Once, in the Dominican Republic, I bought a blue rock necklace with handcrafted silver setting. Twenty triangular-shaped powder blue and sky blue variegated stones surround a celeste and white pendant stone. It was a reminder of my first vacation and a reminder that I can do anything – even hike a mountain.
I hiked the wet, muddy mountain from El Salto del Limon waterfall to the corral where the horses waited. I was thirsty, sweaty, tired, and hungry. When I got to the top, my sister was already into the fresh tortilla chips and pico del gallo. A few tourists headed to the other side of the building. I followed to a glass case containing the most beautiful stone jewelry I had ever seen. A blue and white necklace caught my eye and reminded me of the color of the sea when I swam with dolphins. I had to have it, but there was a problem: no price tag. I doubted I could afford it on my budget.
The man behind the counter spoke in rapid Spanish with a toothy grin. His daughter-in-law made the jewelry by hand. I caught a few other words like “lairmar” and “Taino” and “Los Checheses,” but my two-years of high school Spanish were not enough. The cool stones were real. My heart fell.
“Twenty-five dollars cash.”
I was taken aback. From my perspective, it was cheap – I had allotted that much for dinner and drinks that night in Samana.
“I take twenty.”
I looked up at him and I didn’t understand why he changed the price, but Pam whispered to me that he thought I was haggling. Me! The girl who never bartered in her life. I was shocked and embarrassed. I bought it.
As I rode the horse back to the bus, I thought about the exchange. To me, twenty was dinner and drinks, but to the man, it was food for his family. Despite the difference in language and location, we were the same – hardworking, proud people.
Later, I learned the guides got less than a dollar for their work; they lived, like I did at the time, on tips. Later, after I got home, I spoke with a geologist who verified the stones were lairmar and that its monetary value was five hundred dollars. The only source in the world for the stones is one mountain in a small section of the rainforest of the Rep. Dominicana. I learned the stones were naturally created in inclusions in lava tubes and that the stone is often called the Atlantis stone or Dolphin stone.