Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

I cannot believe I’m about to get on a flight back home. I am totally overwhelmed by this trip.

I’m not even sure how to begin processing the experience–I seriously forgot how awesome it is to be fully a part of the Latino time frame. I think that’s the thing I keep coming back to. And I’m not sure if it’s because I am just on vacation, and I totally didn’t check my work email at ALL, but this trip and my time in Mexico, maybe some in Europe, time feels different. You don’t have to do anything. But more than that, I kept thinking yesterday that I will miss being only 80%, at maximum, sure I know what the hell I’m doing.

Yesterday particularly, I just kind of let things unfold and it was scary, insane and beautiful. Heloddys, my host, said we could go visit the Pyramid, which was pretty much the most interesting thing that we discussed doing to me. So we woke up a little late, which was a nice change of pace for me, and he had told me we’d need a 4 wheel drive vehicle, which should’ve been my first clue that what we were doing was a massive adventure, though when I’d asked about he was very nonchalantly like, oh, yeah, it’s super close, easy, we can definitely do that. At least, that’s how I remember it…

Anyway, I thought we were going to pick up the 4 wheel drive vehicle, because I’d understood that we’d be using one that was a friend’s, but instead, we picked up his friend, Jose, who speaks very good English. This was quite helpful. Heloddys was wonderful, but very Dominican, I think, which means I didn’t understand 100% of our conversations because he talks super fast and he, as Natacha says, eats a lot of his “s” endings and middles (for example, instead of “estás,” it sounds like “ehtá,” with the accent on the end so that the “eh” part is hardly heard also).

Anyway, it was nice to have Jose there, also a bit of a crutch. But we started driving, no 4 wheeler in sight, along crazy (to me) mountain roads, again with incredible views. And Jose had his camera, so he was taking video shots of the road and scenery, sometimes from inside the car, sometimes from out the window or on the hood…insane, but kind of awesome. Every once in a while (read: every 20 minutes), we’d stop with a, “Chanoh, un foto,” (this is how Heloddys pronounces my name), and we’d stop, get out, take some photos, then get back in the car. The highways here go through towns quite often, so sometimes this was because something interesting was happening (ie, a pig being slaughtered, to buy strawberries from a vendor on the side of the road), and sometimes it was because the view was just particularly sweet.

I’m not sure why this way of adventuring is so fantastic to me. There’s some kind of feeling of freedom in it. You’re not in a rush, just…doing what feels right in the moment. I also had more photos taken of me than I think ever before in my life. Like. Ever. But also, I’m excited because some of them were fantastic (I don’t have them yet, but will share when I do). It’s also always lovely to listen to music and drive in pretty scenery, with funny/fun/lighthearted people.

So at some point in the drive, Heloddys mentioned that the person we were meeting where we were going was pretty crazy. So…I started to get an idea of what was going on–we picked up his friend so he could shoot stuff for their series they call, “Mi Pais,” which means, “My Country,” that sets awesome driving video of going to a particular interesting place in Dominican Republic to music. Ok, so we picked him up for this, and later, I realized that another friend of theirs was supposed to be there, but hasn’t woken up in time (which explained us stopping by his house; did NOT understand that at the time). And we were on our way to the place where we’d pick up the four wheel drive vehicle, and then we’d go to the pyramid from there. So we get to Constanza, the town where we were picking up the four wheel drive vehicle, and the house of Ricardo, the crazy person who we were meeting. And boy, was this dude crazy. Jose said he’d been waiting his whole life to meet someone like him, and I don’t totally feel the same, but I understand. And here is an example of misogyny here. Ricardo is super jovial and out there. He also has a four wheel drive. And it ended up he would be driving us, and that it was (in addition to the already 2 hour drive we’d done) one or two hours to get to the pyramid, depending on how many times we stopped, which is on top of a mountain. And it was supposedly cold. I had agreed to pay for gas, which was gonna be about $30 US just for this, but I was like, sure. It’s an adventure, right??! I had seriously no idea.

So the misogyny–Ricardo, in his 40s, is one of these guys who is not aware or doesn’t care how his creepy advances come off. I first noticed this when he randomly stopped the car to tell some girls in a community by the side of the road that we wanted to take their picture, because they’re pretty. I know it’s DR, but the way he did it was very…pushy. And I’m not positive they were uncomfortable, but they certainly seemed embarrassed (they were probably 12 or 13). And then, later, he kept wanting me to kiss him, hugging me, and telling me he wanted me to stay with him in his house and marry him, and have his children. Jose seemed pretty aware that I was uncomfortable, and I told him no when he asked if I would kiss him. But still. It was uncomfortable and he definitely was pushing limits. It was obvious that I did not want anything to do with him.

In any event, that was a little undercurrent of the whole trip. But we started out on a normal road, and then that became a crazy dirt road (on which Ricardo was driving probably 30-40mph), and there we literally drove through a river, then up winding, dirt, single-car-width mountain roads that were so bumpy we couldn’t drink the whiskey we had (well, we found a way, but it took forever and Heloddys’ drink at one point completely showered him when we went over a bump). I was honestly scared for my life many multiple times. But I also couldn’t really do anything about it at that point, and I figured if this was how I died, I would actually be okay with that. I wouldn’t prefer it, but it was one of the most insane, hilarious, accidentally delightful experiences I’ve ever had, I think I can safely say. Maybe the most surprising thing for me was how calm I was. I was quite sure there was a relatively high probability that I could die. And yet, I was just calm. We continued the pattern of stopping the car every little bit to take a picture with a vista, a pony, a sign, cabins, etc. Delightful.

We did make it to the top. And there were so many people!! It was a camp site, and then this tiny little pyramid. And there were these massive cauldrons of soups and rice, maybe 200 people just hanging out, all of whom seemed to be quite well-off (I mean, who else spends $30 on gas to risk their life so that they can reach the top of a mountain and see a tiny pyramid??! Rich people). Still, it was cool. We did a photo shoot for a few minutes, ate some if the soup (it’s a Dominican specialty with chicken and veggies), and started heading back down. Again, my life, in the strangely capable-seeming hands of a crazy misogynist. And get us to the ground safely, he did.

Then, we had to get back, and it was already getting dark half way through our drive. I think we drove 10 hours total. Maybe 9. But definitely over 8. To see a pyramid that I was told was 10 minutes away. But, you see, this is how DR is, I think (Mexico also). Things don’t happen the way you plan. Planning is exceptionally futile, unless absolutely necessary (see: getting on a plane on time). But there is something so joyful, fleeting and incredibly savory about living this way, I think. At least to me.

So even after that, Heloddys and I had talked about going out dancing, and he wanted to still go out, I acquiesced because when do I get to go out to a club in La Vega??! Never, that’s when! This is the other thing, related, I suppose. This way of life makes even me, a pretty plan-y person say, fuck it! Let’s go out!! And it’s not that I never feel that way at home, it’s just much rarer, and more dependent on my mood.

So we went out, danced, and went to sleep way too late. Still, I am at the airport, totally on time.

I survived, you guys.

More than that, I thrived. I am thinking a lot about what I want in my life, what is there and what I can create. And maybe nothing changes, because, it’s just a trip. But at the least this was a reminder of how capable I am, and also how how much at least a part of me just adores Latin American/Hispanic culture. And how much more I need to travel.

Much love and greetings, once again, from New York.