Valentine’s Day. My girl, Mandy, is on the other side of the world and every day I waste on this island is another day that I’m not spending with her at the end of all this.
Mehrdad is a living legend though, he came with me to Ocean World, a nearby port full of Richie riches, on the off-chance, but nothing. There were only a handful of boats in port and most of them were not going anywhere – if they were, it was up to Turks and Caicos, not on my schedule.
With the global depression, the recent murder of an Australian skipper on Antigua and the general strike and riots in Guadeloupe (which may be spreading to Martinique) this is NOT a good time to be hitching around the Caribbean.
Another problem is that Americans are not allowed to go to Cuba. Under the ‘Trading with the Enemy Act’, they face a massive fine or even a jail sentence if they spend a single dime in Fidel Castro’s back garden. The fact that the Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago doesn’t seem to faze the US government into perhaps repealing this rather batty rule. The upshot of which is that the number of people sailing to Cuba and the number of cargo ships going to Cuba is slimmer than a Caribbean cookbook…
1) Fry chicken
2) Add a metric ton of boiled rice (optional)
So, a bit crumpled by the lack of options, I decided to head back to Santo Domingo to try my luck. I rang Ken, another couchsurfer (have I mentioned how much I LOVE www.couchingsurfing.com?!) who had offered me a stay down there. He said that I could come down, but politely pointed out that it was Valentine’s Day and that he might like to spend the evening with his girlfriend rather than a brash, scouse chap who hadn’t changed his underwear for three weeks.
So I decided to hightail it down to Santo Domingo first thing the next morning. With nothing else to do, I persuaded Mehrdad to show me how to make Sushi. We went to the supermarket, I spent an outrageous amount on ingredients and yes, the only Iranian Sushi Chef in the Caribbean taught me how to make Sushi! It was brilliant! Wish he would teach a few more people around these parts, I’m starting to see fried chickens in my sleep.
Mehrdad and I spent the evening chewing the fat over the stuff I love to bang on about – politics, religion, cosmology, architecture, travel – he’s a really sweet guy and one that is as annoyed as anyone in the West about the fact that a bunch of narrow-minded yahoos hijacked his country back in 1979. One day he’ll get to Canada and once he’s got his Canadian passport, he’ll be able to fulfil his dream of travelling the world.
What a lot of people don’t realise, and maybe what The Odyssey will go to show (if I ever get off this damn island!) is that if you were born in the UK, you have THE GOLDEN TICKET. A British Passport. You can go to EVERY NATION on Earth. The vast, vast majority of the people on the planet can’t. Most of them can’t afford to travel to the next village, but even if they could, they couldn’t travel as freely as we can.
We can live and work ANYWHERE in the EU, we have special rights in the 50-odd nations of the Commonwealth, we can visit every single country in the Americas (with the exception of Suriname) WITHOUT a visa.
And what do we do with this gift we’ve been given, a gift that a good five billion people would kill for? We go to Ibiza!
Jesus wept. And don’t give me that stuff about not having the money – couch-surf with the locals, eat street food, travel on public transport. You can live on less than $10 a day. In Vietnam, you can get utterly legless for that much (can’t you Stan?!)…so stop making excuses – this stuff is no fun when you retire because your back will hurt too much.
The world is out there, it’s not a scary place and you have an open invitation. Go see it before you die, it’s great.
And that goes for all of you – Yank, Aussie, Kiwi, Canuck, our European friends and the good people of Japan. And hurry up about it, you’re not getting any younger.
Here’s the vid of my adventures in the Dominican Republic: