Thursday, July 12, 2007


They're coming outta the CEILING!

Day TWO: Monday, July 2
I take Matthew on a crab hunting expedition where David and I were yesterday. He is thrilled. He collects a double-eight-year-old-handful of the tiny crabs, occasionally putting them down and attempting to recover them all as they scuttle off in every direction. It's surprising how quickly they give up on retreating inside their shells. Do they somehow determine that if we are not going to eat them or pry off their legs in the first two minutes, then they might as well stay out and perpetually attempt escape?

Matthew and Jaime point out a discovery of theirs: there are many small, green or brown lizards traversing the thatched cielings, beams, and poles of the resort buildings and shade/rain shelters. Crabs are cool, but lizards are better. And faster.

3:30 - 6:00 Urged on by Liz, Jaime, and David, I take my juggling balls and arrive a little early at trapeze. This has exactly the desired effect. PG strikes up some juggling related conversation and shows me a few things. Other circus school teachers and students alternately join in and continue juggling on and off for the rest of the trapeze time.

I progress through the second position on trapeze. It sounds like it's called "Hawks off." I am ready for the catch, but mess it up by hepping too late. The timing with the catch trapeze is off, so they yell "No catch." They don't even let me backflip to the net. It's just "Let go and sit in de net when I say 'hep.' Hep." David is openly pleased, as is Liz, that I'll be taking another day to get to the next position.

Circus Team is very playful today. They pose for pictures, attempt feats of balance and strength with the GMs and each other, and offer advice to those interested. Many of us get in on the fun. I attempt a couple of positions, Matthew attempts some perpendicular ladder balancing, Molly balances on the shoulders of Kevin and myself.

Sometime later Jaime shows us the tiniest lizard I have ever seen. She has caught it in a cup. Partway through the viewing, and just prior to release, the little creature reaches around to its tail, which has taken on a slightly different colour, and casually pulls off the last 4 or 5 mm. It pauses a moment with it hanging from its mouth. I imagine it sheepishly justifying: "Well. If you'd had me by the tail this would've been really impressive."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


We are the survivors of Air Canada flight 833


The first thing Matthew has to say as we step off the plane is "It smells bad here." This reminds me of getting off the plane in Louisiana and noting that everything smells like pee. It's the hot and the humidity. Clothing is immediately shed. Retrieving our luggage and passing through customs goes without a hitch, and Liz and David meet us on the far side. We take a van to the gates of Club Med, and head in.
I gawk openly in all directions at once. Mostly at the fantastic plant life and the ocean. On arrival at the reception desk, we are each given a very tasty red drink. Seems to be fruit punchy. The four of us knock our drinks back, drop our stuff off at our room and have a last minute supper at the open air restaurant Hispaniola. David and Liz impatiently await our first sampling of what is apparently one of the best things about Club Med: white chocolate bread. And, yes, it is remarkably delicious. I vow to have a piece with every meal for the duration of the two week visit.
It's getting dark, and I've been desperate to jump into the pool since arrival, so, since it's too dark for the ocean, David and I suit up and head down for a very brief dip in the warm outdoor pool.

Day ONE: Sunday, July 1
There are age specific clubs here for all the kids (Mini Club Med). We all get up and ready, have a delicious breakfast, and drop the kids at their clubs. We expect resistance from Matthew, but benefit from the "I don't know you, so I can't be openly snotty to you yet" effect. He heads off to archery with the group with a distantly confused look that makes me think even he's surprised he's going without a fight.

Jaime goes to Yoga with Liz while David and I walk the beach and check out the low, craggy outcroppings over the water near the restaurant. There are two apparently legitimate shipwrecks what looks like about three hundred meters off the beach. Perhaps noticing a familiar twinkle in my eyes, David answers my unvoiced question, saying that we aren't allowed to go near the ships. But they look so wrecky and dangerous. I pout.

I spy a lizard, many crabs, and some very strange crustacean-y things that seal themselves against the surface of the rocks. Farther on, David comments on the small shells moving about and further inspection reveals that the ground around us is teeming with little hermit crabs. Many great photos follow as we wonder why they like this particular location, whether they truly top out at around 3/4" across or if they are hampered by availability of larger snail shells. We propose that maybe when they get bigger, they go further away or become more flavourful, thus explaining the dearth of larger specimens.

Several times I peer to the point of land far (but not too far) ahead of us, where the resort territory ends. There is one of the many ever-present white-clad guards posted there. No one gets in for free? Or no one leaves?


So, at 4:00 every afternoon, between four and six Circus School instructors meet at a large trapeze apparatus for the entertainment and instruction of any Gentilles Membres (GM) bold enough to risk life and image in the pursuit of acrobatic pre-excellence. THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER CONCEIVED OF IN THE HISTORY OF RESORT VACATIONS.
Liz instructs me to take a seat on one of two long silver benches facing the apparatus.
Kevin, the leader of Circus Team, is a large, intimidating, slab of black granite that speaks in brief spurts of English thickly coated with Jamaican accent. He counts "One. Two. Tree. Welcome to Punta Cana Circus School." Everyone claps and hoots. "We ar going to do some introductions. I'm Kevin and I am head of Circus School. I speak English only, and I am from Jamaica. This is Andree, she from Canada, from Quebec, an she speak French and English. This is Mona Lisa. She is from Switzerland an she speak six languages. She speak German, English, French, Dutch, German...and she never smile. She strict cos she German. Right Mona?"
Mona responds from up on the deck, "Who cares?"
Kevin continues: "This is Facro. He from Italy and he speak English, French, and Italian. This is Baz. He from Indonesia, and he speak English, French, Chinese, Japanese. And dis is PG-13." He motions to a young man with a blond pony tail and a name tag that reads 'PG'. "He from France. You can call him Piggy.
"Who here are first time? Okay, first, we are goin to go troo some rules. If you want to go on trapeze, you most be towatalee dry. No wet on de trapeze. If you tink you maybe wet: you wet - go change. If you tink y'or mostly dry, yo'r too wet - go change and come back. No shoes on de bench. No flip flops. Necklace, no. Hat, no. Watch, no. Bracelet, no. Leave yar tings ova dere. Nobody goin ta steal from you on de trapeze. No sun cream on de trapeze. If you put sun cream on yar hands ar legs, you cannot go on trapeze. Go wash ee toff wit sowap. If you urt, or ave surgery, no. Back problems, neck problems, no. For da girls: no pregnant. No babies on de trapeze. No men, too if you think it possible. We don't want a baby born wit de nationalitee of 'Trapeze'."
Although Liz described him as a grouchy, humourless, drill sargeant of a man, I find him funny and instantly endearing.
"Next, de Circus Team eez always riyitt. If you tink maybe we called wrong or you tink we make a mistake and you want to blame Circus Team, blame youself, Circus Team eez always riyitt. Next we have Chocolate bar rule: you do what de caller says. When you up dere, we going to say your name. We say "Ready." Then we say "hep." This means "jump" in the circus. We say "hep" and you don' jump. That's a choclat bar. You let go too soon on de trapeze, and we have to save you life, that's a choclat bar. Me, I like white choclat. PG?"
Andree: "M&M Peanut for me"
Mona: "Twix."
Baz: "I like Ferrero Rocher."
Facro: "No choclat. Cheeseburger."
"Okay, who here knows what Circus Benefit means?"
"Okay, Circus Team we get a book. It's called a bar book, and it has maybe thirteen leafs in it. When we go to de bar, we use de leafs. We get a orange juice, that's maybe one leaf. We get a hamburger, that's four leafs. We get a rum and Coke, that's four leafs. So the book is gone in, like, tree days. So we have Circus Benefit. If you see us in de bar, you get to drink for free, so you ask us what we want, and bring it to us. That's Circus Benefit. Now, for de teenagers, you can do Circus Benefit, too. You see us in de snack bar, you can buy us a cheeseburger. Circus Benefit."
He chooses a woman to demonstrate and narrates a demonstration of Knee-hang, the first position we will learn. First, a team member puts a safety belt on you. I come to learn over time that if it's PG, you can't breath. No one's slipping out of their belt on PG's watch. If it's anyone else, you are simply uncomfortable. Up the ladder you go until you are above the net, which seems to be about ten feet from the ground. Moving around the ladder, over the net, you continue for another twenty-some feet. Turning left, you reach out with one foot to the deck, then transfer your remaining limbs to the deck. You hang on nervously to a mostly taught rope waiting while the person before you goes. When the safety line is sent back up, the team member on deck tells you to come around the rope and then secures you to the safety line. Your widen your stance and lean out hips first over nothing while your left hand and the team member's grip on the back of your belt keeps you from tumbling. A bar is pulled to your right hand and you must release the left hand (still on the rope) to take the bar. Now it's just you, the bar, and a Circus Team member pulling back against your forward weight. That member calls your name, "First time, ready, HEP!" On "ready," you bend your knees. On "hep," you jump. Unless, like me, the rapidity of the words and the thickness of the accent causes you to pause there wondering if you've been told to jump, and, if so, why you haven't yet done so. In this case they repeat: "HEP! JUMP NOW!" And then you do.
The person "flying," or manning the safety lines (sort of like a belayer in wall climbing) takes over calling.
"Legs traight. Okay, NOW, legs up, ook your legs on de bar. Good. Let go y'or ands. Arch y'or back, ed UP! Now grab de bar. Legs down in front. Legs together, keep your feet back. Okay, you gon do tree fast kicks. FORWARD, BACK, FORWARD, let go, grab your knees, and sit in de net."
And, if you're still me, you kick too hard, curl right up, and do a double back flip off the bar, landing on your back in the net dizzy and disoriented.
Then you catch hell from Kevin for doing so. But you get it right the second time and move on to "the catch."
Waiting in line seems boring to many of the people waiting, but I find it exciting. I cheer for every attempt; brilliant or failed. I whisper instructions to the members and to the Circus Team while willing positive karma to everyone around me. Just being around this is energizing. We watch 14 year olds throw themselves off with abandon, middle-aged mother's steel their resolve and swing out over thin looking net, and first timers conquer (if barely) their fear of heights. A few need to be talked into swinging that first leg off the ladder and out onto the deck, releasing their white-knuckled fingers from the metal rungs to clasp the single vertical rope that aids their balance until the safety lines can be attached to their belts.
Those who get the position right are invited to try for the catch. The team 'closes the line' (no more practicing) and gives instructions to those who will try the catch.
Those who are on Knee-hang, are sternly reminded to wait for the catcher to bark "catch" before releasing their legs, but also to not hesitate.
"You wait too long, you gonna leave you skin on de bar. Den we take dat an eet eet wit salt. Dat's how Circus Team eez so trong".
Pictured below is me doing my first catch:

Most (all?) nights there is a live show at the theatre. Tonight we saw the Circus Show. It was appropriately breathtaking, given the level of ability we've glimpsed at circus school. I doubt my pictures will do it justice.

Song du Jour: "Clubbed to Death" from the Matrix soundtrack (played to one of this evening's circus acts).

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The island told me to.

Welcome to PuntaPost ONE!

This is only day three on the island and there is so much I'm sure i will forget to post about. It may also be a challenge getting all the photos up that I hope to include, but we shall see.

TRAVEL: June 30/07
This was my third occasion to fly (rather than count connecting flights and return trips), Jaime's second, I think, and Molly and Matt's first. At least that either of them will remember.

Matthew has been expressing concern for some time that the plane will explode, crash, or both. I expect that the few episodes of LOST he managed to watch have affected his interest in flying. Our take of from Saskatoon (at 6:00 am) went smoothly. The taxiing didn't bother Matt at all, but the first few upward lurches overwhelmed him. He cried. Molly threw up shortly thereafter. The rest? Cake.

The four hour layover at Toronto airport was busy with eating, losing Matt's Nintendo DS, searching for the lost and found, not finding, searching for the proper terminal, and meeting and challenging some Peruvians to a game of Mario Kart DS.

I will figure out how to turn those shots right side up when I'm not paying $10 an hour for wireless internet access.

NEXT: leg two of the journey.

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