Reconnecting With My Culture:
When I was two years old, my dad decided to move to the United States with my brother and I in search of a better future. I frequently went back to visit and see my family members, but after a while, I stopped going. I spent 4 years in the U.S without going back to the Dominican Republic, until this past summer I finally did.
“Bienvenidos a Santiago, Republica Dominicana”, welcome to Santiago, Dominican Republic, the pilot said over the loudspeaker as the excited passengers clapped with joy.
“I can’t believe its been 4 years,” I thought to myself
I stood up, got my luggage from the overhead compartment and began heading out. As soon as I stepped out of the airplane and into the airport, I felt the heat hug my body as I carried my suitcase to the immigration line. When I approached the lady tending the flyers I was expecting a woman who hated her job and who wanted to just get through the day. To my surprise, I was greeted by this extremely hospitable lady. She asked me how I was doing and how my flight was, why I’m here and if I’m excited. There were many people like this lady all around the airport. The overall ambient was completely different from anything that I had experienced in Philadelphia airports. After going through the entire process of immigration and getting my luggage, I began walking out to the doors of the exit in the airport. As soon as I stepped out, there were big groups of families waiting for their loved ones. Families with old children and small children, even babies. All grinning from ear to ear. I scanned the outside of the airport and was able to locate my aunt, who brought my two cousins and my uncle with her.
The ride to her house was a bit awkward. I hadn't seen them all in nearly five years, so it was hard to make conversation, especially with my older cousin. Last time I saw her she was starting high school, and now she was talking about her college major. So I just stared out the window, taking everything in. One of the first thing I noticed, pretty odd, was how the girls wore their hair. Back home, I never wear my natural hair out. Just seeing other girls with perfect curls or perfect straight hair made me feel somewhat ashamed of my frizzy waves, so I tried my best to hide it. In all honesty I was scared. One time a few years ago I tried wearing my natural hair out, but someone called me Einstein, and ever since I don't wear my natural hair out of the house. But the girls here wear it out loud and proud, my older cousin being one of them. I asked her if she ever tried straightening it and explained to her everything I do to my hair to mask the naturalness and she looked at me strange. Nevertheless, I went back to looking out my window for the rest of the hour long car ride.
Upon arriving to my aunts house, I was greeted by a delicious home cook meal. And my entire family sat around me at the table, even if they weren't eating, and we caught up on the last 4 years of our lives. After eating, I was able to walk to my other aunts house. The town was so small you could walk everywhere. As I walked with my cousin, many people I didn't recognized recognized me from my childhood. They always started with the line “I carried you when you were a baby”. The next few hours was spent walking to my family members houses and greeting everyone, which was extremely exciting. The entire ambient was so different and I had forgotten how much I loved it, in a way it was like a culture shock. The spanish was faster, laughs were louder and the love immense. It was baffling to me how I felt so at home in place I hadn't seen in nearly 5 years.
Over the next two weeks of my stay, I visited beaches, pools, and beautiful Dominican Republic Landmarks. I was really great to be able to get back to my roots and connect more with my culture. Philadelphia is so different that it is extremely easy to forget where you come from. I often find myself trying to blend in and lose track of where I really come from and coming back gave me a chance to enjoy all of the amazing aspects of my culture. The authentic food, the music, and the people. Two weeks wasn’t enough to experience it all.
The day to go home came in the blink of an eye. I was enjoying my stay so much, I completely lost track of time. The morning of, just like the day that I arrived, I said my goodbyes to my family members, except this time instead of crying happy tears, I was sad. I packed my things and again, my two cousins, my uncle and aunt al drove me to the airport. The hardest goodbye was my older cousin, Lala. We had grown very fond of one another. When we were younger we were like sisters, but the distance in location created distance in our relationship. The time together reconnected us. Saying goodbye to her was hard because I didn't know when I would see her again. Ater my goodbyes in the airport, I walked through the same doors once exited, but in a way I was a different person, with more confidence in myself. The plane ride seemed never ending. All I could think about was how I didn’t appreciate my stay more and how I wanted so desperately to stay for longer.
After 4 hours, I was back in the U.S. I got my suitcase and exited the plane. I went through immigration and I was faced with a lady who seemed like she hated her job. I left the airport and no longer saw the families waiting for their loved ones. No one even got out of their cars. I felt out of place one again, but this time in my own home.