This is a beautiful island, a beautiful country, filled with very loving people. I have been here over three years and still don't know if I am staying. But there are many of you who read this who are wondering if you, too, can pick up and leave your homes and start over again.
I have so much more sympathy for immigrants now. How hard it is to leave your roots, your music, your language, your familiar cuisine, your friends, your church, your neighborhood. It takes years to become fluent in another language. I have an ear for languages, at one time I was almost bilingual in French, dreaming in French, thinking in French. Now I can make myself understood here, can understand when I am spoken to directly. I can read the paper with ease and follow the news on television. But I sink into a sort of whimpering fog when locals start to talk with one another. I used to find myself shouting when they did not understand me... honestly... just saying the same thing louder.. How silly.
Here's what I love most - the climate-- no winter, no snow, no ice. It has dropped down to the 60's at night and I have to put on long sleeves. But August is a long way away now, a dim memory of the paralytic heat, although, truth be told, it is no worse than Washington, DC. It is almost always sunny. Wonderfully, gloriously bright.
And the Fruit. Honestly, you up there in the north have never really tasted tropical fruit. Oh bananas transport pretty well but you have yet to fall in love with the papaya. Every two blocks there is someone selling fresh fruit, little plates of cut up fresh fruit. And guanabana.. you did not even know it existed, right?
The doctors here give you their cell phone numbers. OK, it is true that as a gringo I pay the full price, and am to be treasured but I have never had a doctor call me at home the next day to see if I was alj right. Never. It is hard enough to get them to visit you when you are actually under their care in the hospital. I have only had little things, an intestinal bug, an ear infection, a skin infection, but these doctors are highly educated, very qualified. It is just that they lack all the equipment, the bells, the whistles, the hi tech stuff.
I love that I can put some money directly into the hands of the needy. Around my house there are a few older women who regularly beg, one has a swollen leg, one is just apparantly poor - although who knows, she may do very well.. Whenever I hand them my few pesos, I am grateful that my mother never had to beg.
I love that I am contributing to the developing world. I hope that my work as a reporter is helping but if not, at least all the money that I spend, my rent, my food, my cell phone, goes into this country's economy.
I love that I am living in a furnished apartment and loving it. I believe that my rent is my landlady's major (if not sole) source of income. She has told me that every night when she prays she thanks God for the Pope and for me.
I love that I can call the local colmado to have my water delivered. And give the young man a good tip. Ditto the young man who carries my groceries up three flights of stairs.
I love that I do not know the names of most of the trees yet. They are mostly always green. And suddenly I will look up and one will be in bloom , great orange blossoms I saw today. I cannot yet understand the climate that affects them, how some come into bloom now and others five months from now.
I love that the mango tree outside my balcony already has small fruit on it although they will not be ripe until June.
I love that the people here actually dance with one another. Intricate delicate rhythms, right out in the open colmados, next to their one bottle of beer, shared among them.
I love the way they love their families. Every Sunday, the parking area is packed and the apartments are packed with relatives.
I love that when it is a holiday, everyone takes it. The stores are all closed. The Capital streets are empty and silent.
I love that I can get to a tropical beach inside thirty minutes.
I love that I can swim in an outdoor pool, underneath the sun, with no lane barriers and not come out feeling that I just soaked in chlorine.
I love that they all know the words to the popular songs and sing along with them. The cheaper long distance buses are like a college outing, everyone talking and singing.
I love that they travel with 7 people in a taxi cab and do not complain.
I love that they consider New York part of their own country.
I love their baseball teams and that you can sit in the best seats for $13.
I love that I speak Spanish with Germans and Russians.
I love that I read the Spanish subtitles for the Arabic that is spoken on Syriana.
I love the grass quits, the little finches that swarm the bird feeder on my balcony and keep me company with my morning coffee.
I love the coffee.
I love the tenderness and pride with which the Domincan men treat their fighting roosters, although I have no desire to actually see the fight.
I love that the people are mostly shades of brown.
I love that they are not at war, nor ever have been, except for their own independence.
I love the way that when you ask them how they are they answer:
Fine, thanks be to God.