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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic - Day 1

Before you begin reading, I must warn you that this is a very long post. :)

For the past three summers, my boys and I have been going to Sanibel Island and staying at the beautiful Casa Ybel resort.  But Aly, who is 15 years old and Zayn, who is almost 12, were not looking forward to going back there this year.  They complained of it being too boring! Their recent trip with their dad was to a Club Med Resort in Cancun, Mexico. The boys raved about how this was the best trip ever.  So I decided to bring them to Punta Cana instead and spend a week at the all-inclusive Club Med resort.

After going through security at Miami International Airport, we were walking toward our gate through the terminal when Aly quite absent-mindedly asked, "Why did you name me Aly?" Before I could answer him, he jokingly said, "I wish you would have named me Pablo."  We busted out laughing and I decided that I would, from this moment on, call him Pablo. Aly, very quickly, realized that Pablo was perhaps not the greatest choice.  He looked at me with pleading eyes and said, "Please don't call me Pablo." I responded between laughing bouts saying, "Too late Pablo!" Zayn demanded a name too so Aly suggested "Juan Carlos." Zayn instantly responded with an energetic, "Yes!" So we started calling him Juan Carlos, all the while laughing so hard that our stomachs hurt.

The flight from Miami to Punta Cana is 2 hours long. I slept for most of it but when I woke up and looked outside, I saw these beautiful mountains with lush vegetation. I quickly searched for my IPhone and turned it on. But I wasn't fast enough...the mountains were gone and now we had flat land. So I took a few pictures from the airplane through the double paned, glass window.

An aerial view of some small town. 
Check out the right wing of our plane with the American Airlines logo.

Puffy white and grey clouds create this beautiful scene.

See these darker patches...those are shadows that the clouds are casting on the earth.
After some rough turbulence, we finally landed safely in Punta Cana and walked from our plane to the terminal to go through immigration and customs. Dominican Republic (DR) charges a $10 per person tax, right off the bat to enter their country.

We found a taxi van, one of many, that are waiting outside the airport. I sat in the front passenger side seat while the boys sat in the back and we headed to the resort. I looked down at the cup holder and noticed some change and a couple of bills which looked like local currency.  I asked the driver if I could look at it. He didn't understand me since Spanish is the language spoken here and most people do not speak English. I picked up the two bills and the few coins and he seemed upset by that.  His look said, "What is this woman doing? Why is she taking my money?" I assured him that I simply wanted to see the local currency but of course, he didn't understand what I was saying. I started to take a few pictures of them which immediately brought a look of relief and he smiled. He finally realized that I was just a curious tourist and not a thief.  DR's local currency is called Dominican pesos.

We checked in and were escorted to our room while our luggage was being delivered. The room was /is nice but cramped. I emptied out all four suitcases because I refuse to live out of a suitcase for a week and given the scarcity of space, I wanted to keep things neat and tidy. Fortunately, the room has two closets with built in shelves which accommodated all of our clothes. Apparently, when the boys travel with their dad, they are used to dumping their suitcases in the rooms, changing into their swim trunks and rushing out the door within minutes of getting to the resort.  But I am not dad. I am mom and mom does things very differently. :)  After about an hour of putting things away, we finally walked down to the beach front. Correction: I walked, while the boys ran and were gone in the blink of an eye. They waved to me from the beautiful, white sanded beach. Aly had learned to sail earlier this summer, while on the last two trips with his dad. Although this was a smaller boat compared to the one he had learned to sail on, he felt confident taking the boat out on his own with Zayn. And out they went...

I kept taking pictures until they were just an outline. Since I had taken plenty of pictures of them sailing, I figured I'd go for a quick dip in the beautiful water. I looked down at the camera that I was holding in my hands and turned it off.  Two seconds later, I look up just in time to see their sailboat capsize. OH MY GOD!!! I resisted the urge to scream like a crazy woman. Instead, I yelled at the staff to get their attention, while the entire time, I was freaking out inside. All kinds of thoughts were racing through my head. "Oh my God, they're gonna drown....Oh my God...what am I going to do without them?" I laugh as I type this now, but it was so not funny in the moment. I quickly turned my camera on to see them clearly through the zoom lens and saw two dark heads holding on to the bottom of the boat as it lay on its side. I sighed with relief to see that they were okay. One of the staff members took a speedboat out to help them. Although the water was only about 5 feet deep, Zayn had drifted away because of the strong currents. The speedboat guy was able to retrieve him back to his boat. In the meantime, Aly pulled the sailboat up and got back in it.

Zayn was driven back to shore in the speedboat.

Aly stayed out there and continued to sail...

...until his boat capsized again!

The sail was in the water with Aly standing on the boat holding on to the bottom which was now out of the water.

Aly was trying to hold on to the boat.

And he decided to pull himself up!

                      And jumped up to use his body weight to flip the boat back up.

                                             And finally the boat was up the right way.

Aly pulled himself up on the boat and was exhausted.

The staff had driven out to help him when they saw the boat capsize the second time.

One staff member switched places with Aly and sailed back in while Aly was escorted back to the shore. 

Back on the beach, Zayn played in the beautiful clear blue water of the Atlantic Ocean.

Aly walked back in.

Zayn had walked toward him to learn more about his adventure.
Aly eagerly shared the details with his younger brother!

My two beautiful baby boys! I am just amazed at how much they've both grown. 
Shukar Mowla!
We were starving by now and walked over to "Celeste", the only restaurant at the resort that is open all day long until 1 am. One can get a quick burger or sandwich there anytime.

Aly was so bummed that he had to come back in. He kept replaying it with us.

The view!!!!

Zayn discovered the zoom feature on the camera and decided to take a few pictures while we waited for our food to come out. 
I was the subject.

After this late lunch, the boys went off on their own to explore the various activities offered.  I decided to explore the different types of excursions available to explore DR. Also, there is no free internet at the resort. It has to be purchased. It costs $15 for the day or $55 for the week. I paid for the week so that we could stay connected. 

While the boys plan on staying very active and busy from sun-up to sun-down, my plan for this trip is very different. I intend to relax by the beach, read. nap, take pictures, think about the bigger questions of life and not think of anything at all. I also would like to find a quiet spot to write. I've been walking around with phrases and sentences floating around in my head. It's time to bring them out on paper or in my case, in a post. One of the many topics to explore is "How to choose a husband/wife/partner?" This one will go on the "".  I do have a few things to share that I wish I knew when I was younger.

I returned back to the room, made a few phone calls to check in with family, showered, got dressed and waited for the boys. They came in later than the time we had agreed upon because they had gone kayaking. This time, Aly kept capsizing their kayak on purpose. Don't ask! 

We walked to one of the two fancy restaurants  and waited for them to open. Dinner was this never-ending, delicious, buffet style spread. After dinner, the boys went to play basketball on the courts and I walked back to the room to relax and blog. There is a show performed every night at 9:30 pm in a semi-outdoor theatre. But tonite, I was too tired to stay out. I walked back to the room around 8:30 pm.  After changing, I sat. comfortably snuggled in the king size bed and composed this post. The boys came back to the room around 10pm and are fast asleep as I finish writing this post. They have signed up for para-sailing lessons at 9:30 am. We have all signed up for wind-surfing lessons which will be held at 4:00 pm tomorrow. These lessons are free and included in the vacation package. We are hoping to go zip-lining on Wednesday morning. That is not included and will cost extra. 
Day 1 was a good day! Shukran lillah wal hamdullilah!

Sweet Dreams!
From me to you...

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