Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Red White and Booze

When you’re on an island with as slow a pace as this, you don’t end up doing half the things you anticipated. We were hoping to have a nice, final dinner out, maybe party it up, but instead we were caught off guard by an invitation to the resort’s VIP Fourth of July party. It was last minute in terms of us not knowing about it until late today, and also last minute because the staff just decided to do it. Our poor host Eduardo even had to scramble to put it together.

And what a fine job he did. Like the other night, libations were in full effect. An American-style barbecue was prepared for the masses. And they’d even hired a pretty decent live band. Over coco locos and Santo libres and ice cold Presidentes, we enjoyed our last night on the resort’s tab in style. There was even another full-blown fireworks display as the band played “Born in the USA.” The humidity was a killer, and things looked grim when a tropical rain started to fall during dinner, but everything went off without a hitch.

Naturally, the vacationing jingoist factor was in full effect. People in stars-and-stripes do rags; American flag and eagle shirts; even a champion Midwestern woman with a bit of a mullet, a red striped sleeveless button-up, and navy blue mom-jean shorts. Ahh, Americana! The staff were more than happy to humor everyone – after all, they know where their bread is buttered – and even I had to get choked up at the playing of the national anthem, the big flags, and the ginormous American flag cake. Ok, maybe I meant cracked up. Especially because the flag cake was drawn backwards!

Yes, even a non-flag-waving, unpatriotic curmudgeon like myself had a wonderful time, and appreciated all the hard work that went into this last minute affair. It would have been hard not to.

While I’m a backpacker at heart and don’t care much for package vacations, I have to go out of my way to acknowledge the incredible job the folks at Lifestyles do to make sure everyone has a comfortable and enjoyable time.

Scared by the prospect of bad commercial hip-hop at the onsite nightclub, J, Elena and I returned to the villa to unwind with a few more cocktails and hang out well into the night. We’d polished off all the Brugal, so it made sense to crack open the Absolut and the Beefeater and our bottles of tonic water. After all, the quinine in it will hopefully prevent any malaria that may result from the super-humid evening’s mosquito bites.

The last night is always the most bittersweet. We talked about how amazing a time we’ve had. I wasn’t allowed to mention how much I dreaded leaving tomorrow, nor regret things we didn’t do. We focused on all the great things we’d done and all the great people we’d met in such a short time. I realized that in all the traveling and adventure-seeking I’ve been doing for the past several years, this was probably the most relaxing and refreshing holiday I’ve taken in ages.

In a world full of crazy overland adventures, extreme sports, marathon journeys, solo expeditions, and punishing itineraries, sometimes a short, immersive break with your friends is all you need. Gracias, mis amigos.

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