First you are angry and then you are confused. No, not necessarily in that order but be forewarned, both feelings will demand to be felt.
Everything others admired about you and everything you took pride in, will be ignored, criticized, or (barely) tolerated when you move to Santiago de los Caballeros. That is, if you’re a skinny Black girl with West African features. If you admit you’re emotions are like a pendulum and swing from funeral like-gloom to manic glee. If you’re a people-pleasing non-conformist…if you feel like the strangest person in the world and wish for everyone else to start embracing their own “weirdness” so that said weirdness will actually be less weird and you’ll finally be considered normal (for a moment anyway). If you’re anything like me, you will struggle during your first months in the Dominican Republic.
Both externally and internally life in the, la segunda capital, of the Dominican Republic will be an exam. The subjects:
How much can I put up with (today)?
What do I truly want and need from my environment?*
How can I tolerate and attempt to understand cultural norms that degrade my personhood?
Will I punch the maybe eight year old boy in the face who just whistled at me with the encouragement of his father?
*Finding the answer will not be as easy as you think
I’d like to say I’m exaggerating, but that would be a disservice to whomever is reading this.
I know moving outside your native country can be trying and difficult for anyone. This is especially true when most people in your new country don’t speak your native language. Still, I feel the set of challenges I experienced as a young woman of West African descent—who wears her heritage proudly—are different from a foreign woman who fit Dominican standards of beauty (i.e, “A slightly tan version of Barbie”). I pride myself on being independent and having a wealth of common sense and reason. I do not and have never needed societal approval of my actions—and yet, I cannot say I wasn’t bothered when people would look through me…facet of my identity said I did not deserve to be treated like a person?
If you are anything like me, you should go.
That is, if you enjoy learning and growing—if you enjoy experiences that affirming that you really can do anything.
If you have the opportunity to learn, and/or work, and/or study in a place so far from your home you constantly question your sanity—then you should definitely take the plunge and move to your own Santiago.
When you do, you solidify and separate what you need to survive and to thrive. You can effectively communicate and empathize with everyone who matters…and that is what happens when your world is rearranged.