Happy New Year! I welcomed 2018 in my motherland of Dominican Republic. It had been 12 years since my last visit and I was beyond ready to see all of my family again!
To say that the visit was anything less than overwhelming, would be an understatement! My little cousins are now adults getting married, the babies I met through photos are now teenagers, and my aunts and uncles haven't aged a bit ;). The heart-warming moments lasted from the moment we landed to the moment our flight departed. Seeing my family was just the frozen ice on my cerveza though. It was rediscovering the island that opened up a hidden perspective for my new year.
The DR, came out with a new marketing tag line campaign for the country: Dominican Republic Has It All.
The words couldn't be more accurate. They have everything you could want for paradise, except snow, if that's your thing. ;)
At its very core, the people are warm, friendly, and beyond helpful. A jovial spirit fills the streets 24 hours a day, even more so during the Christmas and New Years holidays. It's party time, all the time. Neighbors are always looking out for one another and family comes first above all else. Witnessing this kindness amongst friends and strangers reminded me once again why traveling is so beautiful. It is because most people are inherently kind and beautiful, if you allow them to be.
So what do happy people do in their country? They act like tourists, I think! They go to the beach, play in their rivers and appreciate the vegetation of their country side and coast lines. My family and I unfortunately did not get to visit the country side due to a death of a close relative. The majority of the population is roman catholic here, and follow a certain mourning process when a loved one passes.
After a few days though we were able to bask in the Caribbean sun on the beaches, drink the delicious local beer (which tastes completely different in the US!) eat fried fish, and walk amongst nature through out the city. The beaches have sand as soft and as white as cotton, with water as clear as a cloudless day. The island breeze cools you down during the day as you sweat along, exploring, eating, drinking. As it started to rain on our beach day, like it does every day, we ordered fried fish, sweet yams, and a local favorite - yaniqueque! Pronounced yah-knee-k-k, this heavenly piece of thin fried dough is enjoyed by young and old during any season.
On a cooler day we embraced the nature and went to explore underground caves in the city. Los Tres Ojos, or The Three Eyes, is a limestone cave with three lakes on the inside. The cave sits within a park in the middle of the city. So it is quite a treat to be able to escape the city havoc without having to drive to the mountainous jungle. We marveled at all three "ojos" and enjoyed the raft ride, a boxed palate maneuvered on a pulley system, that lead us to the hidden lake. It costs $100 pesos to enter, about $2 USD per person and $25 pesos for the ride, also per person.
On days when we weren't visiting and reminiscing, my sisters and I were privileged to have our own personal tour guides through friends and families. From traveling solo and often guiding myself, it was a welcomed reprieve to be able to just wake up and say "hey, what are we doing today?" or to just be taken away to somewhere surprising! My favorite spontaneous day trip was on new years eve day. My cousins brought me along to a block party with live music and of course a ton of whiskey and beer. Comically enough named El Rally del Borracho, The Drunkards Rally.
To say that is was fucking amazing fun and grade A people watching would be an understatement. Listening to merengue, dembow, reggaeton, and salsa in the streets brought out my inner Dominicana. Though it was the EDM and House music that really brought a smile to my face. Dominicans don't really get house music, hahaha, or at least dancing to it, it just wasn't working out... So after hours of drinking and dancing in the streets we high tailed it before closing to change for our own new years eve party.
We drank, we danced, we ate entirely too much plantains on this trip! But I wouldn't change a single moment. I'll certainly be back to DR very soon. This visit awakened something in me. I understand now why I love to have fun, be happy, and party so much, it's because I am Dominican. And Dominicans love to enjoy life that way! I don't need to have an explanation, it's a part of me.
It also showed me that I have two homes, the US and the DR. Both are mine, and I haven't explored either one of them enough. I've always loved the United States, but I forgot about Dominican Republic, where I was born and somewhat raised. ;)
My island home has so much to offer. I hope one day you're inspired to see all that Dominican Republic has, because lo tiene todo. ;)