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Catelina Island
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Tuscan village Altos de Chavon. Editor in Serong with Dominicans dressed in carnival costumes

Port of Romana
photo by Rhonda Spivak


by Rhonda Spivak, December 27, 2011

I decided to venture outside the comforts of my all inclusive Iberostar Punta Cana Hotel today and tour the idyllic tropical Catelina Island, a day trip booked through the hotel. No one actually lives on the island except a bunch of coconut trees. How could I resist the glistening clear green Caribbean waters and the long stretches of powdery white sand?
Only minutes after arriving by boat, I placed my backpack on a beach cot, removing my camera and purse.  My group was one of the first to arrive on the island and the few people on the beach were Dominicans who ran the concession stand. I waded into the water, admiring the beauty of the place and noticed that another tourist left his shirt and towel on the cot next to mine. The next time I looked at the beach, I noticed that my backpack had disappeared. Of course, no one on the beach noticed the thief in action. Lucky guy; the thief made away with raggedy shorts, a sweaty t- shirt, worn cotton underwear, custom-made orthotics (which fit only my running shoes), and an undersized hotel towel. Serves him right!
 I found the theft of my meagre possessions very inconvenient. It was only 10 in the morning and I faced the prospect of wearing my bathing suit until 8 that evening, when the day trip ended. Just me and my bathing suit. As the sun beat down on my back, I went to grab my suntan lotion. Hmmm- it was in my backpack. There was only about half a bottle left and I hoped the thief needed sun protection. I kept hoping that the thief would return my clothing so I wouldn't be the only one on the tour in a bathing suit all day.
Worse than that was the fact that I couldn’t even go swimming because I didn't trust anyone to watch my purse or camera. No snorkelling to see the tropical fish, no banana boat ride. The only thing of interest I managed to photograph was a run-of-the-mill lizard. As I continued to bake in the sun, I wandered over to the single (souvenir) shop on Catelina Island. It dawned on me that the owner and his assistants would have a motive for snagging tourists' clothes--so they would need to buy ones at his shop! He had the market cornered. After that thought I didn't feel like buying anything from him, in the event I was rewarding thievery. But I did need some new clothing or an accessory to get me through the day. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, I tried to figure out the least expensive way to clothe myself for the day.
With my keen fashion sense and 10 US dollars, I bought a blue sarong with Dominican Republic printed on it. I thought it was the most versatile addition to my extremely limited wardrobe. Throughout the day, I could reconfigure it, so that others in my group would hardly realize that I had no clothing. I could wear it around my waist as a skirt. It could serve as a makeshift beach towel, or pillow. I could create a neck scarf for the windy boat ride back. And as mincha /maariv approached, it could function as a prayer shall when I put it over my head (as the Kohanim do for High Holidays), or hijab. As the day progressed, I realized I could write a Dominican Republic version of the award winning children's story Something from Nothing.
Once suitably attired, I relaxed and the rest of the tour was great. I saw the port of Romana, a Tuscany styled village built by an American millionaire, the church in which Michael Jackson was married, as well as the delights of a regular tropical island. The Tuscan village and church were rather upscale, and I did feel slightly underdressed in my bathing suit--especially when the wind started to make my sarong flap around. The one boutique I entered was selling purses bought by a European princess (maybe Polish) visiting the Dominican, but I passed it over. It didn’t match the design on my sarong!
At the final stop in the early evening, I noticed two 8 year old Dominican boys blowing kisses at me. Why me, I wondered? Possibly because I was the only one wearing a bathing suit. Possibly the very stylish and functional sarong. Given my fashion adventure, would I recommend sightseeing daytrips in the Dominican Republic? Definitely. Just make sure to pack light!
P.S. I could go on and on about the daytrip, but I have to make arrangements for a new pair of orthotics; my feet are covered with blisters from wearing my shoes without them.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.