A month in Cabrera

Cabrera
We rented the first floor of this house in Cabrera for a month
We rented the first floor of this house in Cabrera for a month

I was so happy to arrive in Cabrera. Not only because I was able to escape Sto Dgo for a while, but because we were going to see if maybe this was the place where we would make ourselves a home. Thanks to the other expats of Cabrera, we were able to rent the first floor of a house not too far from the park (the park is the little square where you get on and off the bus). It was only 8000 pesos a month and had a big bed, stove, fridge, sofa and a table with a set of chairs. That was about it, but it was all we needed.

Finally in the Caribbean! View from Hotel La Catalina
Finally in the Caribbean! View from Hotel La Catalina
Out walking by "el malecón" in Cabrera
Out walking by “el malecón” in Cabrera

I loved walking around the little town looking at all the cute little houses with their beautiful gardens. For the first 4 days I said that this was where I wanted to live. I finally felt at peace. At night I would sit in the small galeria and feel the ocean breeze, I could hear crickets close by and the wind rustling in the leaves. I could finally feel in my whole body that I was in the Caribbean.

Lovely garden in Cabrera
Lovely garden in Cabrera

I would take Little A on walks to the small, fenced, playground where we always played by ourselves. It was too hot to be outside really, but Little A never liked being indoors much. I would walk him in the stroller for him to fall asleep, and then I would go to Choripan (a dinerlike restaurant that does not serve choripan) and have coffee. When he woke up we would have lunch, and lots of jugo de chinola! If I said Little A as the one drinking all the chinola juice I would be lying, it was so yummy. We would go to D’Sara, the greengrocer’s, and buy lots and lots of delicous veggies and all the mangoes and chinolas we could get our hands on. Some evenings we went to Chico’s, that was a lovely restaurant run by Abe Ochoa, a Cuban American expat (who later sold that restaurant). We always had pizza and sometimes a margarita. Then we would let Little A fall asleep in the stroller while walking by the tiny malecon.

 

The playground in Cabrera
The playground in Cabrera

If you are thinking about Cabrera as a place for you and you have children, you have both a  school (English only) and a little preschool (bilingual) that made us seriously think about moving there for the sake of Little As education. I never found a preschool in Sto Dgo where we felt comfortable sending Little A (but I do believe that if we had gotten to know more families there we probably would), but we didnt hesitate when it came to Cabrera.

If you are suited to living more of a small town – and I do mean very small – Cabrera is a very cute place to live in. But after 4 days I started to feel bored. It was a great escape and I enjoyed it so much when we were there. We even came back for a week in December when my husband‘s family visited for Christmas.  But I felt it was much too small for us.

Margaritas at Chico’s
Margaritas at Chico’s

Barra Payan – Jugos Naturales

Barra Payan

Barra Payan is a popular sandwich place in Santo Domingo, and if I am not mistaken they are now a chain of sandwich shops. But the sandwiches are not what I love about this place. I still think about this place because of their jugos naturales- their fresh fruit juices. It is difficult to find bad jugo natural in Santo Domingo, but this was amazing. They have a jugo de melon that is so good I made my husband go all the way downtown to get it for me. And, of course, you can always have your juice with Carnation – condensed milk.

Barra Payan
Barra Payan

barrapayan2

Coconut water and heavy traffic

This photo was taken before we had a car and were still walking around, taking the metro and a 100 guaguas. We were on the Av. Charles de Gaulle and had just stepped off one guagua and were waiting for the next one to take us home when this vendor came walking down. He sells fresh coconut water – agua de coco. He opens the coco for you and even has ice with him. He made my day.

Coconut water
Coconut water

Boca Chica – travel tip and photos

Boca Chica from the water
Little A in Boca Chica
Little A in Boca Chica

Technically, Boca Chica is not a part of Sto Dgo. It is a little town neighboring Sto Dgo, but since the capital doesn’t really have a swim worthy beach it has more or less been adopted. It has a bad reputation, which is understandable. I can rarely stand more than a couple of days in a row here. It’s filled with tourists, vendors, prostitution and whatnot. But, for a day or two, I still think it’s worth it.

We usually stay on the beach side closest to the Hamaca hotel. There are less people here, hardly any tourists at all, and Mr P took his diving certificate here at Tropical Sea Divers. The water is pretty shallow here, which of course made it a great place for Little A to play. The beach was one of few places where I could hang out with Little A without having to run around like crazy. He loved playing with the sand and in the water. He spent so much time in the water (both in the beach and our big plastic pool once we moved into the house) that it became the place outside of home where I didn’t need to worry about him (which doesn’t mean that I didn’t watch him, of course I did, but I didn’t need to worry). And I loved being able to take a break from the city, and lay in the water under the palm trees, just a 15-30 minutes drive away.

We stayed at a few of the cheap hotels here, the only one worth naming was only a few streets from the beach – Hotel Casa Coco. It’s run by a cute, older French couple. The rooms are good, with ac and wifi. There’s a pool and a cute little resto-bar where you can have food and drinks. The couple were so sweet with Little A and brought him more juice when he spilled his (which happened all the time because he moves around so much all the time) and very patient. I definitely  recommend it.

We stayed at a cute hotel with my mom as well, (will update when I know the name), but it was more expensive and not really walking distance from the beach. The Hotel Hamaca is one of the more expensive hotels in the area, and we never stayed there. Family who did said it was fine, but nothing special. In my opinion, if you want a nicer hotel Boca Chica isn’t the place to do it. It’s a great escape from the city, so you know you’re in the Caribbean. But it’s definetly a budget place, and can absolutely be enjoyed that way. Whenever we stayed here we ate pica pollo, bought fresh juice from a lovely woman a few blocks away from the beach, and stayed at hotels only because we needed a place to sleep. The rest of the day was spent at the beach. Just as it should be.

photos:
Mr P and Little A enjoying the beach
Mr P and Little A enjoying the beach

 

Boca Chica from the water
Boca Chica from the water

 

Boca Chica
Boca Chica
The hotel we stayed in with my mom in Boca Chica
The hotel we stayed in with my mom in Boca Chica
Boca Chica
Boca Chica
Boca Chica
Boca Chica
Little A in Boca Chica
Little A in Boca Chica

Going to the hospital

Amis, Little A and Mr P walking to the new hospital on Av. Charles de Gaulle
Amis, Little A and Mr P walking to the new hospital on Av. Charles de Gaulle
Amis, Little A and Mr P walking to the new hospital on Av. Charles de Gaulle

As a new family in a new country – or on your way there – a big concern is going to the hospital. And we had our share of going to the hospital in the DR. In many cases I would prefer going to the doctor there (both of us adults and our toddler) than in Sweden. We bought private insurance for the three of us, which of course let us into the nicer hospitals.

The time Little A fainted from dehydration we took him to the closest clinic in Santo Domingo Este – Centro Medico Santo Domingo Oriental. It would have worked even without an insurance, and was nothing but a positive experience. It was clean, they attended to us immediately and were great with Little A. Once we went to a hospital in the middle of the night because Litle A had fallen off a chair. It was called Centro Medico Integral II and they were also clean and efficient. After moving to Cabrera Little A got otitis (in both ears, we found out). We quickly went to the town hospital but didn’t feel good about it. At the moment we were there everything was dirty, blood on the sheets and so many sick people we didn’t want Little A there. In the end we decided to just leave for Sto Dgo and go directly to a doctor that was recommended to us by family at Centro Medico Otorrino which is on the west side of the bridge not far from Caribe Tours.

Hospiten kids waiting room
Hospiten kids waiting room

They were just finishing construction on a new hospital just a couple of minutes from our apartment on Av. Charles de Gaulle. Since the Children’s Hospital (Hospital Pediatrico Dr. Hugo Mendoza – which looked very nice) wasn’t open we chose to have all our hospital visits on the west side. Little A’s first ever dentist appointment was in Naco at Plaza Intercaribe. We had all our shots in Clinica Abreu down by the malecon (directions). It’s pretty small with a little kid’s table with a few toys set up in a corner. But it’s just by the park Eugenio María de Hostos so you can go out and play afterwards. Right across the avenue is Plaza Juan Baron that has lots of fun things for kids to do.

A few times we had checkups at Hospiten in La Julia (I think), which hosts a great children’s waiting room with sofas, tv, a few games and tables and chairs for the little ones. The only other time we went to a clinic on the east side was when we visited Profamilia with Little A, but they took such a long time we eventually left and went to Hospiten instead.

All tests have to be done at a laboratory. I remember when I was sick once in Buenos Aires, I had to go to another part of the hospital – but still in the same building – with my blood samples and tests myself. In Santo Domingo though, you have to go to a laboratory that isn’t even directly connected to the hospital (in my experience, at least). They are also private and can be found all over the city. We usually went to the ones called Amadita (because they came recommended by family and there were so many to choose from), they would do the tests and then give you the results to take back to your doctor (no running around with your own samples at least).

The one place I know of that does have its own laboratory, is Instituto Dermatologico, which is another excellent institute.

We only had positive experiences going to the hospitals in Sto Dgo. They were all nice, clean facilites with great staff. I hope you will only have positive experiences as well.

When I went to my dentist in Gazcue I had to go to Centro Medico Bella Artes for the xrays
When I went to my dentist in Gazcue I had to go to Centro Medico Bella Artes for the xrays

First time in Cabrera!

With Little A at Playa Diamante!

After the incident with the colon-guy and just generally being sick of everything around me being too much, I decided to find a little village to go live in. In my heart I’m a city girl, and Ioved Buenos Aires. But Santo Domingo is not Buenos Aires, and Sto Dgo is very different when you have a tiny toddler with you. So even though I never before had imagined actually longing to be on the country side, I now found myself searching the forums of DR1 to find that little town that I could escape to. This is how I came in contact with the awesome couple who run the Esperanza Project, and who live in Cabrera.

The little plaza in Cabrera
The little plaza in Cabrera
Project Esperanza, Cabrera
Project Esperanza, Cabrera

We decided to get on a bus and visit over a weekend. Caribe Tours comfortably takes you from Sto Dgo to Cabrera in only a couple of hours and is very cheap (320 dop), and surprisingly comfortable and has AC. We got off at a cute little plaza and walked directly to Camp Esperanza. The energy among the kids here was amazing! We almost forgot how hot it was looking at these kids running around having so much fun. Here we also got to know the couple who runs Threesixteen Missions, who immediatley took us under their wings and helped us find and get to a hotel for the weekend.

Walking around Cabrera I was amazed at how clean it was (in comparison to Sto Dgo). Several expats live here, it has a small but decent grocery store (that delivers), a great place to buy fruit and veggies and a few restaurants. It’s small but that was exactly what I wanted at the moment. But I fell in love when they drove us to the beach. Only a few minute drive away you find Playa Diamante. A small beach, but clean and shallow so that Little A could both walk and play in the water. Many beaches on the North Coast are pretty wild (and breathtakingly beautiful) and excellent for surfers, but this is a great beach for kids and families.

With Little A at Playa Diamante!
With Little A at Playa Diamante!
The view from Azul Bravia
The view from Azul Bravia

We stayed at Azul Bravio aparta hotel, which I would never do again. It would have been fine for us, we don’t need more than somewhere decent to sleep. But travelling with a toddler means  you need more than just a bed and a door that locks – namely a fan that works through the night. They promised that they had an inversor that would kick in whenever the power company shut the electricity off. But in the middle of the night we were left without fans or AC and a crying toddler who was suffering from the heat. I had to go out on the patio to rock Little A to sleep in the ocean breeze, which might sound lovely. But I did not enjoy having to do that over and over through the night. Azul Bravio has an amazing view and is very cheap, but with a kid? Forget it.

 

 

 

We were impressed enough by Cabrera to decide to come back and try it out for a month. Thanks to our new aquaintances we left knowing where we could live when we came back. But we couldn’t leave without having yet another beach day at Playa Diamante!

playadiamante

Everyone keep your intestines in, please!

We had a bumpy ride our whole stay in the DR, but it was particularly true for our first month. Little A wasn’t sleeping well. he was a very active baby and had never slept well, but the Caribbean heat made it that much worse. We were constantly sick (for the first 3 months!) with one thing or another while trying to get accustomed to our new country. But worst of all was being sleep deprived. It made me jumpy, easily scared and very irritated. After our short vacation in the hotel we were back in the apartment. But we still hadn’t gotten any real furniture and the state of the apartment just made us miserable, so we spent a lot of time sightseeing in Sto Dgo.

An intersection on Av. Charles de Gaulle
An intersection on Av. Charles de Gaulle

After a whole day on hot guaguas and walking dirty streets in the scorching sun, we found ourselves waiting for a guagua on Avenida México and José Martí during rush hour. The street was overcrowded with both people and one rusty, rundown vehicle after the other. There were so many people waiting for the buses that I – in my very nervous state for the lack of sleep – felt crowded as I tried to shelter a sleeping Little A in my arms. I had just started thinking about how crazy it all was. Why were we trying to make it work here, without a car, in a place that was so dirty? It was in that moment that I saw a man walking towards my overcrowded group by the bus stop. I don’t know what made me look at him so intently, nothing really stood out about him from that far. As he approached I saw that he was only wearing shorts, and something about him was off. At the same moment as my husband suggested us taking a bus from somewhere else,  I tilted my head slightly and that is when I saw it. Something red and shiny that was coming from the man’s stomach, hanging down just above his shorts. I had no idea what it was, other than it coming from inside him, and he was coming towards us. I stood up quickly and asked my husband, as calm as I could, what was that? He didn’t seem at all bothered with the situation, telling me it probably was the man’s colon. Everything came crashing down on me then. I don’t know what it was about this exact incident that became the drop for me, but while my husband explained that the colon probably was infected I just had it. I can’t take this anymore, I said, hugging my little boy tighter against my chest. Mr P seemed to understand, because he gave me a slight nod, while guiding me through the crowd. Suddenly we were in a salon supply store and Mr P was chatting with the manager. I felt grateful for the cool air conditioning, but really just wanted to get home. After a while we left, got on a guagua on a less crowded corner and went straight home.

The same night, I asked Mr P why we had gone into the supply store. You said you had had enough, he answered. When I asked what exactly he thought I had had enough of, he replied You know, the crowded street, the bad traffic… I had to interrupt him before he went on. Sure, I had had enough of that. At least until I could get a good nights sleep. But I refused to live somewhere where I could suddenly have someone’s colon in my face. I’m finding us a tiny town somewhere, I said, and we’re moving there as soon as possible. 

Note: I’m trying to convey how miserable sleep deprivation made me feel, especially in the beginning. I don’t  think Santo Domingo is that bad, there is a lot about the city that I do like. But that’s for later posts.

Photo Tour – Brisas del Río & Don Oscar

Welcome to Brisas del Río

A little photo tour of our first neighborhood Brisas del Río and the neighborhood across the street – Don Oscar.

The “street I’m referring to is actually la Avenida Charles de Gaulle, or as the Dominicans call it – La Challe

Welcome to Brisas del Río
Welcome to Brisas del Río
Brisas del Río
Brisas del Río
Our colmado - Natalia
Our colmado – Natalia
Brisas del Río
Brisas del Río
Brisas del Río seen from La Challe
Brisas del Río seen from La Challe
Don Oscar neighborhood
Don Oscar neighborhood
Don Oscar neighborhood
Don Oscar neighborhood
Little A foun an abandoned car and his favorie animal in Don Oscar - vacas
Little A foun an abandoned car and his favorie animal in Don Oscar – vacas