Goodbye Forever, Punta Cana [Guest Post]

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to travel as a celiac sufferer? No, I haven’t either, but as it turns out, it can actually be quite funny, especially if you throw in a few kids and a language barrier. So without further ado, I’ll let the good people at www.thegutreaction.com take over.

 

Goodbye Forever, Punta Cana

Airplane in the Sky

There are so few things I am certain of in life, but I know for sure that I will never again step foot in the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic, and more specifically, Punta Cana, hates me.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had a trip planned long before I knew I’d be on the medically necessary Fasano diet while there. My family of five, along with my sister’s family of four, and my mother’s family of two were all going together. Right before the trip, people got sick. My mother fractured her coccyx. I was dealing with my food issues and dehydrating snacks like a mad woman. We all questioned if we should even go. Or perhaps, this was a sign, an omen, that we should not go anywhere near the DR?

Nope. That’s absurd. Enthusiastically, we forged ahead.

My family met my sister, her husband, and her two young sons at Logan Airport in Boston. My mom and her man were already on their way, having taken an earlier flight.

We stepped up to the counter and handed over our passports. I heard the following words, I swear, in super slow motion with an echo effect.

“Sir, your passport has expired. . . ired. . . ired. . . ired.”

As the Jet Blue associate handed back my brother-in-law’s expired passport, he valiantly asked if they could “let it slide” maybe “just this once”. When she refused, he tossed his passport so high into the air it sprouted wings and flew away.

The tough decision was made that my bro-in-law would stay behind and the rest of us would go. My sister announced that from that moment forward she would initiate a No-Sharing-Suitcases Rule. She ended up bringing all her husband’s clothes on the trip since they were mixed in with her stuff in one massive bag. So off we went, a two-year-old, four-year-old, six-year-old, ten-year-old, twelve-year-old, three discombobulated adults, and lots of extra clothing in a size that fit no one.

A stellar start. I frantically texted my mother to let her know what happened so she didn’t faint upon our arrival. She did thank me for this later.

The weather, beach, and ocean were beyond beautiful. While trying to enjoy this, the week was spent in the following manner, which could easily fill the pages of a novel no one would read:

Each meal I raced around the dining room, trying to find safe food at a buffet for myself and my celiac daughter. Buffet style restaurants are probably the worst set up for celiacs, second only to the crapshoot of a pot luck dinner.

The hotel quickly realized that if they dumped four new containers of Nutella on us at every meal, we’d shut up. Nutella, in large enough amounts, will make your teeth chatter.

In the DR, gluten free actually means gluten reduced, since the gluten free menu at one restaurant stated that all the gf meals contained regular soy sauce. When I pointed out that the soy sauce container listed wheat, they made those “oopsy, my bad” faces.

We knocked over six or seven glasses per meal each day, leaving a trail of broken remnants in our wake. I said the word “sorry” every fifth minute.

My oldest daughter and I tried to play tennis with the tennis pro. He was drunk at 9am, and my intuitive preteen whispered “something is seriously wrong with that man” and “he smells horrible”.

The song, “La Cucaracha,” came in handy as we were able to explain in our limited Spanish that our hotel room was infested with cockroaches who were quickly relocating into our luggage.

We all got sick to our stomachs, celiacs and non-celiacs alike. By the end of the trip my husband was down to three bites of food a day, followed by lengthy bouts of intense, searing, abdominal pain. For our final meal he dined alone, hoping to avoid the inevitable shards of glass surrounding our table on his race to the restroom.

And then, for the grand finale.

We went to a place called Dolphin Explorer. If you google this you will find pretty good reviews. I certainly did, and we were eager to go. My sister and two older daughters hoped to fulfill the dream of swimming with dolphins. I would fulfill the dream of photographing my sister and kids swimming with dolphins. Sounds awesome, right?

We invested a small fortune in tickets and fees. We were informed that even the youngest among us would enjoy themselves. We were also told to bring cameras, to capture these precious moments on film. Yet as we stepped onto the dock for our dolphin encounter, ALL OF OUR CAMERAS WERE CONFISCATED AND LOCKED UP IN A GIANT, METAL BOX. The dolphin security guard broke it to us that we were not allowed to use our own cameras to photograph captured dolphins unless we remained in a location where we could not see any captured dolphins.

My husband began to swear. I held hands with the miserable, younger children who only wanted leave or eat M&M’s. I felt that this moment could be the end. The bad omen was about to hit.

Sea Lion Under a Tree

The poor dolphins did their thing (depressed me) and we headed back to receive kisses from an adorable sea lion. My little nephews and youngest daughter wanted to bail. This was no place for the under-eight crowd.

“Please keep your sons quiet,” they told my sister, “sea lions are wild animals with giant teeth and will attack if upset by noise.”

Awesome sales pitch, I thought. Luckily, all heads were intact after receiving sloppy sea lion kisses. I let my kids do it but no way was I going near that thing!

As we were leaving, we politely explained to an employee that we were instructed to bring cameras for pictures and they were taken away during the dolphin show. “If you pay me ten bucks I’ll put all your pictures on CD for you. We are very sorry for the mistake,” the man offered, fist-bumping my husband. We thanked him and handed over the money.

Yet when we went to collect our CD, we were then told we owed $80 if we wanted any photos.

My sister swore like a drowning sailor. She insisted we leave and threatened to write a bad review about how they treat people.

“Auntie, we need our pictures,” my daughter insisted.

“You’ll have the fond memories,” my sister growled.

We turned to leave, only to be told that the bus to the hotel already left without us.

We walked the few miles back to the hotel, flanked on both sides by a pack of wild, stray dogs. The dogs were also pissed off.

And although our flights were delayed in both directions, we somehow made it home to Boston. I have never been happier to see snow.

Goodbye forever, Punta Cana.

Punta Cana Street Signs

For more about being forced to live a gluten-free life, check out www.thegutreaction.com.
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