We got up early on Monday morning for two reasons. First of all, we wanted to see a bit more of the city with Jackson before his flight back to the states, and secondly, our enthusiasm for air conditioning had led us to set the thermostat somewhere around the temperature at which vodka freezes. The bare sheets without blankets that the hotel provided, while perfect for a cool Dominican evening, were unequipped to handle such an extreme temperature, and so I awoke around six with my blood the consistency of cake frosting.
Fortunately, stepping outside was an instantaneous cure for his deep chill, as the temperature in the Dominican Republic, though pleasant at night, reaches boiling point about two hours after sunrise. We all took another shower that morning(you really indulge when you get them so infrequently), and headed out to our main stop, the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Menor, the oldest cathedral in the Americas. This is a beautiful, old building, cobbled together from several different styles. It was constructed in the first half of the 16th century and used to harbor the remains of Christopher Columbus before they were moved to Seville. I found the ceiling to be most arresting, as it appeared to be simply constructed of smaller stones cut to fit against one another and hold each other in place. I’m sure this was the only method that they had of constructing it, and I can hardly think of a better, but it does look pretty cool. Apparently the cathedral had been recently refurbished, as all the stonework appeared new and almost reflective, but as Wikipedia doesn’t seem to have any information on any such project, I will have to chalk it up to the Cathedral’s impeccable janitorial staff. The cathedral additionally sports an extremely detailed audio-tour, although it is not precisely scintillating, and some might even call it “exhaustive”.
After the Cathedral we set about finding some food and wound up at a local Dominican diner-looking establishment with sandwiches, fried plantains, and whole chickens. All in all, it didn’t exactly look like the type of place where they wash their vegetables with bottled water, but what’s life without a little risk? We dragged ourselves out a half hour later, entirely stuffed, wondering why precisely we had felt the need to consume quite so much food, leaving us quite unable to tell whether we were experiencing painful fullness, or severe indigestion. After meandering back to the hotel, we picked the car up and drove Jackson to the nearby airport for his flight.
It was sad to see him go. It can’t be easy to join a group of three people who have spent the last 8 months in disturbingly close proximity to one another, for three weeks of living in severely cramped squalor He had to, upon arrival, begin sharing sheets, utensils, and inevitably germs, and come to terms with the fact that the only consistent daily topic of conversation is of bowel movements(this may seem weird until you consider that we are in each other’s presence for literally every other experience of the day…ok, maybe it’s still weird, but, I hope, understandable). We hit him with sleepless nights, bug attacks, and Montezuma’s revenge, and he bore it all with an unbelievably positive demeanor, and acclimated to the boat in what appeared to be mere minutes after his arrival. We can’t thank him enough for joining us, and it hasn’t been the same without him.