The plane landed in the DR late at night, we were early to land, but it was still almost midnight. Like Nicaragua the air was rich and heavy. Like Nicaragua I was expected to pay 10 dollars to enter the country. I liked this little game for some reason, sort of the country telling me, up front, they are going to make a certain amount of money off of me one way or the other.
I get through immigration fast, get my bags, do all the customs and screening. Legally, as far as I know, I'm cleared to be there. Outside the sliding doors I am looking for my ride. In Nicaragua there was a very nice group of people from my company to meet me. They took me personally to my hotel and got me checked in. They were all very nice and very polite and made sure I could have everything I possibly wanted to have.
The DR, however, had not done so much scheduling or communicating (for that matter neither had NR but those guys did show up) so I was a little alarmed and concerned when I did not see a person with a sign that had my name on it. Before I decided I was really stranded I went up and down the lines twice. Definitely not a person with a sign with my name on it.
Okay, I figured, I can just go out and see if there is a hotel shuttle. The hotel is a well known chain and they usually have some sort of shuttle you can get from the airport.
I make to walk out towards the shuttle buses that I can see through the shimmery hot night.
A security guard stands in front of me. I move to go around him.
He grabs me.
This throws up every single alarm bell I have in my body. I don't like being touched without permission, I especially don't like being touched by armed men in foreign countries without permission.
He speaks to me in rapid fire Spanish and I can really only catch every other word.
"Vacation. Hotel. Bus." I say, I point to the buses.
"No hablo español." Internally I say I speak Korean. I get annoyed.
He comes at me again and I jerk back, not wanting to be grabbed by him. I'm angry now. I can see he is also angry. I don't really understand what is happening. One of the gypsy cab drivers who are ubiquitous in airports around the world comes up to me.
"He needs calling your hotel. He needs your confirmation number."
I look a little startled, but I dig in my bag for the print outs. I almost never print anything for a trip, but since I was going to two countries in two days and was sure I'd not have great internet access, I printed stuff for this one. I give him the information for the hotel I'm supposed to be at.
Again, I look around hopeful to see someone with a sign with my name, but nothing doing.
He hangs up the phone and shakes his head and talks to they gypsy driver.
"He says you don't have a reservation. You can't leave the airport."
At this point I really do kind of give into a little bit of panic. I roll off to the side with my bags, quickly download an international data pass and email frantically my work contacts. No responses. It's midnight. Security guard has an eyeball on me. I'm brainstorming what to do.
A new flight lands and suddenly the airport is teaming with passengers. Security Guard gets distracted and suddenly I see him running after someone else that had the gall to leave HIS airport. I walk up to the nearest gypsy cab driver and give him the name of my hotel.
He says okay and we slip out a side door.
I have just had to sneak into the Dominican Republic.
I'm in a Gypsy Cab.
I don't speak the local language.
There are so many ways this could go wrong.
I pull up Hellion on chat, as he is in New York with Tino dogsitting for me.
"If you don't hear from me in 8 hours, call the US embassy."
Fortunately, my driver turned out to be just a driver. He asked for 40 dollars, which I happened to have because I thought to get cash in Panama. The hotel did have me on file and I vented my rage yelling at them for a good 30 minutes. Once in my room, way past midnight, I went to the mini bar and happily drank the better part of the half pint of DR Rum. I charged it to me company.
I regretted it not at all.