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Posts Tagged ‘Punta Cana’

“Hey Mon, Would you like to see my jewelry?”

A: “No, I’m all set.”

IMG_6663The cottage industry, Roaming Beach Vendors, aka, the band of people who stroll the resort sands past the chaise lounges of relaxing tourists perched under the midday sun, deserves the respect it never gets. Find a country, island, beach cove, or open expanse of seashore and you will experience the creativity of the entrepreneur. Free trade is a curious thing. Put it on the internet and (if legal) it is a normal part of our culture. Put it on the beach during the primetime of your well-deserved vacation, and something changes.

The West Indies Islands are remarkable in creativity from the local merchant, homeopathic herbalist attendant, masseuse, artist, watersports sales agent, food vendor/cook, and brownie salesman.  Oh, did I mention wood-carver?  Not only have I been engaged by one of these energetic trades, but I have searched them out in various lands. Fondly, the strong palms of the Thai masseuse, clad in white linen, head to toe, with that genuine smile, remains in my memory.  On a chaise under an umbrella steps from the lapping waters on the salty shore is the perfect place for the back and shoulder rub down in the fifty or so minutes.  What value, too.  And, there’s more.  Who might pass up the opportunity to listen to the comical stories of the beach comic, as he tries out a string of his latest jokes on the sunning tourists.  Shouldn’t that act be worth a few shekels ?  Many of my beach vendor friends have many jobs.  Take my comic friend, ” the Mighty Bassman”, as his real job is to pace the full several miles of beach promoting with a bullhorn the merits of attending the nightclub /beach bar for that evening.  ” It’s going to be Hot, Hot, Hot!  Come to the Party at Alfred’s Bar. Remember, Ladies are alway free! Hot, Hot, Hot.”

20121028_37 It is hard work, as the Jamaicans call it: Hustlers or Chiselers. I am certain the downturn of the North American/ European  economy has touched the livelihood of many of the vendors. From firsthand experience, I have seen the numbers of unused beads amass in the hands of the hair-braiding ladies. Fewer little corn-rowed children roam the classrooms after vacation week.  Belt-tightening certainly affects all the vendors. Music prevails on the beach, as the creativity of these local artist come through. Put three guys with dreadlocks, Hawaiian shirts, an aged tambourine, Guitar and old bass fiddle in front of you, playing a Bob Marley song.  As the bass fiddle is held together with ducktape, and the songs are in key, I open my wallet.  These artists become my regulars, or I, theirs.  I may be easy, but I like it.  Perhaps, I may be convinced to begin a foundation for the advancement of beach vendors, or to establish the Beach Vendor Senior Citizen Home.  In any case, I have grown with the beach vendors, heard their stories, watched them age, and have seen some leave us, like BanjoMan.

IMG_6656Negril Beach is seven miles long and the best beach in Jamaica. BanjoMan would begin his day on one end and finish the full distance and return at day’s end.  All was under the hot sun. He weighed a mere 140 pounds and wore khaki shirt and pants, a floppy straw hat and carried that ole -timey four string banjo, on bare feet.  I could guest that I first met him at his age seventy.  He lacked several teeth; top and bottom. He could play and he could sing.  BanjoMan wasn’t much of a talker, but I think it was his humility.  He could play:” The Harder they come, the harder they fall” and all the others.  The beach vendors mostly adored him, as I did. One season BanjoMan hung up his instrument for all time.

Who invented Aloe?  Yuck, these beach vendors roam the sands with aloe fronds in hand, looking for hapless idiots to smear a substance of rubber cement on those bodies.  The goop is sticky, yes, can’t wash off and will stain your favorite “T”-shirt. Then, they want you to give them money?  No thank you.  Then I think: ” I just don’t get it”, as the cardboard box on the beach vendors head is full of little reef fish. They are all beautiful in color; sargent majors, parrot fish, tiny grey angel fish. Tourist do not buy fish on the beach. Every week he fishes and offers his catch. He is still in business.

See, the All Inclusive Resort Business on many West Indies Islands has put a dagger in the hearts of these vendors.  Guests do not bring money to the chaise lounges at water’s edge.  One price and then the package is sealed. I say, that you need to bring those dollars. Buy that coconut palm hat that you will alway wear.  Go parasailing several times.  Bring home those Flip Flops.  Have them sing out for you: “Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot”.  And, support your Beach Vendor. You will be glad you did.  Thank you.
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 CAT CAFE, Promising solution to touristic dilemma

 How many times have you or I felt that clearly distinguishable, always inappropriate and sometimes laughable perching of a less than furry feline at the edge of your Caribbean Holiday breakfast table?  Dinner hour is not immune either.  As I once recall, a garden dinner romantic with all the fixings and candle lit, served by the owner and his wife.  This little Bajian Bistro drew the diners from the top hotels for the Chateaubriand and the fresh tropical pumpkin soup.  This was truly a destination to be taken in for the ambiance, and yet not too pricey.  With ten tables under a few coccopalms and the stars above, what could be wrong? 

One thing stood out.  The French owners loved their cats.  Not a few, but many.  Maybe they owned a few, but the word spread on the kitty unwritten blog.  There was every size, shape, and personality.  Oh yes, and state of … hummm,.. health?  Why here?  The owner offered to provide sardines to those that wished to feed the cats.  The dinner was wonderful, but the tails of these little creatures rubbing against my leg was creepy. Success is a funny thing.  The owners did really well.  They closed the little restaurant, moved to a tonier zone and cranked it up a notch on the table service.  Bottom-line: no cats.

So this brings me to a great idea.  Not my idea, but I give credit to a remarkable woman and friend.  The theme is simple.  Resorts have always drawn the Caribbean cat population from the community.  These rouge felines are pretty smart, pretty nibble and mostly pretty hungry.  Buffet breakfast, afternoon tea or even dinner has our little friends lurking in the shadows, though  maybe sitting on your table.  The Sol Melia Hotel Chain member Paradisus Punta Cana, in Dominican Republic, recognizes this issue.  Overrun by many, many kitties, (set at north of one hundred), the 5 Star property has a solution. My friend and Hotel Director of Operations, Ms. Danielle Kiens, explained to me the plan.  She is a seasoned, well-respected top management player with an eye on quality.  She knows the needs of her top echelon clientele and the demands on that quality.  The image of the overrun liter box  can be relegated to the past.

CAT CAFE, is to be set up at a location away from the Guest dinner areas.  This high-end resort boasts  ten restaurants.  The resort is on many acres of land and down to the sea and beach.  In this new area, the cats and kittens will be provided quality food designed for these animals, as well as water. As it is monitored by the staff and supported, the Hotel will service the guests needs for quality of experience, while attending to humanity to these animals. Danielle was excited on this venture and the creativity to make it happen.  This is a one great example of Doing well,…and doing good, Meow.  Review www.Solmelia.com.

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Two decades ago, while exploring Old Santo Domingo, historic capital of the D.R., two Dominican physician friends directed me into a darker part of the bazzar in the older section of the city.  The destination was curious as these are learned men and upscale in the community.  I tagged along and we saw a stall at the end of the narrow throughway.  These food, service vendors and fleamarket shops mingle with the tourist shops in a maze of confusion.  Most are sheltered from the sweltering noon sun by galvanized roofs and the sheer narrowness of the streets.  It’s hot. 

So, as we made our way to the little store, my first impression was of the two life sized Roman Catholic Patron Saints Statues flanking both sides of a narrow threshhold.  Both were full colored by the whole spectrum of the painter’s palate; almost lifelike.   The words “botanica” were spelled out on the small sign above the door.  Intimidating!  The mission was to sample  the goods of the shop.  The Docs knew the wares pretty well.  On the shelf outside the store were rows of  750ml rum bottles filled to the brim and corked.  A Twine of Straw was tied around each bottle.  Some bottles were amber and some clear. Was this the mission?  Yes, as they explained the contents: Mamawana. 

Out with a jigger glass and off with a cork, the glass was filled.  These shops are the Rx of the Bush.  Near African country bush medicine, homeopathic, with lots of hope and some superstition.  Mamawana is the cure all.  I would  consider it a blend of  elixer of herbs and a blend of over-proof rums and honey for sweetness.  The rum is strong.  The grasses and bush is bitter.  The taste leaves a flavor of a medicinal mouth wash, not far from Listerine.  The rum leaves a definite burn.  The honey cures it all.

What does it do?  Viva Viagra!  I do not know for sure, as the locals drink a whole lot of it.  I did not.  The 151 proof may have something to do with it, though.  The herbs may be a bush stimulant, as is ginseng.  The cost is cheap and less than five dollars in RD dollars.  My friends enjoyed the puckered expression on my face after the first taste.  Afterwards, we finished the day with a favorite,  Barcelo Anejo Rum, Schweps Tonic, lime wedge and a dash of Bitters.  It, too, will cure anything.

The Fleamarket in Santo Domingo is four streets away from the Colonial District and easily found on foot.  I have travelled often to the country and the formula is still on every shelf.  The botanicas pop up in several spaces and are near the less touristy beaches near the Airport and elsewhere around the country.

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