Tuesday, February 10, 2009
“Give me something to eat,” I said to the students. I was given a handful of white cheddar potato chips and a Halls Strawberry cough drop. I put the mint in my mouth first but got impatient and ate the potato chips too. Eating them both at the same time was a mistake because I kept biting down on the cough drop while I was trying to chew the chips. Not to mention the sweetness and saltiness made it taste like some kind of Chinese food gone bad. I had just tested out my theory that all you have to do in this country is say give me something “dame algo” and you get something. I had seen it before: done by children, old people and even grown men but had never had the nerve to try it for myself.
I was sitting at the maintenance building/Sleeping Cabin for the scientific reserve’s employees. I was soaking wet from the rain, freezing and pretty hungry; and so was everybody else but I seemed to be the only one who was a little grumpy about it. Maybe it was because in the rainstorm my cell phone got soaked in my backpack (which became a sponge after the first hour) and now it didn’t work. Or maybe just because I can’t really speak Spanish when the hypothermia kicks in. Either way everyone was having a great time and I was sitting there eating my chips and cough drop trying to figure out how I was going to fix my phone. Take it to the hair salon, the teacher/park ranger told me, have them put a blow dryer on it for a half hour and it will work fine. I didn’t believe him but I nodded and smiled anyway.
We had just hiked down one of the tallest mountains in the reserve from Observation Tower 1 and where now at the maintenance building. The funny thing about the Ebano Verde Scientific reserve being a cloud/rain forest is that its cloudy/rainy all the time. The teacher told me that we could have seen most of the country from the tower but because it was so foggy we had to settle for just seeing our hand in front of our face. The students where still very impressed and so was I, I think I will go back again when it is not so rainy or foggy.
The hike down was almost as ridiculous as the Summer camp with the 400 kids on the side of the mountain. This trip was much more organized and the kids were older, however, the rain played a huge role in the ridiculous-ness. Trails became small creeks, small creeks became ranging rivers and my clothing became soaked. The kids played a fun game called “kick up mud and water all of the back of the person in front of you,” needless to say I walked in the back of the line most of the day.
The scenery, despite the fog and rain, was really beautiful. We ended up seeing several endemic species of trees and flowers. The trail was also one of the cleanest trails I have seen in the country to this day. There was not a spec of litter for almost the entire trip. Most of the hike was next to a river that had grown pretty big during the storm and when we first got to the river I could not believe what I saw. The students just hopped right in for a picture (still wearing shoes and everything). I kept thinking they were going to all die from hypothermia but then I thought about how many people die in the Caribbean due to the cold (but for the record, one guy did last week when he jumped into the Aguas Blancas waterfall and it was too cold for him to swim out. He was from the capital so he didn’t know any better).
Anyway, since nobody died, I chalked it up as a good time. I realized that Dominicans are good at taking a situation that would seem pretty crappy and somehow having a great time anyway. The trail was muddy and so they started kicking and throwing mud at each other and because the river had covered the trail they jumped in and took a picture. I felt like kind of a fool for letting the cold and damaged cell phone get to me… especially after I took the phone to a Salon when I got back and they really did blow dry it until it worked again.