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Time & Transition: Coming Home to the Dominican Republic 
For many who leave the Dominican Republic, the ultimate goal of the journey they embark on isn’t to find a new place to call home or new people to call family, the ultimate goal, it could be said, isn’t to gain massive amounts of wealth or to assimilate into a new culture. The fact of the matter is that, for the most part, for those who get the opportunity to leave the Dominican Republic the ultimate goal is always to come back. Even if coming back means returning in one month or in ten years, most Dominicans leave the country looking for better lives in other countries so that they can one day return to their birthplace and lead better lives here. But for many this goal quickly becomes a dream.

As time passes, increased comfort and adaptation to new surroundings, a relationship, children, or job security make it increasingly difficult for many to return, and many in fact end up staying abroad, only returning to the country on family trips, and on occasional vacations. The dream of making some money abroad in order to bring it back here is replaced by the reality that they have new lives that can’t be easily abandoned.

Nonetheless, there are some Dominicans who hold on to that dream of eventually returning, and a very lucky few do make it back as they had always planned. But it is fair to say that for those who do return to the Dominican Republic after a long hiatus, the country they find when they return is almost certainly not the country they remember when they left. Adapting back to life in the DR after so many years abroad can be easy for some, but equally as difficult for others.

Some returning Dominicans find it difficult to readjust to life in a “new” country that lacks the comforts they used to enjoy in the United States or Europe. The ease they once encountered in day-to-day life, for some, is replaced with the realities of returning to life in a developing country.

Equally difficult is the transition faced by children who return to the country, or come to live here for the first time, as they are faced with as many challenges as their parents. The differences in things like language, dress, musical tastes, food, clothing, etc, quickly become evident to children moving here, and are obstacles to their smooth transition.

For people who move back to the Dominican Republic after being away for so many years, the differences between the lives they used to lead, and the lives they are now leading become apparent almost immediately. After the initial “high” of making it back to their homeland wears off, the realities of the country they now reside in appear to stare at them constantly. Something as simple as driving to the supermarket can be eye-opening for new returnees.

The constant reconstruction of main roads in many cities, aimed at easing the increased traffic problems, can make returnees feel lost and frustrated in their new cities, after being able to navigate so easily in their previous hometowns. Alongside the concern of navigation is the somewhat chaotic and anarchic fashion in which people drive in the Dominican Republic. After being accustomed to people actually stopping at red lights and intersections, and having people turn on blinkers to make left or right turns, some returnees fear getting behind the wheel because they are not immediately ready to take such a risk on the Dominican roads.

Other differences in lifestyle can sometimes lead many Dominicans to reminisce about the lives they once lived. When the power goes out, the first thought in the minds of many returnees is that something like that would have never happened if they were in the United States, or Europe. Even those who have power inverters or other light sources, sometimes find themselves thinking back to how if they ever had a problem with the power they could just call the power company, and within a reasonable amount of time the problem would be resolved.

The inefficiencies of public offices and public services also highlight the vast differences between living here and abroad. While many returnees have complained on a variety of occasions about the bureaucracy that slows down the public offices in their previous countries, once they have lived in the Dominican Republic for a short time they reminisce fondly about the comparatively short lines at the social security or unemployment offices, and lament the fact that there are no social security offices or unemployment offices in this country. Many returnees become frustrated at the fact that simple processes like waiting for a lawyer’s note or a doctor’s appointment can become all day waiting marathons, after waiting only minutes while living abroad.
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