Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Simple Life: Why I Didn't Want to Come Back from DR.

Coat of Arms of DR
Earlier this week I arrived back home from a 10 day vacation that transformed my life. Yeah, I am sure a few of you just rolled your eyes [haha], but something clicked within me and has changed me. I loved every moment of my Dominican Republic (DR) experience and would do anything to be transported back to the island of Hispaniola.  

DR from the plane

Last year my husband and I vacationed in DR, but only had the tourist experience. We stayed at a wonderful resort in Punta Cana, went on excursions and even went on those annoying and embarrassing tour buses to the capital--Santo Domingo (Sto. Domingo). We saw everything through the tourist's eyes.

Earlier this year one of my sisters got proposed to and I instantly thought--"Yay, this means I'm going back to DR!" As the time was approaching to purchase our tickets to paradise, I offered to arrive earlier to help her with last minute wedding preparations in the capital. Little did I know what I was in store for.

Being in Santo Domingo as a local was completely different from how I saw it last year from the tour bus. It is a congested city with daring and relentless drivers, but when you look closer, there is so much more than that.

On the streets of Sto. Domingo

I stayed in el Prado Oriental with my sister's family who all live within the same radius [family values are important]. We stayed in her uncle's apartment home and never went to bed on an empty stomach. The delicately crafted meals were so flavorful and made with love. There was always breakfast, lunch, and dinner waiting for us. Even if we were out and about in the streets of Sto. Domingo, there was always food portioned off for us on the table when we got back. 

Entrance of neighborhood
Delicious Dominican fare

More yummy goodness
Something I loved was that every time we were going to go out and every night, we would kiss Tia Denia [and other family members] on the cheek and give big hugs. Sounds so basic, but to feel the love was incredible. That's how I am with my "Abuela" in New Jersey, but to have this part of the daily life feels amazing. There was not a moment where I felt the love dissipate.

I learned from one of the cousins that 70% of the people in the Dominican Republic are living in the poverty, but by their attitude, disposition, and outlook, you wouldn't know it. People in the streets greet you like if they knew you from the past, sales people call you "amor" and etc, and many walk around with wide smiles.

The home I was staying in there was no a/c, just a strong oscillating fan. Every night I would take a cold shower and wet my hair so I could sleep well. I survived and would keep doing it. A couple afternoons throughout the week I would lay in the bed reading "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg and genuinely felt relaxed. Look, during my week there, I felt no real stress, sickness, discomfort, sadness (except when someone dear to me passed back home), or anything negative.

View from the balcony with my good read
So, T-Mobile charges an arm and a leg (and your right kidney) for international data therefore I opted to not have data while overseas. What a blessing. One of the cousins had wifi at their home and we would go over there to use it to get in touch with our loved ones back home, but other than that, I was more than okay to not have Internet at every moment. It was a relief to not have Facebook notifications popping up, emails streaming in, and other alerts. Jumping ahead, later in the week when we got to Punta Cana, I ended up not having Internet at all (because the resort wanted to charge a ridiculous amount) for 5 straight days...and guess what? I was happy and relieved to have not that ball and chain.

Another interesting fact about my time in Sto. Domingo was that the electricity would go off every single day at least twice a day. I asked about this and they informed me that it is the city's way of saving energy and reducing costs. Surprisingly I was more than okay with not having electricity. There was a night where the light would not come back and the whole family sat on the balcony just talking, laughing and enjoying each other's company. It was unlike anything else I've experienced.

During my time there I also learned about the country's rich history and deep roots. It was fascinating to learn about the island's beginnings and how it began. Last year, my husband and I had visited the Zona Colonial (historic part of the city), but again, this year it was completely different. I saw it with a different set of eyes. There is so much to see and learn! Don't rely on the tour will not be the same.

Founding fathers of DR

Christopher Columbus' last residence

Casa de Colon

First hospital built in the 1500's

If I could spend at least 1 month a year in DR, I would be a really happy woman. I long for the simple, happy life! Yes, I know that's wishful thinking...but it brings me happiness knowing that I now have family over there. People who are truly beautiful inside and out. I pray that God continues to bless their households and business in abundance. 

!Familia Alcantara, mil gracias por todo! Realmente me sentí en familia durante mi estadía en Sto. Domingo. Son una familia muy bendicida y bella. Que nuestro Dios les siga bendiciendo en todo aspectos. Los aprecio mucho, mucho! Les mando muchos abrazos y besitos. 

(Parte de la) Familia Alcantara


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Make or Break You.

My wonderful (and rather large) wedding party on January 1st, 2006

We've all seen the Facebook graphic quote that states, "Welcome to Facebook, where relationships/marriages are perfect, your Facebook friends walk right by you in the street, etc." When I first saw a couple of my acquaintances post that on the social networks, I chuckled internally because I mean really, we are just watching everyone's "highlight reel." BUT we all have that one Facebook friend that vents all of their dirty relationship/marriage laundry. No one wants to see constant bickering on their social networks. Imagine if all of us (who are in relationships) would post each argument/frustration?

We'd see a lot of:

"Ugh, my man/woman does not spend quality time with me! All he/she does is play video games!" 

"My significant other forgot to pick the dog up AGAIN from the kennel, for the 4th time this month!" 

"My man/woman ignores me when they are with their group of friends. I cannot stand it."

"Geez, when will my husband/wife remember to start taking out the trash on Tuesdays? We've been living here for 5 years now, he/she should know the drill by now."  

"Seriously, when will my significant other learn to spend our money wisely and not eat out every day?" 

The truth of the matter is no one needs to see or hear that. Yes, I admit, sometimes I over share on my social networks, but that is one thing I do not share. I respect my husband, myself and others so I do not air any sort of stinky laundry. 

Many people have told me that they think my husband and I are a "perfect couple" and have a "perfect marriage." I always laugh when they say that because I cannot stand the word "perfect" when it comes to us humans. I only know of ONE perfect being and it's GOD. Aside from Him, not even the most holy and pious pastoral couple you know is perfect--nope, not even them. NO ONE is perfect. NO relationship/marriage is perfect. That is the bottom line. We all have flaws within ourselves and when two people come together those flaws sometimes come out and we bump heads. It's part of human nature. 

This coming January (2014), my husband and I will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary. No, we weren't 18 when we got married (haha), but we were young and inexperienced. To make a long story short, we almost did not make it passed our first two years of marriage. [Side note: I feel slightly uncomfortable as I type this out, but I know if this helps at least one couple out there, it was worth speaking about a part of my marriage that I never wish to relive (and with God's help, we never will)]. As I was saying, the "D" word was brought up plenty of times during those first two years because it was extremely tough. Only my closest friends and family know this about us and now all of you know, and I'm sharing it because in the past few years I have had many people vent to me about their marital strife within the first two years. The first few years of marriage are the most critical ones and they can either make you or break you. It is very common and almost to be expected to have bumps (obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule and if you're that exception, good for you)!  I just want all of you (married or single) to know that there is HOPE

Getting married and being married is amazing. You have to be in it to experience what I'm talking about. It's like living with your best friend and having dinner and sleepovers every single night! But within your first years of marriage there is also an adjustment period. Think about it, both of you were raised individually in distinct households with a different set of parents, rules, routines, customs, etc. And then you tie the knot and start living together and now you have two different rules, routines, customs, upbringings in one household. Of course there will be friction (at times)! It takes time, patience, love, and gentleness to get a hang of combining (giving and taking) rules, routines, customs, and upbringings. You now have your own home so there is a new family, a new culture and it simply takes time to adjust. Did you know that as the topic of matrimonial success and divorce is studied more and more, research shows that how a couple weathers their first two years together can make or break their marriage? 

What held my husband and I together was God--that, and the willingness to fight for our love no matter how painful it was. We prayed together, individually, with close family and friends, and had our loved ones' support (special shout out to those close family and friends who loved/supported us through it--we love you and thank you!).

We survived our first two years of marriage and still praise God for it today! I do not know where I'd be without that amazing man of mine (Hector, te amo con todo mi alma y corazon). We now look back and laugh about our foolishness and literally thank God in our prayers for taking us through the fire without any severe burns.

Our marriage is not perfect, but I can definitely tell you that we are way more in love now then we were 9+ years ago...Our love and marriage has gotten better and better with the years. It's an unbreakable bond that I cherish. 

Friend, if you are going through marriage "hell" right now (no matter if you're in your first few years of marriage or have already passed those years) please know that with God's help and with YOUR desire to have a long lasting, happy marriage, you WILL get through it! Place all of your marital woes in God's hands and He will work it out for you. Do NOT give up! Keep pressing through. 

Place you and your spouse in this Bible verse, "_______ and I can do ALL things through God who strengthens us." --Philippians 4:13 

May God be with and bless your marriage (future marriage), my friend.