We arrived in Santo Domingo around 11am and traffic was crazy. I could feel my unease settling in. And from there, skyrocketing! Trying to take in sights of a new city, all the while attempting to help navigate Nate through the madness (thank you Google Maps) was a bit much.
If you haven’t experienced driving in the Dominican Reublic, it’s exactly like driving in Peru, Ecuador and Argentina: it’s perfectly construed chaos (I’ve only seen one accident in 4 months). There’s zero regard for lanes, stop signs (many intersections don’t have any signs at all), or traffic lights. So not only are you entering unfamiliar territory, trying to obey traffic signs, attempting to reach a destination, you’re really just trying to dodge cars, motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians coming at you. For me, it’s like a horrible video game you HAVE to participate in, but you don’t even get to hold your own controller. Is anyone else feeling my pain…or just my mom? After reading what I just wrote, I’m sounding exactly like her! 🙂
For me, Santo Domingo was tough (not just because of the hectic driving). It was another place I felt like I had very minimal breathing space. There are buildings on top of buildings–a very old city to the eye, packed with cars and people. Santo Domingo is a port city, on the ocean but no beach. Nowhere to break away and run and fill my lungs with fresh air. I tried to put my best face on for the weekend, but all came crashing down Saturday night, just 36 hours after arriving.
I could feel it in my body, in my gut literally. The energy was bad. MY energy was bad. I met Nate’s good friend Omar and as much as I enjoyed his company, I was completely uncomfortable in my surroundings, in my own skin. The last time I felt like this was Buenos Aires. Was there a lesson I was missing from that time that was presenting itself again? Probably. And have I ever felt THIS uncomfortable before all of these travels? I really don’t think so. Maybe traveling was doing exactly what I needed it to do–push my limits and become more in tune with myself. And at the same time, really try and freak Nate out. I used to think I was so even keel and he probably did, too! Now there’s no fooling either one of us.
I couldn’t envision the night getting any better for me so I retreated to our hotel room as graciously as I could. Which probably wasn’t anywhere near gracious. But I couldn’t fake anything at this point…just take myself out of the equation ASAP.
I’m very aware that my thoughts create my reality, but I couldn’t snap out of the funk–whatever “it” was. It took Nate (sweet, understanding Nate–couldn’t freak him out I guess) and I the next two days to make a NEW plan. We checked out of our hotel, The Occidental (wonderful breakfast buffet by the way!) on Monday.
Tuesday, we made a day trip to Santiago, the city where Nate began his Mormon mission 14 years ago. He often talked about showing me the places he lived and served in the DR and we were finally here. I was very much looking forward to seeing his old stomping grounds. It was a long day of driving, but I’m glad we did it. We stopped in Cotuí and La Vega–two towns Nate also lived in. It was nice to put a picture with the towns he talks about. Both resemble parts of Zorritos–the apparent poverty. But the Dominican Republic is very green, unlike the dusty scenery of Northern Peru. Seeing the lush country-side and beautiful beaches of the DR, it reminds me of parts of Mexico and Hawaii all in one place.
We made it to Santiago by 6pm. Our time there was short and sweet. I liked the feeling I had when I was there. We visited The Monument of Santiago and I could feel my lungs expanding with happy breathing space. I could view the whole city and surrounding mountains from where we stood. It was just about sunset and there were people exercising all around us; running and sprinting the stairs. Hmmm, I wonder why I liked this place…
We met two more of Nate’s friends in Santiago: Rafael and Olga. I don’t know what their secret is, but they were emitting some contagious Light. Olga with her warm hugs and huge smile and Rafael, tall in stature, yet such a gentle presence. Any uncomfortableness left in me completely melted away and I couldn’t quit smiling. There I sat, understanding maybe 1/4 of the Spanish conversation between Nate, Olga and Rafael, but I didn’t care one bit. The warm feeling of peace and happiness had returned. I was so grateful to be in that moment.
The next morning we headed to the airport in Santo Domingo. We had two crappy nights of sleep in a row, but I was happy to be up at 5am to start a new adventure in a new setting. On our way to the airport, it was still dark out and we were on a sketchy road for a looong five minutes. We saw it all: trash everywhere, people roaming the streets. Even saw a prostitute on the corner. Thanks for pointing that out, Nate! Looking hard at the Google Map in the palm of my hand, hoping to speed up this route, we finally merged up and onto the freeway. I let out an Aunt Brenda sigh and we were home free…
It was time to step foot onto USA soil. We were both looking forward to a few days in the Miami “Heat”!