Returning to the Rock: It’s Good To Be Back

Let me be very clear: I was pee-my-pants excited to be in the States for some of the autumn season. This was the first time in 3 years that I got to experience the awesomeness that is autumn and I soaked in as much pumpkin flavor, dried leaves, and fall clothing as I could get my hands on. Oh – and scarves. I wore the crap outta some scarves. This, coupled with how ready I was to leave my Rock at the beginning of the summer, could lead one to think that this Jersey girl never wanted to return to her rock. But… as a 4th year island girl, I keep falling back to a quote that a friend of mine once shared with me:

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So while I was pee-my-pants-excited to be home in Jersey for autumn, there were a few things – albeit some quite silly – that I couldn’t wait to get back to on my rock of residence:

MY NANNY

I guess she’s not my nanny, she’s my children’s nanny, but I could argue that I love her more than my kids do because she offers me freedom – which, as an algebraic formula, looks like this:

freedom = writing / work = sanity = everyone is happy

To not sound like a terrible mom, know that I don’t just love Shelly because she gives me time away from the kiddos, I love Shelly because she LOVES my kiddos and they love her right back.

DIOS LE BENDIGA

When our daughter was born, Husband and I joked that she would think her name was Dios-le-bendiga instead of Rafaella because everywhere we went, Dominicans were God-blessing-her. A trip to the supermarket included 1 box of milk, 4 large avocados, and 17 Dios-le-bendigas. As a prego, I also got plenty of God blessings and as a non-prego, I get them as less aggressive cat calls (which at 34-years-old, I’m starting to appreciate more and more). The phrase has come to be a part of the vocabulary I associate with life here. In New Jersey, no one blesses me or my kids, and I kinda hate it. On a mall escalator once, my daughter, accustomed to getting so much attention back in the Dominican Republic, waved at passerbys and was totally ignored. I’ll take my Dios le bendigas over cold shoulders any day.

MY ISLAND HAIR

Hair. Long beautiful hair. Lots of my fellow island girls find managing their hair here difficult, what with the humid island air in constant attack mode. I have the complete opposite reaction: my hair seems to like this weather or this water, and though I sometimes could probably benefit from brushing it a bit more, generally, it looks fine… kinda great, actually. In NJ, I wake up some mornings feeling like I should let out a Chewbacca gargle-cry since his hair days, at worst, are better kept than mine when I’m stateside. I knew this to be true when on my last visit, my mother – aka the woman who gave birth to me looking all slimey and bloody – looked at me with a grossed out face and said, “Your hair looks horrible.” I almost Chew-bacca-ed her head off. But it was true. She knew it. I knew it. Here in the DR, it is just too hot to care about blow drying or styling my hair, so I don’t, and it works for me. The only problem is that I carry that attitude back with me on my stateside visits, which leads to the channeling of my inner Chewbacca.

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DR SALONS

While we’re on the topic of hair, let’s also talk about how much I missed my island salon. The other day, my blowout, manicure, and pedicure cost me $25, $32 if you include tip. Sure, one might have to give up some comforts like the broken-buttons massage pedicure chairs we’re used to back in the States, but when your pedicure costs less than a Starbucks latte, you quickly get over the massage chair loss. And then, there’s the actual hair experience. No one, and I mean no one, can wash and blow dry your hair like a Dominican lady. To begin with, the hair wash lasts about 10 minutes and is, in itself, a transformative experience. Then, the intense blow out is a combination of beauty treatment and neck workout. And the finished result, besides looking perfect, lasts me almost a week, which means more time to sip Presidentes. #score

THE MANGOS

You have never truly had a mango unless you’ve had one on my rock. While mango season is technically between May-August, the mango I ate for breakfast this September morning was a cross between candy and a When Harry Met Sally-orgasm. It was freaking perfection and reason enough to turn vegan. While the other island fruits are crazy good too, there is a reason Husband bought me my own container of just mangos from the fruit guy.

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COLMADOS

If you’ve read my bio, you know how I like colmados. And while, yes, I love the colmado because it is where my buddies and I drink ice cold beers, I adore the colmado for what it represents far more than for what they sell me in a 40 oz. frosty glass bottle. There is a freedom, a laid back life that comes with this country, and no where is it better executed than at these fine establishments. No worries. No stress. No reason to rush. People are friendly, ready to offer you a smile or a Presidente – because either one makes any moment better. But mostly, it is a place to meet, to socialize, to stay connected, to laugh, to laugh louder, to sit elbow to elbow with people that makes your life better. God, I love this place.

MY ISLAND BITCHES

Walking into the school Husband works at this morning, I ran into a friend. Well, I ran into many friends (because everyone here is so darn welcoming), but I ran into one friend in particular who, from down the hall, opened her arms wide and said, “Finally. Now we’re complete.” It struck me in the gut: I am part of something here, part of a family. It’s a different kind of family than the ones I leave behind in NJ, but a family just the same. A family that leaves and changes and grows every year. A family that is built by proximity, but held together by intimacy. A family that I love.

Coming Home Jen L

It’s good to be back, bitches.

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Jennifer Legra

About Jennifer Legra

Jen, an expert in The Art of Lunacy, decided three years ago she wanted to get married, have a baby, and move abroad. She discovered she was pregnant in February, got married in July, and moved to the Dominican Republic in August. In October, they had their first baby (yes, that is all in the same year!) and then had another baby 18 months later. Did she also mention she has two rescue poodles? She has a particularly strong dislike for insects of the flying nature and has what her husband calls “an irrational fear” of bugs trying to crawl into her hoo-ha… and also zombies… and natural disasters… basically many scary things. She loves being a mom, but blames much of her drinking on raising two small children in such a bloody hot climate. For this reason, she drinks a lot of Presidentes (the official beer of her rock), and visits many colmados since, well, that’s where they sell Presidentes. You can find her Drinking the Whole Bottle on her blog of the same name:www.drinkingthewholebottle.com. Her stories are real. The shamrock tattoo is magic marker.

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11 thoughts on “Returning to the Rock: It’s Good To Be Back

  1. So true…all of it…I lived in Cabarete off and on for a few years and miss it still, even though I live on my own rock – Key West. I could go back today and people would greet me warmly and say something like ” haven’t seen you for a while…” as if I had never been away.

    • Cab is such a great spot too!!! Every time we visit there we try to figure out how we could move to Cabarete and leave Santo Domingo behind. And Key West???? ugh. i looooove that place!

    • How lucky to live in Key West. I know I only was a tourist, but I fell in love with Key West, it has a bit of everything! The houses there with the double verandas, swoon!

  2. I live in the states surrounded by my family, but my husbands side is spread out all over the world…. We’ve traveled the world to visit them… I’ve never been able to quite put a finger on why I always feel restless…. This sums it up.

    “You’ll never be completely at home again, because a part of your heart will always be elsewhere.. That’s the price you pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place…”

    Quite jealous (in a good way :)) you are making it on an island with kids in tow! Maybe someday 🙂

    • i remember too reading that quote and thinking THIS IS IT. This is it exactly! And the more we move around the harder it will become. We got here when I was 8 months pregnant with the first. Not sure if I would have been ballsy enough to make the move after we had a baby but glad we did. Life here is waaaaay easier than our life would be in the States with kids.

  3. My neighbours. I miss my neighbours when we go over to the U K. They are so helpful and friendly. Walking through town and people stopping us to say hello, even people we do not know. The bright cheerful smiles and the hugs. ( I even got a hug from the dentist assistant at my last appointment. ) O and the sheer bliss of not having to wear shoes.

    • Neighbors! I should have included that. Our neighbors are so delightful and friendly and warm. My daughter has little neighborhood friends and even calls one of the grandmas “Abuela” – adorable

  4. I am coming to your island for the first time ever in December and staying for a month! I can’t wait. I’m staying in Sosua so not sure how far that is from you but I’m hoping to discover what you describe!

    • I’ve never been to Sosua exactly although it is right next to Cabarete which I’ve visited a lot. I hope you love it!!! Another reader is actually moving to Cabarete around that time as well.

  5. So true about trips to the grocery store! We live in Puerto Rico and have a little boy who is Ay! Que colorado! Going to the grocery store here, especially when he was just a toddler, was all sorts of fun for him as EVERYONE talked to him or smiled at him or whatnot. We went home to visit the family (also in Jersey, actually) when he was about 2 and decided to take him with us to Wegman’s to do the grocery shopping, since we assumed it would be the same way up there. Not at all. We just naturally strike up conversations with people in line at the store now (since that’s what you do here, of course) and people in the States look at us like we’re crazy. It’s kind of sad.

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