I’m sitting here in the Santo Domingo airport waiting for my plane to board. There’s been a lot of time spent waiting over the last 10 months. Time runs slower in Latin America, and especially in the Caribbean where the word “ahorrita” could mean anything from 5 minutes to 5 hours from now. I know that my sense of time will be only one of the many adaptations I will have to make as I reacclimate to my home country. Several friends have suggested I take things slowly at the beginning, to commit to one thing at a time, and to take plenty of time for myself in prayer, meditation, and reflection. I intend to take this advice seriously and I ask that those at home reading this have patience with me as I get my ground again.
This will be the last entry in my travel blog for the time being. At least until the next adventure which I know will not be so far from now. In the meantime, over the last few weeks I’ve compiled my thoughts into a list of what I’ve learned since I first left the US on September 7, 2013.
How to whistle. Loudly.
How to share an avocado neatly and hygienically
How to live carrying everything I need on my own body.
How to use a sarong as a towel, hat, skirt, beach cover-up, blanket, curtain, privacy screen, and bag.
How to feel truly relaxed on the back of a motorcycle with no urge to hug the person in front of me.
How to use the door as leverage while squatting over a latrine
How to take a bucket shower. And lavish in it. Especially when the water is hot.
How to speak at least a few phrases in Haitian Creole and more than just a few phrases in Portuguese.
How to dance forro, samba, salsa, merengue, bachata and afrocolombian music.
How to appreciate both soccer and baseball more than ever before.
How to never stop being awed by waterfalls and sunsets.
How to quickly locate the coolest spot in a building, often a doorframe or front porch.
How to put a VPN on my electronic devices to watch TV shows from the US.
How to access a WIFI network whenever possible, especially in airports, even if it means flirting with an employee to give you the password.
How to treat dozens of patients at a time in a dark room with a dirt floor, using a stethoscope, otoscope, flashlight and my own two hands.
How to make mangú, an amazing mashed plantain dish.
How to treat gastrointestinal woes with home remedies.
How to appreciate both good coffee and good tea.
How to LOVE papaya.
How to chew coca leaves to prevent altitude sickness.
How to recognize, diagnose and treat the chikungunya virus.
How to coordinate and lead a medical brigade of 40 doctors, nurses, interpreters and undergraduate students.
How to effectively recognize crops of sugarcane, rice and bananas.
How to take care of myself when ill, and then how to truly appreciate when someone takes the time to take care of me.
How to navigate public transportation like a pro, be it planes, buses, taxis, shared cars, or motorcycles.
How to walk quickly with a serious, purposeful face, ignoring any calls or advances.
How to value a connection with a complete stranger, be it a moment of eye contact, a few minutes of assistance, or a few hours exploring together.
How to change in and out of a bathing suit underneath a sarong.
How to feel pretty and love my curves in a bikini or in blue spandex pants.
How to blow off blow dryers (and flat irons, and hair products).
How to be as demanding as a Dominican (it’s sometimes the only way to get what I need).
How to hone my bargaining skills.
How to quickly convert pesos, soles, or reais into US dollars in my head (but appreciate an app that does it for me!)
How to identify the ATM that never rejects my card or runs out of cash.
How to perform appropriate maintenance on home generator batteries.
How to sense when the electricity goes out and the generator kicks in.
How to sense in my gut when there is a high possibility of danger.
How to sleep under various conditions- including sweltering hot weather with discoteca music blaring.
How to go to bed early and wake up as the sun rises.
How to implement techniques to stay warm on an over-air-conditioned bus. (May involve shoving a sock in the vent).
How to get scared, and then excited about a blog post unexpectedly going viral.
How to be alone, and be okay with it.
How to let things that don’t matter go (I will ALWAYS be working on this one).
How to let my heart tell me when it’s time to stay, and when it’s time to move on.
And now it’s time to move on… and to be home with my family for at least a little while. Thank you to all who have taken the time to follow my journey. Until the next one…