We arrived at our apartment in Los Róbales without any further event. That is until we started to settle in. For some reason, Lee and I had a disconnect about the specifics of the apartment. I had told her it was air-conditioned. It is (in the bedrooms). She understood it to be the whole apartment. Needless to say, it was quite the shock to her as we opened the door – following a long drive, mind you – and started to unload the car and all our belongings.
The heat here can be suffocating, and you couple that with a flurry of emotions and the feelings of being overwhelmed come on quick. It was our first bad moment here in the D.R. (the first of several to come), and it tested our resolve and our strength. I couldn’t help but let those, “what are we doing here?” thoughts creep into my mind, but I knew the adaptation process to life here would be a long and challenging one.
We would learn to live life with only a mini-fridge for our food and a small, gas-powered camping stove as our only means of cooking it. And never having enough drinking water. We’ve been ripping through case after case after case of bottles of drinking water, and since there is no real recycling solution available to us, my heart breaks whenever I walk over to the garbage and throw out empty plastic bottles of drinking water. Life here is really different.
But there are so many positives to this story as well. We arrived in the middle of mango season, so I was in heaven to start with. I ate so many mangoes the first three weeks we were here, I literally got sick of seeing the fruit. Don’t get me wrong; the occasional mango is a delightful treat, but when you consume four or five a day, the messiness and sloppiness of the fruit get annoying. And there are literally too many mangoes for everyone to eat. They drop from the treats and litter the roads, so after a while, there is an almost constant smell of rotting fruit everywhere. It’s subtle at first but then turns to unceasing and obnoxious.
I know I said positives so I’ll talk about the coffee. Keep in mind I love Starbucks and Lee and I both started our mornings with our Keurig. But there is something about the coffee here (excuse me: café), the simplicity and richness of it, that has made our time here wonderful. Not only is it flavorful – we drink it with no dairy product and only a teaspoon of sugar – it is a cultural practice that helps bind people together. Sitting and having a cafecito with someone is endearing and in many ways intimate. The coffee becomes a tool through with friendship and fellowship are forged. Lee has become quite the expert at preparing café, and it is now a comfort item to which we turn when we need to just reset (even if it is 90 degrees outside).