A favorite Dominican family outing is a trip to the river. Julia's brother Juan (but you can call him Che), his 12 year old daughter Diana, and Ana Maria took us to the Mao River to have a swim. You never really know what you are getting into with these things, and i only knew enough Spanish to ask how long the drive was. The drive was only 40 minutes but it was one of the most bone breaking trips I have ever made. The road was so full of boulders and ruts that you just got thrown around the van then whole time.
There had been a lot of rain lately so the river was swift and muddy. It looked like chocolate milk. We weren't too sure we would swim in such a place, but they found a little bend in the river and yeah, we swam in it. Even found some giant rocks to jump off of. But don't jump out too far or you will be carried away by the current.
That's Che, Diana, Ana Maria, and Maya. Those girls just loved Maya and indulged her with spontaneous moto rides around town.
An enormous lunch at Julia's was waiting for us when we returned, followed by a siesta in the hammocks on the porch. The river swim prompted Diana to need to get her hair worked on all afternoon. Her normal state of hair, as is most of the people here, is a kinky curl. So let me digress to comment of the racial makeup up Dominicans, which I found to be interesting.
First, you should know that the indigenous people, the Taino, were wiped out within 50 years of the arrival of Europeans who, by trading in slaves and sugar, were made very wealthy. Racially, most people are an interesting mix of African, indigenous, and European. Less than 20 percent of the people are pure African or European, and no one is all indigenous. I am pretty sure I have never been to a place where the native people were completely decimated. Oh, and that goes for most of the native animal species too.
Which brings me back to Diana's hair. Like a lot of women here, she has long, thick, black hair from her indigenous side and the curliness of of her African side, resulting in a lot of hair to work with. A wash and a lengthy comb out gets the hair put up into giant rollers the size of soup cans which are kept in for the entire afternoon. The result is perfectly straightened long hair which is then tightly wound around the head and secured with bobby pins.
Maya watched Diana's mother fuss with her daughter's hair. This made Maya want to take out her braids. So, for 2 hours 4 of us women worked on taking out maya's tiny braids with a toothpick.