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Sue Bush
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“La Vida Es Bueno”: Confessions Of A Practical Blonde

By Sharon Leary
06:22AM / Friday, June 15, 2007

Sharon Leary is a community health advocate for the REACH Community Health Foundation and a freelance columnist.
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"La vida es bueno." Translation: "Life is good." The guys who first uttered that phrase had to have been on vacation in the Dominican Republic, or maybe somewhere else in the Caribbean.

I have just returned from a 5-night, 6-day mini-vacation in the Dominican Republic. The first and last days were spent traveling to and from the Coral Hamaca Resort in Boca Chica. The four days in between were spent on "la playa" and at Zoran’s henna tattoo booth.

I traveled over 1,600 miles to meet a guy from Serbia who now lives in the D.R.. I find that quite hilarious. But seriously, ladies, hands off! I discovered him and now I’m laying claim to him!

There are plenty of fish in the sea down there. PLENTY. If you are in the middle of a bad breakup, or the guy you like is not cooperating, or if you just want an ego boost, seriously, go to the D.R.

You will be bombarded with compliments, plenty of guys to gaze at (most wearing Speedos) and if you dare, many “muy guapo varones” to dance with. You can’t help but dance when you hear Latino music. And someone is always willing to teach you.

My traveling companion and I booked our all-inclusive trip through the venue. Food, hotel, transportation to and from the airport in the D.R., and all the cervezas y margaritas you can consume.

After our arrival late Wednesday evening, we walked around the resort and checked out the beach. There were two bars on the beach and one that is open 24 hours. So we decided we might as well get our first drink - margarita!

After we finished our drinks, the evening bartender, whose name I cannot recall, found out we had just arrived and that we should end our evening with a local drink -"mamawana." Contrary to what you may believe, there were no illegal substances included in the mix. Mamawana is a mixture of alcohol your bartender decides on. He then pours the mixture in with some wood chips. After a few minutes of soaking in the wood, he poured all three of us a shot. It may sound weird, but it is really good!

After that one shot there was no insomnia on my part that night!

The resort hosted four restaurants: traditional Dominican and Caribbean fair, Italian, tex-mex and a buffet style restaurant with a different theme each night. Plus, every day, freshly baked pizza on la playa from 11:30 to 6:30 and a late night buffet of snack foods that included everything from nachos to grilled pork chops to fresh fruit.

The locals were extremely friendly and eager to practice their English. I met a lot of extremely nice people. There was Cesar, my morning bartender; Pedro, the windsurf and water activities instructor; Luis, a member of the Chocolate Entertainment Group who greeted us our first day wearing a pink wig; Jan Marc, who tried in vain to get me to purchase a Vacation Club membership; and Ernesto, who just liked to chat. By the end of the stay, they were greeting us with “Hey, Massachusetts!”

I have vowed that the next time I visit the D.R. I will be more fluent in Spanish. However, I have a good feeling my eleventh grade Spanish teacher would be proud of me and I have to give myself a slight pat on the back. Por qué? I was able to hold several muy poco conversations in Spanish on a solo basis.

Three years of Spanish classes helped me to understand what others were saying. On the other hand, I had a hard time expressing myself. Translating English to Spanish just did not come to me as fast as it should have. The trick is to constantly think in Spanish.

Speaking from my experience as a waitress, it re-emphasized how frustrating it is for the locals to have visitors not speak their language.

I met Zoran, who is a henna tattoo artist, on Saturday. I saw the sign for henna tattoos my first day on the beach, but there was no one around. So each time I passed its location, usually on my way to the bar, I would investigate whether anyone was there. I scored on Saturday.

I walked up to the booth and was startled to see blue/green eyes, the same color as the sea, looking back at me. OK, this guy was HOT! I assumed that he was Dominican because he spoke to me in Spanish initially. As I perused his book of artwork, I heard him speaking English to a few of his former human canvases.

I decided to get a tattoo on my lower back. I’ve always wanted the real thing, but have been too apprehensive to do it. Plus, it is permanent.
I picked out a design. As he was applying it to my back, I felt some of the tension I had been carrying go away. Maybe it was his soft touch, or maybe it was just what I needed! I had a massage on the beach earlier in the week, but it did not compare to how I felt when Zoran touched my back. I guess cute guys will do that to you!

Zoran is from Serbia. He had come to visit the D.R. four years ago and just last year came back over to work. The weather had a significant influence on his decision. Along with his native language of Yugoslavia, he spoke English, Spanish and I believe a few others. He told me he learned to speak Spanish through his work.

I told him that Massachusetts’ weather was not exactly similar to Serbia’s but we do have some cold winters. He asked me what I did for a living - you try explaining outreach and marketing in plain English, so I went with writer!

I may be a “newbie” freelance writer, but writer nonetheless. It sounds good and quite a few people were impressed when I told them my occupation. So I ran with it. Wouldn’t you?

I’ll admit, I am entranced with Zoran, I went back the next day and he applied two more tattoos, a sun on my stomach and a butterfly on my ankle. Yes my stomach, it was better than my back, especially when he…ah, never mind.

I like to think I helped boost his business that day. We had quite a few spectators as he applied my tattoo to my stomach. And he was extremely busy with tattooing the rest of the afternoon.

When I went back to pay him later in the afternoon he was still very busy. So I had to say a quick goodbye-which in the Caribbean in general is a kiss on each cheek. MUY Simpatico!

And then there were the guys from Spain.

On one of my trips to “la bana”, I had the good fortune to meet two gentlemen from Spain: Alberto and Francisco. Alberto spoke excellent English. He was on holiday after completing school for the year where he is studying Aircraft Engineering; he will be interning in the USA next year. Francisco’s English was just like my Spanish, sporadic and just enough to get by. He works in heating and air-conditioning for a big construction firm in Madrid.

Alberto helped me to get rid of an obnoxiously drunk “hombre”. Alberto, Francisco and I met up with my friend Lindsey and we hung out on la playa and enjoyed a paddleboat ride in the lagoon surrounding our resort. Francisco and I tested each other on vocabulary words. The four of us met for dinner, a show and then on to the disco.

Seriously, these guys were true gentlemen. I would have liked to have gotten to know them both better. Unfortunately this was the night before we left.

The trip wasn’t all about guys. One afternoon, we visited Santo Domingo.

If you get squeamish about driving fast, you may want to rethink driving in the D.R.. I think some NASCAR drivers get their start down there. There really are no traffic rules. Stop signs are ignored. The most interesting habit I observed was when we came to a four-way stop. Whoever honks first gets to go first.

And then there were the motorcycles and mopeds. They were everywhere, sometimes with three people on them! You really had to know what you were doing. So we made no attempt to drive, we let the resort handle that.

In Santo Domingo, we did a little shopping. Our first stop was on a street filled with shops, but our tour guide led us past all of them and into one particular “tienda”. Some of us wanted to check out the other shops, but I believe Manuel, our tour guide, may have had a financial stake in the specific “tienda” to which we were directed.

We visited the oldest cathedral in the “new world”. Pope John Paul II held mass there twice. The day turned out to be rainy and extremely humid and the air inside the cathedral was heavy even though the doors were wide open and there was a breeze. Nevertheless, it was quite impressive. This particular building was built in the early 1500’s.

We visited Alcazar de Colon - the home of Diego Colon, the son of Christopher Columbus. I was expecting a regal estate. I was disappointed. Partially because the home itself is in definite need of a foundation that would refurbish the beautiful artifacts it contains, and partially because of the lack of services we take for granted such as trash collection and rest rooms.

Like most of the Caribbean Islands, there is a significant amount of poverty. Tourism is what a lot of the businesses center around. A lot of the residents make a living by selling goods they make. Every where you went in Santo Domingo someone is trying to sell you something-necklaces, figurines, cigars, paintings or some other form of artwork.

It became annoying at one particular tourist trap. A guy followed me to the tour bus with his merchandise even though I made it clear I wasn’t interested. Persistence does pay off, because I was almost at the point of giving in when I reached the bus.

As I thought about it on the drive back to the resort, I realized you do what you have to do to make ends meet. I suppose I would too. I just don’t know if I could be that persistent.

Ah, Zoran. I thought I had seen the last of him on Sunday, but I got lucky Monday morning. I was taking my final snapshots of the ocean, trying to get the right shot so you can see the azure hues I’m talking about. As I was walking back to where we had camped out that morning, I looked over to his booth - he was there!

I alerted Lindsey that I was going to see Zoran. This was about 45 minutes before we were scheduled to leave for the airport. But no matter, I wasn’t missing my last opportunity to see him.

He was just finishing up a tattoo for a young girl. I gave him my card and told him to check out for my article, but instead of leaving, he asked me to sit down and I got one more tattoo.

This was special. It was his gift to me. He picked out a small design for my left ankle.

I was a little nervous about the time. Then I thought about it. I could always stay an extra day if I had to! So I sat down and he went to work.
We continued our conversation about the D.R. and we talked about our hobbies. I finally had to relent and say goodbye about five minutes before my scheduled departure from the resort. My traveling companion was getting antsy.

I won’t go into details about our goodbye-but I did leave smiling. And that smile stayed with me through strong turbulence on the plane ride home, all through the night and well into this week!

I’ve already begun planning my return trip to the D.R.. Four days was not long enough. There is so much to see and do. But, if I’m going to be truthful, and this is a confession, it really has a lot to do with a guy from Serbia!
Your Comments
Post Comment
i just returned from the D.R. It was as great as you say! Good article, and I plan on tapping into my Mamawana this weekend, because I brought some home.
from: matton: 06-26 00:00:00-2008

OK Ms. I'm gonna be rude and voice my boring opinions!! Sharon you intrigued me with your article and brought me to the dominican with you. You should think of writing a novel. Amazig work! For all you that don't want to read her work, DON'T READ IT!!! Let us enjoy some leisure reading. IBerkshires, You have a talented writer amongst you!! WAY TO GO!!!
from: Beckyon: 06-19 00:00:00-2007

The best thing about is that it offers an alternative to The North Adams McPaper. Thanks to Sue, Sharon, and Jenn for well-written and sometimes entertaining writing. If you don't like Miss Leary's writing, don't read it.
from: J.Arthur Crankon: 06-16 00:00:00-2007

I think this article is exactly what iBerkshires is about. It's a chance for local writers to share topics in their own style. What I think iBerkshires is not about is an outlet for others to judge these writers, such as "Kelly" has. I think Sharon's writing style really relates to readers in a fun and entertaining way.
from: Kristinon: 06-16 00:00:00-2007

I'm a fan of this writer. There aren't a lot of people willing to share themselves so openly. And a lot of her stuff is just plain fun reading! Nothing wrong with a little fun every now and then.
from: Caraon: 06-16 00:00:00-2007

Great, enjoyable article. With entertaining exposition like this, I plan to check back regularly with!
from: Rodon: 06-15 00:00:00-2007

Hey, cool it with the claws! I happen to be someone who likes a little light reading from time to time! And I have enjoyed this writer. Kind of like a local Cosmo column! The previous comment delivers her own solution; don't like it? Then skip it but don't try to censor it from those who enjoy the stories and the perspective!
from: Lisaon: 06-15 00:00:00-2007

I have wanted to write for some time on this author but up until this point the articles have been tolerable just to skip over, but todays story I am sorry enough with the "soap opera." Iberkshires is too good for these kinds of stories. People read Iberkshires for information not to read about one womans trials and tribulations. Maybe some people enjoy the stories but I for one will flip past them everytime and go to the quality articles with worthwhile information in them. Iberkshires you are better then this. Please no more......
from: Kellyon: 06-15 00:00:00-2007

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