despite the pounding of my heart. I always get the window seat for the anxious thrill. Finally, the seat belt lights ding to let us know we are ok and that we can now go pee. I arrive right before lunch and see my Dad waving me down from amongst a crowd of men. They kinda all look like Dads, but mine is especially handsome. He looks strong and sun-kissed. New haircut for his salt and pepper hair. My mind wonders how he can look so cool in the heat. Always fully dressed. Socks and loafers even in 90 degrees. Old school and rocking his classic style, a business man even when he's casual. I was sooo happy to see his smile, which means he wasn't waiting long. On the drive home I am greeted with the sounds of motorbikes speeding along, the buzzing of a Monday. People are everywhere and school lunch break is happening. The uniform is a cool pastel blue polo top and khaki beige pants or skirt for the girls. Its the first time I see them. I snap a shot as we whiz by the colorful facades. Bright greens and oranges of concrete store fronts, some have palm roof tops.
Lunch is Sancocho; beef and pork stew with root veggies. I can eat that in sweltering weather any time of the year. It's delicious and savory and reminds me of grandmas house. She made it the best. That day and the next consisted of me re-familiarizing myself with vacationing. It's been too long. I paced around the house at least ten times the first day after my Dad left to work. Finally, I hit the beach, a stone's throw from the Villa. There is a little nook equipped with two lounge chairs and a side table perfect for a Mojito or three that I only wish I had. A woven hammock adorns this little corner in paradise. It lazily swings back and forth in the breeze, calling me so I oblige and watch all the kite-surfers in full swing. I had to run back. I HAD to run back for my Sony. I noticed someone made themselves at home on the hammock on my way back but the only thing on my mind is catching these dudes in the air. I watch in amazement to see them in action. Fearless. As I snap away, my mind travels in time. My itinerary is all laid out for the week. My Dad and I talk about the places we are going to visit and I am already excited. First we'll get some work done at the office, tie up some loose ends. I wandered off into town and caught the happenings of the day. My goal was to capture some candids and keep it moving. Sparking an interest, people would ask me about my camera and even strike a pose. I felt like a local, welcomed as one their own. I made sure to grab some portraits of these friendly faces, too! Back at the office, my Dad hmm-ed and aha-ed as he viewed some shots. He expressed his excitement for our next plan-we're heading out to El Campo (the country side). Living in a touristy-city area means El Campo is a different type of getaway. Chickens cluck about and even some livestock and I can smell the firewood cooking up something delicious out back. We hike up a hill to get the house at the top and the stranger yells out for us like she knew us all our lives "Bienvenidos, entren, entren estan en su casa!" They were washing dishes and cooking in the outhouse and I just couldn't resist; I asked permission to take some shots. She smiled as if she expected us and by some divine intervention, coffee was served with just the right sweetness. Dominicans are a beautiful, friendly, hospitable people. Warm and inviting and funny as hell. Always a story to tell, always a sage word of advice, always with a smile and hug greeting. I watch my Dad hike it back down the hill through the forest to the river. I can tell he's winded, but we swim and he makes jokes. This was my birthday, after all, and I was spending it with my Dad for the first time since childhood.
The very next day, another adventure. This time we went to Playa Grande and it lives up to its name. Its vast shoreline and welcoming warm crystal blue water was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon. They set you up with a table right on the sand and bring you a whole fish cooked on the grill, and of course, rice and beans. This is probably where I should've worn my one piece to hide my food-baby, but-when in Rome.....! Beachgoers were piled up everywhere. I attempt to lose those calories as I strolled up and down with camera in hand, people smiled and nodded hello. The recent renovations of the park made me all giddy inside, it was all so beautiful and bright. I felt so lucky in that moment, to have witnessed such a visual feast and to have captured some of the essence that was this lively, vivacious country. I have lined up a few for print and am looking for the right spot in the house to hang my lovely memories. This vacation took me on a journey, emotionally and artistically and humanly...I opened up to strangers in another part of the world and they opened up to me. It was more than I had hoped for and I feel proud and honored to share this experience with you...Happy Viewing!!!