Sunday, April 15, 2007
Semana Santa (‘Easter Week’ or literally ‘Holy Week’), it would probably be fair to say, is the most celebrated event on the Dominican calendar. The entire week beginning on the Monday prior to Good Friday is ‘Holy Week’ here in the Dominican Republic… full week that finishes on the Easter Sunday and so does not take in the regular Easter Monday as we are used to in Western Europe and North America.
The tradition is that people are very much on the move because of this special holiday week with the main goal of visiting family and in general to have a good time, whether this be getting together with visiting family and friends from overseas or simply taking a trip into the country to visit family origins. Semana Santa is in a big way a time for recreation, and one of the most popular activities is traveling to the coast or inland rivers to enjoy the cooling waters. For this huge exodus of people every year the authorities muster themselves in an unparalleled orderly and coordinated fashion in order to minimize problems and ensure a smooth, trouble-free and enjoyable time can be had by as many as possible.
As Boca Chica beach is the beach of the capital city Santo Domingo, it is simply flooded with visitors over a four-day period beginning on the Thursday with the peak activity being on Friday and Saturday. We have picked out a few tasters from the Playa Vista Terraza and beach area to give you an idea of the kind of environment we, once a year, share with a veritable swarm of celebrating visitors all enjoying ‘Semana Santa’.
Check them out!
Thursday, March 29, 2007
As we all know delays in air travel in our modern world can be mildly irritating at best and at worst thoroughly obstructive. You may like to consider where on the scale you would view the following story even though the story-teller himself, as you will learn, was far from unhappy about the outcome. It is a story recounted to us this busy holiday season by a Playa Vista visitor. In fact it was his first ever trip to these shores and although his father – a frequent visitor to Boca Chica and Playa Vista who actually invited him – had versed him in some of the idiosyncrasies of life on arrival, he was not exactly prepared for what happened prior to that.
He left Orlando on a Sunday afternoon and got as far as successfully boarding his second and connecting American Airlines flight from Miami due to arrive directly at Santo Domingo airport a convenient couple of hours later. He had even stowed his hand luggage above his favored aisle seat. Then came the first of several announcements over the intercom that was due to start the ball rolling in another direction and trigger a rather entertaining adventure within his adventure. The announcement was: “We are looking for a volunteer to stay behind because the flight is oversold. We are offering a US$800 transportation voucher, overnight 5 star hotel accommodation, dinner and a $5 breakfast voucher plus another $10 towards lunch the next day, for anybody… with only hand baggage“.
It didn’t take our traveler long to snatch back his hand luggage, jump towards the exit and offer himself as that volunteer even though his Dad was waiting for him in Boca Chica. The supervisor in charge was so pleased to hear of his willingness that she instantly claimed, “You’re gold!” as they whisked him off the plane, although his one self-appointed condition was that he must be able to make a free phone call to that Dad of his to explain what was going on. “No problem.” the lady said and added, “You’re still gold”.
Before getting to the Coral Gables Hotel and indeed before leaving the airport our adventurer had already managed to up the ante… he had agreed to delay his flight to 11.30 the next morning instead of the originally proposed 10.30 in return for being promoted to business class! After all why not travel in style if you are going to meet up with your Dad!
After an uneventful shuttle service back to the airport next morning he was quietly waiting in the departure lounge and struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger and removed his stereo earphones to engage in the conversation better. The subject of conversation soon turned to our friend’s unusual journey up to that point and the other passenger immediately alerted him to the fact that they had been making repeated calls for a further 10 volunteers to stay behind because they were still overbooked which our friend had clearly missed while listening to his music. As he rather liked this game, and as it was after all “only” his good old Dad waiting for him, he leapt up to the counter to offer his services again. However, this time his music listening had apparently thwarted him because they said that they had already enlisted the required volunteers.
All was normal again. Or was it, because the flight was now evidently delayed and the 11.30 had become 1.15? Most of the passengers had boarded but his ticket had become rather crumpled and the flight desk attendant could not process it in the machine. She politely asked him if he would mind going to a different counter to get a new ticket issued. He was becoming increasingly sensitive to the immediate travel conditions – you could almost say “intuitive” about delays and their meaning – and at this instance noticed quite a degree of chaos with the boarding process in general and that some of the other passengers were getting quite fractious due to this latest delay. Putting an intuitive two and two together he asked, “By the way, did you really get all your volunteers?” “No, actually we need one more.” “I’m your boy then,” he enthusiastically offered. The next flight was 4.30 and he was given another US$500 transportation voucher, a $10 lunch voucher and on top of that could keep his business class ranking. While he waited, the departure gate for his latest flight was changed a number of times. Becoming rapidly an expert in this new field of “bumpee” he made a quick check of the seating situation of the plane on his laptop via the internet as he was beginning to sniff another oversold situation. He volunteered again and was told they would let him know. Just 10 minutes before the flight was due they requested another 7 volunteers for the 7 pm flight and he was offered another $500 transportation voucher though it did come with his very first reversal this time around, as he was told he would have to surrender his business class status. He mused, as one does as an experienced hand, while observing a fellow “novice” passenger volunteering himself and his entire Dominican family to fill five of those required slots; and yes that would be five times $500, therefore $2500 in transportation vouchers the novice was proclaiming loudly as if to convince himself, if indeed not all his fellow travelers as well, that it was true.
By now a full 24 hours had elapsed and the same personnel of the night before were on duty again and the lady who had claimed he was gold confided that the next flight, the last one of the day, was oversold too and that he might like to volunteer yet again and repeat the previous night’s offer with the travel vouchers returning to the higher value of $800. He didn’t bat an eyelid about what to do but apparently missed the call for a further 10 volunteers while he was maneuvering himself from one side of the airport to the other because of yet another change of gate. The plane was, per the norm, delayed, this time to 7.50 and per the norm he put himself on the waiting list for volunteers should American Airlines require his “services” again. There was to be no turning back now though, no final reprieve as he made his final call to his Boca Chica waiting-Dad just before boarding… “Dad, it looks like I’ll be there soon but it has been rather a bumpy ride so far!”
His one personal comment after relating this story over the Playa Vista Bar counter was that he was indeed quite thrilled with the benefits he received, if you couldn’t already guess, and he further stated categorically that on top of it all the American Airlines staff treated him fantastically and courteously the entire time!
Friday, March 16, 2007
Q: How Long Does It Take To Change A Light Bulb In The Dominican Republic?
A: One And A Half Years!
A long time ago (see blogs Feb 5th and March 4th last year) we were writing about a certain non-functioning street lamp immediately outside the Playa Vista main gate, and we are aware we left you all sitting on the edges of your seats – wondering what on earth was happening… though more relevantly, when on earth something would happen with that very reticent lamp number 25 in Calle Abraham Nunez.
Our one-time zeal chasing up the local council in the form of their main maintenance men Ramon number 1 and Ramon number 2 to get the lamp fixed properly was eroded by the pending and then actual change in the town council administration. The reason being, that in the Dominican Republic. it is usually very difficult to get the wheels rolling even during the active time of an administration, and if it comes to handover of power at midterm elections nearly everything just grinds to a halt! In fact, there is a universally recognized gestation period of several months before the wheels get back to the normally very slow forward motion again. Now, one and a half years since the lamp first dimmed and nearly one year after the political change at the council had been completed, Ramon number 2 suddenly appeared again one fine morning this week with his splendid mechanical crane poised under the infamous blacked out lamp number 25.
Notwithstanding the year-long absence of night light for ourselves, our guests and bypassing ‘Boca Chiceros’, Ramon seemed very proud that he was finally back, not only with a brand spanking new bulb, but also a new photo cell to go with it. Strangely, he claimed neither the bulb nor the photo cell were any good – the old ones that is – “Made in Japan” he said, as if that explained everything. “We have a much better bulb now that has been working well everywhere else we have put it. Much better… from England you know!” he added triumphantly. So now you know even good old solid maxims about manufacturing country of origin can be turned on their head in Boca Chica!
“What about the other Ramon?” we asked, more out of friendly curiosity than anything else. “No, he was moved on. Too many things like bulbs went missing, you know,” he answered not being able to hide a castigatingly moral glint in his eye.
“Oh well, at least good for you,” we said “that you are still gainfully employed.” With the moral glint now long gone he continued, “Yes, but this photo cell didn’t come from our stock room, I had to get it from another place, you understand. What about paying me for that?”
Considering we and the general public had waited an exasperating one and a half years for a simple change of light bulb, we declined his cheeky, bordering on annoying, invitation to make a personal contribution… and besides we didn’t want to encourage the downfall of Ramon number 2 as a town council employee just like mentioned Ramon number 1, now did we?
Anyway, in spite of the Ramones now being one member short “The Light Show” is well and truly on and has been performing perfectly for three consecutive nights now… certainly very much appreciated by the coming and going Playa Vista audience at the least.
Thursday, March 1, 2007
On a regular basis we are privy to constantly changing scenes and spectacles here at Playa Vista due, not least, to our south facing aspect which grants us the perfect opportunity to watch the natural daily transition of the sun in entirety from sun-rising east to sun-setting west. It goes without saying that this serves as the ideal backdrop to that other huge natural visual benefit we have: our very own reef protected lagoon… which in itself draws the other main spectacle, namely great numbers of colorful human beings from all walks of life passing by as well as sometimes, thankfully, also hanging around long enough to frequent our humble bar/restaurant on the ‘Terraza’ or enjoy the sun, sea and sand in front.
Here, however, we have decided to update you a little on the animal world at Playa Vista by presenting a small video clip to introduce you to the latest member of our family and at the same time to a recent visitor. The visitor is a nightingale who, incidentally, when not taken up with its own reflection in our one-way office windows, sings quite beautifully from the tree tops around us… and the family member is our previously introduced self-invited cat “Honey”, now very much settled in at the Playa Vista premises (see blog July 11th 2006). Honey, by the way has become such an established part of the Playa Vista scene that guests sometimes are noticeably disappointed when she doesn’t appear from one of her many daily cat naps.
Anyway, on this particular film debut-day Honey was very much in appearance trying frustratedly to haul in the nightingale who seemed to have a touch of our old Woody Woodpecker’s disease… an avid desire to destroy his territory-threatening own reflection in the one-way glass. The spectacle actually went on for several hours, but thanks to the unyielding window the protagonists remained unhurt to the end, so… again thankfully, we are still entertained by the mellifluous singing of the nightingale and Honey is left to stalk other prey, or simply nap!
Monday, February 12, 2007
Even in good old other-world Boca Chica telecommunications are absolutely essential… not least demonstrated by the increasing popularity here at Playa Vista of the Wi-Fi service we offer via our high speed internet connection. As you may or may not know ‘Verizon’ was the name of our telephone line and internet provider until very recently although presumably many of you will know that not too long before that the name was Codetel.
We have presented stories about these market dominating players before (e.g. 31st August 2003)… and although we are highly satisfied with our internet service in general, a detail of a thorn is pricking us again with regard to these drastic corporate changes. We, like everyone else in this country, had to adjust when Codetel became Verizon, and we accepted whatever hassle it took to change our stationery and specifically make allowances for the integral e-mail address change from Codetel.net.do to Verizon.net.do. Image-wise we actually thought it to be a step forward as Codetel smacked of old third world monopoly and Verizon had the fresh flavor of modern American competitiveness.
For your information – a little research shows that Codetel was originally constituted as a subsidiary of the Anglo Canadian Telephone Company as far back as 1930.
So… strike us down with a feather, to now learn that America Movil, the latest owner of the Dominican telephone-net, have decided to revert to the name Codetel for the telecom part of their business! That means all e-mail account addresses currently reading Verizon.net.do will again become Codetel.net.do. For the consumer an extremely irritating and costly little dance one step forward followed by another backwards!
Well, at this point we at Playa Vista are a bit tired of dancing entirely to the tune of the insensitive giants and hereby say ‘adios’ to Verizons and Codetels in the hope that you all will welcome our new easy-to-remember e-mail address namely: Email@PlayaVistaBocaChica.Net which functions nicely in harness with a little web site we have going illustrating what we can offer at and through ‘Playa Vista Boca Chica’… the official name of our cozy international beach-establishment here beside the azure blue Caribbean Ocean.
Keep in touch!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
It was announced by the Ministry of Tourism last week that Boca Chica will not at this point in time be enjoying the revamping that has taken place on the beaches of Puerto Plata, Cabarete and Juan Dolio. The reason given by the Ministry was that one of the four large hotels, named specifically to be the Don Juan hotel, is not prepared to pay its share of the previously agreed private sector contribution. However… in this young democracy, government announcements are aplenty and one statement often contradicts the other, so who knows if we are dealing here with a special version of the many rumors always circulating – namely the latest ‘Government Rumor’?
Anyway… if the mentioned announcement surprisingly should turn out to be the last word in this tricky affair, there are two redeeming factors that we at Playa Vista at least can embrace – one is that the government in the same announcement indicated that they do have other plans to implement improvements in Boca Chica independent of the re-sanding project and secondly the standing plain fact that Playa Vista anyhow is blessed with a substantial sand frontage! Furthermore it would seem to us that because of a breakwater just to the west of our location it is pretty much a sure thing that we will be able to avoid the kind of sand erosion that has unfortunately affected other parts of the Boca Chica beach and therefore we will be able to continue to offer sun, sea and sand as well as excellent facilities for Playa Vista customers while we wait for the authorities one fine day to pull out their proverbial fingers and finally do the necessary for the well being of the whole of Boca Chica beach!
Meanwhile a mere seven years later we have photographic evidence of genuine change on the beachfront in Boca Chica:
It is eerily reminiscent of the extraordinary scenes of destruction we were left with after hurricane Georges passed through the center of the town in 1998 but this time it is man made and portentous of the change that has been bearing down on us over the years – however slowly that might have been. The Dominican ministries with the Ministry of Tourism in the vanguard say they are immediately to implement plans to reinvigorate the town. This is a photograph of a bulldozer making light of a couple of beach establishments immediately next to Playa Vista as, at the very least, quite a dramatic action of first intent for 2014.
Monday, January 8, 2007
An extremely good Playa Vista friend is our hero number 1 these days… not only for the purposes of this story, but even more so because he has been helping us uncommonly altruistically and manfully in the Playa Vista Bar in recent weeks. We say manfully not just because of the excellent supportive role he has been playing in the Bar, but also because a very painful dose of sciatica makes it difficult for him to operate without the smooth cooperation of that infernally irritating nerve.
His own diagnosis told him that the solution could well be a course of cortisone injections. After quite some understandable procrastination he finally bought himself a small bottle of what he thought would be the necessary liquid and a syringe. He then just had to find somebody competent to inject him. In the middle of the day he tried a couple of private 24-hour service clinics, but they were both closed! He then went to the public clinic where, to his great surprise, the doctor, who is normally sitting with a great long line of people waiting to see him, was all alone. The next surprise was that the doctor immediately discarded the cortisone idea and promptly gave our friend an injection of Dexa B-Tres (for the medically minded this is based on neurotropic vitamins and dexamethasone) which he said would be much better. Our brave friend of course took the rather painful injection in his stride and immediately thereafter limped to his computer to verify on the internet what he had actually been injected with. ‘Approximately 100 times the strength of cortisone’, he told us after the check! He was quite delighted with this, and all was well and good, but… this was a Friday and the doctor would not be available over the weekend for further injections.
On Saturday morning our friend turned up just as enthusiastically as ever with the one proviso of uncertainty as to how on earth he would be able to get his daily shot, as he placed his packets of Dexa B-Tres hopefully on the side of the bar. Exactly what his level of hope, or even his thinking, was… we don’t really know, because within a few servings of Piña Colada, Coca-Cola and Presidente beers an entirely first-time Playa Vista customer leaned over the bar to order his own variety of refreshment, noticed the packets and straight out asked if our brave bar helper had a problem with sciatica. “Why would you be asking that?” our friend replied in astonishment. “Well, I happen to be a doctor and I know all about that product sitting on your bar counter”. Almost before the next coke could be decapped the doctor newly-in-the-house took the matter fully in hand. He jumped right behind the counter and administered the injection there and then in good old natural Playa Vista style. Our friend clearly thanked the doctor and offered a well earned discount on his tab.
With Saturday’s injection well taken care of that just left Sunday to be negotiated, still without clinic and even without the new-found doctor. At this point another Playa Vista customer stepped up to the plate. One of the best patron’s of Bohemia beer that Playa Vista has ever seen was willing and eager to do the necessary ‘shot’ the next day. “Fine,” said our friend… “on the simple condition that you don’t start into your daily Bohemian ration until after the exercise has taken place!”
Sunday came and our trusted customer certainly achieved the goal of a Dexa B-tres injection, but… there were a couple of stumblings along the way. Firstly, he broke the capsule with the substance in it and cut his hand… and while they were trying to stem the bleeding, our indispensable bar-helper friend and faithful ‘Playa Vista soldier’ stood with his bare feet on the broken glass! However, once the bloody mess was cleared away injector and injectee went successfully about their business. Whatever the truth might be about keeping to his promise of leaving the beer alone until after the injection, the bad news was that ‘good customer cum-injector’ was off to Costa Rica in the coming days.
So it would seem… the next weekend would probably require a whole new seemingly coincidental Playa Vista saga to get the job done!
Tuesday, January 2, 2007
A little seasonal greeting from all of us at Playa Vista
The Playa Vista terrace bathed in Caribbean sunshine as is usual for the Christmas week! A Happy Christmas and Prosperous New Year to you all!
Could this really be what rumor says it is – the support vessel for the Boca Chica beach revitalization project… or are we just dreaming festively?
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Rumors are very much part of our small Boca Chica community and no less so concerning possible changes on the beach. We at Playa Vista have been inferring such for quite some time now (see blogs of January 27th, April 12th, May 17th) but we have been very reluctant to make any further announcements because those rumors tend to be no more and no less than… rumors.
It is a fact that a contract was signed with, amongst others, a Dutch land reclamation company to carry out a major revitalization project on five beaches in the Dominican Republic including Boca Chica which, in our local eyes, regrettably was positioned last on the list.
Well, the work began at the end of July on Puerto Plata’s Long Beach and reports made by visitors to Playa Vista from the north coast indicate that a very fine professional job has been done up there. It is also a fact that work has begun in Juan Dolio… the fourth beach on the list, but as we write, it is another sobering fact that absolutely no work has been begun in Boca Chica although numerous rumors have given numerous starting dates.
The Minister of Tourism made a television announcement that one of the three large hotels in Boca Chica (Hamaca, Dominican Bay and Don Juan) was now refusing to stump up its apparently previously agreed share of the funds for the work that was originally demanded by the public sector of the three mentioned hotels… and therefore the Dutch team of workers would be leaving after they finished in Juan Dolio if the hotel in question did not provide its share. The very latest rumor that we have heard – and we stress we still have not seen any action at all – is that unless the collective hotels comply with the funding requirement the authorities will remove the artificial barriers that protect or semi-protect the areas of sand in front of these hotels and allow the sea’s natural forces to take over. It is important to note that marine studies undertaken in the area have shown that the erosion of the beach is in some part due to the beach “modifications” made in front of these hotels some years ago, especially the stretch of beach immediately to the west of the groin constructed by the Hamaca hotel.
Will this operation with its supposed significantly positive impact on the entire Boca Chica beach take place in January 2007 as the latest rumor goes?… Excuse us once again because it looks very much like the answer is the now infamous but often uniquely appropriate “Time will tell!”
Thursday, December 7, 2006
If you had ventured down to the Boca Chica beach early on Sunday morning, you would –apart from yet another beautiful sunlit Caribbean morning– also have been able to see the beginning of an extremely audacious journey. At 8.20 am a young Dominican man going by the name of Marcos Diaz launched himself into the gentle waters in front of the Hamaca hotel with the intention of swimming not just the length of the tranquil Boca Chica lagoon but out into the open sea in Andres, against the currents that would have driven any normal mortal straight back into the bay, around the Caucedo peninsula and all the way down the coast to the Malecon in Santo Domingo – a distance of an impressive 50 km in all.
He began the swim with a great cheer from a large number of well wishers and was followed by a small escort vessel and also a very vociferous group made up largely of youngsters running along the beach enthusiastically encouraging him along. The aim for Marcos Diaz was twofold: to break a Caribbean and central American record for 50 km swimming in open waters and to do so in front of the Dominican public for the first time.
The brave swimmer was certainly unknown to us before Sunday –and surprisingly to rather a lot of Dominicans too– hence his desire to establish a record in home waters. In actual fact Marcos Diaz is a Dominican long distance swimmer of world renown. He has swum the English Channel and holds the world record for a return swim across the Straits of Gibraltar… and on Sunday he achieved his goal in the record time of 10 hours and 36 minutes. So, rather nice to know that the world famous also swim in front of Playa Vista even if they don’t necessarily have time to stop for a drink!