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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

La Cumbre

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | Sunday, 10 June 2012 | Views [2995]

Today was our big trip to La Cumbre waterfall! Even though it's not a "class" today it's an ALPI-sponsored activity. After a delicious breakfast, Johnny, Kealan, Torrie, Francesca, and I were packed in the back of the taxi on our way to ALPI. The school was closed today but we were all convening there.

After some coffee, we were all together and on the bus, leaving Santiago behind for the day. Into the hills we were driving, and I was hoping we'd go high enough to have some cool air. As I kept my eye on the vegetation, it was all palms and tropical foliage, so I knew it was going to be hot regardless. The scenery and the colourful wooden shacks look like something out of El Salvador or eastern Cuba. The scenery is splendid! I'd love to stay with a local in one of these homes out here. Speaking of homes, our first stop was at a home where we stored some of our gear and the food was being prepped. Time for dancing! A hot walk up the road lead to a dance floor next to a colmado. A "colmado" is strictly Dominican term and is a corner store that delivers to homes in the community. It was hot but I danced as best I could to booming loud music that was giving me a splitting headache. As I danced I got a class photo of Megan that looks like something out of a 70's sitcom. Whilst I didn't dance very well, lunch was a good one! Chicken soup with rice and corn, likely from a chicken that was killed this morning. That reminds me of something that happened long ago: my mother and I were at the drive-thru at Burger King and I said "I want an 8-piece chicken tenders meal, but can you ask them to make the chicken fresh?" She laughed and responded with "What do you want them to do, go out and kill it for you?" As I was enjoying my chicken soup, the homeowner's cat seemed to want some as well and I kept having to toss the cat away. Some people looked at me in disbelief but after I stayed with Asha (in Esteli) I learned a lot about animal behavior. If a cat is thrown it always lands on its feet and being tough with cats and dogs causes them to learn, so there's no malice if I have to be tough. After lunch it was time for the Dominican pastime: baseball. Don't expect a wooden bat fresh off a wood-turning lathe, or even a genuine baseball; you'll likely play with something improvised, and that's exactly what we did today.

It was very hot, and I was more interested in a dip in a waterfall rather than running between bases in baseball. After several rounds of baseball and a silly game where we had to tie from one side to the other tying a plastic bag around someone's wrist and leg, we all piled into the bus and were on our way to the waterfall. A solid hike it was to the waterfall, and on the way I passed this skinny, very-malnourished horse. Domestic animals out here (and in many places I've been) are neglected; malnourished horses, filthy dogs digging in piles of rubbish for something to eat. Earlier this year when I was in Nicaragua a saw a guy walk up to a dog for no reason and kick it right in the stomach! However in most of these places people just don't know any better. At the waterfall I got to put my waterproof camera into water action for the first time! When I was set to jump off the rocks and get a photo of myself in midair I just couldn't find the burst feature. Ugh, I didn't fiddle with my camera enough for coming here. Since my camera is waterproof (there aren't many varieties of these) I figured there was no burst feature and I settled with using the sports setting and hoping for the best. On a hot day there's nothing better than a dip in a waterfall. Chlorine and I don't mix well (it makes me itch severely) so I prefer to swim in lakes and so forth. Leaping off the rocks was me many times, and I took a faceplant when I landed in the water at one point because I'm not the most confident diver; I fear cracking my head open on an underwater boulder.

If you have a waterproof camera make sure you're holding onto it well, preferably with a wrist strap. It may be waterproof but it's not drop-it-and-lose-it proof. I'm unaware of the depth of the plunge pool and it's not that easy to see because all the sediment is stirred up by the 20 or so people jumping into it. Whilst I got no good pictures of me jumping I did get a great photo of Johnny performing a front flip off the rocks. There's an abundance of girls on this trip but one I find to be very cute is Sophie. She's working at ALPI on a 10-week internship and she joined us today on our waterfall excursion.

There's Sophie, but there's also Emily and her stepsister Aman who have both taken a liking to me. Emily is a pretty British black girl with long Jamaican-style dreadlocks and Aman is Indian with short hair.

With my waterproof camera I was able to capture images in a water setting; something (with the exception of buying underwater disposable cameras) I've never been able to do on my travels. We were at the waterfall for more than three hours but I wasn't ready to leave! But we had to, but not without some locals letting me sample their mamajuana. It's a uniquely Dominican drink made from rum, honey, and red wine poured into a glass bottle with wood chips or tree bark.

It's said to be an aphrodisiac and contain medicinal properties. The taste is like that of half-distilled rum. For the record, it's "mamajuana" not "marijuana." Think of it as your mama is Juana. On our way back to Santiago we were after strolling through where we saw the horse only hours before. At Monica's house I was set to walk to the colmado across the street and get some Doritos and a chocolate milk but she said she was making dinner shortly so I decided to wait. When I went into my travel wallet I realized I had $50 missing! Immediately I got upset saying to Monica that someone's been going into my room and stealing money. Yesterday I realized I had (or I thought I had) $20 missing, and that my frequent flyer card was in the same spot as my debit card. But, last night I felt as though I probably just spent a little more than I thought in Santo Domingo so I didn't say anything. Monica's boyfriend got involved and Johnny speaks enough Spanish to act as a translator. Her boyfriend firmly declared "Nobody steals in this house" and they even brought their little boy, Jenson, who's about 4, into the room and asked "did you go into his bedroom?" and he shook his head "no." There was a lot of confusion and Monica was clearly upset by the incident, but how can I not be upset? I'm staying in a legitimate homestay through a legitimate organization and somebody goes into my room and steals from my wallet. The lock on my bedroom door is broken so I have no way of locking my wallet or room. Monica explained that she's been hosting travellers for six years and there's never been a theft of this magnitude, and I can tell with photos and souvenirs around the house that they've had a lot of positive experiences with travellers. Monica's boyfriend tried to fix the bedroom lock but when he couldn't, Monica suggested that I lock my stuff in the closet in Johnny and Keylan's room. Losing $50 or possibly $70 really hurts because I was going to send postcards to the 48 people who donated to get me here! And now I have to be very frugal with what I have at least until my project is over. As much as I'm upset tonight I can tell by their demeanor (Monica, the boyfriend, and Jenson) they they DID NOT steal it! Monica does sell empanadas out of her home in the afternoon, so it more than likely was someone who ran upstairs to "use the bathroom" and knew that my stuff was in there. When I explained to the coordinator of ISV (he called me after calling the director of ALPI) he asked me what I had done last night and I explained that I stayed home, had dinner and a beer, and watched a couple of sports games; I hadn't gone out nor had reason to get any American money out of my wallet (and I always keep Dominican pesos separate). It felt like that as soon as I mentioned that I had a beer that nobody wanted to help me. The official policy is that alcohol isn't allowed in the homestays but I did ask Monica last night and she did say it was OK to get a beer. It's a sign of respect to not openly drink alcohol in any private home, even if it's not part of a program. Even if I had my own place and I was hosting someone I would expect them to get my approval before cracking open a beer. But, it's also normal whilst travelling to have a glass of wine at dinner, or a beer after a long day of sightseeing. Having a beer played no role in the money going missing; someone stole it out of my wallet whilst I was gone. We were all gone for eight hours and as far as I know, 50 people could have easily come and gone during that stretch. I just have to suck it up and realize what's lost is lost, and I don't want to jeopardize Monica and her family in this situation. I really like Monica and she's been an incredible host! Aside from the missing money today was fantastic! Waterfalls, underwater photos, dancing, and a delicious Dominican feast! 

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