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Time & Transition: Coming Home to the Dominican Republic 
Moreover, small things that previous returnees paid no mind to become bothersome. The almost seemingly endless parade of ‘carros publicos’ swerving through traffic, reckless ‘motoristas’ causing accidents, the street vendors who try to sell you cheap sunglasses at every stoplight, the guy throwing a dirty sponge on your windshield to wash it, or the corrupt nature of the political system all create moments in which returnees reminisce about the lives they once led.

The lack of social accountability also becomes a frequent complaint of many new returnees, for which the only manageable answer is that, ‘that’s the way things are done here.’ Problems with the phone company cutting off your phone, the cable company providing you with expensive but bad service, the electricity company turning off your power, cops stopping you for no reason and then asking for a handout, or your attorney pulling a fast one on you, slip through the cracks of the legal and moral system many times, and many returnees are left wondering what happened to the dream, and the country in that dream that they had so dearly envisioned for so many years.

Even the children of returnees are found staring at the differences between their new and old lives. Aside from leaving their friends and the place they called home for their entire lives, some children of returnees can find adjusting to life in the Dominican Republic difficult. For the new generation of Latino/Hispanic children who grew up in the United States, for example, the language barrier can be an obstacle when they move to the Dominican Republic.

Many of these young people grow up speaking only English, and when they come to the Dominican Republic where Spanish is the official language, they can struggle to fit in. Even for those who do speak Spanish, the stylized Spanish of the Dominican Republic, vastly different from the “Spanglish” (mixture of Spanish and English spoken by many young people in the United States) they speak in the US, can be confusing, and serves as another social identifier. Many Dominicans can quickly tell who is a foreigner by the way they speak, inevitably labeling the speaker as an “outsider.”

Adding to the language barrier is how the children of returnees prefer to watch American television as opposed to Dominican programming. Part of this is linked to the fact that Dominican television is for the most part in Spanish, with few shows in English, and how many shows make references to Dominican culture that these children don’t understand.

And though many young Dominicans in the US label themselves “Dominican” the fact is that they are very Americanized in their ways. Their musical tastes, choice of television programming, or choice of fashion is, in some cases, is very different from Dominicans in the country. While children in the US may prefer to listen to American Pop, Hip-Hop, or R&B, for example, the constant Bachata and Merengue preferred by their Dominican counterparts highlight the differences in how they were raised.

Even the foods that they eat, and what they do for entertainment make some children yearn for their previous lives. The dependence on home cooked “typical” (criolla) meals, as opposed to the fast food driven gastronomic culture of the US, and the lack of American fast food chains, can be added difficulties for transitioning here.

It is guaranteed that as time passes things will change. It is almost impossible for things to stay the same, and that is true for how this country develops. Dominicans who return realize that they too have changed, and the countless inconveniences that they encounter when they return, and some initial difficulties they face, can be a product of how they have changed, but these challenges become manageable through time.

But it is those little things that never change that make the move to the Dominican Republic worth it. Yes, public offices are inefficient, traffic is a nightmare, power is unstable, and accountability is an unknown concept here, but it is peace of mind, a more peaceful lifestyle, healthier living, and for some, the accomplishment of actually making it back home that trumps many of the complaints of everyday living.

The simple fact that after so many years abroad, returnees have actually made it home to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and enjoy the benefits of their struggles overseas, is in itself a joy without comparison.

Transition is never easy, but for returnees it makes for good conversation while sipping a Presidente Beer at the beach or at the local colmadon, or while playing dominoes with neighbors. It is during these almost commonplace events that some returnees realize that moving back was worth all the effort.
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