Wednesday, December 28, 2011

road tripping for morons

When we made our plan to road trip to Santo Domingo we thought through about 1/8th of the logistics.  In our defense we had some inaccurate information.  Even so, we should probably have our parenting honor badges revoked.

The good news is:  We made it. We are here!

The other news is:  Troy and Tara separately experienced inordinately high levels of stress during the process of moving their children across the island.  All of the things they’d neglected to think of smacked them upside the head repeatedly throughout the day. Troy learned that a Port au Prince to Santo Domingo road trip is not exactly like going from Minneapolis to Omaha or Waco to South Padre.  Who knew?!?! Troy and Tara are not that smart.  Troy and Tara will no longer refer to themselves in the third person.

Neither of us spoke our fears out loud to one another until we were safely to the house. 

Let us just say that driving our kids across totally unfamiliar and unknown roads, without sufficient food or water, without language skills or a telephone signal or internet or any idea what we would do if our car decided not to work seemed like a really bad idea once we were in the act of doing just that.  Add in the six or seven police and military checkpoints without the ability to verbally communicate, power steering that acted up, and kids that were a little bit nervous and a lot bit hungry and you’ve got a stressful seven to eight hour period.

We left our house around 9am.  We took care of a few Harbor House errands, we went to the gas station about ½ mile from our house to exchange gourdes for pesos and fill up the gas tank.  As we pulled into the gas station near our home Lydia said, “Is dis da beach house?”  We’re worried about the child, not gonna lie. 

We did some significant road-travel in 2010 with the kids, but other than that odd post earthquake situation our kids have gone on very few road trips.  To them a road trip is seven miles to church that takes an hour and ten minutes.  It was fun to listen to all their observations. Along the way there was always interesting conversation in the back row:

ISAAC:  “This sure is beautiful. Back in history I guess Haiti was really rich on sugar cane and tobacco.”

NOAH:  (incredulous) “Rich on Tobacco Sauce????!!!”
Shortly after noon, we finally conquered both sides of the Haiti/Dominican border.  There was a stop specifically for people with kids. Troy was very thankful for his Kreyol skills as he talked to the people at Haitian Social Services about our Haitian born kids.  While he was in the office a police officer came in to tease him that his daughter (Paige) spoke Kreyol better than him.   Talking through the story of our kids and answering questions about what we do in Haiti took about 15 minutes.  Once we were sufficiently questioned we were allowed to go to the border. (We didn’t know about that stop and Isaac was quite worried there.)

The border took a long time. We were there for about an hour and thirty minutes. The frustration is that everyone would like to “help” you so they come to you as the expert and if you use their expert advice you are expected to pay for that advice.  Sometimes the advice kind of sucks but you still need to pay for it or argue about why you didn’t … arguing takes time, paying is sometimes easier.  There are a lot of people that attempt to intimidate you into believing that they are in charge. Usually they are not. For those 90 minutes Isaac was certain he’d be arrested even though he didn’t know for what reason. 

We headed east. The scenery on that stretch of “road” is beautiful.  The kids were oohing and ahhing  over it all.  We figured out quickly that we had missed a turn and were taking a very long way around the giant lake by going north around instead of staying to the south.

ISAAC: “This place is FULL of nature. This is like ancient movies, for example in Clash of the Titans … except this seems more hard.” 

(We do not know what any of that means.)

During a few of the missed turns and uncertainty along the way Noah (ever discerning) would yell from the back row, “We’re doomed. We’re gonna diiiiie.”  Neither of us were letting on that we were stressed  but Noah seemed to know and responded by amplifying everything a few notches. 

Even though our kids did not have lunch or dinner and only ate crackers and oranges from 9am to 9pm they never cried or complained.  One bathroom we stopped at was too gross and Phoebe and Lydia just couldn’t do it. They made a choice to hold it.  We sat in traffic a loooong time in Santo Domingo. What we thought would take six hours took about eight and a half + . We awarded them “best road-trip kids in the universe” as we pulled into the parking lot of the place we rented.

We had originally rented a place about eight miles from the beach. In late November we got an email saying “for very important reasons” we couldn’t have it anymore.  There were two weeks that went by without any idea where we might stay. Britt and Chris had already purchased their airline tickets straight to Santo Domingo, further complicating things.  Thankfully the late date ended up playing to our favor because unrented houses were being offered much cheaper.

The place we ended up finding is the most beautiful place we’ve ever stayed.  We are in a gorgeous five-bedroom house for less than most nice hotel rooms cost per night. We’re 150 feet from the Caribbean.

The Cuban man who owns it seems unmoved by the number of children occupying his space and sitting on his cream colored couches.  We immediately looked over the list of costs of breaking and replacing items in the home. We removed many decorative pieces. (Perhaps he gave us an amazing deal banking on the fact that we'd break his highly priced shell sculpture?) We showed the kids the list of costs and told them how much cash it would take to pay for any breakage of any lovely things.

(showed/told is code for threatened bodily harm)

We instituted a no wrestling rule; redirecting all rough-housing outdoors  …  'Rough-outside–the-housing' is the new name for that particular activity. 

There is no amount of saying “I don’t speak Spanish” that seems to keep us from standing with someone nodding in confusion as they speak Spanish.  The natural tendency is to respond in Kreyol.  It doesn’t make for such great communication. 

Thankfully we’ve already identified the Haitian employees on-site and begged them to act as our translators when we’re stuck.  One cool old Haitian guy came with us to show us where the grocery store was located. Nothing brightens up a Haitian face in the D.R quite as much as someone walking up and speaking to them in their heart language. A young guy from Jacmel is our new best friend early into day one of our vacation.

Now that the stress of wondering what in the world we would do on the side of a rural Dominican road with six hungry and thirsty kids has passed, this vacation is an awesome & ginormous gift. Troy keeps telling the kids "We are blessed guys - can you believe we get to do this?!?"  TV's with channels (reception) are all the rage with our children.  It matters not that the Cartoon Network is in Spanish, the many, many channels and the flipping of them is enough to make them happy.  We're working on convincing them that the swimming pool sitting next to the ocean is also quite something.

Britt and Chris get in on Friday. The excitement and anticipation of the brother(s) and sister(s) reunion(s) is building.