The pink and orange hues melted together into the sky overlooking the verdant hills as the sun finally descended to end its glorious day. On the other side of the barbed wire, cows settled into the vastness of nature, moving only once in a while that it felt as if you were stuck in a painting, the beautiful sunset paused for eternity. We simply stared on at the magnificence of the panorama in this isolated town 30 miles away from the Haitian border, our mouths hanging in a mid-gasp, our hearts warming as if by the fading sun still simmering on the horizon.
It was our third week in the Dominican Republic with a study abroad program. We had been staying at our host families’ houses, but that night was our excursion. In our little “guagua” (a very Dominican way to say “bus”), we had traveled an hour east of Santiago to a small village surrounded by the everlasting expanses of the hills and palm trees. This village, Moncion, was nothing like the bustling city of Santiago, or the colonial capital of Santo Domingo. Every time we stopped to stare at the view outside our guagua, we were all speechless at the grandeur of the mountains and rivers.
The deeper into the town we went, the quieter it became – the houses we saw became more worn, the buildings more forgotten. But the foliage of the trees and the dirt roads that seemed to stretch miles on end seemed to ornament the lonely town into a lively stage. At the end of this very dirt road, through the tortuous and uphill route, we finally arrived at this location overlooking the knoll as the sun retreated into the night.
At the top of this loma was an enormous house that overlooked this entire view. Hispaniola was a land of ups and downs, of depths and mountains and unknowns. Standing at the edge of the yard, we could see all of this as night enveloped the far edges of the mountains. This excited me greatly. The view was so overwhelmingly big in scale – I could not see where it ended – that I felt jittery, realizing that there was a whole world out there yet to be discovered.
The soft colors evaporated from the canvas above and was replaced by the twinkle of stars. I lay there, awed by the numbers of these lights I could count. Growing up near the skyscrapers of Houston, I wasn’t used to this newfound beauty. It was as if this huge blanket that covered the atmosphere was lifted to reveal these gleaming stars I never knew about.
I was called into the large area outside where we sat and enjoyed our food: yuca, beans, rice, chiva, plantains, and everything Dominican. We conversed with the house owners with our newly improved Spanish and then stood up to dance. Local musicians gathered to share their culture through salsa and bachata music.
The music played until late that night, and we continued to dance under this star-lit dome, swaying to the strums of the guitar. I had never felt so free and happy. In this foreign country, this world I never knew – I had found a special haven, even if it was just for that one night.
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