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:
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
It’s good to be back, bitches.