The Cultural Gift of a Coconut

 

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For some reason, I cannot handle resorts. After a day or two of sitting next to the relaxing sound of beach surf pounding powder white sand beaches, drinking free drinks, and eating whatever I want without paying a dime to anyone, I start to go crazy. In the past, I always thought that this was because I have some strange aversion to over-relaxation. But now I think that I have always disliked resorts, because they have no culture. And of course, there is a story that goes behind all of this.

My father and I were finishing up a very relaxing session of drink beer in the pool under palm trees and brilliant sunlight, and were going to head out for a little adventure. The plan: go through the other hotel next to us, designed to look like a castle, and eventually reach the massive beach near our resort.
We walked off the path of our resort, and into the strange limbo that made up a 5 star resort that people will pay thousands of dollars a night (equivalent to like 6 backpacking vacations) to stay in for a few nights.
Shadows danced on the walls under the light of fake torches attached to the wall. The hallway was wide and tall, full of echoes that appeared to come from shadows that clung to all of the corners.
Occasionally we would hear the dull echoing of a worker moving between rooms, only to have the noise and shadow of that worker disappear like a ghost the moment you took notice. And all through the while, a massive waterfall pouring through the middle of the hotel lobby, made resounding thunderous noises throughout the area.
All of these influences combined together and made it feel as though we had been thrust into the setting of a 5 star horror movie, full of delicious food and snowy white linens.
And then just as suddenly, we were thrust back under the brilliant light of the sun, and beach lined land of the Dominican Republic Coast. It was like we had walked through a very vivid and bizarre daydream.

We then walked the beach, past all of the cabanas trying to set up a beach party, different people trying to kite surf, and eventually to a shady grove of coconut trees at the end of the beach. We startled a security guard on our approach, who had been passed out in a foldable chair next to the ocean. Hearing us approach, he jolted awake and proceeded to tell us that we couldn’t go any further. We had reached the velvet-lined border of another resort, and were asked to turn away. Right before I could shrug the experience off as another reason why I dislike resorts, he called us back.
“Follow me,” he said, “I will show you.”
I thought that he was going to show me a little map that explicitly showed why I couldn’t go any further, but I was about to be mildly terrified, and then pleasantly surprised.
Reaching into the roof of his hut, he removed a machete. Before I could get the wrong impression, he pulled a coconut from the bottom shelf.
“Ah,” I said sheepishly nodding my head, still unsure of what was going on.
He swung the machete overhead, and split the top open.
“drink,” he said enthusiastically, looking excited to finally have some human contact during his long day of being away from people.
My father and I drank from the coconut, and it was amazing. It had to be one of the best forms of coconut water we have ever had. We finished drinking the coconut water while walking away, but were called back again just as suddenly.
“Please,” he said beckoning to me. I handed the coconut back over to him, unsure of what was going on. He cut the coconut in half, exposing the rest of the coconut meat for us to eat, and handed it back to me.
My dad and I were bewildered. Not only had we been only barely told off by the security guard, but we had also been given one of the most delicious coconut treats I have ever had in my life. But more than that, it had felt like a genuine gesture between human beings, than the actions of a hotel worker who was obligated to by money serve our needs.
We had to go to the end of the beach to get an actual Dominican experience. The gesture of giving a coconut to potential intruders reflected what I would later come to know as Dominican kindness and hospitality. Not to say that Dominican people are perfect, as we had driven through a riot the day before, but they are more than a country of resorts with servants.
So whenever I reflect on the reasons why I dislike a resort, and why I wouldn’t ever travel there, I think back to the man with a coconut. I cant ever be content with traveling around the world to have people wait on me, when I know that somewhere out there, maybe at the end of a beach, or in some obscure town, there is the unexpected chance that a man might be waiting to hand me a coconut.

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