Monday, March 2, 2015

The Dominican Republic Adventure

January kind of happened and I missed it. We basically checked out for the month and tried to do as little as possible. Cold weather mixed with exhaustion created homebodies out of us. I had about 10 pictures from January. So obviously not much excitement. But I did start out 2015 with some good company at my annual high school Christmas party. 

So many giggles with these gals! Once a year is not often enough to catch up. They are the sweetest things. We realized that we were "born for 2015". Bring it on. 

Snow days were spent cuddled up by the fire and freezing outside. 

Trevin enjoyed playing in the snow and quickly discovered war. 

And I got hit in the face. 


I'm sure none of you can forget about last year's post, My hands smell like hog guts. So you know that February means stocking our freezer with piggies. Although I didn't end up elbow-deep in a hog belly this year, we were still able to process 17 hogs. 

Sorry if this grosses you out. It kind of turns me on. I get to take this guy home. 

Trevin showed his enthusiasm by wearing his pig shirt. 

He spent most of his time trying to herd the cats around. I hate to admit this, but I think he likes animals. (This is where you accuse me of having no heart and try to convince me that if I knew your dog/cat/horse/fish/leprechaun/hamster that I would change my mind. Or we can just eat bacon together and not have that conversation.) 


Another birthday happened to me. Number 22. I celebrated in a few new ways. 

I had plenty of time with my boys and then got pedicures with my friends, Taylor and Nicole, for our upcoming trip. And then we had a happy birthday waxing party. I don't think it's a trend that will catch on. Wowzers. I can't tell if they love me or hate me. We also had cake and giggled at a lot of things. Regardless, we got our bodies ready for swim suit weather, besides the cake... that was counterproductive. 

In the midst of the waxing I got a call saying that Trevin had the flu. I rushed home to my poor baby who couldn't stop vomiting. I slept zero that night. Thankfully by morning, the bug had passed and a fever was all that was left. (This was 4 days before our vacation, so I was paranoid that James and I were next and that we would have quite the dilemma. But thankfully we stayed healthy!) 

I received this gift from my good friend, Jill. This is my favorite thing right now! I laughed until my gut hurt.  

Valentine's Day came a few days later, accompanied by these beautiful flowers from my husband. 


In the life of Trevin:
+He's been a potty-training rockstar and hasn't had an accident since New Year's resolutions were a big deal. 

+He is starting to enjoy his friends a little more and it's been fun listening to the innocent conversations that take place. 

+He's started to make observations about people, associating my sister, Brooke, with crazy hair. He'll take my hair and hold it straight up and tell me I look like Brooke. And any windblown hair looks like Brooke, too. Brooke, your hair isn't crazy. 

+He says funny things. 
{I had a nose bleed the other day (and all of the days) and he came up to me and said, "Mom, you have nose ketchup?"}
{As we pulled up to the gas station one day he mentioned something about "getting fuel" What 2-year-old uses the word fuel? I just stared at him and realized that he is his father.}

+He got the flu. This was the first time it's hit him full-blown. Somehow we've lucked out. A week later he caught a cold that's still going strong today. Fevers, chills, cough, congestion and a runny nose have ruled the house this week. 

+The weeks surrounding our vacation, Trevin became very clingy and emotional. He sensed it coming, and now that we're back, he's scared we'll leave again. I've certainly appreciated all the hugs and snuggles from him, but hated seeing him in distress. Parenthood is just hard sometimes. 

While getting the basement prepped for reconstruction, I've come across some awesome things. (By the way, we should be painting the basement in the next couple weeks. Might have an update for you all in a month or two.) I've never been much of an artist, but this... 
This is impressively atrocious. I was in the 3rd grade. I had much larger lips and mismatched eyes then. Also my shoulders were much boxier, I wore pig tails, and jewels on my shirt. I think it was obvious at an early age that I'd need a computer for my creative output, not my hands.. 


Then it was finally time for, after almost a year in the making, the Dominican Republic. The plan was to leave at midnight on Sunday night to catch our early Monday morning flight. Quick layover in Chicago and onto Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Vacation for days. Fly home Saturday. 

It was incredibly difficult leaving Trevin behind. When I tucked him into bed for the last time, he said to me, "Not go on trip, Mom." Then I cried. Thankfully he was in good hands. Between my mom and Ashton, they had him busy all week. I owe a huge thanks to them! We FaceTimed every day and it made it a little more bearable, but it was such a relief to see him again. 

We had a solid team of vacationers, each one as excited as the next. 
Seth Ross - Trip concierge (he essentially planned the entire trip) and nightlife guide
Taylor Ross - Party boss (she is the definition of a good time) and Spanish translator
Mitch Nuss - Mr. Sexy contestant (for real) and giggle leader
Nicole Nuss - Beach bum captain and social butterfly (she made friends with a million people)
James Huenefeld - Adventure guru and the voice of reason (he might have been the only adult on the trip)
And myself, Megan Huenefeld - Dancing extraordinaire and the sinker (because I literally could not swim to save my life)

We ended up stopping at Denny's on our way to the airport. It was an odd experience. It entailed a long wait, the waitress asking us if she could take a smoke break, being asked if we were hitting up the strip clubs, and some surprisingly good cinnamon pancakes. We managed to arrive at the Omaha airport a couple hours early and had some time to kill. James took advantage of the opportunity and attempted to get some shut-eye. 

The flights went smoothly. Got acquainted with a flight attendant who thought our farming background was the coolest. He then offered to buy us free drinks on the plane, so we got Dr. Pepper and water, both of which were already free. A gal from Chicago sat next to us on the 4.5 hour flight to Punta Cana. She was very familiar with tropical vacations, it was easy to tell by the knowledge she shared and the fact that she was tan in the middle of February. She gave us a heads up on some things and encouraged us to try other things. It was fun to pick her brain and ask questions since we were Caribbean virgins. 

When we arrived in Punta Cana we were escorted through "security". We basically filled out a piece of paper referencing the reason for our visit and handed the government $10 and they said, "Welcome!" (Very different story coming back into the United States..)
I received my first stamps in my passport and I couldn't help but feel like Jason Bourne.. minus the amnesia. 

This was hanging from the open lobby of our resort.

We were escorted to a van, which was not as sketchy as I had anticipated, and we experienced our first Dominican Republic car ride. Basically 2 things you need to know before riding in a car with a local... Hold on to your hat and your bladder. We learned that speed limits are "suggestions" and people don't give a hoot about keeping order or staying alive. And most of them drive motorcycles so that doesn't better their chances of survival. But it was on this car ride that we witnessed the Dominican life. There was a man peeing on the side of the road, not even attempting to shield himself. Another man had parked his motorcycle on the shoulder and walked across the freeway to get some food from a restaurant. These people do what they want. 

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort called Majestic Elegance. And majestic it was! When we arrived they handed us a cold towel and a Majestic (drink), that tasted like orange sherbet. 

The resort was filled with beauty. We walked the paths covered in flowers and trees every day. 

This was the view from our balcony. These pools bordered the length of the buildings. 

There was also a small plaza that we could see from our balcony. Several of the nights there were weddings being hosted in this plaza. One night, on our way back to our room, we stumbled upon some fire dancers/jugglers/breathers performing for a wedding party. We watched from the sidewalk and were extremely impressed with their talent. When we reached our room we could hear the music from the reception. We sat on our 4th floor balcony and watched the reception unfold. And then it happened. They played Uptown Funk. This is my current jam. (Thanks Paige for giving me a new obsession!) So I stood up and started dancing.  They kept playing solid music, so I couldn't sit down. James watched and giggled at my ridiculousness. I love dancing and this was the best way, in my opinion, to spend an evening. I danced for an hour, on our balcony, by myself. At some point a bridesmaid spotted me... And then the rest of the wedding party... I singlehandedly had a dance-off with the wedding party. It was the whole "I'll dance and point to you, then you dance and point to me" thing. (You know those moments when you just know it's going to be one of your favorite memories? This was it, folks.) I was laughing and blushing and jigging and jiving and breaking it down like I was on fire. It was the most fun I've had in a long time. That's my idea of a good time. I continued to dance from afar for a few more songs but eventually called it a night when my legs felt like noodles. 

That's our balcony, where all the magic happened. 

We spent many hours enjoying the beach. The gorgeous view, the sound of the waves crashing, the taste of a piƱa colada, the feel of the breeze, and the smell of the ocean. Can anything beat that?

I am a horrible swimmer. I took a couple years of swimming lessons, failed most of them, hated actually getting in the water, could only dog paddle (pathetically), and I had to plug my nose EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Thankfully I know how to blow water out of my nose now, but that's about all I've accomplished since I was in 3rd grade. When I get in deep water, I panic. I start hyperventilating and flopping around. But it's ok, because I'm an adult now and if I'm going to drown... it'll be quick... 

Regardless, we spent an afternoon snorkeling. It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but once I did, I finally realized why people love to swim. Of course I had a flotation device and snorkeling gear, but I truly enjoyed the water for the first time in my life. 

We were in an area with coral fish, nursing sharks, and stingrays. We saw all of the above. When I saw the first shark, I peed a little. It was exhilarating and terrifying. We used motor jets to pull us around and were able to follow the sharks and see as much sea-life as we possibly could.  

As part of our snorkeling excursion, they had paddle boards and canoes available. James was a natural and stood without much trouble. I stuck to my knees and managed to stay above water. 

Seth and Taylor joined us snorkeling while Mitch and Nicole went on a zip line tour.

Sexy lady. She's my friend. 

The boys thought they'd give deep sea fishing a shot, while the girls were happy to stay back and enjoy the beach. 

Instead they went deep sea sailing, because long story short, they caught nothing. It was supposed to be prime season for most fish, but there were 3 conditions that would cause poor fishing. Rain, wind direction, and calm sea. All three were in play that day. 

They all ended up seasick, too. Overall, just depressing. Of course, James being the optimist said he still had a great time! 

The resort was very entertaining. They had events happening every day. There was a foam pool party, they basically just blew tons of suds into the pool. The foam got so high that we had to move out of the party zone because it was above our heads and we couldn't see, hear or breathe. They also had a Mr. Sexy contest. Mitch got roped into that, but unfortunately the rest of us were snorkeling, so we don't have video footage to share. 

There was an outdoor theatre at our resort. We stumbled upon it early one evening. The lights were on and the stage was set, but no one was around. All 6 of us hopped up on stage and started dancing. Slow dancing, swing dancing, and individual dancing. A few people walked by and watched us. We just pretended we knew what we were doing. Every night there was a show in the theatre. One night was the Dominican Republic Michael Jackson. We knew we couldn't miss that. It was surprisingly really good! The choreography was spot on. The next night was a concert/show choir type performance. It was fun to experience their entertainment. James and Mitch got called up on stage as volunteers for a repeat the Spanish phrase contest. James accidentally said a Spanish cuss word instead of the original phrase. That got the crowd laughing. Mitch ended up winning the contest and walked out with a Super Bowl T-shirt. Seemed a little random to us, too. 

We also ate a lot of food. There were several restaurants to choose from. There was 2 buffet restaurants, Japanese, French, steak house, Italian, and a burger joint. We used the two buffet restaurants the most because of the convenience. 

There were crepes for breakfast every morning. My mom used to make sugar pancakes using crepes, and believe it or not, they had sugar out with the crepes! They tasted just like Mom's. 

I also had fish in a pineapple. Strange combination, but it worked! (Yeah I was a little red.)

He is a manly man. He devoured that fish with an impressive determination. 

Seth dared James to eat an eyeball of the fish with him. Seth ate it first and did it with confidence. James just swallowed it whole. 

In the Dominican Republic they have a drink that they refer to as Mama Juana. It's rum, wine, and herbs. James said it tasted like the herbs his mom used to have him drink when he was sick. Little did we know she was just trying to knock him out. ;) 

All week there was a worker that was especially entertaining. They called him Mr. Obama because someone said he looked like Obama. His name tag literally says Mr. Obama now.  He told us that he works 14 hour days, 11 days on, 3 days off. Talk about exhausting.

The native people were incredible. They have such a different lifestyle and it was intriguing to see how they live. I'm convinced that I'm going back someday to adopt a baby. I've already started the research, but it looks like I'll be waiting a while because you have to be 30 before you can adopt from the Dominican. Regardless, my heart is there. 

Our general routine for most of the days went as follows... Breakfast at the buffet, head to the beach for some relaxation, lunch time, pool time, snack time, beach time, back to the room to shower/nap/get ready, meet for supper, walk the resort, stop and see Roberto in the courtyard, dance in the courtyard to the live band, catch the show, maybe catch a midnight snack and back to our rooms. 

We spent several evenings in the courtyard. We'd dance and sing and the workers would come drag us on the dance floor. They played Sweet Caroline and we did what any normal person would do; we sang and danced to the whole song. We were stopped by some people that asked it we were from Boston. Apparently it's the Boston Red Sox song. They seemed confused that we weren't from Boston but knew the song. We laughed and said we were from Stockham, but that didn't seem to mean anything to them. 
Later that night Nicole wasn't feeling well and had gone up to the room for a little bit, while the rest of us danced and enjoyed the sax player in the courtyard. During his break, we convinced Mitch to pay the sax player to go up to their room and serenade Nicole. He played Careless Whisper and they enjoyed a hilarious dance. Only in the Dominican. 

At the beginning of the week we had an orientation with our travel agency, giving us tips and advice on making the most of our vacation. She informed us that we weren't required to tip, but if we wanted to tip, the maids would be one of the best people to tip because most of them only make $100 a month and have several kids to take care of. 
The second day, when we came back to our room, the maid was in cleaning, so we waited on the deck until she was finished. She was a petite 40ish year old with the sweetest smile. Once she was done, I handed her $20, not thinking much of it. She seemed grateful and we went about our week. 
The last day we came back to our room and found our jacuzzi filled with a bubble bath, flowers, and a small bottle of whiskey. We laughed for a 1/2 hour at her attempt to "set us up" but unfortunately we were headed out for supper and didn't have time to "enjoy" it. When we got back, James had washed off a sandy water bottle in the water and when he drained the jacuzzi, there was sand in the bottom. So I decided to play it up and show our gratitude. I messed up the towels and hid the whiskey in our bag. 
The next day the maid stopped by while we were in our room. She had the cutest grin and in very poor English she said, "Jacuzzi?" We laughed and said, "Yes, thank you!" She then made a sign to her mouth and, with an even bigger grin, she said, "Whiskey?" She was adorable. We told her how much we appreciated it and were grateful for her gesture. Hopefully we made her day as much as she made ours. 
After telling the rest of the gang about our funny encounter, they started making comments about their rooms. It turns out that she had gone above and beyond all week. We had fresh flowers on our bed every day, chocolates in our minibar, and a sweet gesture to end the week. None of the other rooms received these perks. The others said, "If I learned one thing on this trip, it's to tip the maid early and in a large amount!"

We enjoyed spending time at the beach. But the swimsuit styles we saw were a little different than that of a Nebraska lake. The thong bikini bottoms are a thing, especially to the Europeans. Old men still wear speedos. And apparently women go topless, no matter how many children are on the beach. At the end of the week, we decided we were tired of seeing the three B's. (Butts, Boobs, and Bulges.) Yikes. It was a little refreshing coming back to NE where everyone is covered from head to toe in winter gear.

We were able to tour a shopping center where they made chocolate, rum, coffee, and cigars. We found some souvenirs and learned a lot about the process of making their famous exports. 

The last night we made reservations for the Japanese hibachi grill. They were set up for 10 people to a grill. There was 6 of us, another young couple that got placed with us and an older couple, maybe late 60's. We sat down and started to get acquainted with the other couples. A few of us pulled out the chopsticks and that began a conversation about who knows how to use them. Suddenly the older gentleman stood up and walked out. A few minutes later the chef came in and asked who wanted soup. The older lady said she did, but didn't know if they'd be sitting with us. I looked at Seth and he whispered to me that the guy was mad when we got the chopsticks out. I laughed and thought he was pulling my leg. The lady said they didn't realize they were going to be sitting with a bunch of young kids. We told her that they were welcome to join us and we'd enjoy their company, but a moment later the husband came back and took his wife out and they sat at another grill. Seth said that as soon as we got the chopsticks out he gave a look of disgust and stormed out. (I know sometimes we can be considered annoying with our goofy conversations and constant laughter, but let me assure you, this was not one of those times. We were pleasant and respectful.) Some people are just rude. We would have never considered doing that if we were placed with a group of retired folks. That's horrible. Regardless, we had a great evening and devoured some amazing food!

On the day of our departure, we ran into some issues. The flight passenger system for the resorts had a glitch and our flight wasn't listed. Eventually we got it figured out and had packed up and waited for our van to pick us up. But it never showed up. Thankfully our travel agency was on it. They got it lined up and we said goodbye to our luxurious home. 
On the way to the airport, we experienced more insane driving and were almost witnesses to a death. A motorcycle turned into oncoming traffic, the van in front of us swerved and barely missed him. We swerved the other way and missed him. Talk about getting your blood flowing. He should have died. Twice. Our driver held his composure but cranked the music, probably to distract himself from the fact of what had just happened. 

It was a memorable vacation with some of the coolest people I know. This will not be the last time, I can guarantee that. 

Experiencing the Dominican Republic, growing on the farm...