It has been awhile, too long since I’ve been able to write. Summer was a six-week cyclone spent in the US–(to be read aloud in one breath) half of the time spent getting medical appointments, fingerprints, birth certificates, and other pieces of a 39-page work visa document stamped by government and federal authorities sent to the Dominican Republic Consulate… the other half waiting for approval while trying to see friends and family spread across 250 miles while packing up to take off again. Each step of the Visa process demanded we wait for paperwork to be returned before sending sealed envelopes to the next checkpoint. Our target date to leave was August 1 because my job started on August 4, so I prayed the Visa would be approved giving us the signal to book flights and get “settled.” For those writing to ask if we are “settled” yet, the answer is we are unpacked (except for the fifth bag we were told at the airport we had to leave behind because of a summer embargo which American Airlines didn’t tell me about when I called the day before to confirm the cost of adding another bag. It would now cost at least $500 to ship the contents so, as we say in the south, we will “make do.”)
Waiting all summer for the Visa decision left no head or heart space to process saying goodbye to the people, the city of Marrakesh I loved NOR a proper pace to say hello, connect deeply, then say goodbye to friends and family before leaving. There was also no debriefing for integrating back into US culture as some businesses and churches provide after sending people overseas. (When did gas pumps start streaming video? When did Panera become a drive-through? When did chip technology take over the quick swipe at some stores but not at others? I always managed to swipe when I wasn’t supposed to or pull out my card before the chip technology accepted the payment, causing those in line behind me dismay as I had to start over. Everything moved so fast. When did rent-a-cars replace key fobs and cameras show you how to back out of the driveway? Keep in mind I drove a 2002 Nissan before moving abroad. When did traffic in Nashville whip from lane-to-lane and tailgate at such high speeds and close proximity? My kids said I scared them to death driving with my slow reflexes. When did a hotel room in Music City cost more than one in just about any city in Europe? When did politics peak in craziness? When did news cover only the most horrific events, dissecting violent acts bone- by- bone, day- after- day until we all pay in a pound of flesh called profound fear? When did Animal Kingdom, a series I found while channel surfing, become filled with shocking camera-closeups of graphic, sadistic human sex scenes rather than a Discovery Channel tutorial on meerkats? ( I paused on the series while channel surfing in a hotel because I saw Ellen Barkin was in it and I’d always liked her. After two years where kissing was censored from television I couldn’t believe when I happened upon a scene of two guys, seemingly enemies, punching each other and then…) And when, can someone tell me, did Jimmy Kimmel become so thin, darken his hair and grow a beard? With no time to ponder, Taylor and I flew to the Caribbean and began the business of trying to assimilate into another culture.
Although I have always considered Latin culture in many ways “home” and share with my daughter a lifelong love for the ocean, I knew moving to a new country, apartment, job, life would be challenging for us both–Taylor who has never lived abroad and I who have done so only once. Vacations have return flight dates. Moving abroad happens on a one-way ticket. I knew we needed to celebrate the small victories (learning how to turn on the hot water, light the stove, get internet and phone service, order water , negotiate a taxi…where to wash clothes, dump trash, buy groceries) because if you don’t stay positive and make room for play–wherever you live, but especially when trying to navigate new territory–so much new information can disorient, deplete, depress. So that first week, to escape the humid heat (in apartments due to electricity costs, AC units are in bedrooms only and used at night for sleeping) we checked out the local scene starting with lunch at Adrian Tropical, recommended by a new friend. The whole fish fried Boca Chica- style (named for a nearby beach) was amazing…enough for two.
The second week we went to the same restaurant in our area. Though it isn’t on the sea waterfalls and fish ponds make it a cool oasis. I also made my first pot of shrimp chowder at home. We love the food here.
For the first weekend, I booked us a night at Emotions, appropriately named given all we are feeling with this move. Ranked #1 by Trip Advisor on what many consider the best beach near Santo Domingo, Juan Dolio, it is 38miles/50 minutes from our apartment. Saturday was spent watching waves of storms move down the beach; at the first raindrop all knew to run for cover. By night all had cleared for the animation (dance show) and fireworks. Sunday was sunny sky perfect.
It is hurricane season here, appropriate given our charged feelings as we try to absorb all the change. As I write this, again lightening flashes and the loudest thunder I’ve ever heard signals another downpour that will most likely turn the streets into lakes again. We’ve come to love the storms that cool and calm us–such a change from remembering no more than five times it rained in the two years I was in Morocco. We’ve had some great discussions–now adults, roommates–each finding our own paths and learning how to respect our differences in doing that. We both trust God has lessons and blessings for us here.
When I asked Taylor her best memory so far she said the day we walked to the store in the rain. Despite umbrellas we came home soaked, laughing all the way. We’ve laughed and cried. Sharing this experience is something we will never forget. We both struggle with the heat during the day and our inability to speak Spanish but are determined to learn as much as we can and allow life to unfold. I asked her about surprises here. She said she likes all the open air places and that we have to walk to get what we need. This morning, Sunday, was cooler and quiet–no jack hammers or honking cars (driving is crazy here–the only rule of the road seems to be to pull out and take your chances.) “Walking forces us to be connected. When you walk you see things you miss when driving. It keeps us in the mix, in the moment.”
Yesterday was a good day. Our Russian friend, Maria, took us back to Juan Dolio–this time by public bus– with Sana and Steve, a couple from New Jersey we’ve met. On the commute, under the palm trees, in the water, and around the delicious dinner at El Mason we bonded over this new experience we share. Truly, no man nor woman is an island.