It has been four years since I have been to the Dominican Republic. Since my mother is from there, I have a lot of family still living there and I am consistently making a point to visit more often. Once again, too much time has gone by since my last visit, but I do believe it was for a reason and being back is as if I were here only yesterday. I arrived last night just before tropical storm Chantel was to hit the island today. Fortunate was conspiring on my side to get me in safely. My travels went very smoothly with a flight from Denver that connected through Miami and overall, took only a total of 10+ hours of travel. Today, I awoke to rain and am now enjoying the mid-morning hours to the sounds of thunder and heavy rain drops that continue to drench everything in sight. My view is composed of occasional flashes of lightning, which flicker through the air against the blanket cover of dark grey clouds that consume the sky. Relaxing in the little apartment living room, I am looking out through the curved wrought iron bars of the open window to a large tree overflowing with lush green leaves and vibrant bouquets of yellow flowers. Small birds are perched here and there on its branches, providing beautiful evidence of the tropical environment I am now living in.
I feel such immense gratitude and excitement to be here. There is that sense of adventure that comes with change and traveling that I live for…and yet at the same time, a comforting blend of familiarity because this is my family and I know I am at home. It is another one of my homes in the world and I can feel it give me such a powerful sense of being fully present in this very moment.
The air is soft with humidity, a vast difference from the dry summer heat of Colorado. With the pouring rain and dark grey skies, it is cooler for such summer days, yet still very warm by this mountain girl’s standards. It is the feel of the tropics…my skin is drinking it up and my hair is soaking it in. Already my body welcomes the relief like a drink after being in the desert and you can especially see it by the way my thick short hair is starting to curl and frizz. It feels wonderful!
I am staying with Carmen, the dear woman who has been with my family for years and years, going all the way back to before I was born. She has been in the Dominican Republic her whole life, only spending time away during the years that she lived with my Tita Amalia (my mother’s younger sister who I am named after) while she worked and lived in places like Belize City, the Bahamas, and even Trinidad. As you can see, I am not the only one in my family who travels. Carmen has helped to raise the children in my mother’s family and is as much a part of our family as blood relatives. Actually, when I was in high school, I was shocked to learn for the first time that her and her sons are not blood related to us!
The Dominican culture and its people are so warm and friendly. Hospitality is not only a gift they possess but a joy that they love to extend. My family is no exception and I can say that I have inherited from them that openness that welcomes in others and looks at experiences as the more, the merrier.
So today, on my first day back in one of my homes in this world, I am enjoying the beauty of the storm and the comfort of being with loving family. Carmen is bustling about the kitchen, her short frame gliding about on the smooth tile floors as she cooks a delicious traditional dish of sancocho (a soup of potatoes, peppers and corn, chicken, yams, all served on rice) y ensalada (and salad). We are waiting for my mother and brothers to arrive back in the capital, Santo Domingo, from where they were visiting in the mountain village of Jarabacoa. I will go there soon as well and get to explore and enjoy different parts of the island during my month stay here. Please follow along to enjoy the stories I will be posting about my visits to the mountains and the beaches and experiencing the local people and culture in each and every place.