It’s been 4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days, and 4 hours since we left our island. 146 days.

For those of you who have lived and loved an island, you know you never quite walk away. Your body leaves but your heart stays buried somewhere in the sand.

I know we’ll be back. I know it isn’t forever. I know someday we’ll return to show our kids where they were born, but for now – Good Lord – has living beyond the reef been hard. Like, I totally understand Moana’s dad now – Girrrl. Just stay on the island. Never leave it.

I think back to when we first arrived in Santo Domingo. We. Knew. Nothing. (Would that make us the Jon Snow’s of the Caribbean?)

A colmado? What’s that.
Un tigre? Oh my God… where?!
Una vaina. Una what?
Where are the street signs?

It was an adjustment. We had never lived abroad before and the shock was thick. People had so many warnings for us that I would press my face against the barred windows when Husband was walking the dogs like I was the neighborhood watch. If I’m honest, the shock was a bit paralyzing. We were coming from NJ, a place of law and order and Santo Domingo was the Wild West, complete with people riding on horses as their primary mode of transportation.

But once the adjustment was made…

It was easy to fall in love. I embraced the allure of living in a place where time was measured in Presidente bottle caps with friends. I understood that the heat was a direct correlation of how slow people moved, which is why we always moved slow AF. Or didn’t move at all. And I loved the lawlessness that came with the Wild West. Sure, it drove me nuts that people drove down a one way in the opposite direction, until I realized that I too could drive down a one way in the opposite direction. The Dominican Republic, through it’s bad driving, taught me that there is no one way to do things. The direction you’re going matters little as long as you are on your way.

It taught me that life isn’t so serious and that you could laugh at almost anything. It showed me that if there was a problem, you could solve it by strapping it onto a motoconcho. The Dominican Republic may lack some things, but it is abundant in knowing how to live simple and happy:

Surround yourself with people you love.

Dance to loud music.

Drink cold beer.

And celebrate the shit out of life.

I picture late nights with friends; my feet in the sand watching Husband dance Bachata with our daughter while our son had surrendered to sleep in the beach chair next to me. Under the stars. Roll of the waves. I sat watching our family so many times, photographing still shots on my iPhone and in my memories, wishing that time wouldn’t catch us. But I knew our moments on that island were fleeting and, looking back, what a gift to know we were – because knowing reminded me not to take it for granted. Knowing helped me live and love every moment. I tried to breathe it all in with the salt water air, to hold on to that time of our life when we were an island family. When we were a family that belonged to the sun and sea and sand and silver silhouettes framed our kids playing with an ocean that chased them.

I knew in those last months that I’d never be able to let go of that place.

And that I’d never want to.

So I like to picture my heart happily buried in the sand somewhere under a sunset, waiting for us to return.

Written By:

Jennifer Legra

Current Rock of Residence:

Dominican Republic

Island Girl Since:

Born to island parents since birth, official island girl since 2011

Originally Hails From:

Jersey (fist pumping not included. Not recommended either.)

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. Her stories are real. The shamrock tattoo is magic marker.

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