We are living in a foreign country. We have flown a handful of international courtesy flags off of our starboard flag halyard this year, but the Dominican Republic is the farthest we have been from the US yet…by a long shot. We speak Spanish, we eat fried vegetables, we drink El Presidente, and we absolutely love every minute of it.
We knew that this was going to be a wild experience from the moment we dropped the hook here in Bahía de Luperón. Every time we enter/exit a new country, we have to perform what I call the “customs dance”. Usually this consists of raising our q-flag, seeking out the customs office ashore to get our passports stamped and pay any fees, and returning to the boat to lower the q-flag and raise the appropriate courtesy flag. Done and done.
They do things a little different in these parts. We raised our yellow quarantine flag (q-flag) and waited for the navy to come out and board Stella Blue. We waited, tidied up the boat, waited, finished our coffee, and waited some more. Finally we decided to head to shore to get things moving. This is when things started to feel foreign. We found the immigration office (trailer) at the end of the government dock and as we walked inside, chairs were brought in right behind us. We answered the normal questions and filled out the normal paperwork…entirely in Spanish. The immigration official didn’t speak much English – luckily Logan and I activated the Spanish part of our brains and everything went pretty smoothly. We were told to move onto the next office – the department of agriculture. We walked out of one door in the trailer and into the next – and our chairs followed us! We paid those fees, received our paperwork and were then escorted to the tourism office. Yep – same trailer, different door, and same chairs Next we went in search of the navy to get Stella Blue inspected. After we crossed a rickety old bridge in search of the Commandante we were told that he was out and would find us. Before we knew it the four of us, the Stella Blue crew, a narcotics officer, and a uniformed navy man, were piled in Princess Ding-a-ling slowly making our way back to Stella Blue.
We offered beverages and sat in our cockpit to complete the remaining paperwork. We talked baseball (a national obsession here) and children…again entirely in Spanish, before we paid the “propinas” and took them back to the dock. We finally put up our Dominican Republic courtesy flag which completed the lengthy check in process. Nothing was too difficult or too expensive and everyone we talked to was crazy friendly, but this customs dance was definitely more intricate than we were used to. We sat in the cockpit grinning at each other, “Cool – totally new place.”
We took a short vacation to Puerta Plata to visit our friends Hunter and Sarah at Gran Ventana on Playa Dorada. The resort was great, but we are easy to please these days. Hot showers and cool air-conditioning are luxuries – throw in some pool time and we’re more than content. It was interesting to see how different the country looks from behind the gates of a resort facility – a little less Spanish and a lot more…manicured.
Luperon isn’t a huge place, but it has all of the essentials. One of the best things about this place is that all of the stuff we usually have to work to find/get done is delivered straight to our boat by Papo and Pedro (our laundry is getting washed as we speak!….I hope). We have popped our heads in lots of the town shops and spent time at our new friend Yoel’s house. If we were planning to spend another hurricane season “inside the box,” we would stay right here. It also feels good to finally be here since we basically spent two months last year in Georgetown looking for the right weather to get here – luckily it doesn’t disappoint.