This is a very long post. If you want to just see pictures, you can view the slideshow here:
So now that we’re finally getting caught up from being away, I thought it was a good time to post some pics and stories from the job we did in the Dominican Republic along with an explanation on why we got stuck there for an extra 3 days.
As I had mentioned in my earlier post, we went with two guys from an advertising firm that we were working for along with three guys from a video production team.
We arrived in mid afternoon and the weather was beautiful. The seven of us and our gear piled into a van and headed for Cabarete which is a small beach community half an hour from the Peurto Plata airport. We were staying at a condo that was owned by the developer in charge of the whole project. It was a beautiful condo right on the beach and many of the pictures that I will show were taken right out the back door.
This is the backyard of where we were staying.
We had a little while to clean up and then headed down the beach to have a late dinner. There were small restaurants right on the beach.
The next morning we woke up really early to photograph the sunrise and the surfers.
The sunrise was spectacular:
Unfortunately there were no waves so the surfers didnâ€™t go in the water. We talked a guy into posing for us:
I loved all the different colors on the surfboards:
After that we had breakfast and headed back to the condo. It was time to shoot some beach scenes. We got a few good pictures, but there was not a whole lot going on so we didnâ€™t stay long:
We decided to head down to an area where a river lets out into the ocean where there is sometimes some activity. There wasnâ€™t a lot going on there either but by stroke of luck, we came across a beautiful girl riding a horse down the beach and she had no problem with us photographing her so we took lots of pictures as she passed back and forth at full gallop:
On the way back we passed some guys playing dominos on the side of the road:
We headed back to the condo in hopes of doing more beach scenes. At this point there was some more activity. The winds were kicking up so there were a lot of kiteboarders out doing tricks along with a lot of beautiful people strolling the beach:
We were also hoping to get some nice food shots for the brochures and ads but the food that we ordered for that purpose was not presented well and didnâ€™t turn out that great so we stuck with some island drinks for the pictures:
Later in the afternoon we headed to a beach called Playa Grande which was a really beautiful beach:
We came across a group of young people who got really excited by the cameras and wanted to be in the photos/videos. These types of shots will probably not get used in the ads because the target market is a bit different butâ€¦oh well:
On our way back, our driver Adolfo knew of a lagoon area that had some really cool old boats:
The next day we headed out early with a final destination of Jarabacoa where we would stay the night. We had to cross over the mountains and on the very top there was a small restaurant which created some neat scenes.
We then stopped in a large city called Santiago, but most of what we saw was not the type of thing they needed footage from so we didnâ€™t stay long. I got this shot of the pigeons in one of the city squares and Cheridy found a really neat little salamander on the wallsâ€¦those little guys are all over the place:
The weather was really bad when we got to our hotel. We checked in, relaxed for a bit and then headed out to get dinner and try to get some night life shots. We went to a really cool little shop on the road side which sold ribs:
After that we went to a club where we were hoping to get some good music/dancing photos. We got there about 3 hours earlier than when the place really got going so we had to just sit and wait. When it did start going, the music was so loud that it hurt.
Unfortunately the lighting in there was really bad so we didnâ€™t come away with a whole lot.
Today was when things got a little crazy. We were going to their annual Carnivale festival in La Vega. Itâ€™s basically like their Mardi Gras except the costumes are REALLY ornate (and evil looking). This is a celebration of their independence from Haiti. For some reason, as part of the tradition, they have ropes with bean bags on the end and they go around and hit people on the butt. Unfortunately some of the people get mean and they fill there bean bags with something really hard and hit people as hard as they can. At the end of the day I got nailed and it hurt to sit for the next four days!
Anyway, so we got there really early. Likeâ€¦REALLY early just to scope the scene and get the lay of the land. Carnivale was one of the main reasons for this trip so we wanted to be as prepared as possible. It didnâ€™t take long to be prepared and then we had about 7 hours left to kill so we just walked around, hung out, etc. etc. etc. We found a baseball game going on so took a few pictures of that:
Then we just looked around and tried to find weird characters walking around â€“ like this guy:
By about 4:00 pm, it started to get really crowded. The music was blaring, the sun was beating down hard and the party was starting.
When the parade got going, it was just total insanityâ€¦the costumes were beautiful but insane and scary at the same time. Combine these scary masks with people running around and hitting each other and security pushing through to keep the parade moving, etc. etcâ€¦it was just nuts! Cheridy and I must have looked official with our big cameras and packs that we had because security let us through wherever we needed to go and let us stand wherever we wanted. We got a nice spot up on a platform where we were able to capture a lot of cool shots.
After being there for a while, it was time to move and get a better vantage point. Thatâ€™s where things got ugly. It was so crowded, we literally felt like we were going to get crushed or trampled as everyone was pushing in every direction. It was so hot and everyone was sweating and we were just covered with other peoples sweat as everyone got smashed together.
Finally we made it up on another platform and were able to take a few more shots:
There was no place to stop so we had to just keep moving as we were essentially being pushed through. All we could do is try to protect our camera gear from getting broken.
Eventually we realized that we were done and there was no possible way to get any more photos in those conditions. We had to just ride it out and push our way through and try to make it out to the main square where we could breathe again. We made it out and sat and waited for the rest of the guys to make it through.
At that point panic set in as I realized that my pouch with passports, credit cards, cash, plane ticketsâ€¦everything had been taken from me. I mentally went back in time and thought it through. I am very anal and careful to protect that stuff so I keep in in a money pouch that goes around my neck and underneath my t-shirt. However, at some point I took it off and I must have been wearing one of our camera packs and instead of putting it back over my head, I put it in my pocket (I think) and then it got pickpocketed in the crowd. STUPID mistake!!!! The choice was to either carry it with us or leave it in a van being loosely watched by someone we didnâ€™t know who may or may not watch the van for the entire 8 hours we were there. I chose to keep everything on meâ€¦that was a mistake. A BIG mistake!!! A HUUUUUUGGGGEEEE mistake!!
We drove back to Cabarete to the condo where it was time to start figuring out what to do.
Today we were supposed to go scouting to some locations for our next trip which will be in April. However, we were unable to do that because we had a lot of phone calls and things to figure out. We were supposed to fly home that afternoon but didnâ€™t know if it would be possible anymore. After canceling our credit cards, bank cards, etc. we called the local consulate and he informed us that the only thing that we could do was drive 4.5 hours across the island to Santo Domingo and go to the US Consolate to get a new passport. Unfortunately they are only open Mon, Wed, Fri from 7:30-9:00 am and it was already Monday morning so we were going to have to wait 2 days to even get to the consulate. The rest of our team flew home that afternoon but they left us some money along with leaving us in good hands. The project manager for the resort development project is named Birch. He is an American guy and he helped us to get passport applications, file a police report, get passport photos etc. which took half the day. Then he had one of his crew (Aponte) take us to Santo Domingo that evening. Aponte is an amazing guy. Heâ€™s a Dominican and his family lives in Santo Domingo (south shore) but heâ€™s currently working in Cabarete (north shore) on the construction project. We had a great conversation with him on the drive down. At sunset, we stopped on the side of the mountain road so I could grab this picture:
He dropped us off at a hotel in the historic district where we new we would be staying for at least two nights.
The next day we new we had the whole day to kill so we decided to make the most of it and walk around the historical district of Santo Domingo. Again, we were there during their independence celebration so everything was closed which made it hard to get questions answered related to our passport debacle.
In the morning we just walked around town and took pictures of the old architecture:
There were lots of parades and celebrations and stuff going on related to their President. There were many times that we new he was coming based on the security guards where suits and earpieces followed by a parade of soldiers, but after waiting and waiting and waiting, we decided to just go as we werenâ€™t sure that we were going to be able to take any photos with our telephoto lenses anyway. We went back to the hotel to relax for a bit:
We went back out in the afternoon and just photographed some more scenes around town:
Santo Domingo is on itâ€™s way up, but itâ€™s not really a tourist destination yet. There were still VERY poor areas and parts of the city were very filthy.
Later we stumbled on a military parade which was kind of weird. There were hundreds of soldiers lined up and ready to march so we sat and waited for the parade to startâ€¦.and waitedâ€¦and waited. The soldiers just stood there for about an hour as we just sat and waited. Then two hours past. After 2.5 hours, they finally started to march. We were in shock that they just stood there in full uniform in the beating down sun. I just donâ€™t understand why they had to wait there for so long.
They finally started to move:
That night we had dinner and went back to the hotel to sleep because we new we would have a long day tomorrow.
The next morning Aponte picked us up very early and drove us to the US Consulate where he dropped us off. The lines were already long at 6:45 am and the desk was supposed to open at 7:30 am. We waited in line outside and filled out a few forms. Most of the people there were Dominicans including the ones that worked there. Luckily there were a few people who spoke English which really helped! After that line, we were moved into another line to go through security. Once through, we went inside the building which was essentially a wide open room with bench seating for hundreds of people. We were told that our passport photos that we got in Cabarete would not work so we had to pay to get them retaken which meant another line. Once we got those done, another line. We waited as they belted out letters and numbers over a loudspeaker (in Spanish) and had to rely on people near us to tell us if it was our turn or not but it was so muffled that they could barely make it out.
Then we moved to another line. Then another line, then we got to get in the line to pay for everything before getting moved to another line. Once through that line, we were finally at the counter. BUTâ€¦it wasnâ€™t the final counter. It was the counter where you turn in all your paperwork before you go to wait in the waiting room. The only reason we even made it this far is because I had copies of our passports uploaded to the internet so I was able to print those out and use those for proof of citizenship. If we did NOT have those, we would have had to have someone fly down from the United States that could prove that theyâ€™ve known us for over two years who could vouch for us. What a nightmare. Anyway, they told us that we would have our passports either the same day or in ten days. AAACCKKKKKK!!! So after that whole ordeal, now we got to go into the final waiting room. Where we satâ€¦and satâ€¦.and sat. 2.5 hours later we were still there. There were people that had come in a long time AFTER us that had already come and gone. It was VERY frustrating. Cheridy started to get really upset and went to the counter to find out why everyone else was going first, but they totally blew her off. Finally we got called in and the woman we sat with was very sympathetic and informed us that if we came back at 3:00 pm, we could pick up an emergency passport.
At that point, we left the consulate to call Aponte who was working nearby. Birch really needed him back on the other side of the island but it was going to be another 2 hours before we could go back to the Consulate and then we had NO idea how long it would take to actually get the document. We were pretty sure that Aponte was going to have to go so we tried to figure out where the bus station was and figure out how the heck we would make it back. Even though Aponte really had to go, he decided to stick it out with us and save us the hassle of trying to make it across the island on our own. We picked up our passports at 3:00 and it actually went quickly and then we left to head back to Cabarete with a huge burden lifted off our shoulders. We called the airline who said that we could get seats on the flight out tomorrow afternoon and there would be no ticket change fee because they were business class seats. That was a good thing since we had hardly any money left and no credit cards.
Weâ€™re back at the condo in Cabarete and we our flight from Puerto Plata was not going to leave until 5:30 pm so we had the whole day to wait. We decided to make the most of it and head back on the beach to shoot some more photos of anything and everything.
In the early afternoon, the winds picked up and the kite boarders were out in full force:
Birch drove us to the airport mid-afternoon and dropped us off. On the way to the airport, we realized that our cell phone was plugged in back at the condo to recharge it before our flight home. Fantastic!! Weâ€™re idiots!! However, we knew that we were going back there next month, so no big dealâ€¦weâ€™ll get it later.
So we get to the checkin desk at the airport and they now inform us that we have to pay $240 as a ticket change fee even though we were told that we did NOT have to pay it earlier. At this point, we only have $50 left, no credit cards, and no cell phone to call home to have someone in the States pay for the tickets. We were drained, frustrated, and had no idea what we were going to do. Cheridy went through her purse to see if she had any spare money and in the process realized that she had one of our personal credit cards that hadnâ€™t been cancelled. Praise God because we NEVER travel with that card. After an hour and half at the counter trying to get everything straightened out, we finally had plane tickets again. When we got to security, they had never seen an Emergency US passport before so they wanted to see some other picture ID. Ummmmâ€¦we didnâ€™t have anything elseâ€¦that was it!!! Againâ€¦we didnâ€™t know what we were going to do.
Eventually the security guard let us through. When we got to the gate, there was yet another problem with the boarding pass that had to get resolved. AAAAAAAAGGHHH!! Get us the heck out of here!!!!!!!!!!!
We finally made it to Miami, got through customs and then were informed that lots of flights were being cancelled due to storms in the midwest and the east cost. Again, thank the Lord, but our plane left on time and we made it home at about 2:00 am.
Itâ€™s good to be home.
We had been gone much longer than planned so we were behind on everything and playing catch-up to try to get everything done.