Above: M.C. Escher – Relativity

Whenever I come to the Dominican Republic I always have such mixed feelings. On the one hand it is so familiar. I lived here 8 years, long enough to learn the language, the culture; long enough to move among the locals without feeling like a tourist.

There is something so visceral for me to be able to come to a country such as this: upside down, backwards, half-crazy, little bit wonderful, a lot maddening; and move about like it is my home.

In a way, it reminds me of my youth in NYC. I lived near Chinatown, Canal and Church Street, but I went to high school at 135th street: Harlem. I went there because it was an art high school, founded by Mayor LaGuardia, and it was free but you had to pass an audition to go there.

This was NYC before Giuliani, when it had an edge and to move about you needed to really have some street smarts. Back then, you kept your valuables well hidden, no cameras in plain view. Knowing the subway system and what streets were safe was mandatory. My father used to tell me “Don’t walk too close to the buildings or someone could pull you into a doorway; don’t walk too close to the street or someone could pull you into a car.” I learned to walk in the middle and never look anyone in the eye. To this day people tell me they wave to me from across the street or from a car and I don’t see them. When I rode the train to school in the morning, as I neared 135th Street, I often was the only white person on the train, sometimes the only female. “Psst. Hey blonde.” is what I used to always hear. I ignored they and everything was fine but I never relaxed.

After I had left NYC and came back to visit, I would slip into my street smarts like a biker jacket. I would narrow my eyes, straighten my walk and never relax. I was proud of my ability to maneuver NYC.  To me it was a sign of strength, an achievement.

In some ways, when I visit the Dominican Republic it feels the same. The difference is that even when I lived here I remained an outsider; I will never be Dominican; I will never get it all. But I do feel like I slip into a different skin, like a chameleon, I shift to reflect my surroundings.

I am always left with mixed feelings about this place. I think I enjoy the discomfort; the challenge. I like living outside my country. I thrive on the difference. But, at the same time, I wish in this country there was more: more culture, more progress, more possibilities.

I wonder if I will long for this place when there is no need to be here or will I seek new venues, new disguises to experience?

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Eliza Alys Young, aka CreativEliza, is a free spirit, world traveler, creative expert, and part of multicultural family… Eliza shares her time between the US, Dominican Republic and beyond. When she is not caring for her high-energy kids, writing her poetry or for her blog, creating art or cooking up a storm, she is designing for her own company, Design Intense.

3 Comments on “Multiplicity”

  1. No Matter what, your children are half Dominican. So, no matter what distaste you may have for the country, you should do you children a favor, and teach them about their culture! 🙂

    • I think you misunderstood my post. Yes, I have mixed feelings about the DR but distaste is not true. i wouldn’t have stayed there for 8 years if that was the case. Never have I written or contemplated that I would not teach my children about their culture. The opposite it true. I speak to them in Spanish when I can, I talk to them about where they came from.

      I’m sure most people can relate to someplace or someone whom you have a love/hate relationship at times. What that means is that there are strong feelings. The worst is apathy! I will always be connected with the DR and in many ways wish I was still living there — I didn’t want to return to the US despite the problems I faced — but yes, at times it drives me crazy but who enjoys power outages and water problems? Is the DR the only country with these issues, certainly not.

  2. Yes, and I understand where you are coming from. I too have a love/hate relationship with the DR 🙂 But, I will always make sure my children know their roots!

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