Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Today was our last full day with our son Jared and his wife Tere. We started by going straight to the beach again to look for sea shells. It rained all night and it rained on us at the beach until afternoon. But a light drizzle it’s a problem when you’re having fun at the beach. We really enjoyed it.

The tide was out again and the perfect shell hunting conditions. While snorkeling Jared found some real treasures, 3 medium to small conk shells. We didn’t see any eels this time but there were lots of tropical fish & star fish and we came home with a bucket full of other shells that Hna. Johnson is collecting. This was a very productive trip to the beach.

On our way home from the beach we stopped at a tourist trap in the colonial zone called the “Yellow Step Stores”. This place has hundreds of little shops to choose from. Many of them sell exactly the same touristy trinkets but a few are specialty store and care one of a kind stuff.

The shop we like to go to is called “Freddie’s”. The owner knows the Senior missionaries very well and gives them a 75% discount of everything in his store. 75% off sounds like a lot but when you consider the huge markup all tourist traps use, his prices after the discount were actually fair. Tere and Jared purchased a lot of souvenirs to take home with them. Hna. Johnson purchased more souvenirs to stockpile until we leave our mission in only 6 months.

This evening we went out to dinner together for the last time. For the past week one of the high lights of Jared & Tere’s visit has been all of the wonderful food we’ve eaten. Tonight we discovered another great place to eat. It is called “El Mesón de la Cueva” (Large Table of the Cave). It really is in a limestone cave, complete with stalactites and stalagmites. This naturally occurring cave is on the south side of Mirador Park only about 10 minutes from our apartment.

To get into the restaurant we walked down a spiral staircase about 2 stories into the heart of a very large cavern. This large room had been divided up into several rooms; a couple for dining, another for the kitchen, restrooms, etc. It was quite an adventure and a real unique place to eat. The cave atmosphere was wonderful.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This morning we slept in, yahoo! At 9:00am Hna. Johnson was treated to a back massage, paid for by Jared and Tere. Thank you Jared & Tere. She really liked the massage and how good it made her stiff muscles feel.

Next we all headed to the beach for one last time. Mom went to look for shells but found only tiny ones. Jared, Tere and I went snorkeling. What a difference a day makes. Yesterday the ocean was turbulent and murky we couldn’t see our hand in front of our face and today the ocean was calm and clear.

We had a wonderful time snorkeling. By chance this morning was low tide so the coral reefs were exposed off shore. They were easy to get to and right on the surface. The discovery of the day was a Gold Spotted Snake Eel. He was beautiful. I kept my distance but took a lot of pictures. The underwater camera case worked great. I wish we could have stayed out in the ocean all day but we only had a couple of hours to enjoy the water.

After lunch we checked out and said goodbye to a great hotel. We stopped at a souvenir shop so Tere and Jared could do some shopping and buy gifts for their three sons.

We had a perfect morning to end our trip in Puerta Plata. Then it rained almost the entire 4 hour drive back to the capital. But this is the rainy season in the Caribbean. This morning we got word that at 6:30 a huge storm dumped several inches of rain on Santo Domingo. The storm was localized and only lasted one and a half hours but the Mission Home sustained some damage. There was over 3 feet of standing water in the street in front of Pres. & Hna. Almonte’s home. Their home is a little higher than the street so only a little water made it through the carport door and flooded their basement.

The worst damage to the Mission Home was the wall of water tore down their iron gate to the carport. When the flood water subsided the gate was a twisted mass of decorative wrought iron. The church’s maintenance department had a crew there by mid morning to begin repairs. By this evening the wrought iron gate was back in place. The crew didn’t finish the job, they will return tomorrow morning to finish the electrical repairs to the system that opens and closes the gate.

This evening when we returned to the capital we dropped Hna. Johnson off at the mission office so she could do the Wednesday “Reembolsos”. They have to be done every Monday and Wednesday. It is very important that she get them imputed into IMOS because the missionaries are counting on the money they spend on their apartment electric, water, gas and trash being refunded to them.

This evening we were invited to the home of the Almonte’s for dinner. Hna. Almonte prepared a wonderful meal for us and we really enjoyed the warm hospitality of the Mission Pres. and his wife. They are very gracious and giving. Jared and Tere both commented afterward how enjoyable the evening with the Almonte’s was.

Jared pointed out that there are only about 350 mission presidents worldwide. What a rare and unique privilege we had to be hosted by one. Here is an extremely busy man and he and his wife have taken a couple of hours of their time to entertain us.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

This morning we were up early to walk on the beach. It was overcast but beautiful none the less. The sand on the beach isn’t at all like the sand on the south side of the island. There, the sand is white and isn’t sand at all but is completely made up of small bits of crushed coral, sea shells, etc. Here on the Atlantic side of the island the sand is brown and looks like crushed rock, the kind of sand I would buy at the hardware store to mix into my cement.

Here at the Barceló hotel all of our meals are included in the room price. We can eat at the buffet or make a reservation at either of the two other restaurants and have our meals. We’ve chosen to eat at the buffet each meal and there is a ton of food to choose from. For the most part it is great. Once and a while we select something and find out that is either isn’t what we thought it was or it is what we thought it was but it is just bad. Like this morning Jared decided to have the scrambled eggs ranchero style. It’s one of his favorites. But when he got back to the table and started to eat he didn’t like them at all. So he ate some fruit and other things he selected. Then he decided to try the scrambled eggs again. That is when he exclaimed to us all, “No, they’re still just as bad as before.”

Our big outing today was “27 Charcos” (27 Cascades). This is an adventure Hna. Johnson and I have heard about for the past year and we’ve looked forward to with anticipation. However some of our anticipation has been mixed with a lot of anxiety. Hna. Johnson read some reports on the internet by couples that went to “27 Charcos” and found it very difficult and dangerous! Ever since then it has taken us some coxing and reassuring to convince Hna. Johnson that she would be able to handle the rigorous climbing, swimming and cliff jumping.

We only did the first 7 of the 27 waterfalls/cascades today. We had our choice to do the first 7 or the first 15 or all “27 Charcos”. But 7 was plenty for us, there was no way we were going to make it to all 27. The “27 Charcos Adventure” consists of hiking ¾ of a mile near the base of the first falls then swimming the rest of the way to the falls/cascade. Next we had to climb up the rocks right through the falls to reach the top. The climbing part was very difficult; our guides had to help a lot. One guide stayed below to push and the other was above pulling until we made it all the way to the top.

There were a couple of spots that were so difficult that they required a third and fourth man to help us up. These extra guides stayed at the same falls all day helping each tour group up. Our two guides, Victor and Alfredo, stayed with us throughout the adventure. They were a great help, we couldn’t have done it without them.

As our guides lifted, pulled and pushed us up the slippery rocks they called Hna. Johnson by the Spanish version of Mama which is “Mami” pronounced “Mommy”. They would say things like… “You can do it Mommy, pull Mommy, lift your feet Mommy, lean back Mommy, a little higher Mommy, etc. My moniker was the Spanish word for Papa which is “Papi” pronounced “Poppy”. It was very comical as they called out instructions (comical is an understatement) as they struggled to get us up the 7 falls/cascades.

It took us an hour but we finally made it to the 7th Fall/Cascade safe and sound. We were very exhilarated at our accomplishment. Well… we were bruised, tired and sore too but our feeling of elation far outweighed the difficulties of the hike/climb.

Once at the 7th fall we were only half way done. Now we had to go back but the return trip was much easier and a whole lot funner. Each fall/cascade could be slid down like a water park slide only the slide was created by Heavenly Father!

We had a blast coming back down. Sliding and jumping was great. I was really proud of Hna. Johnson. One of the falls had no natural slide and we were all required to jump from the cliff, between 15 to 20 feet. Fifteen feet isn’t very far but it is 14 feet higher than Hna. Johnson has ever jumped from a cliff before! The guide was right beside her, holding her hand and reassuring her as she prepared herself for the plunge. I asked her how she had the courage to jump. She explained that she really had no choice; there was no other way down.

The highlight of trip to Puerta Plata was “27 Charcos”. All in all it was very fun in spite of the hard work and danger. After lunch we were back on the beach at the hotel. Jared and I went snorkeling and Hna. Johnson & Tere lounged on beach chairs. But this time a storm was brewing. There were high winds, high surf and the visibility underwater was only 18 inches. We didn’t last very long on the beach.

When the storm hit us the heavy, heavy rain only lasted a few minutes and then it sprinkled off and on the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. It put a damper on our outdoor activities but we played games in our hotel room until midnight. It was fun.