I spent enough time talking about our experience(s) in the Dominican Republic, but I thought it would be useful to briefly discuss the country itself. Generally speaking, all the people we met were very friendly and were very helpful. Few spoke much English, though the host at the front desk of the main lobby spoke at least 5 languages to some degree. There were a few instances when we would be shopping around the resort and the shop keeper wouldn’t understand much of what we were saying, but we made do.
There were quite a few Europeans at the resort. Definitely a few Americans, but it appeared that the vast majority of other tourists were from Europe (also reflected by the number of topless women walking around on the public beach close to our hotel). It seemed like many of the Europeans were from Spain, though some were French, a few Germans, some we thought were Dutch. Overall, a good “smattering” of many Western European countries taking in the Caribbean air.
We were curious about the work force at the resort. Specifically, the hostess at our buffet off the lobby, where we typically got breakfast, also worked at the French restaurant we went to Tuesday night. Bear in mind that she was there when we rolled in for breakfast, and she was also there that night when we got dinner at 9:00. And there are practically no towns near the resort for all these people to live in. So where did they all come from?!
We asked two people, one a bartender at our lobby and the other, a guy who set people up with scuba trips near our pool (“Frannie,” as he was affectionately called by Rachel and Mallory. Short for “Francisco”). The bartender said he comes to stay in an apartment near the resort, where many other workers live for much of the time, and he’s there for 24 days straight before going home for 6 days once a month after about an 8 hour drive home. Frannie, on the other hand, lives about an hour away and takes maybe 2 days off per month. So generally speaking, if you work at the resort, you’re there a lot.
As I said, there aren’t many towns near the resort itself. We drove through one town between the airport and the resort, but we only saw a few gas stations, a few small eateries and buildings, yet no houses or apartment complexes to speak of. Certainly not enough housing to account for the hundreds of workers at our resort, let alone the others in the area.
The buggy ride is really where we really saw the impoverished conditions of the rural population. There were shacks we passed with an adult or two sitting under a tree outside, and a few kids running up to our buddy train to give us “high fives” as we passed by. The kids actually had some decent clothes on, but compared to their living conditions, that doesn’t say much. There were a few run down buildings we passed that had satellite dishes, however, so it’s hard to determine exactly what resources they have. At the “plantation” stop during the ride, we were told that the average wage in the area (if not the country) is about $100 per month. He pointed across the road to a single-room rural school building, where the uniforms to attend there cost $65, obviously cutting in to that meager wage. I can’t be sure how accurate the young man was who was describing this all to us, however. He may have just been trying to sell some products in support of the school. In any case, the people we saw in rural areas of the Dominican Republic didn’t seem to be living by standards anywhere close to what we do here.
According to Wikipedia, the gross annual minimum wage for the Dominican Republic is almost $1500.
I should note that, during that buggy ride, we were accosted a few times by sales people trying to get you to stop by their table or shop to buy some things from them. Obviously, they knew where the buggies tended to bring tourists, so they set up specifically to prey upon them. We were warned about it by the folks running the buggy service, but as it’s public land, there wasn’t anything they could do. I’m sure this kind of thing is true of just about any country you go to, though.
The last thing I found interesting was the road system. We were driving for a little over 30 min between the airport and the resort and a good deal of that trip was on 4-lane divided highway. However, in many cases, we saw unfinished roads running alongside ours, or unfinished buildings with people selling things from the bottom floor while rebar stuck out at the top. We would go through roundabouts that only had two roads connected. Overall, it just seemed like they were either A). primed for expansion to send roads to additional towns and resorts, or B). they ran out of money and will continue their projects when more comes in. Either way, the driving experience had an “unfinished” feel to it.
Regardless, it seemed like a nice country, one I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of someday. The capital, Santo Domingo, especially seems like it would be an interesting city to visit, with lots of sights and history to experience.
That’s it! Can’t think of anything else to write on the subject. Surely I wrote enough by now. 🙂