December 3, 2012
• LAS TERRENAS, ONE MORE TIME
• MANUEL SHOWS UP
• GETTING WET IN CABARETE
• SAYING GOODBYE
LAS TERRENAS, ONE MORE TIME
This is the story of my final photo shoot in the Dominican Republic in December 2012.
After 3 successful photo shoots, I felt like I had accomplished everything I’d set out to do in the Dominican Republic, and more. I planned to spend the last few days on the island just hanging out at the hostel and doing some sketches from all my new material.
But I kept thinking about Manuel.
Manuel was the beautiful boy Julio and I had discovered just a few hours before leaving Las Terrenas to return to Santo Domingo.
I didn’t know if I wanted to make the trek (4 hours each way, which means spending the night there) to Las Terrenas, just to photograph one model. And Julio had to work, so I wouldn’t have his company and his assistance. But Manuel kept calling, so I knew there was a good chance that if I went back, the photo shoot would really happen. Finally, I decided I would kick myself if I passed this up. I called Manuel to make sure he would be available, and the next morning caught a bus to Las Terrenas.
I arrived in the late afternoon, and almost as soon as I stepped off the bus, there was Manuel, who just happened to be riding his motorbike near the bus station. We arranged to meet for a beer later to discuss the details of tomorrow’s photo shoot.
By now I knew Las Terrenas fairly well and checked into the place where I’d stayed a couple of weeks before on my first visit. That evening I went to Big Dan’s and hung out with some of my Las Terrenas friends, and when Manuel showed up we sat down and talked. (We were able to communicate as soon as I made him understand that he had to speak to me S-L-O-W-L-Y. I was still far from understanding rapid-fire Dominican Spanish.)
I’d been glad to see that Manuel had his own motorbike, so transportation would be no problem.
Except, I found out, it wasn’t his.
It was borrowed from a friend, and he would have to rent one. But that was no problem, he said, just give me 300 pesos and another 150 pesos for gas and then I can drive us to the beach and back. I had a feeling I was being played, but I also knew that 450 pesos for transportation to and from the beach was not a bad deal. So I said okay and gave him the money and we agreed he would pick me up at 8am the next morning in front of my hotel.
MANUEL SHOWS UP
From long experience, I know how challenging it can be to get models to show up for a photoshoot. But once again my luck held. The next morning, at just 5 minutes after 8, Manuel pulled up on his motoconcho, ready to go. And off we went.
There was just one little problem.
We were about halfway to the beach when it started sprinkling. Then it started to rain harder. We were on the back of a motorbike with no protection so I had Manuel stop and we took shelter under a tree.
While we waited for the rain to stop, I figured, what the hell, I’m gonna start shooting. No rule says it has to be at the beach and it has to be sunny. The diffused light of a cloudy/rainy day can be quite beautiful. And a back road in Las Terrenas was not a bad backdrop.
So I told Manuel where to stand, and started taking photographs. I shot over 100 photographs (some pretty nice!) while the rain played itself out, then we hopped back on the bike and went to the beach.
When we got there we hiked to Playa Escondida, the place I’d discovered through Javier. Manuel, who’d lived in Las Terrenas his whole life, claimed he’d never been there and hadn’t even known it existed. (That could very well be the truth, since from what I’ve seen, the Dominican culture on the whole is anything but beach-oriented. Most Dominicans never go in the ocean and don’t even know how to swim. With rare exceptions, like Javier, the only people we saw on the beach and in the ocean were tourists.)
By now the rainclouds had mostly dissipated and while it was still a bit overcast, it was turning out to be a fairly nice day. Manuel was looking beautiful, although there were some hints of diva behavior. I could tell it was not going to be an easy shoot. I got the feeling that Manuel had gotten everything he ever wanted in life just by batting those beautiful long-lashed eyes and acting helpless.
I prefer to work with beautiful boys who don’t really KNOW how beautiful they are. When I have to work with someone who THINKS he’s beautiful enough that he can charm his way into or out of anything, it’s more work.
But I’m a professional and I’ve worked with all kinds of guys. With the right mix of teasing, cajoling, and scolding, I was able to get some good stuff out of Manuel. He really does have a beautiful face and body, and every once in a while I was able to see the beautiful soul underneath all the adolescent delusions. So while it was more work than any of the photo shoots I’d done in the D.R. up to that point, it was still well within my area of expertise.
Just the same, I was glad when the shoot was over and we headed back to town. Like many very-good-looking people, Manuel was a lot of work.
But overall, worth the trouble. (And I’m looking forward to translating all that “trouble” into drawings and paintings.)
GETTING WET IN CABARETE
Back in Santo Domingo, I had one week remaining of my 5-week stay. I had wanted to go to Cabarete, the kite-surfing capital of the Caribbean, for several weeks. At the last minute Julio said he couldn’t make it. I didn’t relish the idea of the 5-hour trip to and from by myself, but I also know how good I am at making new friends. So off I went to Cabarete on a Tuesday morning.
I did meet some interesting people on the bus. I sat next to this 30ish Dominican guy named Diego who was kind of cute, and we started talking. Turns out he is a sculptor and he was very interested in art. So I pulled out the computer and showed him some of my work. I thought he might be gay and maybe something would happen, so I figured showing him my male-nude art would be a good litmus test. Imagine my surprise when after about a half hour of his admiring my art, he turned to me and suggested I paint some female nudes instead of just male ones. He continued by telling me he thought I was a nice guy and he just felt it was his duty to do what he could to help me keep from burning in Hell.
This is something I found interesting and surprising in the D.R.—the degree to which Christian beliefs dominate the culture. And I mean, they really BELIEVE. I am not a Christian, and in fact I have some strong feelings about it, but I’m also more compassionate and accepting than I was in my younger days—better at “live and let live.” So I wasn’t offended or upset by Diego’s wanting to save me…just disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to fool around with him. Anyway, he got off the bus about halfway through the journey.
It’s a long way from Santo Domingo to Cabarete: about 4-1/2 hours on the bus, then another twenty minutes or so in a cab or a smaller bus before you’re finally in Cabarete.
I forgot to mention that during this whole long day it’s been raining, and the rain has gotten heavier as we’ve neared the northern coast. I’d hoped the rain would lessen as I got nearer my destination, but instead it got heavier. So when I finally arrived in Cabarete at the beach hostel where I’d made reservations, it was chilly, dark, and pouring rain.
Like the weather, the Cabarete Beach Hostel was also not quite what I’d been hoping for.
From the photos I’d seen online, it looked great for the price—$12 a night! And I’m sure at almost any other time it would have been. But with the wind and the rain and the dark clouds, and the fact that it had recently flooded, and the fact that there was NO ONE around, I found it disappointing and depressing.
Brenda, the staffperson on duty when I arrived, was very nice and showed me to my room. It was spartan, to say the least, but I expected that. The real problem was that they’d had several days of rain and everything was wet. Either downright wet, or just damp. Even the sheets, while not really WET, were kind of…damp. Not totally damp, just damp enough that when you sat on them it was not pleasant. I didn’t want to think about sleeping on them.
On top of that, there was supposed to be wi-fi but I couldn’t seem to get online. After about 20 minutes of trying to connect, sitting on the edge of my damp bed in my damp, chilly little closet, the power went off completely. I decided to take that as a sign. I packed up and left.
(I don’t want to dump too much on the Cabarete Beach Hostel. I actually like the rustic beach-shack feeling of the place, and in hot sunny weather, with lots of other guests, I’m sure I would’ve been very happy there.)
It was a short walk down the road (which was good because it was still raining) to an area with more hotels.
The first one I walked into was $25 a night, which was definitely within my budget, and was nice, with DRY sheets on the bed AND a bathroom AND wi-fi that worked AND a place to have breakfast…I said YES, and moved right in.
So now I had a dry room and wi-fi, but I was not going to just sit in my room. I didn’t care how rainy it was, I was going out, dammit! So I did. Cabarete was not exactly hopping, but I found a pseudo-Irish pub right on the beach, and ended up making friends with all 5 people who were there. Later more people arrived, and I had a fun evening and met some very interesting people.
I went back to my room about 11pm and went to bed. Interestingly, I had one of the most restful nights of my whole Dominican stay. Two things: no mosquitoes, and a cool enough evening that I actually was comfortable under the covers. And the bed was just the right firmness. Who knew?
The next morning I woke up in my comfy, dry room and looked out onto a wet world. It was still raining.
I’d had enough. Especially after checking the online weather report and seeing a forecast of at least two more days of rain. I decided I was going back to Santo Domingo on the noon bus.
Before I left, though, I wanted to get some beach shots, and miraculously, the clouds parted for a couple of hours and I got some nice photographs—before it started raining again. I think Cabarete is beautiful, I like the vibe, and I just know it would be lots of fun when the weather’s nice and there are more people around. I definitely want to visit again sometime in the future.
I went back to Santo Domingo and spent a relaxing final week. Well, not all relaxing—during my final weekend, I partied like a rock star with both old and new friends. I danced the night away at a couple of bars I’d never been to before, and I don’t even remember everything that happened. I’m pretty sure I had a really good time.
Julio took me out to dinner the night before I left and we talked about what a great time it had been, and how many wonderful people we’d both met and what great experiences we had. He made me promise to come back soon.
I left the Dominican Republic on December 11. As I write this, I’m back in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the snow is piled high around my house. No problem…I’m snug in my cozy studio and I’ve already begun painting warm tropical scenes from the wealth of new images I brought back with me.
And, of course, planning my next tropical adventure.
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