Archive for the ‘Beach Bar Visitors’ Category
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Does helping children pander to your altruistic conscience? Then how about helping children with cancer? In the Dominican Republic that is precisely the goal of one of our regular visitors at the Playa Vista bar.
Around the Playa Vista premises cancer may not be the favorite subject of conversation, but… to the future benefit of a lot of kids in this part of the world cancer has become a major focus of attention for one of our regulars, Chris Phillips, who is in fact a third year medical student studying far from his Californian origins at the Universidad Iberoamericana – ‘UNIBE’ – Santo Domingo. Together with a good friend of his from the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore they have very recently made solicitation in the USA for full 501-3C charity status with the specific intention of helping children with diagnosed cancer. The name of the charity is ‘The Caribbean Cancer Foundation’ and the Dominican Republic is to be the initial recipient of the Foundation’s help.
Our two medical friends explained to us that there is one very fine established organization in this country committed exclusively to diagnosing and treating children’s cancer: the ‘Instituto Oncológico Doctor Heriberto Pieter’ in Santo Domingo which offers its services to the children with the support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Tennessee. Unfortunately, however, even the combined efforts of these two fine institutions only digs partially into the problem of children’s cancer here. At the time of talking, only approximately half of the 300 diagnosed cases of children suffering from cancer were being treated and the remaining 150 or so can only wait. Additionally our friends stressed that an even bigger problem is the unknown numbers of children suffering the grim disease, who, if diagnosed earlier, could be helped in a significant way… and that is precisely where it is hoped their new charity will step in.
The two initiative takers themselves pointed out that it is not just the agents, drugs and medical equipment that the children need, but all kinds of supportive items right down to used toys that, for example, can help enormously in entertaining during the times the children are receiving treatment. In their own words they would dearly love to be able to significantly augment the work already being done, and their aim is to build up significant financial support from around the world to make this possible. They have already made contact with some high profile charities and personalities on the world stage and if their good intentions are any kind of marker, some of the less fortunate children in our corner of the world could soon be welcoming beneficiaries of their efforts.
If you should feel like adding your help, one way or the other, you can get in touch with the foundation via Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Those of you who have been on the Playa Vista terraza of late may have noticed the energetically darting figure of our newest family member namely the largely tabby kitten we talked about in our blog entry earlier this month. No sooner was the ink dry from that story, than she suddenly and sadly disappeared. All the familiar speculations and sentiments went with the loss… perhaps she had been stolen… hope she is being looked after wherever she got to… how sad that after getting so used to her following us so loyally around the place there is now just an empty space where her fragile little body used to appear… etc. etc.
About 48 hours later we found her no further than 5 meters away clinging to the top of the corrugated zinc fence surrounding the vacant lot immediately next door bleating her heart out. It was an easy job to rescue her down, but she definitely had been in the wars out there in the big world. It would seem that all this time she had been entangled in what for a little kitten must have been the vastness of an overgrown jungle… namely the vacant property next door. Our miniature tiger did come back with a couple of nasty scars on her belly as proof of her personal fight for survival in the wild jungle. She seemed to have regressed to the extreme hesitancy of the first day she appeared at Playa Vista, but the good ending to the story is that after we smeared some non-astringent vitamin ointment on her wounded area – not to mention another serving or two of German sausages – she swiftly recovered her familiarity and she is now well and truly back in her self-chosen role as the newest and tiniest member of the international Playa Vista Family.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
We have on more than one occasion referred to the procession of types that pass through and by our Playa Vista enclave… both invited and uninvited. For example some of you will remember that persistent green woodpecker (see archives Sept. 29, 2004 or Feb. 19, 2005), who incidentally has not entirely given up his visits but is very much less aggressive in attacking the structure of our buildings than in the past…. Maybe he has learned the art of Caribbean easy-goingness or maybe he’s worn out or… perhaps both?
Anyway… towards the end of a quiet Caribbean day recently a very small scrawny largely tabby kitten appeared in our courtyard, and once that first bowl of milk was provided she stayed all night right next to the empty bowl. Within a whisker of a time she fitted right in to the pattern of the constantly moving lifestyle that Playa Vista presents. A few more bowls of milk and a couple of German sausages later her scrawniness had gone even if her smallness hadn’t.
We have now had time to thoroughly associate ourselves with her and perhaps more importantly her with us, and by all observations her personality seems to be exactly ideal. She is extremely affectionate but not over-doting, curious beyond the norm, adaptable, forgiving, and definitely agile as proven by her attempts to trip up the Italian football players on Playa Vista’s giant screen in the World Cup semi-final. By all accounts she has already used up a good part of her nine lives. Before arriving at Playa Vista she was witnessed by a neighbor who claimed that some very heartless individual decided to toss her far out in to the ocean after she made her first venture on to the beach. After being rescued by another, this time valiant, passer-by she then had to be hooked from underneath the noses of the feral dogs loping around on the beach and placed behind the safety of the Playa Vista gate.
She does seem extremely happy to be here, definitely she is thriving and for now she is very welcome. We just don’t have a name for her yet. She is called anything from Kitty through Mis Mis to Katzen-Jammer. If she stays on we probably have to come up with a proper one.
PS. Soon after this the name of “Honey” stuck rather well. She certainly had a sweetness about her and her coat was dusted with a honey color. Her life has been compacted for posterity (for now that is) in two short Youtube videos:
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Recently we were able to have a lengthy chat with a well-informed Boca Chica visitor and Playa Vista customer who gave us some interesting insight on the well-known Boca Chica Hamaca Coral by Hilton Hotel where he is a regular guest.
The hotel is by far the biggest in Boca Chica and is renowned for its international service but also, it has to be said, here in Boca Chica, sometimes renowned for its self sufficient insularity.
Hamaca gains the insularity accolade for three principal reasons: it sits, kind of hidden away, at the furthest end of the beach from Santo Domingo… it is separated from the rest of Boca Chica beach by a very divisive wall… and it is common knowledge that the tour operators and other staff inside the hotel advise their guests not to venture out into the Boca Chica town.
Thankfully our “informant” is one who does not take kindly to that particular piece of advice to stay put behind ‘The Wall’… because he likes to break out and get in to town to savor how the ”real” Latin Carribbean world operates!
Here is what our man is saying about life behind ‘The Wall’:
Last October – after arriving and finding his bathroom to be out of soap – he called down to the hotel’s front desk and asked for some. “We don’t have any, but as soon as we do we will deliver it to your room”, the person on duty told him. Maybe they never actually got any, because he never received the awaited delivery during his stay and decided, adventurous as he is, to make the trek to the town’s local supermarket to secure his own supply… no big thing, but let us listen to other snippets he had to report on.
Apart from the roving sellers themselves nobody is very happy about the numbers of salesmen and women strolling around importuning visitors relaxing along the full length of the Boca Chica beach. One of the advantages in staying inside the Hamaca compound, we were always led to believe, was to be free of this kind of hassle. Our friend told us that on two separate counts this is not the case. Firstly the very keenest sellers will apparently swim around the hotel’s controversial barrier wall and from the waist deep protection of the water offer their wares in spite of the shouting Hamaca guards trying to ward them off. On top of that, and quite ironically too, our friend further told us that in spite of the no-salesman rule on the Hamaca’s beach apparently there is an in-house coterie of timeshare salespeople who can at times make you yearn to be precisely somewhere else in order to get that peace and relaxation you came for!
On a less daily basis the Hamaca also suffers the finger of criticism for two very fundamental reasons – both actually attributed to that infamous wall. One reason is a hottish potato in the Dominican press of late relating to the laws of the land determining that all beaches should be accessible to the public. As already indicated that kind of access is definitely questionable concerning the beach inside the Hamaca compound… and you don’t have to be a salesman to find out, our friend tells us. Even the most innocent looking beach-guests – be it international tourists or local ‘Capitaleños’ – will be dissuaded by the guards from making any attempt to clamber over ‘The Wall’. The second reason is that scientific studies in recent years have shown that the very existence of ‘The Wall’ has exacerbated the severe beach erosion that has taken place on the “public” beach adjacent to it on the west side!
Having said all that… to put Hotel Hamaca in perspective it too has to be said that it is definitely not only the largest but the most prestigious hotel in Boca Chica sporting a four-star rating and offering gainful employment to many local people… but perhaps the message, from the perspective painted here, is that the Hamaca would be well advised to go straight and, to the benefit of itself as well as Boca Chica, get rid of the questionable wall and become naturally integrated with the Latin Carribbean flavored Boca Chica community in general and especially the Boca Chica beach that sports the big azure-blue reef-protected bay called ‘the biggest bathtub in the world’!
Anyway… if you, during your stay in good old Boca Chica, should choose to stay at The Hamaca do yourself a big favor and don’t let yourself become a prisoner behind ‘The Wall!
Friday, June 2, 2006
In order to keep you up to date with the sprinkling of visitors of an artistic persuasion we get at the Playa Vista Bar we thought we would introduce two artists from very different backgrounds we have had the pleasure of welcoming in recent times. To be honest the first one didn’t visit in person this time, but sent one of her rather spectacular works through a friend, although she herself has sipped on the Playa Vista Terraza several times in the past.
Her artistic name is Dawn Williams. Dawn produces bronze sculptures and her good friend and promoter of her works, Scott – on one of his occasional sorties to the south coast here from his usual stomping ground up around Sosua – came in and placed a rather beautiful 18” bronze sculpture of a donkey on the bar. Quite a heavy affair, but the donkey itself was carrying a far heavier weight – two milk urns strapped to its back to be exact. The sculpture was cast with unerring realism with the creature cast in action stumbling across the rugged terrain beneath his hooves. The donkey had broken its tether and was off to have some fun… the sculpture amusingly titled ‘mañana trabajo’ – “work tomorrow”. It seems that Dawn usually produces a limited number of the same work and that the mould of this model would be destroyed after the 27th casting… 27 as a tribute to the 27th day of February being this nation’s Independence Day. The figure we were able to admire was number four and interested parties would have to come up with a cool US$3,600 for the privilege of this mantelpiece item. If you hurry we believe there are still some available.
Visitor number two in this sequence is Arelis Aquino who has graced us with her presence many times over the years to soak up the sun on the beach and order her favorite Piña Colada drink. Arelis is Dominican although she has spent years living and working in Italy and has now presented us with two small books that she has published containing collections of her poetry in Spanish with full Italian translations.
The two creative individuals mentioned above, together with other visiting artists from the Dominican Republic as well as from abroad, all help to create a very engaging Playa Vista mix at times – a weird and wonderful kind of melting-pot- with all kinds of not only cultural but also artistic influences from all around the world.
So why not pop by and join the diverse crew of artists and other good folks enjoying the azure-blue Caribbean sun, sea and sand at Playa Vista?
Saturday, April 29, 2006
We are back on the good-guy theme again. We are a full year on from those articles regarding Massachusetts Man and Philadelphia knight-in-shining-armor but true to the vein of those stories those two individuals have been up to their good deed tricks again this past “winter”. More stationery supplies delivered and yet more teeth filled at their expense. They are but two examples of the good works that we hear of from time to time: we are sometimes visited by coordinated groups who take time off from their chores while in this country to enjoy a day at the beach and fortunate enough to find them relaxing down on a sun lounger in front of Playa Vista and hear their stories of “trying to make a difference”.
The other day it was rather back to the individual although in truth it was more like a group rolled into an individual. It was when he started pulling medicine after medicine out of his pocket to show examples of what he was offering to some of the under privileged people in these parts that we started taking serious notice. He is not a doctor -actually a historian- but in his vast experience of visiting poor neighborhoods, particularly in Africa, he has learned of the immense usefulness of basic hygiene knowledge and of always being ready with a bag of over-the-counter medicines and ointments. He has been doling out toothbrushes, dental floss, pain relievers, muscle relaxing creams as well as clothing mainly in Los Conucos (near Juan Dolio) on his latest trip although his first visit to the Dominican Republic saw him in the Las Terranas neighborhood near Samana. As the conversation progressed it became increasingly obvious that the man is actually a full-on professional humanitarian with the story deepening at each example of his attempts to put something back into life that has seemingly treated him well, though be it after a very difficult beginning.
His official move into the humanitarian arena began when he coupled his academic background and his belief in the power of education with his desire to give and formed the non-profit organization “South African Book Drive”. You can read more details regarding the man and his efforts at:
His efforts have led to more than three million books being distributed across southern Africa and he related to us his plans for helping further in the Dominican Republic. He talked of wanting to bring in 400 pounds of clothing a month and set up some academic programs in English. We naturally wish him the very best with his projects and suspect that he might be quite successful when we note that his organization is backed by a preponderance of people from the very same state of origin as Massachusetts Man.
Friday, March 31, 2006
The numbers of stories filtering out from our delightful Hispaniola island quite frequently point to the – shall we say – idiosyncratic nature of the local people, and we at Playa Vista freely admit to being complicit sometimes in adding fuel to the fire… for, where else would we get a really good story? However, to try and bring a semblance of balance to the picture we take the opportunity here to shed light on some idiosyncratic behavior of people from another part of the world.
Far be it from us to be part of the great big stereo-typing conspiracy, but we do note by way of introduction that the individuals concerned in this story come from West Virginia which our many American friends tell us has a reputation all of its own.
The central figure in our story arrived in Boca Chica fresh from the Panhandle State to marry his true love having decided on a previous trip to commit himself to a new life and a new wife here in our corner of Caribbean paradise.
Four days after the wedding day the man unexpectedly turned up in the Playa Vista Bar. We naturally motioned to congratulate him on his new start in life… but the scar on his hand sent the conversation in another direction. He then pointed to another much larger injury on his upper thigh. “What happened?” “I don’t rightly know,” he said… but then started talking somewhat abstractedly about a fight in the midst of his wedding ceremony! He said he had spent the last four nights in prison, precisely the amount of time that had passed since the wedding itself, we couldn’t help noticing, and reflection on that point delivered us very quickly to the conclusion that a new start in life was not the first thing to be congratulating him on after all.
To be honest we were left in complete confusion because our man was accompanied not only by his good traveling companion, also from West Virginia, but by a plain clothes policeman although not apparently under any kind of restrictive orders. Our man seemingly was visiting good old Playa Vista as if he were a ship seeking some kind of shelter in a storm. The West Virginia friend added to the plot of puzzlement by hissing out of the corner of his mouth that our newlywed had no money and we should watch the level of credit we allowed him.
Bewildered we were, to say the least, but let it go at that, believing it was a matter between two friends, seemingly the police and probably a newly wedded wife somewhere in the background.
Quite some days went by and the supportive friend appeared calmly and coolly at Playa Vista again thereby in our minds immediately dispelling the notion that there was any kind of urgent problem to deal with. Newly married West Virginian had, according to the friend, at some point since his arrival gone “a little crazy” caused numerous problems for himself and others around him and he, the friend, was now merely trying to help get him back to the USA… only there was a complication in that the friend had had his passport stolen! We had to applaud the support the friend was providing naturally assuming that after the substantial delay haste would be the order. However… the friend clearly wasn’t going to give up on his vacationing quite yet as he enjoyed a few relaxing drinks at the Playa Vista Bar and a manicure that afternoon on top of whatever else he had been doing on the intervening days.
Again quite some time later, strangely on Super Bowl night actually, our main actor in the saga turned up again, precisely on time for the football game and a stiff whisky. Ironically he was a true fanatic of one of the participants that night namely the Pittsburgh Steelers who were vying with the Seattle Seahawks to be crowned Super Bowl champs, but we swear that he never saw a single play… not in any of the game he was supposed to watch at Playa Vista that is, for sure. He was far more interested in loud and not very clear-headed conversation with the other bar-guests around him, people who were actually trying to watch the game. We and the agitated bar-guests frankly breathed a sigh of relief when the troubled West Virginia man slipped off his bar stool and sauntered out at half time.
Yet more days further on and the vacation-loving friend was in the bar again explaining the same story about getting our man out of the country, but it still wasn’t easy because actually neither of them had passports by now and also their plane tickets had expired apart from any other problems that might be involved! The friend, being exactly that, listened to our report of the visitation on Super Bowl night, again took his time, had a few drinks and very supportively paid for his friends unpaid bar tab from that infamous Super Bowl night.
He shook our hands, wished us well and commented again on how he really must get the guy back home for some real help. All well and good we supposed… although we did see the friend again as recently as last week. We are just left to wonder what the West Virginian word for ‘mañana’ is!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
There are a lot of different people who pass through the Playa Vista area in the course of time… one way or another and for one reason or another. An old Caribbean gentleman used to do so on a regular basis. He was tall, with decidedly negro characteristics, a bit of a stooped back, grey hair under his baseball cap and going by the distinctive and unforgettable name “Napoleon”. He was polite and very gentle mannered… and like many in any third world country looking for some kind of an opportunity. We really were not in a position to help, but we would, as we usually try to do with polite gentle mannered people, have a little interchange of conversation and wish him luck on his way.
Some years passed by and apart from bumping into Napoleon once on the bus we hadn’t seen or heard of the man for a long time until the other day.
Napoleon walked into Playa Vista with a more determined stride than we ever recall and greeted us very amicably. He was his usual friendly self and asked after us and how things were going. “How is business?” he asked. “Not too bad, but of course we can always use more customers even though it now is the middle of the higher season”, we replied. “Okay, I have a couple of friends who have apartments over in Andres and they can help you bring in a lot more customers.” “My two friends come from Puerto Principe by the way!” All right we thought. No harm in talking. Perhaps his friends have some lodgers who want to spend some time at a nice place right on the beach away from their apartments occasionally.
There are a lot of promises made and a lot of promises often not completed around these parts but the next morning, a Sunday incidentally, bright and early Napoleon was here with his two friends. They were two brothers, well dressed, polite, Spanish speaking but genuinely Haitian from the main city in that country, Puerto Principe, and they did have a SINGLE apartment in Andres where they personally were living. Well…out of courtesy we explained our set up silently wondering what kind of business proposition they could possibly have. “So, what do you want us to do for you then,” the younger brother a bit surprisingly said. “Well… if you can bring in substantially more customers then fair enough and you would be entitled to some kind of a commission, naturally,” we said.
There was quite a bit of eye shifting at this point and a slight clearing of the throat before the younger brother announced that their work fell into the category of “mystic”. Mystic? We honestly thought that perhaps it was some kind of show they put on, and we explained that we were not really big enough for a performance of that nature. The older brother then, after some more eye shifting, explained that it was “spiritual” – the way they planned to bring customers in that is. The penny then finally dropped: Puerto Principe, Haiti, Mystic, Spiritual…, my goodness, VOODOO!… we were staring straight in the face of the little known business arm of the world famous voodoo tradition.
The eye-shifting was now on our side of the table as we backtracked on our willingness to discuss promotional ideas with this particular “technique” in mind anyway. We then wished Napoleon and his friends the very best of the day and good luck with their many clients they said they had waiting for them in Andres. As they understandably, due to our lack of enthusiasm for their voodoo specialty, walked disappointedly out of Playa Vista the power supply abruptly failed!
Now, as we all know that power failure isn’t exactly uncommon in these parts we were left merely to wonder if it was just the usual problems that cut the electricity off at that moment… or could it be that voodoo trickery has been behind the last 40 years of electricity distribution problems in the Dominican Republic?
Thursday, December 1, 2005
There is a very sweet little four-year-old girl who visits us regularly and delights in her time at the beach while here with her North American father… an old friend of ours. The following story ends in triumph, but that was very far from certain when our friend embarked on legal action concerning the child’s Dominican mother.
The story as told to us by that triumphant father goes like this:
“The child’s Mom virtually stole the child a few weeks back, taking her for a weekend and then not coming back at all. I put on my tough-guy hat and tracked her down in a poor neighborhood a few days later. My daughter had been missing school and her other activities, as the Mom had decided that she would no longer be living with me. Without big expectations and even without a lawyer – everyone always tells me I have no hope of getting legal custody because I am a single foreigner, without residency, without a wife etc etc – I took the Mom to court.
I detailed, in Spanish, everything that had happened, put forward a few witnesses and guess what: I won custody! The Mom was given visitation rights and the judge told me that if she ever broke any of them, to let her, the judge (that is), know right away. First visitation weekend, the mother broke the rules totally, and I got her right back in court again. More strict visitation conditions were imposed. All of this is a minor miracle here, but shows what can now be accomplished after all the years where it was a sure thing that a Dominican mother would get the custody no matter the circumstances … there actually is progress in courts, they are finally coming around to looking at what is best for the kids.”
For us at Playa Vista who through the years have heard it all and seen it all it is not a minor miracle… it’s a humongous miracle that gives hope for the future of the good crazy old Dominican Republic.
Well done that man!
Saturday, November 5, 2005
The majority of overseas visitors to the Dominican Republic are undoubtedly visiting for a well earned break -spot of rest and recuperation- in the form of a traditional Caribbean vacation… though it has to be said, as the country moves on politically and economically, especially in this area close to the very sizable and significant historical capital city of Santo Domingo there are increasing numbers of visitors arriving for a whole range of different reasons and equally variable lengths of stay.
But… here on the south coast of our island there is surprisingly very little active and therefore credible information available on the region almost in any language, let alone English, for any eager-to-learn guests as to where to visit, what to see and what to do while here. Well… apart from visiting www.DR1.com, www.dr1.com/blogs/playavista, www.PlayaVistaBocaChica.Net and personally coming to talk to us over a drink in BaseCamp & InfoCenter Playa Vista you can now download from the internet your very own reference material. The stylish material currently comes in the form of a 12-page magazine and will be updated on a regular basis by Santo Domingo resident, regular Playa Vista visitor and co-conceiver of the web site cum-magazine, Greg McMillan who featured in a previous blog (April 18th 2005) due to his contribution to a photo-manual on the history of relations between Canada and the Dominican Republic. The press launch for this new initiative was held at the Casa de Teatro – itself well worth a visit – in the very center of the scenic colonial part of the city, where all subscribers and interested parties were invited for the initiation ceremony. Gregg even had a well written speech ready in Spanish to wish the newly launched concept well on its way. Unfortunately Gregg had been plagued by one of the dreaded variants of “greepay” (see blog Aug 1st 2005) for a nagging number of days thwarting his best intentions. In spite of – or maybe because of – the viral attack to his throat and the ensuing absence of the anticipated speech at the venue Gregg instead wrote down the internet contact details for us to hand on to all our valued ‘bloggers’: www.santodomingohot.com.
PS Gregg was later heard to have ventured into other territories and allowed this domain to go unregistered, so if there is somebody out there thinking that hot santo domingo could work for them on the internet then it is available.