As I left the United States I remember getting teased about finding the love of my life in the Dominican Republic. Some friends said I would find a wealthy Dominican invested in the sugarcane or tobacco industry, others said I would find a Dominican baseball player who would sweep me off my feet, he-he. I know that I had been smiling and joking right along with them but deep down I said to myself that there was no way I would find the love of my life on a tiny island that had so many internal problems.
When I met my fellow Peace Corps volunteers they all were equally hesitant to get involved with Dominicans either from fear of cultural clash or for health issues (DR has a HIGH rate of STDs and infidelity is rampant because it is tolerated culturally). As we moved through training we began interacting with Dominicans and found that our fears were confirmed and/or found that there were indeed the fabled loyal Dominicans (genuine family men).
Let me tell you, Dominican men and women are incredibly sexy despite their obsession with the traditional diet of rice, beans, and chicken. At no point did anyone say otherwise… ha-ha.
At the end of October, as my training was wrapping up, I visited the community that would be my home for the next two years. I met with my host organization, the chocolate factory, my host family (+20 people), and the local organizations. My host mother, who is coincidently my counterpart at the chocolate factory, introduced me to the other two local NGOs. One of the visits was to the local medical clinic, run by short and stocky domineering man (more on this later). The clinic employs about 9 other locals and had two doctors (sent by the Health Department) treating patients.
That day, I met the love of my life, Yassir, even though I didn’t realize it at that point! My first impression was that he had chubby cheeks, tall, well built, and a smile that made my heart melt. Unfortunately, everyone was busy so I excused myself and said I would come back later in the day to converse with them about their community experience. However, they were STILL busy when I stopped by in the late afternoon so I went home. The next day, during lunchtime, I had a surprise visit at my host family’s house, it was Yassir. He had heard that I had stopped by yesterday but since they were still busy I had left to finish up other things that I needed to accomplish.
We spoke about his experience and what his job was in the community. He asked me about my job and what would be my role in the community. It was a short visit because he had to head back to work but both of us wanted to continue speaking so we agreed that after he got off of work we would meet. Of course throughout that day, I was anxious to speak with him again and it did not disappoint! I think we ended up talking until after nightfall.
What's funny is that my host family though it would be more appropriate that we have supervised visits at their house. So for the next three months, Yassir would come to my host family’s house for supervised visits with me. OF COURSE without letting anyone in my community know, we would also meet outside of my community for ice cream or day trips to Santiago (I’m not a saint...). Even after I moved to my own house, for 5 more months were we never caught inside my house alone and after dark we would move over to my next door neighbor’s house. Crazy, huh?
On October 17, 2009, after a day at the beach with friends and his sisiter, Yassir got down on one knee and asked to marry me…
I said yes. It was the happiest moment of my life.
So, in the end it wasn’t a rich or athletic Dominican who caught my heart. It was a very humble, hard working man, whose smile makes me giggle with glee, whose hugs make me feel loved, who supports me and makes sure I am always following my dreams.