Sunday, December 26, 2021

2021 Dominican Republic - Arrival in Cabarete

The heavy door to the airtight cigar tube opened and the sweet and moist Caribbean air flooded into the space occupied by masked Northerners, Omicron molecules, and lingering people smells. We waited patiently as those at the front of the plane gathered their things and slowly filtered out. The wait was excruciating, but we were now so close, and a successful start to our first overseas vacation in two years was imminent. I had kept my hopes purposely low in the weeks leading up to our departure as the fourth wave of Covid in Canada courtesy of the Omicron variant (successor to the Delta variant, the UK variant, and the original Covid Classic) was underway and cases were riding the exponential curve up, resulting in new travel restrictions and potential border closures. Fortunately, our departure date arrived before any new drastic measures were introduced, and on Thursday, December 16 we stepped off the plane and into the Dominican Republic, a place we hadn’t visited for ten years.

After successfully passing through customs and immigration, we proceeded to the baggage area to find the bags were already unloaded off the carousel and arranged on the floor, awaiting their anxious owners. Bag number 1, check. Bags 2 and 3, check. Bag number 4. Bag number 4? Where the hell is bag number 4? We raced around the carousel, looking for it, but found nothing, so scanned the other passengers to see if they had mistakenly picked it up, which was very possible as it was the most generic black roller bag you could imagine. No dice. I called over an airport worker who helped us with a brief search, then had us complete a missing bag report. The missing bag was Stella’s, and her heart and spirit had plunged, as our precious fashionista had meticulously packed it with carefully curated evening outfits, clever accessories, and Insta-worthy beachwear, and all her imagined glamour parades down the runway leading to the buffet were now in serious jeopardy.

We completed the paperwork and Ana exchanged phone numbers with the contact so she could keep us informed of progress. We left the Puerto Plata airport and found the Sunwing rep who pointed out the bus that would be taking us to our final destination of Cabarete, and as we walked over Stella shed a few tears, despite our promises of generous compensation from the airline, shopping opportunities, and surety that the bag would be found at some point. None of that mattered - she was completely deflated. Me, not so much, especially after discovering that the obnoxious wedding party of 40 that had taken over the departure gate with strollers, endless bags of gear, and bratty, unvaccinated kids running all over the place without masks spraying youthful germs everywhere, were in fact not going to our resort. One of the dads in particular, thought it was perfectly acceptable to walk up and down the length of the airplane throughout the journey unmasked and drinking beer while carrying his phlegmy baby. All we could do was tighten up our N-95 surgical masks and breathe shallowly.

After 40-minute ride which included a brief stop in Sosua to drop off guests at a different hotel, we arrived at the Viva Wyndham Tangerine hotel at 11pm and after being strangled with a check-in bottleneck, we were finally presented with keys to our rooms and began the heroic Victory Walk. This is the initial triumphant journey from reception to your room, as you are wearing your winter boots, carrying jackets and gloves, dragging suitcases, and covered with the funk of the airplane, but feeling overjoyed at the miracle of actually being here and imagining the all-inclusive week to come.

Our ground level rooms were excellent and had an adjoining door between them. Especially appealing to me was the instructive and inspirational mural painted on the wall of our room which had artfully painted word such as THINKPOSITIVE, RELAX, EXERCISEDAILY, EAT HEALTHY, WORRYLESS, WORKHARD, LIVE, LOVE. It was a pleasant change from the typical wall propaganda we are used to seeing in Cuba, such as PATRIA O MUERTE (Country or Death), LA HISTORIA ME ABSOLVERA (History Will Absolve Me), SOCIALISMA O MUERTE (Socialism or Death), MUERTE AL INVASOR (Death to the Invader). Positivity, amigos.

After a rapid unpacking we searched out the midnight snack bar and sat down for a plate of crab croquettes, hot dogs, and French fries, and ate it up greedily. I washed my food down with a plastic cup of cold Presidente beer which was inspiring and marvelous. As it was late, we had a very quick look around the resort, which was smallish, well-kept and nearly empty of people, then retired to our rooms for the night, anxious to begin our first full day tomorrow.

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