(This post has a few tidbits for anyone looking to spend some time in the DR)
It is a strange feeling when you come from a place where everything is accessible at pretty much any given hour, to moving (or sailing) to a place where buying something you may want or need becomes more of a search and adventure than merely walking to the local pharmacy.
With the sailing we have become quite accustomed to the major role our guests play as packmules, is part of what we expect of them when coming to visit. And all of our guests happily accepted this role. The minute we find out someone’s flight schedule the online shopping begins. But to rely on packmules when living on land is something else entirely. It’s odd to be in an “in-between” country. In the DR there are many things available, they have walmart-type stores where you seem to be able to find ALMOST everything, but when you are having a craving for something in specific, like miracle whip or Miss Vicky’s salt and vinegar chips, you may be out of luck. Hence the “in-between”.
This happened to me today. With this crazy lip scenario I have found myself in all where my lips are a scaly, cracked and burning mess, I really wanted to find was some 100% natural coconut oil lip balm. Well that is entirely too specific to be able to just walk into a store and find. And then the Live Different group we have here with us right now recommended I look for a specif brand name (EOS). Making my search even more specified. So my first course of action was to jump on to FB where there is a wonderful page created by Gringos in the area (better known as Everything Cabarete. There is also an Everything Sosua). I first polled these expats. that know much more about the area than myself. as to where I may come across something like this. Having this web page has been super beneficial to us when settling in. We have used it for so many random things like buying carseats to finding where the cheapest laundry place is. It’s great to have a group of ‘experts’ in our back pocket for whatever questions may pop into our heads next.
My second step, checking online to see what is available on the WWW and the costs. The main thing to consider, is the cost of shipping and if the item is worth the trouble or should we just settle with whatever is available locally. Our shipping options are either shipping directly to us through a shipping service like CPS or to a friend and have them bring it on their next trip. When we sailed in to Luperon it didn’t take more than a month for us to realize that we would be shipping a lot of stuff in, and so we went to the CPS office in Puerto Plata and got an account. It cost us 700pesos (a little less than $20) for a year and with that we are given an address in Miami where we can get all of our things shipped to and then they are forwarded to us in the DR at the cost of 190pesos (roughly $5) a pound. The beauty of this is most companies offer free shipping within the US, and so it would be free to get it to our Miami address and then we just cover the DR fees and have our items in hand about 3 days after they have reached the US office. The trick is not to get anything too heavy, and to make sure the item value is under $200US or else you have to deal with import and custom fees. But CPS does not make sense in every scenario, like today’s. There was no way I was going to buy $3 lip balm online, most likely pay US shipping costs, and then pay an additional $5 for the DR shipping. $12 lip balm, no thanks.
Third step, if we do not feel like paying the shipping costs with the above company, is to check and see who is the next person that we know that is flying in. So I email around, check with work colleagues, and if needed I’ve even asked friends to see if any of their friends or family are coming for a visit. I.E. could I still a spot in ‘their’ packmules luggage. Luckily for my lips my Mama will be here in a couple of weeks. She will soon be receiving an email from me asking her to run a couple of errands to her pharmacy on my behalf. When we do this we get as specific as possible to make sure that in the end we receive the product we were hoping for. Meaning the email will have every little detail about the lip balm as well as a picture of the product, just in case.
Sometimes, the ‘hiring’ of a packmule can be due to sheer lazyness and the non-desire to go on a wild goose chase for a product that may be available here, but who knows where. Because in this case you also have to weigh the variables. Is it worth me spending my precious time scouring the DR for a lip balm, or a bag of chips, or miracle whip, or can I just hold my horses and wait for my mom to bring it to me in two weeks.