Santo Domingo had well-established scouting programs that interested our young teens (Dakota at 14 and Tina, 13). Both the Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops sponsored activities almost every weekend and our lives filled up with preparations for ten-mile hikes and camping trips.
The scout leaders invited parents to participate in a few of the scouts' camping trips and some of the longer hikes. Our whole family went on the camping expedition to Saona Island.
From Voluntary Nomads, Part Six: Dominican Republic Dramas, Chapter 25:
A Dominican naval vessel carried us out to sea. I stood at the rail and drank in the fresh sea air, keeping my eye on the horizon and watching for signs of the island. At first it looked like a tiny bump. The hump grew as we approached and it appeared to sprout fronds like a chia pet when we came closer.
I expected the ship to deliver us to the beach where we would set up our tents in the forest of coconut palms. But no, our captain cut the engines and dropped anchor in deep water several hundred meters off shore.
I felt my heart rate rise as a small motorboat putt-putted toward us. I didn't want to believe that such a feeble scow was meant to be our ferry. We had twenty people and an enormous pile of camping gear to convey across an expanse of water that seemed to widen as we waited. How many trips? Who would go first?
The prospect of transfer from naval vessel to lowly tub terrified me. The waves were too high. The ship lurched one way as the scow sloughed in the opposite direction. To step across the gap required some of the same skills as tightrope walking. I gasped as each scout made the leap. When my turn came, I held my breath and threw myself across the void. I stumbled and flopped like a flounder into the Scout Master's lap. Everyone laughed at my graceless landing so I hammed it up a bit, high on adrenaline and the thrill of landing in the boat instead of in the ocean.
On shore, the leaders told us that the main danger on this expedition was falling coconuts. They shocked and amazed us with terrible tales about legendary fatal head conkings. I kept a wary eye on the fruit hanging high above us, although I wasn't sure if the warnings were serious or tongue-in-cheek. All of the scouting activities went on as planned, and no one in our party got bonked.
Only a month after that successful scouting adventure on Saona Island, I felt inspired to assist the Girl Scout leader with a beach camping trip. We drove out of Santo Domingo with two vanloads of girls and gear and found a perfect spot near the town of Bayahibe. The scouts pitched their tents and made a fire ring for the evening's campfire. Then I suggested a hike on the beach.
We flipped a coin. Heads, we go north; tails, to the south. The twenty-five centavo piece landed heads up. About fifteen minutes up the beach from our campsite, we found a long, shallow tide pool that begged to be explored. As the girls poked sea urchins and chased tiny tropical fish and combative crabs, I climbed a rocky outcrop to see what lay beyond.
I took one look and spun around at once. The beach beyond the rock barrier was crowded with people. Naked people. Unclothed male human beings. Birthday-suited men demonstrating mutual affection.
I clambered down the rocks and quietly urged my charges to return to camp to begin dinner preparations.
When we went beach combing the following day, I led the way without a coin toss. We headed south, the opposite direction of yesterday's exploration. ###
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