Dominican Republic

Getting Busy: Manny Mota and Los Campos de Sueños

 

The dirt streets of El Tamarindo are dusty with walkers.  El Tamarindo is a village that was blown here sixteen years ago by Hurricane Georges.  Tens of thousands on Hispaniola lost everything.  Many ended up in this barrio

 

We are dusty, too, with walking.  Shacks crowd the road; we glance into doorways and people trot out to join us.  At the end of the lane there appears a green cinderblock wall which the dirt road divides widely.  This is El Campo de Sueños, The Field of Dreams.  We pass through—to a sprawl of ball diamonds opening out toward distant fences, their backstops rising like totems.  It is slightly surreal: so much groomed grass might just be dream fields.  Our group is large now, mostly women with children, their clothing colorful, their smiles shy.  We approach a swing set where kids clamber noisily, then arrive at a grand pavilion.  And here is what’s going on today. 

 

Hundreds have traveled the lanes to line up by this pavilion.  Babies and toddlers are everywhere in arms, small girls sit on the low walls.  There’s good will in the air; it feels like a social event, a dance or a cock fight.  Inside, beneath the high tin roof a table of chatty nurses receives a line of mothers with much note-taking and laughter and commiseration.  Beyond them a great sussing of health is under way.  Smart young doctors in white are listening to chests, peering into eyes, tapping and squeezing and prescribing.  A shirtless boy leans forward and coughs energetically while his friends grin; nearby a young woman sits, her hands mild in her lap, as a dentist plies the steely implements.  Some soldiers in camouflage cheerfully wave in the next group of patients.  Gradually the order becomes clear.  This is one of the frequent medical service days held at El Campo de Sueños, when residents of nearby towns come for free health care.  They bring their aches and pains, and receive expert treatment—and prescriptions that get filled just over at the next building. 

 

While this is going on, down the slope at a small baseball field newly cut into the scrub, two teams of seven-year-olds are squaring off.  Their blaring jerseys are tucked into their baggy trousers, and they shuttle on and off the field with gusto.  A golf cart purrs up and a handsome gentleman with blazing teeth hops out and shouts some orders.  It’s Manny Mota, engine of all the activity in this place.  A white bucket appears beside him, and he commences pitching underhand, a few feet from the plate.  The helmeted batters swing lustily, and he corrects and commends them with sage humor.  This Manny Mota is the holder of the major league record for career pinch hits, and a .306 lifetime average.  The Campo is where he puts up newer numbers.  For the last half-decade he’s been building this complex.  Hundreds of El Tamarindo villagers get their water from the wells he dug a couple years back.  It saves them hours of walking each day.  Mornings he serves up 150 breakfasts, and some days lunches, too.  And every day there’s baseball—on five sprawling fields. 

The sky piles its clouds far beyond the fences, and a big rain blasts down.  Kids dash laughing under the pavilion roof, where the operations are winding up.  Drying off, Manny Mota talks about this place, his eyes following the kids.  “My wife and I used to feed people in our home.  One day she said, ‘You know, we could make a life out of doing this.’ So that’s how we started.  After the hurricane, when the government moved the people here, you know, I guess we got pretty busy.”

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Bathsheba, Barbados

With its glorious weather, sandy beaches and lukewarm turquoise seas, the Caribbean islands are seen as a dream holiday destination for many people. Temperatures tend to range from a minimum of 20C in January to above 30C in July, so you can be sure of getting some sunshine whenever you travel.

The one problem that some tourists may have is deciding which island and Caribbean resorts they want to visit. Here Columbus Direct shares a list of five areas which should certainly be considered by any tourist who fancies veering off towards the Caribbean Sea…

Bathsheba, Barbados
Bathsheba, Barbados

Barbados

Barbados may be one of the smaller Caribbean islands, but it’s home to fun, adventure and paradise that belies its diminutive size. There are more than 70 miles worth of pristine white beaches on which to soak up the sun, enjoy a rum punch or try out some water sports.

The West coast really comes to life at night-time. Its delightful range of bars and restaurants create a carnival atmosphere wherein tourists can eat, drink and dance to jazz, reggae or traditional chart music.

Some of the biggest party nights occur during the island’s annual festivals. The three-day Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival begins on November 22nd, whilst the grand celebration of the nation’s independence takes place on November 30. What a perfect excuse to book an end-of-year holiday!

St Lucia

St Lucia could be the perfect choice for those who love the idea of exploring a tropical paradise. The island is covered with miles worth of glorious rainforest to trek through, with plenty of luxury hotels and tourists attractions camped within it.

Visitors are urged to go snorkelling at the foot of the iconic Piton mountains or join a guided tour on a hike up to the top for some of the most incredible views of their surroundings. There’s also the opportunity to try horse-back riding across the beach, take the whole family to a water park or explore the forest wildlife during a relaxing walk on the beach.

Ideally, tourists would visit the island during Carnival celebrations, which run throughout June and July.

Turner Beach, Antigua
Turner Beach, Antigua

Antigua & Barbuda

Antigua is another hugely popular tourist destination in the Caribbean. Once again, glorious coastlines, fine dining and friendly locals are the norm. Visitors have the opportunity to snorkel with stingrays, zip-line through tropical rainforests or relax on a luxury cruise.

Antigua has its own Carnival which takes place in July, yet others could be more excited by the prospect of National Sailing Week, which falls in April.

There are plenty of boat trips to nearby Barbuda as well. With a population of just 2,000 people, it’s often described as the Caribbean’s best kept secret. It can feel like your own personal tropical island getaway.

Dominican Republic

One of the largest and most vibrant areas of the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic is perfect for those who want their holiday to feature a bit of everything.

There’s 250 miles of coastline to enjoy, but so much see and do in the centre of the island as well. Try white-water rafting through Jarabacoa, exploring underground caves in Juan Dolio or riding a cable car almost 800 metres above sea level in Puerto Plata.

Experience the sights on top of the Caribbean’s largest mountain – the 3,000m+ high Pico Duarteis. Marvel at the beauty of the Caribbean’s largest lake – The Enriquillo. You can even cross the border and enjoy the attractions that neighbouring Haiti has to offer. It really is the island that has it all.

Jamaica

Visit Jamaica and find out that the stereotypical relaxed fun-loving stereotype of the locals is completely true to life. The culture is one of easy living, dance, fun and celebration.

The traditional tourist attractions to enjoy include beaches, bars restaurants and the world-famous Bob Marley museum. But the best way to get the most out of the island is to mix with the friendly locals in the capital Kingston, the party city of Montego Bay or the beautiful coastal region of Ocho Rios.

In truth, the majority of Caribbean islands make for the perfect holiday destination. Those who make the effort to visit any of these fantastic nations can consider themselves truly blessed.

 About the AuthorSam Jones is a full time writer who loves to travel to exotic places and experience some of the most unusual and brilliant places the world has to offer. Find him on Google+

 

Santo Domingo has a varied landscape

27th Biennial of Visual Art, Dominican Republic

The Biennial of Visual Art in Santo Domingo is a competition which is decided in August, but the exhibition stays open to the public for much longer, into November usually. The prizes are awarded by a panel of three; this year the panel were Chus Martinez, of the Museo del Barrio in New York City; Quisqueya Henríquez and Bingene Armenteros. All the artists in the competition must be natives of the Dominican Republic or must be resident there. Anyone who wants to see the cutting edge of Caribbean art should make sure they don’t miss this exhibition.

 

How to get there

Santo Domingo is served by two international airports, the main one being Aeropuerto Internacional de las Americas. Flights from the UK are long, but they are straight through although many people chose to break their flight in the USA. First Choice fly from Manchester, Glasgow and London Gatwick. Santo Domingo is also a port and there are ferries and connections from there to other Caribbean destinations. The Dominican Republic is a very developed area in the Caribbean and Santo Domingo is its administrative capital. The colonial centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has some amazing buildings including the cathedral, which is the oldest in the Americas.

What to do

Walking around Santo Domingo can be a little challenging as the drivers have a very casual attitude to road safety and the pedestrian is way down their list of important things not to hit! However, there are some shopping malls which are traffic free as are sections of the Colonial Area. Eating is a very varied opportunity, as there is practically every cuisine on the streets of Santo Domingo, from MacDonald’s right up to gourmet restaurants. If there could be said to be a local dish it is ‘pica pollo’ which is a fusion of Caribbean, Chinese and KFC, being a pile of fried rice, fried plantain and fried chicken. It is not very elegant to eat but it is tasty and keeps you full for ages. The Caribbean is normally quite cheap when it comes to eating out but Santo Domingo comes in on the slightly more expensive side but if you stick to the comedors (cafes), pica pollo shops and fast food, it is not so pricey.

Why not grab a drink as you go?

 

Nightlife

Night life is great although most places close at midnight so don’t expect to dance all night. Sadly, this early closing is an attempt to try and cut the crime rate, which is high so it is important to take some precautions when out late or even in the daytime – not carrying too much money is an obvious thing to do and also to keep jewellery to a minimum. Hotels can give help about how to behave on the street to avoid attracting notice – which is not to say that Santo Domingo is a scary place, not at all, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

About the AuthorRobert Plumb is a copywriter and travel fanatic from Gospel Oak, London. When he isn’t planning his next adventure, you can probably find him down the local boozer, with his nose in some dusty old book