Dove Mission: Hope For The Future

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by Ed Gwynn and Lyndsey Davison

Click here for 1 minute video

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

While working with the kids at Dove Missions in the Dominican Republic for a day, I was transported back to childhood. We played Jax, Jenga and Connect 4. We drew pictures of sunsets and palm trees. We swung high into the sky on the swing set and climbed across the jungle gym over a bottomless pit.

Lyndsey (my girlfriend) and I were asked to teach English Class. After much persuading from the kids, Lyndsey and Bella, the teacher, I was up in front of the room with a set of flash cards. I think that I was able to teach them a few new words. They may never know it, but I learned much more from them that day.

 Spending a day with these kids helped me remember to use my imagination and to dream. It helped me put aside the generally insignificant anxieties of day-to-day life. Most of all, spending the day with these kids helped me remember that people have much more in common with each other than differences. Nowhere is this commonality more apparent than with children.

I remember going to day camp when I was a child. We would play the same games, draw the same pictures and imagine the same adventures on the playground. We had the same hopes and dreams. We had the same need for love and a sense of belonging.

 The harsh reality is, although these kids are the same as we were as kids, their future is quite different. We were told that prostitution is the number one career option for most of the women in the area. Girls as young as 8-13 have already started in this occupation. Extreme poverty in the area means that things such as running water, electricity, or even 4 walls and a roof on their houses are not guaranteed. Some of the houses that we saw were nothing more than shallow caves dug in the side of the hill.

 Dove Missions provides kids a temporary escape from the tough life that they were born into. It keeps kids off of the street for a part of their day. It teaches young women self-respect and confidence. Spending time with these children helped me realize how we are all the same. How peaceful this planet could be if we all looked at the world through the eyes of a child.

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The Story of Cofresi The Pirate: Part III

By Mark Davison

Pirate Ship 3

Spain and the United States have different accounts of what happened next. The Spanish government maintains that they moved their vessels toward Cofresi’s hideaway to lure him out. Thinking they were merchants, Cofresi’s crew attacked. Cofresi quickly realized he had been tricked after the ship hoisted up the Spanish Navy flag.

A quick battle ensued and Cofresi’s crew was forced to retreat to Hispaniola. The Spanish moved onto the island and blocked off several paths, hoping Cofresi would walk right into their clutches. It worked and the entire crew was captured.

The version the United States gives is similar except they claim that Sloat, the officer in charge, was aware of the evasion strategy Cofresi and his crew often used. A man named John Low was used as a spy to gather information on the pirates. This information was what ultimately led to Cofresi being captured.

Cofresi was assigned a War Council trial with absolutely no hope of a civil trial. Cofresi’s trial was started quickly. Other cases, that seemed more egregious to his supporters, took a significantly longer amount of time to begin. Some speculate that the reason for this was because of the overwhelming scrutiny the Spanish government had received from other governments over Cofresi being able to evade them for so long.

The trial itself was based almost exclusively on the confessions of the pirates. Many claimed the confessions were forced and questioned their validity.  Of the few who avoided execution, the most unusual was Carlos Torres, Cofresi’s slave. Instead of execution, he was simply sold once again. The money was used to cover expenses for the trial.

During the trial, Cofresi and the other pirates claimed they had never killed anyone. A letter to an American news magazine contradicted their testimony and stated that Cofresi admitted to killing almost four hundred people, but not a single Puerto Rican.

On March 29, 1825, Cofresi and his men were executed by firing squad in front of a large group of spectators. It is said that he placed a curse on Captain Sloat and the USS Grampus before he died. While the USS Grampus was later lost at sea, Sloat wasn’t among the vanished crew and enjoyed later success.

Cofresi had many descendants; the most notable was his granddaughter, Ana Gonzalez, also known as Ana G. Mendez. She would become an important figure in the education department during an era where few women had a degree.

There have been various myths and legends surrounding the life of Roberto Cofresi. Stories range from secret lovers to tales of hidden treasures and where they can be found. In Puerto Rico, Cofresi’s story is romanticized in literature, theatre and the many places named after him. So next time you visit Lifestyle Holiday resorts on Cofresi Beach, I hope you take a moment to remember the tale of Roberto Cofresi, The Puerto Rican Robin Hood.

The End

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The Story of Cofresi The Pirate: Part II

By Mark Davison
pirate-ship_2546814  

There are debates as to why Cofresi gave up the merchant life to become a pirate. Some say it was because of harassment he faced from foreign sailors, mostly British, while others say it was because he had a privateer in his family and wished to become one as well. However, the Spanish government had stopped issuing privateer contracts and that would have left Cofresi with few other choices but to simply pirate.

Cofresi organized a crew of eight to ten men from his hometown. They used a small island in Isla de Mona, the Puerto Rican archipelago, as their hideout. The success of Cofresi and his crew was considered unusual by standards at the time. Half a century had passed since the Golden Age of Piracy came to an end.

At the time Cofresi had begun pirating, various governments had worked together in a successful effort to remove the English and French pirates that ran rampant in the Caribbean. Like the pirates before him, Cofresi targeted both local and foreign people, which created a rift in the economic stability of the Caribbean.

The shorelines of Hispaniola weren’t free from Cofresi’s crew, as they were pillaged quite frequently. The crew resided in the coastal zone of the Dominican Republic off the Puerto Plata province where they rested during voyages.

It was during one of these trips that Cofresi and his crew narrowly escaped capture by Spanish patrol boats. Seeing no other way to escape, Cofresi chose to sink his own ship in order to escape. The ship has yet to be found, even to this day.

The people living on the coasts of Puerto Rico protected Cofresi from the authorities through a series of signs that were used to warn he and his crew of any on-coming danger.

He shared his plunders with the poor, especially members of his family and close friends earning him the title of the Puerto Rican Robin Hood. However, other reports say that he would organize markets where the plunder would be sold off.

Cofresi and his crew were the last pirate threat in the Caribbean, and as a result they were the subject of many complaints directed toward the Spanish government. The local military was so desperate to have him caught that they requested help from the West Indies Squadron, an anti-piracy task force that operated under the United States, whom the Spanish government wasn’t particularly fond of. With this additional aid, the authorities were ready to take on Cofresi and his crew for the last time.

The crew narrowly avoided capture once again in a confrontation with the Spanish military. Cofresi escaped, but he lost six crew members.

The Spanish government finally managed to capture Cofresi’s crew, but only after unusual circumstances. Between the days of September 8 and 9, 1824, a hurricane passed through and went directly over the Mona Passage where Cofresi and his crew hid. They were all caught in the storm and had their ship flung towards Hispaniola. Searches were conducted but nothing came up. For a brief moment the fate of Cofresi and his crew remained a mystery…

       (to be continued…)

 

 P.S. Did you enjoy this newsletter?

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Even more, I’d love it if you forwarded it to someone you think would enjoy it.

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Vacation Digest #9

Infinity Pool

View of the ocean from the infinity pool at our villa at Lifestyle Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Yes, it was awesome! It is also great to be home.

Here is your digest of the best travel articles recently published. Let them inspire you to create your next great vacation. They are organized into ten categories as a framework for your planning. Let me know which article resonates best with you.

1 Finance: 6 Tips for Saving Money on Airfare: Tuesday is the day to purchase flights.

2 Food: Top 10 Travel Snacks: Because who wants to pay inflated airport food prices?

3 Health: 8 Essentials for Travel Health: Must remember the saline nasal spray next vacation.

4 Learning: 5 Travel Lessons I Learned (The Hard Way): Read the fine print is my favorite lesson.

5 Legacy: 55 Lessons from a Life of Travel: My favorite is, “Deep down the essence of who we are as human beings is the same.”

6 Location: I Want to be There!: THE Best place for travel location inspiration is Pinterest.

7 Memories: 5 Things You Need to Take More Pictures Of: Love the idea of taking pictures of souvenirs; it saves me from buying them and cluttering our home.

8 Organization: Learn the Secret to Packing Light in 60 Minutes: Travel Fashion Girl makes a lot of sense

9 Planning: RoadTrippers.com: Discover USA’s best attractions and lodging on this free app and website.

10 Virtues: Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Best wishes, Lynn

The Story of Cofresi The Pirate: Part I

The Pirate bay

by Mark Davison

He’s a man of many myths, most describing a dashing gallant who sails across the ocean, pillaging ships with intentions to give whatever riches he finds to the poor. His statues can be seen throughout the Caribbean, romanticizing his likeness.

His name is Roberto Cofresi, sometimes known as the Puerto Rican Robin Hood.Roberto Cofresi was either born in El Tujao or Guaniquilla, Puerto Rico on June 17, 1791. The details aren’t clear.

His father, Franz Von Kupferschein was of Austrian descent and was required to change his name by the Italian authorities to Francesco Confersin upon moving to Italy.

It wasn’t long before Francesco had to immigrate once again due to being a wanted fugitive by the Roman authorities. His next destination would be Puerto Rico where his name change again to Francisco Cofresi so the Spanish officials wouldn’t have trouble pronouncing it.

Cofresi’s mother, Maria Germana Ramirez de Arellano, was related to the founder of Cabo Rojo where Franz (now known as Francisco) lived.

Aside from Roberto, Fransisco and Maria had three other children: Juana, Juan, Fransisco, and Iganacio. The four of them were educated at a private school. There they learned Roman Catholic catechism, literature, and math, among other subjects. It was during these years that Cofresi developed a strong interest in geography.

Sometime later Cofresi would purchase a ship that he named El Mosquito, intending to sail the world on it as an honest merchant. For a while he did exactly that and sailed throughout the Caribbean.

(to be continued…)

 

 

 

To my guests interested in the kosher all-inclusive:

Here are answers to the frequently asked questions about the kosher all-inclusive plan and Blues, the Kosher restaurant at Lifestyle Holidays Vacation Resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

Let me know if you have an additional question about the kosher kitchen or about your upcoming stay.

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Q: What is the cost of the kosher all-inclusive at Lifestyle Resort?

A: The kosher all-inclusive fee is $99 per adult (age 12+) per night. Children up to age 12 are 50% off and under age 3 are free. Click the link for a fact sheet.

Kosher_E.pdf

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Q: Can we take the standard all-inclusive plan for every day except the Sabbath when we would like to take the kosher all-inclusive?

A: When you confirm your reservation, you need to choose which all-inclusive plan you prefer: regular or kosher. The option to switch between plans during your stay is not available at this time.

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Q: Where do we eat the night of the Welcome Party when all the restaurants at the resort close?

A: Blues, the kosher restaurant, does not close any night. Please enjoy your dinner at Blues and then come to the Sunday night Welcome Party for live entertainment, dancing and an open bar. Fireworks are at 10pm.

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Q: My husband is a vegetarian. Will there be lots of fruits and vegetables for him? Will tofu or some other source of vegetable protein be an option?

A: There will be many vegetarian options including lettuce with your choice of toppings and dressing for a salad, fruits, cooked vegetables and beans plus rice. Avocado, the ‘pollo verde’ (green chicken) is the vegetarian protein option, and the kosher cooking staff does all they can to offer it as often as possible.

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Q: My child is a picky eater. Would the chef be willing to make him pasta with sauce?

A: It is likely that pasta with sauce with and without sauce will be available on the buffet. Pizza is also a kid’s favorite, and is often served at lunch.

 

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Q: When is Blues an a la carte restaurant and when is it a buffet restaurant?

A: The number of guests who have chosen the kosher all-inclusive determines whether Blues is an a la carte restaurant or a buffet restaurant. Usually Blues is an a la carte restaurant, but whenever there are lots of kosher guests arriving, the kosher food will be served in a buffet.

 

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Q: Is the ice cream at Scoops, The Pearl or Casablanca kosher?

A: At this time, we can only guarantee that the foods served at Blues are kosher.

 

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Q: What if we want to bring our own kosher food? Will the chefs heat it up for us?

A: It is not possible for you to bring your own kosher food unless you are staying in an accommodation with a kitchen.

Q: Can we purchase kosher and gluten-free foods at a grocery store in Puerto Plata?

A: I have been told that some gluten-free foods are available from time-to-time at Sirena, the large, modern grocery store closest to the resort. Sometimes kosher foods are sold there as well, but availability is spotty, and no kosher meats are available.

Please let me know if you have additional questions about the kosher kitchen or any aspect of Lifestyle Resort.
 
Best wishes,
Lynn
P.S. Did you enjoy this newsletter?

Drop me an email at lynn@wehadagreatvacation.com, or leave a message on the Facebook wall.

Even more, I’d love it if you forwarded it to someone you think would enjoy it.

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The Best Travel Backpack

Lyndsey Backpack Big Smile
By Lyndsey Davison

 If you are like me, you cannot wait to get on vacation and to the beach! But how are we going to get all our most important stuff to the Dominican?

As a 25-year-old young lady, I always bring a big purse type thing to throw all my most important things in: magazines, sunglasses, makeup, journal, wallet, passport and more. My laptop gets banged around, things are unorganized and I can’t find anything!

 So my mom bought this remarkable backpack that makes you feel this magical feeling called hands-free. No more juggling purse and tote straps, Everything is organized. It’s amazing!

Lyndsey Backpack Opening

As for the leader of a group, this backpack is probably most important for you to be completely hands-free because getting your family and friends through the airport requires your mind to be in a lot of different places at once. 
 
If you ALWAYS put whatever you take out BACK in the backpack, you are not only hands-free but you do not have to worry about where anything is!
 
Here are 7 reasons why Mom bought this Lipault Paris Backpack for $79 on Amazon.com:
Lyndsey Backpack Backpack
  • SO MUCH ROOM! This backpack is small enough to not be a pain but holds enough for all your important items. This backpack FITS laptops up to 15.4 inches! I’ll tell you one thing, I am not going anywhere without my laptop and laptops are a pain to put in a big purse!
  • It is 100% nylon and water-resistant (I spill everything, everywhere) plus has a strap on the back that you can un-Velcro to slip over the long handle of your suitcase so it sits nicely on top! Ahhh, sounds good to me so far.

Lyndsey Backpack Top of Suitcase

  • It has a big, thick, strong handle on the top of it, as you can see in the picture, that definitely WILL NOT break whatsoever!
  • Lots of pockets are inside, big and small for all-important items. The front pocket is ideal for all my cords, chargers, camera and miscellaneous electronic gizmos.                                                     
  • It does not look like a tourist backpack. I am a 25 year old fashion-ista and I think this is fabulous and genius.
  • It will not hold a TON of things (better for my back), such as many big books, but it will hold the basic necessities for you to make traveling through the airport much smoother.
 I hope this information will help you. Have a great vacation : )

Lyndsey Backpack Phone Pocket

P.S. Did you enjoy this newsletter?

Drop me an email at lynn@wehadagreatvacation.com, or leave a message on the Facebook wall.

Even more, I’d love it if you forwarded it to someone you think would enjoy it.

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5 Simple Tips For The Best Vacation Ever

How to find the best international flights

Jet lifting off runway at sunset

Going to Google.com/flights or putting “flights from XXX to XXX” in the Google search box on my browser has worked best for me lately and it is so easy. I scan the flight options and find one that is the shortest and least expensive. Then I click on it and Google takes me to the airline’s website.

I can also hover over the calendar page icon and see the day of the week that is least expensive to fly on the flight I have clicked. Flying during the middle of the week usually is least expensive.

Google.com/flights doesn’t work all the time, though, and I’m not sure why. I just googled CLT (Charlotte) to STI (Santiago, DR) and the results only show websites. In that case I choose Kayak, and sort the results by duration, price or whatever my most important criteria is at the time.

When you go to jetBlue and American Airline’s websites you can see different departure dates and their costs. Usually you can save money if you can depart Tuesday to Thursday.

I always recommend staying at your destination as long as you can as you probably won’t want to come home. (I know this from personal experience.) Plus, since airfare is usually your largest vacation expense, you’ll want to amortize it over as many days as possible.

In my more than four years of experience watching flights to the Dominican Republic, they never go down over time, only up.

What’s your favorite way to find the best flight for your vacation? Please let me know in the comments below.

Best wishes,
Lynn

A Different Kind of Culture Shock

Ed Lyndsey DolphinAs we finished our remarkable swim with the dolphins at Ocean World, Lyndsey (my girlfriend) and I cautiously stepped underneath the outdoor showers to rinse the salt water off of our bodies. We both lurched in and out, trying to get used to the cold water. The water certainly felt cold anyway, after the 80 degree pool, but it was probably lukewarm.

This awkward dance delighted our Dominican Guide, who laughed vivaciously and shook his head with a smile. We asked him why this was so funny to him. His answer was my first real wakeup call to the difference between our two worlds.

He told us, in a very matter of fact way with no sense of resentfulness, that he had never taken a hot shower. In fact no one that he knew in his town had hot water. Every morning when he woke up, he took an ice cold shower.

The day after our experience at Ocean World, Lyndsey, her family and I rode horseback through the city and towns around Puerta Plata. Riding through those streets gave us an intimate, up-close look at the poverty and rugged living conditions that many of the people in this area endured.

Some homes were nothing more than a crevice in the side of the mountain covered with a tarp supported by two wooden poles. Many other homes had three walls and a roof. Some of the sturdier homes had four walls but no glass in the windows.

Stray dogs, cats and chickens wandered back and forth on the sides or in the middle of the street. Horses, cows and mules stood on the sides of the road, occasionally crossing forcing us to stop. Trucks would occasionally rumble through on the uneven and broken roads to deliver water or cola. The natural water is not safe to drink. The trucks would leave a trail of diesel exhaust behind them, momentarily tarnishing the otherwise fresh ocean air.

Amidst all of this, the thing that stood out the most to me, were the people we passed as we rode by. Adults would smile and greet us with “Hola” in a loud friendly tone. The children would come out to the side of the street and waive joyfully, happy to see the horses as we galloped by.

The image I will never forget was of a little boy dangling his arms out of his window watching us ride by. He was probably two or three years old. As he gazed at us with wide awe-stricken eyes, I watched his father sneak to the side of the window where the boy could not see him and playfully pat his dangling hand. The boy looked up and down to see what had touched him. When the boy looked away again the father continued the game, patting his hand once again. I looked back and watched as we rode on to see the father carrying on with the game.

While enjoying the day at Lifestyle Resort relaxing on Deja View Beach, I became acutely aware once again of the nature of the people in this area. Something seemed quite different about the working atmosphere and the attitude of the employees on the resort compared to what I was accustomed to experiencing with people I have worked with or have observed working back at home.

The employees laughed and smiled and joked with one another. There was genuine joy in their interactions. They were grateful for the camaraderie. They were grateful to help and eager to serve others. I did not hear one complaint or sense that they held any resentment. Their attitudes were of pure delight without pretense or manufactured pleasantry. This was in stark contrast to many dealings I have had with people with much more material wealth than the people who worked here.

Looking out of the window as I write, I can still see palm trees and blue skies even though the trees are bare, the ground is covered with snow and the sky is grey. If I concentrate hard enough I can feel the sand around my feet and smell the gentle ocean breeze. I can hear the waves endlessly crashing on the island shore. But what stole my heart on this trip and what I remember most vividly was the joy and happiness I felt in the people who lived and worked there.

~ Ed Gwynn, 20 January 2014