Monthly Archives: April 2015

What Is Research?


Generally, research is looking for facts, collecting them, discussing them and coming to conclusions.   I’m not talking about scientific discovery here, just gathering all of the information I can and talking endlessly with my friends and family about it. We talk about it, we think about it and come to lots of conclusions.  It’s a whole lot of fun!

I’m reading a biography of Albert Einstein.  I’m reading about this foremost researcher because I’m doing research on him.  I want to put the many quotes that I love that are attributed to him in context.  He’s quoted as saying “I never said half the crap people said I did.”  So it would be interesting to document where and when these things were said although considering the passage of time and the premise that facts really are just people’s opinions, perhaps I’m chasing the elusive butterfly.  In any event, I intend to have a good time doing it.

I’ve read that he didn’t thrive in school.  Apparently he didn’t even complain about what he saw as a lack of nurturing learning in schools until he was out of school and much older.  When his father asked what vocational training would be best for him, he was told it didn’t matter because he wouldn’t do well no matter what he did.  But, he was curious.  In fact, he said “I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.”

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“I believe in intuition and inspiration. … At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. When the eclipse of 1919 confirmed my intuition, I was not in the least surprised. In fact, I would have been astonished had it turned out otherwise. Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”

This quote is well-documented.  It was first published in the Saturday Evening Post Oct. 26, 1929.  It appears in an interview with George Sylvester Viereck entitled “What Life Means To Einstein.”

I’d like to sit down with Mr. Einstein and ask him to talk about intuition, inspiration, imagination, evolution and expansion.  I get the feeling when I read about him, his attitude about his work and the many quotes attributed to him that he viewed them all as one process wrapped up all together.  And I think he must have had a wonderful sense of humor, not in a way over my head intelligent sort of way, but in a very simple, down-to-earth way.  Anyway, I love those ideas!

Punta Cana

Our last stop in the Dominican Republic was Punta Cana.  Knowing we were going there, I googled it and saw plenty of beautiful pictures of the resorts and beaches in the area.  But pictures do not do justice to real life sand and sea.

When we walked in to the lobby of the Barcelo Bavaro Palace, I was mesmerized by these larger than life ceramic mosaic figures.  I took a lot of pictures of them and the many others around the grounds.

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Punta Cana is for tourists.  We were told the Europeans discovered it years before the Americans did.  There was evidence of this everywhere we went.  We did hear a lot of English spoken along with Russian, lots of Russian, Spanish, Italian and a smattering of lots of other languages.

The white sand, the layers of blue, turquoise and aqua of the water and the breeze coming off the ocean were stunning.  Beautiful.  This is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.  We actually saw the line drawn across the water where the division occurs.  LOL.  But, loved the idea.  And now I have proof.  I really am an angel.


We left Santiago thinking we were taking the new highway to Puerto Plata.  We were told it would be a 55 mile, 40 minute drive through a beautiful agricultural area passing amber mines, an organic coffee growing region, sugarcane plantations, and roadside stands with naturally grown produce, pasture fed meats and dairy products.  But, somehow…..Siri (our GPS navigator) said turn right onto the Carretera Touristica that wound around the mountain tops for 22 miles and three hours later delivered us to the beach.

The road was paved most of the way but was dotted with pot holes and caved-in portions in flood areas.  At one rough area, a little boy,  who looked to be about 7 or 8 years old, had placed a gallon can at the side of the road with a string attached.  He held the other end of the string and stood bravely right in our path.  We paid the toll and went on our way utterly charmed by his smile and entrepreneurship.  I was so car sick I didn’t have the presence of mind to snap his picture.  The winding curves of the road and the bumpety up and down of the pot holes combined for a good case of nausea.

Many of the houses along the highway are vacation homes for people wanting to get out of the cities.  There are many mercados, very small markets, where you can buy locally grown fruits and vegetables, a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and soda pop.  There are also many bancas.  I thought they might be small banks…..nope.  Bancas are betting houses where  you can bet on most sports and buy lottery tickets.

There are so many activities in these mountains:  hiking, horseback riding and zip lining.  Waterfalls and rivers were nestled into the lush, green trees, vines and blooming shrubbery.

We eventually arrived at Puerto Plata and discovered the Playa Chaparral.  We were so glad we did.  We were so hungry and anxious to hit the beach.  We walked through a large parking lot and a large vendor area and were directed to a restaurant on the beach.  That’s how we met Giorgio.

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Giorgio  moved to Puerto Plata from Quebec, Canada.  He settled in and opened two restaurants on the Playa Chaparral:  The Hispaniola Restaurant and Bar for lunch and snacks and next door Le Petit Francoise for dinner.

We had octopus and squid appetizers,  whole fried fish and fries, shrimp in a spicy sauce with rice,  mango and pineapple cocktails, Presidente beer (the favorite local beer) and margaritas all with our feet in the sand.  Right there…..that’s my definition of heaven!  I’ve been coerced into eating octopus and squid before.  It’s always been rubbery and coated with breading and deep fried.  This was fresh-fresh and tender-tender.

Giorgio has created a wonderful life for himself there in Puerto Plata.  His philosophy, food and attentive waiters were worth the ordeal we went through to get there.  He invited us to look at houses along the beach and stay awhile.  We were so tempted.

Again, I was reminded, that seeing new places and having new experiences is so much fun, but the people you meet along the way are life enriching

Santiago De Los Caballeros

This monument is as gorgeous as it is huge and honors the Heroes of the Restoration, those who liberated the Dominican Republic from Spain.  We arrived there to see it after it had closed and so didn’t get to go inside the several museums.  It is topped with a statue  of Victory personified as a woman with her arms upraised.

The grounds around the monument are beautifully landscaped and adorned with statues.  All of them are larger than life.   There are historical heroes, baseball  heroes and fanciful carnaval characters.  It was drizzling, so our gracious host, Natalia, took us across the street to the Kukaramakara Country Bar and Restaurant, her favorite restaurant in Santiago, for shelter and dinner.  What a great idea!  Our table was lined up perfectly with the front of the monument so we took one picture when were arrived and another as we were getting ready to leave.  I have mentioned before, I think, that meals in the Dominican Republic typically last about three hours.

The restaurant was decorated in early American Cowboy style.  Large T.V. screens showed old John Wayne movies.  The menu made our dinner choices difficult.  Sushi was unexpected, mostly because of the cowboy theme.  Seafood is always offered here in the D.R..  It is an island, after all.  There were many mofongo choices and barbeque dishes.

Our companion, Bob Alsop, was hungry for ceviche and we didn’t see it on the menu.  We described to our waiter what we wanted and he was excited to bring us the Judaea Makara Fish Ceviche and a mixed grill dish, similar to paella,  that included octopus, squid, oysters, lobster, shrimp, mero (sea bass), beef, pork, tripe and rice in a fabulous sauce.  It was so delicious and we solved all of the world’s problems as we relished every bite.

Santiago is the second largest city in the D.R. and the agricultural center.  it’s located in a beautiful, lush, green valley known for its coffee and sugar cane plantations, cattle ranches, rice farms, and amber mines.  It’s so beautiful.  We’ll be back.

I love to be in a city long enough to get a sense of place.  And as I talk with the people who live there, I love  the understanding that comes about how they live their lives and what matters to them.  All over this city, in fact, all over the Dominican Republic there are men standing around in public places ready to find a parking place for you…..for a few dollars.  And when there isn’t a parking space in sight, they’ll always find one.  Everyone needs to be tipped.  It’s understood.  That’s their work.  That way everyone is happy.  When you get used to it, accept it, and go with the flow… understanding comes.  It’s like three hour meals.  Relax.  Enjoy your life and allow others to enjoy theirs.

Ding Dong! The Bell Went Off!

It was amazing to see!  Santo Domingo is the oldest continually inhabited European city in the Americas.  The buildings are over 500 years old in the Colonial Zone.

We had lunch at Pura Tasca overlooking a statue of Frey Nicholas de Ovando, the first governor, and a museum in the Colonial Zone.  We enjoyed tapas, shrimp and rice and, of course, mofongo.  We were right next to where the Rio Ozama and the Caribbean Sea meet.  The Fortaleza Ozama was built there to protect the port and the city.

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It was interesting  to hear the history of how  Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand funded Christopher and Bartholomew Columbus and their explorations in the Americas and about the struggle  to control the Dominican Republic.   The construction of the Fort was begun in 1502 and flew the flags of Spain, England, France, Haiti, Gran Columbia, the U.S. and the D.R. until the 1960’s when it was opened to the public.

There were canons spaced along the sea wall from the Colonial Zone into Santo Domingo.

The history of the Dominican Republic sounds just like the history of the United States and the settlement and canal construction history of Panama.  The explorers and settlers  either ran out out the native inhabitants or enslaved them and brought African slaves as well.  Conquest.

I googled the conquest of central america and had some unexpected links pop up:  the mongol conquest of central asia, the russian conquest of central asia and the arab conquest of central asia, the roman conquest of britain, etc.  And so it looks like the common one word descriptor of world history is “Conquest”.  It seems every country on every continent has experienced conquest.  Every one of them has had citizens killed and enslaved.  It’s a pattern.  We seem to live life in cycles and patterns.

Ding Dong.  The bell went off!   Last year we went to see Dinesh d’Souza’s movie “America”. He had gone into great detail about this very subject.  This is just the first time I’ve personally bumped up against it.  It’s interesting to me how I can learn lots of disconnected information and (pow) something brings my mind to connect it and other thoughts are drawn to expand…..that’s it, expansion!

Again:  Goethe said “You only see what you’re looking for and you only look for what you know.”

When In Rome…..

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, is an interesting melting pot of cultures.  We heard a lot of spanish, of course, but also a lot of french, italian and russian.  The food was so good.  We ate a lot of tapas with sangria and a large variety of fresh, fresh seafood.

This was my first introduction to Mofongo.  A totally strange flavor that at first I couldn’t understand.  Why oh why would anyone want to willingly eat mashed up plantains, garlic and pork rinds.  It sort of sounded like the South (USA) to me.  You know “cracklins”…..  Please don’t you southerners be offended.  You know what I’m talking about.

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This was the common presentation that I saw when it was ordered in a restaurant.  Someone in our group ordered it every meal.   It was mounded into a footed, wooden bowl.  Often it was served with shrimp, pork, etc. and a sauce.

In Santo Domingo and in Punta Cana, a breakfast buffet was included with our room.  The buffets included omelets made to order, bacon, hams, a huge selection of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, lots of breads, rolls and croissants, fried potatoes, paella with a wide variety of shellfish, red beans, rice and, of course, a large buffet server full of mofongo with sliced red onions strewn all over the top.  The mofongo is a creamy bland mixture, not unlike lumpy, mashed potatoes, and the red onion gave it just the right amount of tang.  It was a curiosity at first.  Gradually, it became a staple and we enjoyed it just as much as any Dominican.

You know the saying:  “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.  Well, when in the Dominican Republic enjoy the Mofongo, Sancocho and seafood.  It’s the best!