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Field Notes: Adventures in the Dominican Republic (Part 3)

By Erik Hogan

Cold instant coffee in a plastic water bottle stares at me as I stir in bed. The air conditioner drones on as I stare back. The tension is thick in the stillness of the small room. The cold coffee. Me. It is the quintessence of a love/hate relationship.

I break first, and sip the beverage as I peek through the bars of the high window in the room. The morning appears lackluster, so I forego a trip to the roof to photograph the dawn.

Instead, I find myself sitting quietly in the lobby downstairs, waiting for the rest of the group to awake and get ready. A tiny dog slumbers in the chair next to me. Red and white stairs with railings and banisters spiral upward from where I am seated in silent chaos. The Hotel Kevin hostess, an angel dressed as a middle aged woman, brings me a hot cup of coffee as I wait.

As our group convenes, we move to our host church for breakfast. Once we have eaten our fill, it is time for the day’s labor. This time we need only go down to the courtyard of this church.

Stacks of rebar await. The goal is to fashion it all into the inner framework of the pillars that will eventually be placed in the foundations that we helped dig yesterday. Several church members with experience in constructing such pillars are there to help. They create simple tools out of scrap pieces of rebar, designed to help twist wire around metal to hold the shapes together. We are shown how to bend the bars to right angles using wooden braces against a wall.

So, as the heat of late morning grows, we bend and twist and shape until the metallic skeletons begin to take form.

In the afternoon we go exploring. Today we walk the town of Puerto Plata, absorbing the character and flavor of this venerable little city by the sea. Color saturation dominates the cityscape. Buildings pop with bright yellow and teal. Window shutters and doorways are dressed in shades of blue. Lush flowers grow abundantly.

One small pedestrian street and everything in it is painted a uniform pink. It is almost difficult to look at under the direct overhead sunlight. Another street is roofed with multi-colored umbrellas.

The fascinating vibrancy of the town can only be seen as a direct reflection of the warm and welcoming nature of the people I have encountered here.

From the central plaza of Puerto Plata we walk north to a park on a small peninsula jutting out towards the sea. A large amphitheater stands empty, filled only by the hot afternoon wind. A lonely donkey lazily grazes in a patch of grass nearby. He wears what appears to be a saddle speckled with more vibrant warm colors and seems entirely content with his position in life.

Exposed to the ocean, this park is battered by wind. Flags pop and snap. Palm fronds thrash. The constant pressure of moving air has bent sturdy bushes into off centered, stooped shapes. But in the afternoon sunlight the wind feels amazing!

This park is also home to San Felipe Fort. It is a Spanish fort, dating to the 1500’s, that overlooks the harbor. An ancient silent sentinel, the fortifications stand unmoving before the backdrop of a mountaintop perpetually touching the clouds.

The day has been a full one, with labor and with exploration. Our group returns in the evening for dinner, followed by a time of socializing with some youth from the church. The laughter filled conversation continues into the dark hours. It is a wonderment of learning about different cultures, as colorful as the town itself.

To be continued…

Erik Hogan is a photographer who primarily shoots landscape, wilderness, and nature scenes in the Athens area.

Follow on Instagram @erikhoganphotography Erik's sketchbook includes a look behind the scenes, with an option to purchase a limited number of prints through the link in his bio. htttps://erikhoganphotography.com.

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