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My first full day on the Dominican Republic was quite eventful. Upon our arrival yesterday at the Santo Domingo Aeroporto, customs required the address of my visit. I didnít have it on my cell phone, but I had an image on my laptop of the address via an advertisement Rick Hines had sent me for his villa which he rents out. I managed to get through customs without providing this information, however, my friends, James and Sherry werenít having the same luck so I pulled out my laptop. After providing the information to their insistent customs officer, I closed my laptop and set it on the counter and James and Sherry finished their immigration processing. We then proceeded out of customs to find our driver.

Shortly after heading north on the highway toward Samana, I reached into my laptop bag to retrieve the map of the Dominican Republic Rick had gifted me on my 50th birthday. It was then that I discovered, my laptop was missing. My first thought was I had no doubt within minutes of my arrival to the DR fallen prey to a very crafty thief who had somehow managed to slip my dell out of itís protective bag when I wasnít paying attention. Upon further discussion and thought, I determined it was possible that I had left it on the counter at customs. Fabien, our driver, asked if I wanted to return to the airport and I informed him to continue, that we would try to find it later. At this point, I wasnít sure exactly what happened and pretty much wrote it off as being gone forever. The value of the laptop was a significant loss at around $1500, however, all the pictures and videos I had taken for the last 55 days since my sabbatical started were stored on my hard drive as well as a dump of all the videos and images from my cell phone. This was a tremendous loss as I had yet to backup this data on my external drive.

Of course this dampened my spirits to a certain degree, but as usual, I tried to take it in stride and prayed for peace as I hoped my carelessness fell on the side of customs and not of the side of the bandidos. The two hour drive to Samana was filled with observations of local life and culture. Our driver Fabien, in his best broken English explained the safety and quickness of the new tollroad to Samana as well as the effectiveness of the emergency roadside assistance.

Interestingly enough, Rick seemed to think the toll also included collision insurance and medical insurance in case of an accident, but I kind of find this hard to believe. We turned east at a small village called Sanchez and the toll road ended as the streets narrowed. To our amazement, our driver sped through the small villages, where the streets were lined with all types and sizes of small structures of homes, convenience stores and a variety of other purposes including Banca, the state lottery sales.

On many occasions we flew past within inches of children, mothers with babies and adults at nearly 70 miles who were walking or standing on the roadside! It was very clear however, that a great amount of respect was given to the travel portion of the road by all pedestrians. All of the road signs and speed limits seemed to be merely suggestions as not one was followed by Fabien with any degree of accuracy. Occasionally a perro would interfere with our travels and Fabien patiently gave respect to these local canine as if in someway they were of a higher spirit to be given their due.

Many motorcycles traveled on the roadsides, sputtering and whining as they carried three, four and sometimes even five passengers. Not a single motorcycle appeared to be over 100cc, although I did see a few four wheelers with a higher rating. Anything, and everything is carried on motorcycles. We even passed a motorcycle loaded down with a queen sized mattress! I guess he really wanted a soft ride because he was sitting on the mattress as if it was the seat. Regardless of the respect for the rules of the road, drivers have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. Honking is mostly done out of respect of notification rather than irritation. Lane markings have absolutely no meaning, and I have yet to see a single traffic signal or stop sign. If slowing down is really important like for a sharp curve or a densely populated area harsh speed bump is built into the roadway, forcing a driver to slow down or risk vehicle damage.

As we got closer to Samana the population density increased accordingly. Out the right window of the car to the southeast, the Atlantic ocean glistened in the afternoon sunshine. A cruise ship appeared off shore, slowly slinking into the horizon for its next Caribbean destination. Samana proved to be a very busy town, loaded with many small tourist shops, street side vendors and small restaurants. We passed briefly at Fabioís business store front where he rents cars, motorcycles and scooters to get some information about contacting customs then we were on our way to La Casa Blanca, the home of Rick and Kay Hines.

We arrived shortly after 5pm and quickly got settled into our rooms. We then rode up into the upper northeast corner of the peninsula to Las Galeras and chose a pizzeria for our evening meal. I gobbled up a rare t-bone while others chose the pizza and other tasty dishes. We dined until late into the evening and returned before midnight.
Late the next morning, using our chef as an interpreter, we were able to contact customs at the airport and verify they found my laptop. We hired a driver in Samana, Fabienís son Kelvin, to take us to Las Americas International Airport. We met him in Samana about 1pm and we stopped for a quick bite of pollo frito, some of the best fried chicken I have ever tasted. With Kelvinís superior driving skills, we made it to the airport in 2 hours and I quickly recovered my laptop from customs and we departed for Santo Domingo to pick up some stuff Rick and Kay needed for their home. The next six hours would take me 2 hours to explain, but needless to say were we able to obtain most of the items on the list, save for the flat screen tv and a 4 slot toaster oven. Neither of which are sold at Ikea. We picked up a take out order of Dominoes Meatzza Pizza and we were back on the road to Samana by 8:30pm and then home.