Ashlee: “Punta Cana is like a black hole, when you move away you always return”
In BOP faces we talk to local legends: the people of Punta Cana that make this place so special. In this edition: Ashlee, who spends her weekends on the beach looking for glass gems between rocks in order to create jewelry. BOP spoke to her about her creative side and taking life as it comes in Punta Cana.
“I am like a grandma! When I go out with my friends and I know it is going to be nice weather the next day, I am ready to go home at 12. Because I will be getting up early to go to the beach to search for sea glass.” Ashlee Dubinski (27) spends at least one day of the week at Macao beach to look for glass to make her jewelry.
“It actually started when my best friend moved from Punta Cana to Mexico. Her boyfriend came back for a visit and told me how much she missed it here. So, I sent her some Presidente beer and a necklace with sea glass. In that way she had a piece of Bavaro. I found it on Macao beach. I started giving these gifts to people who moved away from here, so they had a nice reminder of Punta Cana.”
Unlike some of her friends, Ashlee is in Bavaro Punta Cana for the long run. She grew up in the United States in the small town of Hershey Pennsylvania on a tree farm. Yes, Hershey’s chocolate! Because the tree farm was closed in the winter, you can’t plant trees in cold ground, her travel loving parents took her and her sister for holidays to Punta Cana.
“I have been coming here since the age of 8. There was literally nothing here. Do you know that Soles used to be a little hut! We came here every year. Eventually my parents decided to start living here full time. After I finished University I could not find a job and decided to come to Punta Cana. I was not planning on staying here for a long time, but I got a job.”
Now, Ashlee has been living in Punta Cana for 5 years. She quitted her first job as a sales rep and started working in the customer service department of a company that organizes student travel trips. Even though she works 5 days a week, she still finds time to be creative.
“I have studied science, so I knew about sea glass. When a glass bottle is in the ocean it beats against the coral and it breaks. It is like a washing machine. The glass I use in my jewelry is not altered by me. It is the way I find it.”
Ashlee shows the necklace she is wearing. An aqua green smooth piece that looks like a matt crystal is connected to a silver necklace. “When it has this color it usually was white glass. This is what the ocean does to it. It rocks it the glass back and forth. It is also a form of recycling. I am taking something that is broken and turn it into something beautiful.”
Round little white earrings that look like some sort of shell are sticking out of Ashlee’s earlobes. “This is the skeleton of a sea urchin. It turns white!”
Her spot at Macao where she finds all those gems, she won’t reveal. “Everyone will be out there looking for sea glass! Ashlee says laughing. “I also make hangers out of driftwood.”
Eventually, people started being more and more interested in Ashlee’s jewelry. “People started asking me to make something. When my friends organized the Let’s Get Indie festival I had a little spot to sell my jewelry. I almost sold everything. At the moment, I do not have a web shop. I actually just started with my Instagram page. I can’t make the same thing twice because all the pieces are unique. If someone sees a picture and I don’t have it anymore, I can’t replicate it.”
Living in Punta Cana for 5 years has given Ashlee the opportunity to form friendships with other creatives, but still a lot has changed in meeting new people during the years. “Bavaro is changing. Before we used to go to Liquidos and end the evening with new people all sitting together at one big table. You always used to meet new friends. Now it is a little different. Things are changing for locals, because things are taken away. For example, there are not a lot of public entrances to the beach.”
Although Punta Cana is changing Ashlee still loves it. “Everyone is so happy here. There is always someone dancing next to you. Here it is all about what you want in life. Either you like it or not. Punta Cana is like a black hole. People who move away always come back. Back home people are having babies and doing other things in life. I go to Macao beach and eat fish on the weekends! I don’t feel so American anymore, more Dominican. The urgency that you feel when you live in the United States, I don’t have anymore.”
“Definitely Macao beach. If I would not be living in Punta Cana, I would probably be living in the United States with an ocean nearby. I can’t live without the ocean. I need a beach!”
Want to see Ashlee’s designs? Check out her Instagram page expatturnedislandershop!
Keep on reading about other people living in Punta Cana on BOP faces. Harolis who helps communities in Punta Cana, or artist Tiano Solana who uses his wife as muse in all his paintings, or Juan Bautista who was born in Bavaro when it was still a jungle.