My last full weekend in the Dominican Republic was spent at a resort. Yes, after an entire year living in the Caribbean, I finally stayed at a resort. I had visited a resort in Puerta Plata during the day once but had never had the full experience. Our friend from Puerto Rico came to the Dominican Republic to celebrate his birthday, so we all went to Bavaro’s Ocean Blue resort for a weekend.
Last summer, when I told friends or family that I was heading to the Dominican Republic for a year, I generally received one of the following responses:
- Where’s that? Are you doing Peace Corps? (I would respond that it was a Caribbean island and no, I would be working as a teacher in a private school)
- Why would you go there? Stay in America! (I heard this a lot from Dominicans or other people of Caribbean descent, to which I would respond that I wanted to spend a year abroad and I liked the Dominican Republic from my past experiences there working with an NGO)
- I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC!
Those who gave the third response were generally those who had only been to resorts. They always had amazing vacations and I was eager to see what my weekend would be like, especially after a year living in the islands’ capital.
Ocean Blue’s property was beautifully manicured and all of the staff very attentive. I could definitely see why people love going to resorts. We relaxed by the pool, tried our hands at archery, danced the night away, and ate sooo much. It was the perfect way to celebrate our friends birthday; we didn’t have to clean, cook, or even think about anything. The resort had plenty of activities not to mention a wonderful beach front, pool with swim-up bar, and if we wanted to pay extra, a spa and gym. It was the “perfect” vacation in many ways and for me was much needed after many months of teaching.
Here’s where I get a little more introspective. While I did enjoy the weekend, I had read and watched documentaries about how resort culture affects the local economy, ecology and psyche. Many foreign-owned resorts reap the benefits and give very little back to the country itself. Here’s an interesting article discussing some of the potential issues arising with all-inclusive resorts. It was hard to shift from life in the capital where I saw real poverty daily to the reality of the resort, where our every need was met. It pained me to realize that most vacationers do not understand the reality of the Dominican Republic because they don’t leave the resort, save for the tourist-friendly immediate areas or on adventure excursions, but sometimes a vacation is simply that – a vacation.
Another facet of the resort experience is the “Sanky Panky,” a stereotype previously used to refer to sex workers. Currently, it refers to locals who are either beach bums or resort workers, usually those who provide guests with entertainment like dance lessons and beach games and try to seduce foreigners for their money or Visa status. Not all resort workers are Sankys, but many fit the stereotype, being very friendly and flirty. Since I was with a group of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, we didn’t interact much with the staff, but we had fun observing. Of course, many guests do enjoy the attention and relationships can develop. There are even websites dedicated to determining whether your foreign boyfriend is a Sanky.
Overall, I am glad we went to Ocean Blue and I think it put the finishing touch on my year abroad. It was a relaxing, enjoyable weekend. My recommendation for you, dear reader, is that if you’re looking for a real cultural experience, check out Cabarete, Las Terrenas, or Santo Domingo. But, if you want a worry-free vacation to unwind, I’ll see you by the pool!