Missing the Tropics: Alice in Wonderland
I have found myself missing the tropics. some of it is the cold winter. After eight years of living in a tropical climate I have found that my body has really adapted to the the tropical heat.
Of course it has been unseasonable cold, probably due to global warming, but it’s more than that, I miss feeling like Alice in Wonderland.
When I lived in Santo Domingo there was a lot to dislike. It is a poor, third-world country with racial and economic disparity, infrastructure problems such as sanitation, animal control, transportation, road conditions, plumbing… I can go on.
But Santo Domingo was also bright and noisy, people smiling despite challenging conditions, music every where and a sense of impending chaos that never quite takes flight.
When I first moved to Santo Domingo in Feb. 2003 I went to Carnaval the next day. It was quite a rush to go from Florida to this intense, african/spanish festival with masks and ‘diablos’ with padded bats that would whack you if they got the chance. I felt intoxicated.
Eight years later I still felt like Alice in Wonderland. Sometimes Wonderland wasn’t so wonderful but it was always strange. Like an itchy sweater that keeps you warm, I found it both comfortable and uncomfortable. I learned the language, even some slang. I learned the culture and the “gustos” (likes). I could get around on local transportation and bargain with the best of them but still I remained a foreigner, an outsider.
I got a thrill from navigating this Wonderland, moving about without assistance, knowing the lay of the land.
So now I’m back in quiet, predictable Florida where people are either one skin tone or the other, very few in between. Where it’s a surprise to hear a different language and my experience in the Dominican Republic is greeted with uncomfortable curiosity.
I didn’t expect this but I miss the chaos, the plunging necklines and loud outfits, the music everywhere and breaking into dance at any given moment. We Americans are always worried about being politically correct, saying the right thing, appearing to do the right thing and having the latest and greatest of everything. In the Dominican Republic, if you got it, flaunt it. There is no attempt at refinement… ever. It can be crass and offensive but there is a freedom in not having to appear like someone you are not and the raw sexuality, which can be too much at times, can also be freeing as well. One doesn’t have to pretend.