The beaches and town of Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic proved to be our promised land, the carefree island escape that Erin had dreamed of when she first conceived of this year of travel.

But in our first week it seemed like we would not be able to enjoy this promised land until we suffered through our own version of the ten biblical plagues (the combination of natural disasters and fraternity pranks that the God of the Hebrews brought upon the Egyptians to convince them to release their Hebrew slaves, before their exodus to their promised land in Israel). 

Plague #1: Water turns to blood

There was some rust in the water that had been sitting in the water heater, so our first couple of loads of laundry got thoroughly stained with the reddish-brown water. I ended up throwing out two of my four tee-shirts at the end of our stay.

The water certainly did stink and we couldn't drink it. This was old hat to us after Panama, so no cause for concern. Chef Guillame gave us some tips for washing dishes (fill both sinks, add soap to one, and drop a capful of Clorox in both) and washing fruits and vegetables (a small amount of Clorox in a pot of bottled water, soak for two minutes, then rinse, per the label on the bottle). 

Plague #2: Frogs

"We have a situation in the pool house," Erin's mom declared one night as we were putting the kids to bed before Chef Guillame's meal. "There's a frog."

I flashed back to our honeymoon in Costa Rica when we had to get a frog out of our room. I went into the kitchen to get a tupperware container.

"What is zis?" Chef Guillame asked.
"Frog," I replied.
"What did you call me?!"
"A frog, there's a frog in their bedroom. I'm going to try to catch it in this."

He followed me out and we got to their room as Erin's father was stepping up onto the bed, holding the pool skimmer on a long pole. He pointed to a corner of the room where a three-inch long tree frog was sitting high on the wall. I positioned myself under it to try to catch it in the tupperware if it dropped.

He gently poked the skimmer at the frog. It shot off the wall and rocketed diagonally across the room onto the bed. It leapt again and I lost my visual of it. 

"It's on your leg!" Erin's mom yelled to her dad in alarm.
He shrieked and kicked, performing a bizarre primal dance on the bed with the skimmer pole.

I spotted the amphibian slowly making its way back up the wall in the same corner. I clapped the tupperware over it, pinching one of its legs. It bounced around the small container, then sat still, resigned to its fate. I slipped the cover under the container and sealed it. 

"Is OK, zis is not poisonous," Chef Guillame said. He was holding up his phone. "I wanted to film, but zis was too fast."

"Maybe you can cook the legs," I offered.

"No," he said, sounding disappointed, "zis is too small. Here we have big frogs..." holding his hands in the shape of a cantaloupe. 

Plague #3: Lice

We thought we had lice, or maybe fleas or bedbugs after Oliver awoke one morning covered in little red bites, which we were later told were from a kind of mini-mosquito. An exterminator came the next day, and shortly after we bought him a mosquito net. After that we all just got occasional mosquito bites. 

Now whenever Vera hears one of us clap our hands, she asks "maquito?"

Plague #4: Flies

Flies joined us for every meal at our outdoor dining table, and cockroaches occasionally made appearances when eating out at the open-air restaurants. 

We bought an electric flyswatter and followed every meal with a round of sport hunting for flies. It's harder than you would think, but the electric pop when you finally get one is deeply satisfying. 

I tried it on a cockroach in our kitchen. It took about ten zaps before I could get it pinned on the floor. I laid the flyswatter over it and held the button, making a spectacular shower of sparks and legs until it finally gave up the ghost. 

Chef Guillame has had a snake in his shower. Twice. He says the snakes come to eat the cockroaches. Ever since he told us that, we started emptying the garbage, scrubbing the counters, and sweeping the floors every night.

Plague #5: Diseased Livestock

We didn't have livestock, but there was a malnourished stray mother cat and young kittens living under our pool deck. They were very shy at first, until Chef Guillame started feeding them fish scraps and shrimp heads. 

Erin and the kids fed them milk every day, and they soon allowed us to pet them and ran around us on our porch. Oliver named them Lutie, Sungry, and Mama Bickrey. 

Hopefully the homeowners wanted house cats, because they've got them now. 

Trouble in paradise

Plague #6: Boils

No boils, but Erin got a pretty good sunburn on a shoulder she missed with suntan lotion. Vera ended the month with a deep tan, peppered with white spots from bug bites she had scratched raw. 

Plague #7: Thunderstorm of hail and fire

We had some intense thunderstorms, although no hail and fire. When we drove up from the airport we marveled at some impressive lightning bolts over mountains in the distance, then cursed our luck as we arrived at those mountains and drove on windy roads through the center of the storm after the sun had set. 

Plague #8: Locusts

We haven't seen locusts, but Erin walked into the bathroom one morning to see this odious critter:

She ran to get a tupperware container and heroically dropped it over the three inch long beast, with a vase on top to hold it down. After she showed it to me, a Google search identified it as a Tailless Whipscorpion, also called a Giant Vinegaroon because it gives off an odor like vinegar. 

I spent fifteen minutes pacing back and forth from the bathroom to the patio, trying to figure out how to rid ourselves of it. Poisonous or not, I was not interested in engaging in direct combat with it. Lifting the container and stomping it seemed messy and risked its escape since I had no idea how fast it could move. Sliding the whole container out to the deck was difficult with the flooring transitions, and didn't immediately solve the problem of it not being dead. 

I found some insect spray in the laundry room. It wasn't roach and scorpion spray, but I thought it might do the trick. I shifted the Tupperware container to one side and sprayed the floor, then shifted it back and sprayed the other side. It raised it claws and tail at me when I bumped it with the container, but its fate was sealed. All we had to do was sit and wait for it to suffocate in its makeshift gas chamber. 

After an hour or so, it had flipped onto its back like a dying cockroach, but it's legs were still moving. I kept checking it throughout the day but it clung to life, antennae twitching as if there were some little bit of the world it still longed to sense in its final moments. I felt a shameful satisfaction in the apparent agony of its drawn-out demise. Before we went to bed that night I gave it another merciful dose of insect spray, and in the morning I scooped its motionless carcass up with a piece of cardboard and flushed it down the toilet. 

Chef Guillame told us that Tailless Whipscorpions on the island can grow to be twelve inches long. Like a freaking lobster. Nasty. Just... nasty. 

Plague #9: Darkness for three days

We didn't have continuous darkness for three days and nights, but the power did go out frequently. Again our lessons learned from Panama helped us, as Erin was able to continue working on battery power when needed using a cellular wifi hotspot device we purchased here.

On our last day, the power went out in the morning before our last load of laundry in the washer had gone through the spin cycle. After two hours of what turned out to be our longest outage, lasting nine-hours, we pulled the sopping clothes out of the washer to attempt to hang dry them. They hadn't fully dried by the evening, so we packed our suitcase with garbage bags full of wet clothes soaked with the stinky water. 

Plague #10: Death of the firstborn

This became a real fear during our stay. But that's another story...

Up next - Part 3 - Mordedura