December 8, 2009

A lovely day at the beach in Boca Chica

After nearly three weeks in the Dominican Republic, we finally made it to the beach! The beach at Boca Chica is just a 45 minute bus ride from Duarte, in central Santo Domingo. Once we were ready to go, we hailed a cab in front of our house that took us to the bus station. The cab driver offered to take us all the way to Boca Chica for 1,000 pesos (US$28), but we declined the offer. Instead, we boarded an air-conditioned gua-gua (bus) that charges 60 pesos (US$2) a person, and had a nice, cool, fast ride to Boca Chica.

The bus let us off at a small plaza, and we walked about two short blocks to get to the beach. The beach at Boca Chica is reasonably nice. We went on a Monday, so it was not crowded. It is a white sand beach dotted with palm trees. The transparent water is warm and sufficiently clean. There are no waves, and the water is shallow, making it a great beach for children or for swimming. On one side of the beach, an industrial port or factory is in sight, making the beach less idyllic than it could be. In all though, it is a nice beach – much better than many.

There are quite a few vendors on the beach, selling coconuts, sunglasses, necklaces, water toys, boat rides, and sno-cones, or offering corn-rows or massages. However, the vendors are not persistent or aggressive, so I didn’t mind. There seemed to be a fairly even split between Haitian and Dominican vendors on the beach. At one point, two Dominican vendors stood near me and complained about a Haitian vendor. I am not sure what was the basis of the complaint, but the Dominican vendor pointed out that he was in his country.

Being in Boca Chica reminded me of Steven Gregory’s compelling ethnography of the town – Devil in the Mirror. I read the book a couple of years ago, so I don’t remember many of the details, but I did recall him mentioning the vendors and the prostitutes. Of course, I could not tell which of the women or men on the beach were prostitutes. However, I can say that there was a preponderance of older European men on the beach and a few of them had much younger, non-European women with them. Most of the men seemed to be Italian or French.

We had a delicious, cheap lunch in Boca Chica. We left the beach, as it had begun to drizzle around 2pm. We ordered fresh, deep-fried fish and green plantains from a roadside stand for Nando and I. For the kids, we got chicken, rice, and beans. It was a great deal – US$5.00 for the fish, and US$2.50 for the chicken plates. When I ordered the chicken, the owner of the small restaurant looked at me and said “Dominican food?” as if she were surprised we would eat at her place. She was probably even more surprised when the girls cleaned their plates. My babies love rice, beans, and chicken – it’s what they get at home most days anyway.

The kids had a great time bathing in the warm water and playing in the sand. I spent most of my time in the water as well. At some points, when the sun hid behind the clouds, the sea was warmer than the air outside. The day we went was not particularly hot, and it even rained twice – brief showers. That was actually quite pleasant, as it was not so hot. However, around 4:30pm, I rinsed off in one of the public showers and got out of my wet bathing suit. Once dry, it was nice to sit on the breezy beach and admire the view of the palm trees, white sand, and Caribbean Sea.

The girls got out of the water not too long after, as it began to drizzle again. We boarded our bus back to Santo Domingo. On the road back, it began to downpour heavily. That made the ride take longer than usual. And, once back in the city, we found the streets inundated because of the heavy rains. Some streets were impassable – people looked at the water and strategized how to get across.

The bus let us off at Parque del Independencia, and we took a collective taxi back home. That was probably not the best idea, as the collective taxis are only marginally cheaper, and they never have air conditioning. With the streets flooded, the traffic was horrible, and it took about an hour to get home. Of course, it was hot inside the car as it was not moving, and there was no A/C.

Nevertheless, we made it home eventually, everyone tired and hungry from a long day at the beach. We definitely will be going again!

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