December 18th, 1999


Gerbie on tour 3

Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, 18th of December 1999

Hello everybody

Welcome to the third part of Gerbie on Tour, the last edition of this newsletter in this century, and the first time coming from the Dominican Republic.

But first back to Florida. After an afternoon in Tampa, I spent a couple of days in Clearwater, which seemed like a beach village near Tampa, looking at the map, but turned out to be a very big city, where old folks spent their pensions. Or as an American told us in a bar very accurately: "They come here to die". Not a very exciting town therefore, this unlike St.Petersburg, bordering it, which was worth a visit, even as a non-museum-fan, I enjoyed visiting the Salvador Dali museum over there.

Using the Greyhound once more I travelled to Miami, one more time I realised how big that country is, even within Florida it is easy to spend a day travelling. Time to have a look around in Miami I didn't have, as the next day I had a flight. 'Had' turned out to be the exact word, as on arrival at the airport I found out that my flight had been cancelled, without noticing me. But I could get on the next one the following morning, as long as I checked in at least 3 hours before. This meant I had to hang around the airport at least 19 hours, as finding a hotel to be back at the airport at 5am would have been useless. So the next morning I joined the queue with all the Dominican families going home for the holidays, taking so much luggage with them a cargo flight just for their suitcases and parcels wouldn't have been a luxury.

By now travelling has changed more or less into vacationing. I have got a small room with everything I need (cooker, fridge, shower with cold water and a bog) which I rented for a month, and do take more days off than normal. On the other days I visited some old colleagues and friends, visited the capitol and seen a baseballmatch. But apart from that I have finished 2 books already and have since started reading War and Peace, over 1600 pages of fun, especially brought for this journey, to last as long as possible. Shouldn't be a real problem, as I didn't get any further than page 71 yet.

At first it seems like I have never been away, I do know my way around this town and the capitol Santo Domingo as well, on second thoughts a lot has changed. The hotel I used to work for (and where I am typing this letter now, courtesy of the nightporter, who then worked in reception) is nothing like the hotel it was. Twice as many rooms, a new reception area, different restaurants, a new swimming pool and not even a handful of surviving members of staff from those days. Also they have changed the system to become an "All-inclusive"hotel. A type of lodging I dread deeply. The tourist pays an amount once and therefore gets a flight and lodging, but also all meals and all beverages included. The atmosphere in a place like that is not very nice, to say the least. At the edge of the complex there are the guards who make sure no one else can profit from the open bar, whereas within the guests don't do anything but hanging around, eat and drink (a lot). So after flying over 10000 kilometres, you're not even doing a slight effort to get to know the country you're in, I can't understand these people.

In the meantime the government is busy changing the outlook of the country. The streets around here are not sand anymore, but have been paved, even the salesmen at the beach need a permit these days. In the capitol they are busy changing the road system, via bridges and tunnels, to cope with the gridlock, so normal to any big city. Even the public busses (usually former American schoolbusses) have been replaced by brand new ones. Next year there will be elections, the battle has started, everyone wants to be responsible for all recent developments around here.

A couple more weeks around here, that is if my return flight is correct, which according to my neighbour in the plane isn't. In the meantime I am looking for new things to see and/or do. Probably I will travel to Haiti for a couple of days. It is a half day journey, and not nearly as dangerous as it used to be. Then next month back to the states to continue my travelling from there.

Thanks for everyone sending me email, I am delighted to read all the notices. Keep sending them, I do read them all, even though I have got to queue up every time for the only internet computer this town has, but considering that I do have plenty of time, it is worth the effort.

To everybody a merry Christmas and a happy new year and 'til the next mail!