Saturday, December 12, 2015

Adventures in Getting to The Dominican Republic

My husband Andrew and I were so stoked to be able to go on a winter vacation away from the cold in NYC.  It's always so satisfying to leave the frosty city for a beach destination.  Successfully leaving the apartment on time after a 4:30 am alarm, we were greeted by awesome 53-degree weather outside. I was sweating in my coat. So yeah, we kinda abandoned some sweet NY weather. 

We felt secure in our ability to get onto the flight from JFK to Miami.  According to information we received the day before, seating was very open.  When we arrived to the gate, Andrew and I were nearly the last people on the standby list of 26 people for a full flight.  How did this happen?? Uh oh.  I rethought my original plan to pick up some morning Shake Shack (JFK's location opens at 6am!). I didn't want to tell Andrew, but there was no way in hell we were getting on that flight, so I might as well eat my Shake Shack while we figure out our next move after we DON'T get on this plane.  ;)

To my surprise, the gate agent went down the list of people who had their names on the standby list and WEREN'T SHOWING UP.  Every time we got excited a Mr. and Mrs. So-and-Sho didn't make it to the desk, some last minute ticketed passenger would run down the terminal up to the gate.  It was a constant YAAAY AWWWW NOOOO WHAT.

I was shocked at how late these passengers were. The airline reps would take their tickets while chastising the travelers, "You know you almost missed your flight!!" And I would have to stop myself from giving these irresponsible passengers looks of disapproval even though I've totally been there- running through the airport like the Home Alone family.  Anyway, five minutes before they closed the door, Andrew and I got ushered in. We were part of the four last seats, and there was a flurry of activity as the reps tore tickets and scribbled our seat numbers on them.  Andrew was asking the rep if he should tag his carry-on, and she yelled, "JUST GOOOOOO!" Like a scene from an action movie where she was forcing us to leave her to save our own lives. Like that dramatic, guys.

image via

So we made it to Miami. YES!

Another full flight from MIA to Santo Domingo.  Boo.

This flight had 50+ seats wide open the day before, but apparently, there was a huge flash sale last minute that many people took advantage of...uh oh again.  Well, that sucks, but lemme get something in my belly.

My options in our terminal. I should have eaten Shake Shack. #regrets

Alright, fast forward to getting on this flight to Santo Domingo.  HURRAH. We get through customs, which processes everyone at a glacial pace.  Then we rush to get our baggage.  Which is when we find out our luggage is not there.  We waited an hour and a half in line to be told that our suitcase was in Miami.  And that the bag won't actually be available until the next day...and that would not even be a guarantee.  Luckily, Andrew and I were prepared for this situation, and we packed our essentials (undies) in our carry-on.  We would make do with 2 outfits for the entire week, sure!  We just REALLY had to start our 2-hour drive to Las Terrenas.  It was already getting dark, and locals had already started freaking us out a bit:

"Leave your windows rolled up. Motorcyclists will ride by and snatch your stuff!"
"Whatever you do, make sure you drive straight through! No stops!"

We were in that awful line to claim our luggage with other Dominicans. And what was so impressive was that they were so calm.  If the line were full of New Yorkers, someone would have already had a heart attack or killed someone.  We were chatting with such amazing, kind locals who remarked with a smile on their faces that this was slower-than-usual service.  No big deal. We shared food and stories.  And even after one flight attendant named Carmen finished with her turn in line, she offered to stay with us to make sure we were taken care of in the proper way.  At one point, we thought we would stay the night in Santo Domingo to retrieve our bag the next day, and she wanted her grandson to take us to a hotel.

In the end, we decided to make the drive to Las Terranas that night.  But Carmen gave us her contact info for any additional help and even emailed our hotel about our delayed arrival for us since we couldn't email from our phones. Before she left, Carmen said, "We may be paranoid (she was one of the people telling us about the dangers of making that 2-hour drive that night), but we Dominicans will give you the shirt off our backs."  I could definitely see that.

Picking up our rental car was also a disaster.  The copier at this dude's desk wasn't working right.  Everything was taking forever, and at this point, I was kind of losing my mind.  I was way past my threshold for waiting based on my life back in hectic NYC.  Which is sad. There are harder things in life than waiting.  Oh yeah. I was also really, really hungry.  Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who goes bonkers when I'm starving. Also, the anxiety of each passing minute = outside getting darker and time getting later = us getting dead according to the locals.  

Here I am, resorting to entertaining myself.  Yes, I took a photo of....the floor.

I marveled at this phone.  I hadn't seen one like this since Korea more than a decade ago.

After leaving the secured area, there was a food court. Glorious food! I picked up local food to-go.  A stern looking guy from the car rental place picked us up in his truck.  The second we get in, he starts bumping to his music, smiles brightly and yells, "MERENGUE!! My favorite!!" I couldn't help but laugh.

Delays at the rental:

First car - cigarette burner was stuck in the socket.  We needed the socket for our phone charger, which would be our only method of guidance with its GPS map.
Second car- cigarette burner comes out.  But the left rear light didn't work.  

Instead of giving us another car, we end up waiting to have someone fix the rear light. I am keeping my sanity by consoling myself with the french fries I bought at the food court. 

We finally get on the road!  Although we hit multiple false starts, we started the drive with the same enthusiasm as Romy and Michelle.  Wooooo!  Watch out, Las Terrenas, Here We Come!

The toll road that takes you from Santo Domingo to Las Terrenas looks like this.

image via

Except it looked more like this at night:

Ok, not as dark. But it WAS dark, and we had to take our time. Luckily, there were other people on the road. And I honestly didn't really feel unsafe.  There were police cars and some brightly lit gas stations along the way.  No thieves or lurking killers. Although, nope, we didn't make any stops. Better safe than sorry!

We finally made it to the hotel around 9:30pm.  Apparently, there was an earthquake during our drive or after we checked in. We were either super out of it awake or asleep because Andrew and I both didn't notice!

Despite the spikes in cortisol levels all day, we were so happy to arrive in Las Terrenas safely.  We had the best night of sleep, and we got to wake up to this!

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.  This post wasn't supposed to be a rant.  I would rather like to think of it as a way of looking back on the day with a sense of adventure and humor.  It was just so unreal. Even the minor details I hadn't gotten into, like those handwritten seat numbers being completely wrong and Andrew and I going up and down the aisles trying to find ANY seat like chickens with our heads cut off. This has been our second trip as standby ticket holders through our friend who works for an airline, and we are learning to become more flexible travelers.  We are definitely learning to not sweat the small stuff.  Plus, I know this would sound masochistic to some, but the unpredictability of it all can be fun! (I just need food)



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