An American Abroad

Boca Chica

One of the great things about staying in hostels is that it’s easy to meet people who are going out to see what’s to be seen, just like you. I like traveling alone. But I also enjoy connecting with other travelers for short excursions. Which is what happened when I met Shuqiang Ma.

Ma is a 56 year old Chinese man who lives in Riga, Latvia. He is a serious, committed traveler and has visited over 90 countries. I liked him immediately. We chatted about southwest China where I used to live, and I was happy to find that he had been to many of the towns in Yunnan Province that I visited. Though he hadn’t been in Santo Domingo any longer than I, he has already sussed out the cheapest ways to get around. I discovered later that he also has an excellent sense of direction, which is always a good quality in a travel companion.

Over breakfast at the Island Life Backpackers Hostel, he mentioned that he was going to Boca Chica that morning and asked if I’d like to come along. Why not?

Ma had already scoped out a public bus that runs from Santo Domingo to Boca Chica and that costs only a few dollars. We set off to find the bus station together. Ma led us there in fifteen minutes.

The ride out to Boca Chica tracked the coastline as we headed east. The bus was full. I sat hip-to-hip next to a lushly-upholstered Dominican woman named Rosa. Once the bus driver cranked up the salsa, Rosa began singing along and dancing in her seat. Being the nearest available dance partner, I began sit-dancing along with her. We cracked each other up. Across the aisle, Ma look on, bemused.

As we headed out of the city, the road tracked the Caribbean shore. In thirty minutes, we were at Boca Chica, a town whose major attraction is its public beach. The place had a slightly seedy, over-used look to it. Other travelers had warned us that the touts, pimps, and souvenir salesmen there were a constant annoyance, but though we did encounter a few such people, it was hardly overwhelming. And they generally took one firm no for an answer.

We were here:

Ma and I took turns swimming in the warm, calm Caribbean waters.

Lots of Dominicans were out for a Sunday swim too.

One of the more unusual sights at the beach was a children’s play area with a swing set topped with roughly-scuplted airplanes. I was even more surprised to see American and Israeli flags on the planes. I couldn’t decide if this was some sort of political commentary — and if so, if it was intended to be positive or negative.

After a few hours, we walked through the edge of the town to the bus stop and headed back to Santo Domingo.

By the time we were back at the hostel, I was feeling the effects of the sun and sea and took a brief nap before rising to go explore again.

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