My first trip to the DR ended on a high note.
The three weeks had been an exciting combination of work and play, with mornings spent at the beach, afternoons in the hospital, and lots of tourist destinations in between. Towards the end of my trip, I went out with my cousin partying until the wee hours, and the night before my flight home, he saved me from the embarrassment of being stood up by Ricard by taking me out again.
Driving along the water, with the windows open along the Malecon, was the perfect ending to what had been a packed trip. When I tried to convince him to call it a night by 2 a.m., he made me stay out until 3:30 a.m., because “it’s your last night.”
This last trip wasn’t quite as exciting.
“I’m sorry that you didn’t get to do much of anything this time,” my aunt told me yesterday.
“It’s OK,” I reassured her. “It was a different kind of trip.”
When I got home from my first Caribbean trip, I was overwhelmed. Things felt too familiar at home. I was in my apartment alone, with too much time to think about things—exactly as I was last summer, after breaking up with Rich. When I got called into the administration’s office during the measly 10 days that I actually managed to be home, the dejavu was crippling. It was time to leave again.
So, I booked a ticket, with five days notice, back to the DR the same night that Rajiv cooked me dinner in my apartment. And, in much the same way that I barely managed to book a ticket and get to the airport the day after I moved out of Rich’s condo last summer, I left things status quo, with clothes strewn across my bed at home, and got on a plane.
(So yes, I do run away from my problems when the opportunity presents itself—thank you very much.)
This time, though, my trip was mainly business. I went to the hospital everyday—for several hours a day--and for the most part, I felt satisfied with my study results. As far as exploring and enjoying the island, my mind was elsewhere. I spent my free time dealing with things like credit card statements and lease renewals and I let the practicalities of real life invade the tranquility of my alternate reality.
This morning, after two weeks, I was ready to go.
I got frustrated early on, arguing with my uncle (whom I love, but is the cheapest man alive) about when I could take the car and the price of gasoline. I did give him money in addition refilling the tank everyday, but eventually, I just stopped asking to go places outside of work, because it was easier to just sit at home and work on data analysis than to argue about whether or not I could take the car.
In my past travels, I’ve either had an expense account or boyfriend to accompany me. The former ensured that I had a rental car and the freedom to do whatever I wanted in my free time. The latter prompted me to want to try new things and see as much as possible in new places. As someone who’s lived on her own for 10 years now, the lack of independence was crippling and eventually, I just stopped trying.
Perhaps most noticeable difference between the first and second trips, though, was the amount of relationship drama. Granted, the day that arrived, I was basically on the verge of tears about my medical school issues, so Lord knows, I appreciated the distractions. Still, I left feeling frustrated and flawed by the experience. I know that my Dominican friend Lucy has assured me that it’s really them and not me, but seriously, rejection and confusion are awful.
This morning, I had an early flight and with Tropical Storm Emily looming, it felt like in many ways, I was running away again. Sneaking out under the cover of early morning darkness, I was playing chicken--daring Emily to pull me back.
And, when I encountered a very American customs officer in Miami, I was thrilled to hear a non-accented hello. When he asked if I was happy to be home, I said yes, truthfully, and when he said,
“Sometimes it’s good to be back,”
I wanted to say, “You have no idea.”
God bless the country where 28 year old women can live alone, switch careers, incur debt to follow their dreams, call off weddings to rich bankers, and be voluntarily single without being viewed as expired goods.
It’s very, very good to be home.
Editor’s Note: I wrote this yesterday, on the plane, but subsequently developed a fever in Miami (where I had a six hour layover), so apologies for not posting earlier. Also, my (older) cousin threatened to let Alvaro and Eduardo read this after I left. If you two are reading, hello! Sorry that I talked about you on the internet, but please get it together...at least for the American girls.