Husband and I have been here for almost three years and it never ceases to astound us just how much we do here in one week’s time.
Yesterday, after work and spending hours at the school playground we made a fast decision to find ourselves seated in front of Cuba’s best invention: the mojito. While Husband’s was a traditional mojito mine had the classic Dominican twist: chinola (passion fruit).
We sat at an outside table at Roust, a new restaurant in our old ‘hood. Rafaella sat with us while Santiago napped in the car behind me. As we settled into our seats, our drinks, and the perfect “winter” climate we also settled into a conversation Husband and I have a lot: a typical day in our life in the Dominican Republic and how grateful we are for it.
“Think about how much we’ve done this week,” I reminisce.
Husband recapped, “We’ve logged in at least 10 hours at the playground, went to Story Time at the library with the kids, ate at the rib place with our friends, played volleyball, went to band practice, attended a Spanish class, watched a soccer game, and are now sitting here with afternoon mojitos.”
“And this has been a slow week…” adding drama by elongating sloooow. “And we still have the Davis Cup Tennis Tournament on Saturday and Superbowl Sunday.”
“And you have book club tonight,”
“Because you’re not going to basketball.”
“We do more here in a week than we ever did in a whole month in New Jersey.”
He was right. The life we lived in New Jersey tended to be crammed with work and chores and grocery shopping and to-do lists. Any free time during the week was spent happily cozying up to reruns of Law & Order. Saturday was the only day we enjoyed free time which we planned all our events around in between trips to Target. And as every teacher knows, God gave us Sundays for lesson planning and grading papers.
But life here isn’t at all like that. A typical day in our life in the Dominican Republic includes almost as much time playing at the park as working at school. We sit down and eat dinner together and sit at the table long after our meal to talk. Just talk. Husband and I are good at talking.
And then there are the gems, the invaluable moments that aren’t necessarily typical or planned but that always seem to sprout up: the trips to the colmado* with a half-dozen people, Friday at the bluffs, dinner at ribs*.
I look over at Rafa who has picked up another of my traits and she’s dancing at the table as she eats her onion ring and drinks her chinola juice. When I dance along, throwing her a Jersey fist pump, she flings her head back in laughter. The waiter comes to take our plates and she looks at him and says, “Cuidado (careful),” – her newest understanding of a word and its concept. Santiago has also since woken up and is now sitting on Husband’s lap eating his mango because we live in a place where our kids eat mangoes that they’ve picked up from the playground and where coconuts spot the grass like polka dots on the shoes she’s wearing.
I sit there across from Husband breaking the Caribbean air on his back. It flows generously in January reminding me that this season is the reason people live here.
Is this why we do so much more? Is it the sun? Or is it the lifestyle? Or the culture?
I can’t answer that.
Oh… no, not because I don’t know the answer but because it’s time to get to the colmado*.
It’s Friday. Colmado Friday.
What do you feel grateful to have where you live?
- *colmado – the Dominican institution where friends gather to play dominoes, talk yell talk loudly, and drink Presidentes so cold – due to the special refrigerators set at sub zero temperatures – that even on the hottest days one sip is enough to cool you down. (synonyms might include bodega, cornerstore)
- *Jimmy – reference to Jimmy Buffet, king of Margaritaville.
- *ribs – I don’t know the name of the ribs place. We just call it “ribs.” It’s an outdoor tented area, with plastic table and chairs that cooks up ribs something special.