Relaxing a World Away
A warm sea breeze blows in on the shore of a sandy beach in the Dominican Republic. I sit in a comfortable, white, beach lounge chair. As I lay on the chair, I take in everything around me. I close my eyes, and I breathe in the soft, salty air.
I look to my right, a white volleyball bounces from person to person as sand scatters from their moving feet.
“Set me up!” yells a college student to his teammate. Another boy in the back row attempts to pass the ball to the setter, but shanks it way out.
“Look out!” I hear as the shadow of the ball gets smaller and smaller, falling to the ground. The ball bounces in the sand, rolling to the foot of my chair. I pick it up and toss it back to the players.
“Thanks!” the team calls to me. They play on, the winning team collecting their point and serving the ball.
I lay back in my chair. Through my tinted sunglasses, I see palm trees casting shadows on the rows and rows of white beach chairs that invite beachgoers to melt into them and relax. In fact, many vacationers do melt, their skin shiny from coconut tanning oil as the sun beats down on their sun tanned bodies. I get a whiff of someone's tanning oil as they walk by. I turn my head and see a woman hobble along with what looks like third degree burns on her feet. I cringe at the thought and apply more sunscreen, knowing that I definitely don't want to spend my vacation in excruciating pain.
Suddenly, the resort's entertainment planners swoop in like an exciting whirlwind, grabbing people out of their chairs, inviting them to play their crazy games.
“Vamos, por favor, señora,” one of the entertainers says. “Please come play.”
Vacationers jump out of their seats and head over to the area designated for games. As the announcer describes the game, the players exchange nervous looks, wondering what they have gotten themselves into.
“It's easy” the announcer says. “All you must do is run to the other line, put your head down, spin around three times, drink a cerveza, a beer, quickly, and run back. After that, the next person will go. The first team finished will win!”
He repeats the instructions again in Spanish, then in Russian. Then, the game starts.
The resort workers split the players into two groups. The main entertainer yells for the start of the game.
“¡Uno, dos, tres, comience!”
Music blares out of the loudspeakers as the first players run off, trying their hardest to go fast for their team. Family members look on, laughing at the expense of their kin.
As I watch the entertainers cheer on the players, I wonder if their job contains as much glamour as it seems, or if it carries stresses similar to those we left behind in our state-side jobs. The job requires an outgoing personality and willingness to convince strangers to participate in silly children's games. The work doesn't seem too demanding, but long hours in the hot sun would wear out any strong, healthy human being.
I laugh as I see one of the native entertainment organizers walk by for the fifth time that day. My family has seen her every day, and we could tell she wears many hats as part of her hectic job. She serves drinks, announces and facilitates the games, teaches water aerobics and dancing, and also performs in the evening show. My mother decides to name her Ramona, after the movie The Proposal. In the movie, a man, Ramon, serves as a cashier, a cater waiter, a friend of the main character's family, and a minister in the small Alaskan town. He held about as many positions as our own real-life Ramona.
After the first game finishes, the resort workers set up for the next game. They fan out and find more people willing to participate in the wacky game. Ramona grabs my father's hand and pulls him to go play the game. He hesitates at first, but then realizes he has no way out of it. The group crowds around the volleyball court, waiting for the instructions for the next game.
“This game” the announcer starts, “is very strange. You must sit in the chair, with your back to the volleyball court, and you will throw the pineapple as far as you can. The person who throws it the farthest wins!”
I hear the instructions again in Spanish and Russian. The participants nod their heads, understanding the idea of the game. They stretch out, preparing to play.
The music starts again and each participant takes a turn in the chair, throwing the pineapple as far as they can. My dad throws the fruit far, and prepares for victory, but a large Russian man, named Boris, catapults the pineapple beyond the court boundaries, clinching the pineapple tossing championship. He jumps up from the chair, clasps his hands together and shakes them in the air in celebration.
Many Russians vacation at this resort, so much so that they print labels and signs in the European language. About forty percent of the vacationers at our resort hail from Russia. The relaxing resort softens even the rough edges of the harsh Russian language. With so many different nationalities represented, I find myself censoring comments prior to letting them escape my mouth, so as not to offend anyone from a different culture.
My dad returns to our designated area with refreshments from the bar. He hands my mom a margarita and passes virgin strawberry daiquiris to Mun and me. I raise the cup to my lips, and I can already smell the sugary liquid. I take a sip and strawberry bursts in my mouth, I swallow and the cold drink slides down my throat. The all-inclusive resort provides many perks, my favorite: unlimited food and drinks.
I set my drink down and look out at the beautiful Caribbean sea. The waves break about a mile off shore, making the water's edge calm and clear. A boat passes by with a parasail high in the sky. I imagine the view I would see at that height, miles and miles of ocean, various shades of blue, doll-sized people meandering about the beach, and rows and rows of beach-side resorts with the same amenities, but different colors and patterns. I would hear calming sounds, like the call of seagulls, the hum of the boat's motor, and wind rushing past me. The mixed feelings of excitement and adventure would give me the illusion that I am on top of the world.
Kayaks dot the horizon, their passengers paddling leisurely, enjoying the feeling of freedom on the open sea. A catamaran pulls onto the shore and the driver unloads the passengers who buzz with excitement from their ride. A dark-skinned man, wearing a short sleeved polo labeled with the name of the resort and sitting under an umbrella, rises, walks to the catamaran, and assists passengers as they disembark. A larger man, with the balance of a one-year-old child, almost falls into the water as he steps off the boat. After stabilizing himself, he helps his wife off the boat as well. They hold hands and walk off along the beach.
My parents bring over plates full of food from the outdoor food station. My mom hands me a plate heaping with french fries, fruit, a brownie, and a hamburger with a bun big enough to feed a small country. I munch on the food, the salt of the fries lingering on my tongue. With my hunger satisfied, I stop short of that full feeling one often gets from cleaning their plate. A resort worker appears and retrieves my plate, carefully placing it in a gray tub. He then moves on to the next set of chairs, adds a few more dishes to his load, and walks off toward the dinning room. I smile, knowing that for a week I do not have to wash a single dish myself. I know that as soon as I return, the stresses of work, school, and chores will knock at my door, but for now, I do the only thing that this beautiful place requires of me: relax.
The late afternoon sun bids everyone goodbye as it sinks in the color-changing sky. My family remains on the beach for as long as we can, soaking up the relaxing atmosphere. Our fellow vacationers find their way back to their hotel rooms, readying themselves for dinner. The bartender at the auxiliary bar closes up shop, leaving only a sign that directs vacationers toward the main bar after hours. We remain a bit longer, soaking in the silence, unwilling to relinquish the passing of another perfect day. I know the time will soon come to peel myself off my beach chair, wash the sand and sunscreen from my body, and dress for a gourmet dinner, but I close my eyes and take ten more minutes to absorb the peace this ocean view brings me, ten more minutes in this perfect paradise.