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We were five. Two pint/tablespoon sized and three adults. I arrived early, bugged the hotel staff for a crib on several occasions, drank nearly a liter of water, figured out the cards in the slots for electricity, walked through the Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood-like maze that was the resort and waited. I’d left my house at 6 PM the night before, arrived a few countries and territories later, at 3 PM arrived at the hotel complex where my family and I would spend the next six days, hopefully without incident. At 6 PM local time, or maybe a little later, I spied the first of the S/S clan (which makes us sound much more sinister than we really are), and ran out to meet them.

I have to lay claim to being a fairly independent traveler, usually preferring tours only when they’re necessary, like the cycling trip to Cuba I took in 2000 through a nonprofit called Global Exchange, when American citizens should have only gone to Cuba with a license (not sure of the status these days), or when it involved a high-altitude trek through trail-less mountain tops and lakes, like the trip I did near Volcán Antesana in Ecuador in 1996. You may also note that I crossed the south-west of Bolivia just this past December in a 4X4 with five of my new closest friends. So add deserts and salt lakes to the conditions that require a little coddling (if you can consider the provision of very rustic sleeping conditions and bread and rice for lunch and dinner coddling).

So, independent traveler at an all-inclusive resort. I was expecting to come home and try to write a diatribe like David Foster Wallace‘s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, his rail against cruises, except that his writing is approximately a quadrillion times more adjective-ridden, much snarkier, and far more brilliant than mine. It also turns out he is dead, which I didn’t know, and which makes me want to go off on a sad tangent about how I’m bummed I won’t get to read anything else by him, since I’ve already read Infinite Jest, which was his most gigantic and impenetrable (but well worth it) tome.

So. Some people go to all-inclusive resorts for the alcohol. They made a mint on me and the rest of the S/S clan (oy! that sounds awful, must work on it), unless it turns out that salad makings are as expensive as that blond Dominican rum they pour into everything. I was essentially there for the unlimited chickpeas, which I ate at every meal at which I could find them. We have chickpeas in Chile, but they’re not the same, even with a pressure cooker and a pound of salt. So I hit the chickpeas pretty hard, also the artichoke hearts. I hope never to see another tortilla chip or the freakish yellow goo that comes out of the machine next to them labeled “spicy,” which it really is not. And if I never eat another one-inch cube of cake, that would be okay, too, though really I have no one to blame but myself.

We played at the pool, and played at the beach. We watched the nephew of meningitis fame get knocked down by a wave or two and chant “rocks, rocks” over and over as we passed the resorts impressive (to a two-year-old) collection of sharp and smooth pebbles in all the planters. The niecelet made a friend, got her hair braided, went horseback riding and made a clever geography-related joke, wondering if (as we were in the open-sided truck) on our way to the horses if the trip was taking so long because in fact, we were going to Haiti. MamaJ knitted a gorgeous white alpaca scarf for me to take back to the Chilean summer (the yarn having previously traveled from Peru to Chile to the United States and then to the DR and now back to Chile), and also probably wins the most-sunscreen-to-least-exposure-to-sun award, bundled up under the sunshade with the scarf and all. And my sister got to try every kind of grilled fish known to man (it seemed), including cuttlefish, which she swears was tasty, but pescavarian-label be darned, I just could not bring myself to try), and took long walks on the beach, sans kids! I took copious note of everything and also copious photos, which just as soon as I get over the ultra-rapid coffee detox they put me on on this vacation (seriously, there was brown water. It was not even coffee-flavored, I was not amused), I will post some.

So there you have it, vacas (lit: cows, but used in Chile to mean vacation) in a nutshell. We started with five, and ended with five. There were some mystery bug bites and a touch of sunburn on a certain 8-year-old but aside from that, we have arrived unscathed. Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are.