Within the first week of our arrival to Santo Domingo, a neighbor downstairs had a party and all I could think was:
For the love of God, I’m 8 months uncomfortably pregnant and I just want to sleep and they want to have a party… now?! On a Friday? At night? Are they serious? A Friday night party? Don’t they know that I’m about to give birth and push a large-sized tropical papaya out of my hoo-ha and that these are the last few nights of precious sleep I will ever again have in my life?
( In full disclosure: they probably did not know that a preggo was hovering in their midst or that I tend to lean on the side of dramatic from time to time.)
I looked out the window to see if I could
stalk spy snoop check up on my new neighbors and realized this wasn’t even a party. This was a get together of about 7 people. Boom! My first island epiphany. I quickly learned that night that it doesn’t matter if it is an intimate gathering or a rocked out, all night rager – Dominicans do not “do” quiet. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you looked up the word “quiet” in a Dominican dictionary, it wouldn’t be there – instead you’d find a gaping space where the word “quiet” should be between “never gonna happen” and “yeah right”. Or it would be there but with a question mark behind it as if no one could find the definition to such an absurd word.
It was the first night of many that I would curse the loudness of this place.
When my daughter was born, the political race of 2012 was well underway. Cars driven with men holding megaphones would blast down our street chanting, “LLEGO PAPA (Papa has arrived and yes, one of the candidates was known as ‘Papa’).” Cavalries of 20-30 cars would roll down our main avenida with speakers, the size of the cars themselves, pounding music with cheerleaders dancing on the rooftop. I. Kid. You. Not. This was the political race here. Sometimes I lay in my bed after putting our 3-month-old daughter to sleep and would hear the brigade coming from miles away – it was that loud. I would run to Husband and tell him to find me a rotten tomato because “if they woke up this baby, God help them, I’m going to throw something at them.”
The funny thing is though, it never woke her up. The Political Dance Party Unit didn’t wake her up. Neither did the construction jack hammer next door to our building that pounded away all day, every day – except Sundays – for two years. Neither did the barking dog that ran on Energizer batteries. Neither did the motoconcho bikes’ backfires that sounded like gun shots in my apartment. Neither did the Merengue, the Bachata, or the Teke Teke that was turned up so loud I was convinced it was a deaf man listening to the radio because who else would need to hear music that loudly.
One night, after being the mommy of a newborn hoodlum for only a few short months, a single friend (the savior friends of us in ParentLand) was heading to La Beba, a nearby colmado, for a few cold beers. “Put that baby in the stroller, Husband. We, too, are going to the colmado!” Here, nestled on the corner of Loud as Sh*t and What Did You Say?! we sat with friends on plastic green Presidente chairs in a parking lot and drank beers while music blew through the speakers like a hurricane and cars honked their horns like wild animals in a stampede.
…and still our daughter slept through it all. For the first time since I had moved here, I didn’t curse the loudness.
Instead I looked around and had another epiphany. No one here shushes you to be quiet. No one here tells you you can’t drink outside. No one here tells you that a parking lot is not an appropriate place to drink. No one here looks at you funny when you bring your baby to the bar.
Maybe the loudness isn’t just a curse. Maybe it is a blessing too. And maybe me and this rock are going to get along just fine…