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Archive for June 7th, 2015

Dear Friends,

I just came back from a vacation in Dominican Republic so today’s blog is a Letter to My Dominican Friends. Enjoy!

It was June 24, 1979. I was only 13 years old when I arrived to the Dominican Republic from my war torn country of Nicaragua. The D.R. was the only country my family could fee to because my dad’s sister married a Dominican and his family was willing and able to help us. That help was no little undertaking as my family of eight arrived with nothing but 26 pieces of luggage and six kids ranging in ages from 14 to 1 ½ years old. That’s a lot of people to feed and open up your home to without knowing how long we would stay.

The exit from Nicaragua was an adventure like the ones you watch in the movie theater. My father found out that the Red Cross was sending a cargo plane to rescue people from El Salvador. There were no commercial airlines flying into the country anymore as these were the last few weeks before the revolution won. We left the house at around 2 a.m. and went to a motel next to the airport. At around 5 a.m. we went straight to the runway at the airport and my dad went to talk to the pilot. The plane was full and the pilot told my dad “There is no way I can fit your family into this plane plus you’re not on the list.” He continued to help the other passengers (who were natives of El Salvador and were being rescued) into the plane so my dad started sneaking suitcases into the cargo plane. All of the sudden the pilot realized the number of suitcases that were in the plane and asked around “Who do these suitcases belong to?” My dad said, “They’re my family’s.” Then the pilot responded, “There is no room for your family at all.” My dad then replied, “I’ll trade you one or two suitcases for each one of my kids and my wife.” The pilot agreed and soon all the kids were in the plane along with my mom… But there was no more room and my dad had to stay—with 25 suitcases. Only one suitcase made it in the plan. It was mine—and I had to share everything with the entire family later!

So my dad stayed behind, sitting on top of one of the suitcases looking down at the ground… alone in the runway… no planes on site. We didn’t know if we would see our dad again. That scene is forever in my memory and to this day brings tears to my eyes…But that is when God interfered. One passenger plane came from Argentina and was going to Costa Rica. The plane had one seat open. And my dad was allowed to get in the plane. He left all the luggage with the Red Cross and gave instructions to send them to my mom’s sister’s house in El Salvador, which is where we were going. God is good!

My dad contacted friends in Costa Rica and they bought him a ticket to El Salvador. The next day we reunited with my dad in El Salvador. Meanwhile my aunt from Dominican Republic arranged to have eight tickets bought for our family to fly to the D.R. the next day.

So that was the story of how we arrived to the Dominican Republic. My aunt and uncle converted their little office into a bedroom for my parents and put a small crib for my youngest sister. The rest of us were placed in the garage. Yes, I lived in the garage with the heat and the bugs that live in a garage in a Caribbean island. But we were not thinking of the heat or the mosquitoes or the mice that frequently visited. We were thinking, “We are free.” No more war, no more going to bed each night listening to the noise of machine guns or helicopters in the background, no more sitting on the floor with a mattress over our heads praying and asking God to show us the way out of the country. He had opened a door and we were now in D.R.

Even though we moved to D.R. empty handed, my parents had their faith in God and were willing and able to work hard to start their lives over in a new country. The Dominicans adopted us and opened up their hearts to my family. The Dominicans adopted me. I was the “Nicaraguan girl with the funny accent.” That’s ok, I thought the Dominicans were the ones that talked funny. And so I adapted wonderfully to their culture and learned new words and slangs. I also learned not to say some words from Nicaragua because they meant something completely different there—usually it was no good. Yes, I had many embarrassing moments but most of the time we simply all laughed and had a good time learning each other’s cultures. Oh, and of course, I learned to dance Merengue and also learned to love their food like mangu, croquetas and verengena.

I lived in the D.R. until I was 19 years old when my family decided to move to the United States, to Minnesota…probably the furthest State from the D.R. and for sure the coldest! While in D.R. I attended El Calasanz school in Santo Domingo and then spent the last three years of high school at the Colegio Santo Domingo where I graduated. I then attended three semesters at the UCMM (Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra). The four older kids in my family left D.R. one at a time. I was the third one to leave D.R. and came to Minnesota in January, 1986.

I built my life here again and wasn’t able to return to D.R. until 2007, 21 years later! I went with my husband and kids so they could see one of the countries where I grew up. Now 8 years later, I came back with my husband again. The first time I went back I was able to reconnect with a few of my Dominican friends but this time I reconnected with most of my friends and I’m so happy!! Thanks to technology I’ll be able to stay connected with them going forward.

So to all of you who made the effort to see me on this trip. Thank you so much! To all my “Bubbles ’84” dear classmates who made it to the little reunion, thank you! Thank you! That meant so much to me. Friendships are very important to me and I have deeply missed my Latin friends all these years, the friendships from my childhood and teenage years. But now I feel I have an opportunity to continue and grow athose relationships that started so long ago. I have a special heart connection with each one of you that will last a lifetime. When we see each other again, it feels like time has not passed by and we pick up where we left off because we have that special connection and trust.

I promise you I will be back way sooner than 8 years and that I will stay in touch. Thank you for your love and friendship. I treasure each one of you!

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