Shenda is a real Dominicana, as lush with life as her country. She can sing and drive, dance and work, laugh and fight at the same time
Her laughter is her roar: when she throws back her head, the zest for life sparks from her eyes and the deep joy erupts in sound, and everyone with the tiniest sense of power can feel her strength. Everyone but herself — as really strong people tend to do, she underestimates her power by simply assuming everybody has the same kind of force.
Shenda is a real Dominicana, as lush with life as her country. She can sing and drive, dance and work, laugh and fight at the same time. Like her country, she has not decided yet wich dreams to follow: the crazy big ones that leave her breathless? Or the real ones that take her breath?
All she knows is it must not be boring. It must feel real. And intense.
Says one voice.
The other one knows that you need money. Especially in this country – this island built on the shoulders of conquerors, pirates, and slaves, whose most dominant cultural trait seems to be the corruption that runs through its systems like blood through veins. Especially as a woman – in this place where every man feels entitled to comment on your looks with hissing catcalls. Especially as a “mulatto” woman, as they say here — in this society that would not allow her to work in any kind of formal official position with her kind of hair, the afro, something fathers still call „bad hair“ and mothers fear might scare away men.
But she is not one to budge. To the contrary, sometimes it amuses her that to be considered a rebel you have to do nothing but be yourself. Sometimes. Other times she wants all of them to shut up.
That’s why she works hard. To free herself of these restrictions, to become too rich to care – not super rich, just rich enough that these little annoyances will not influence her world too much. That she will have the freedom to dress and move and marry however she pleases.
Part of her master plan: a second passport.
United States, United Kingdom, Australian, German, hell, Danish!
A passport that could actually take her places, let her see the world and not just dream of it, a passport that opens doors instead of slamming them in your face. Also, she can’t deny it, it would be nice to have a way out, just in case shit does hit the fan at some point in the Dominican Republic. She does not trust this place. Despite the economic growth or maybe even because of it. It feels volatile to her, like tectonic shifts are happening somewhere underneath.
Too much cash flow with too little structure and restraint is a perfect recipe for corruption and greed. Combine that with real poverty, the kind that keeps kids out of schools, houses without running water, and grown-ups on the verge of despair, and throw in a thriving package tourism industry, where the poor people work and see it all: the shining marble, the swimming pools, the all-you-can-eat-buffets. All you have to do now is ask yourself: will this blow up? Or will it suffocate itself, leaving the poor in hopeless agony and the rich all part of a corrupt elite? If these were the only options, then, well then nothing she earns here would really be worth anything, would it? Not a career, not a house, not a university degree. Hence the passport. But there is nothing much she can do about it.
Because, just to make that very clear, she is not looking for the “Dominican Dream” – a man from abroad to marry her.
She is a romantic. Believing in that whole big rumpus, starting with butterflies and hopefully ending with accidentally switched dentures. She wants to be all in.
The romantic also loves it here. Hispaniola, Santo Domingo, is her turf. She loves to order her beer in a wedding dress – the beer is the one wearing the dress, obviously, because this is what you call it when the moist hot air freezes against the cold bottle covering it up in a white dress. She loves to have carrot cake in La Dolcerie and climbing to the hidden pools in the mountains, loves feeling the Caribbean wind tousle her hair and most of all she loves the people she spends her time with. They are musicians and painters and singers and often she lets them shine and just watches them, overwhelmed by melancholy when she listens to them jam the merengue or looks at their work. This is her home. These are her roots.
She is not sure yet how much she herself wants to get out there and show her soul. To share her love and her pain and the intensity of her existence. It takes a lot – for a young woman with the heart of an artist and the mind of a pragmatist as much as for a country still searching for an identity, showing more of itself than the image of a spa for other countries’ rich people. So many ways to go, so many options to choose.
A lion spends most of his time sleeping and waiting and playing, only wasting his energies when he really plans to attack.
They know they might have to jump soon, Shenda and Dominica, to try something, to show their souls. Lionesses on the lurk, hunting life. Which one will they catch?
Behind The Story
I travel along my social network – literally. I ask my friends if they know anyone I should meet in the world. This is how I met Shenda, who is a student in a Yogacenter I stayed at. I immediately fell for her approach to live: intense, without regrets, fast, and with a lot of humor – much like the country she lives in.