Not more than a month had passed since the surrealistic experience of the Pan Am Games and I was flying out again to another tournament. This time it was the regional Caribbean championships called CAREBACO and was being held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Trinidad was sending a team of us to represent the country and compete in the senior and junior events. The senior team consisted of Jason Ramjass (my doubles partner from nationals), Alistar Espinoza, Solangel Guzman, Avril Marcelle, and Leanna Castanada, and myself. We were the senior team that would represent Trinidad and Tobago at the championships. Along with us was a large junior contingent which had entries in all age categories for the individual events as well as a junior team for the junior team event. There was also a Junior International that happened right before the Junior CAREBACO so in a way the juniors got 2 tournaments out of it.
First things first was getting to Santo Domingo and I needed to find a decently cheap flight there and that proved to make things very interesting on the route that I would take. Logic does not always dictate that flight routes make sense and believe me when I say that mine wasn’t the most logical both going and returning. Let’s start with the journey there which had me go for the milk run. From Calgary to LA, LA to New York, and finally New York to Santo Domingo. This proved to take a full 24 hours of traveling including an overnight flight from LA to New York and arriving into Santo Domingo around 1am in the morning. The rest of the Trinidad team arrived just an hour before me so they waited at the airport to collect me and head to the resort. The host hotel was at an all-inclusive resort by the beach so there was no complaints there as it was pretty much food and drinks included and a beach with picturesque clear water. The accommodation though wasn’t as ideal, there was 3 of us sharing the room during the team tournament phase (Jason, Alistair, and me) but then during the individual tournament Jason and I were to have a room to ourselves but we got stuck with one of the juniors in the room with us.
Aside from all that the resort wasn’t anything special, it wasn’t a 5 star resort right on the beach there was a little walk to the hotels private beach. The food was sub-par at best and most of the time it appeared to be under cooked but it was free so I guess I’m not allowed to complain. There was also drinks involved but they were watered down for sure which is expected from an all-inclusive resort. Didn’t matter because we wouldn’t be spending much time there other than sleeping anyways as the tournament hall was at least an hour drive away with no traffic. That journey easily jumped to 2 hours when there was traffic. It also meant that all the players had to go down at the same time and stay there the whole day as there were not multiple shuttles do and from the hotel. Over cramming the bus going followed by being sweaty, tired, and hungry on the ride back was not a fun combination or fun way to spend a week.
The original tournament venue was to be close to the hotel but some last minute complications happened which required it to be changed to the further one. This new venue was just like most other tournament halls I have experienced in my travels to South America and the Caribbean…crap. There were multiple openings in the wall which allowed a lot of wind to come in. funny story and spoiler alert, here was a hurricane coming towards the island which would hit later in the week when we were there. So the tournament started with the team championships, there was 4 teams present. Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica, and of course Dominican Republic. It was a format of a men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and a mixed doubles. The order of play could vary and usually always started with a men’s doubles. We played Barbados first and the following day we played Dominican Republic and the next day Jamaica. At the end of the team championships when all was said and done we came in 3rd place so a bronze medal for the Trinidad and Tobago senior badminton team. After that started the CAREBACO International which was a BWF event and counted towards world ranking as well as Olympic qualifications.
Individual events started and I was the 4th seed for men’s singles. That was the first time in a really long time that I have been seeded for an international tournament. I played a local player first round and then after played Gareth henry from Jamaica. However the day that I played Gareth there was a hurricane that blew through and they only played a few matches that morning because the winds and rain were coming in, unfortunately I was one who played and that was a hard time with the shuttle blowing every which way. Unfortunately I lost 2nd round singles and then 1st round men’s doubles and 2nd round mixed doubles. My tournament was over but first we had to make it through the hurricane. That hit us but not as hard as it could have been, there was some minor damage and to my knowledge no causalities.
The tournament was done for me on Friday and I was leaving Santo Domingo Sunday morning at 4am with a ridiculous flight path to New York, then to LA and finally to Calgary. That meant that I would actually have Saturday to relax/enjoy the place. But first it meant going out on Friday night to the resorts club on the beach, that was a lot of fun and with free drinks it turned into quite the night of partying island style. Waking up the next morning I didn’t have a hangover or anything though so I was grateful for that. Thankfully the hurricane didn’t mess up the beach and Jason and I were able to enjoy the water, it was incredibly salty but warm none the less. At this point it had been a long time since I made it to the beach let alone went into the water. So to relax in the ocean was such a peaceful and calming thing to do. At this point half the day was done and that meant I needed to pack and get ready for my early departure.
Once night hit we ventured into the streets and wandered around because one of our friends wanted a real drink and no more of the watered down alcohol at the resort. Our walking took us straight to the red light district of Santo Domingo and we ended up getting bombarded by prostitutes and their pimps. It was quite the interesting experience to see how many foreigners were actually there enjoying themselves and taking in the sights. After finally getting our friend his drink we left and headed back to the club on the beach for a little and I said my goodbyes to everyone from the Trinidad and Tobago delegation that was there. The driver who was talking me to the airport was also at the club so I didn’t have to worry about missing my ride, 1am rolled around and we made our way to the airport. Early morning flights/red eye flights are the bane of my existence and when I retire from competing and am traveling I will avoid them at all costs.
The trip back to Calgary would take me all day and I would arrive at 9pm that night as I had a few layovers in New York and LA. The flight to NYC from Santo Domingo started off smooth but then only 45 minutes there was a medical emergency and we were not sure if we would have to turn around or divert to another country/airport. In the end we continued forward and made it on schedule to NYC. The rest of the flights I ended up sleeping and watching movies on my tablet but was grateful when I finally arrived home and could sleep in my own bed, and not have to share a bed. That would be the end of the trip not the worst but not the best. I ended up coming home with one medal at least and that’s something big a medal from an international tournament. I would get a bit of world ranking points for Olympic qualifications and got to go to the beach and into the ocean. I wasn’t planning any tournament’s for September but that meant that I had to figure out what to play next as tournaments/points from the previous year would start to fall off.