NFAND CODA VII | Back from rest: Beauty and Lessons from Dominican Republic

When I was a kid I spent, a good decade traveling to Dominican Republic with my parents. We shared time with Dominican songwriter and composer Cheo Zorilla and his family. The kids – Laura, Paul, Cuchi, and Natalia and I were buddies and we made skits and plays and had tons of fun. Fast forward to 2018. Those four kids, now adults like me,  and I, met again last year and when we saw one another after all those years, no time had passed. No time at all. Grace and Love. I saw them again during my recent trip  to D.R. and it was the same loving feeling.

For the past 40 + years Danny/Dad has done hundreds of acts of social work in Dominican Republic. Cuba too, and Puerto Rico of course, but this story is about D.R. He’s a beast like that, his reach, the depth of knowledge of these lands, and his very noble heart and inclination to bring solace to areas and patches of places where suffering and disadvantage reins, no matter the political climate.

 For the past 20 years, Dad has been asking me to visit Dominican Republic so that I could meet his social work. He never imposed or imposes his wish (es) on me, but rather, as he always asks for things, with a casual loving, “hey, why don’t you come down.” After all these years of him asking me to go, for my very needed 2018 break, I finally made it down to the island.

What a painful lesson to have taken so long. But, I did make it. I’ll sum that up as follows: 1) Perhaps or arguably, Latin America’s greatest songwriter and composer, Rafael Hernández said it best with his song Linda Quisqueya, for Linda it is. 2) I fell in love with Samaná. Look it up. 3) His advocacy and social work in Jarabacoa is something for the books of history. And here goes my micro point. I met these two little Tinkerbell men of Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic, Wilbur and Julio and they stole my heart.

The Tinker Bell boys, Wilbur and Julio

The Tinker Bell boys, Wilbur and Julio

They took my sister and me on a country tour for a day. They showed us plants, showed us and plucked fruits from the trees for us, told us to “hammock” as an action - “vamos hamacar,” and walked us through a long and winding path to a full running river. They got to the river first and when Sabina and I caught up with them, they were naked and bathing and jumping in the water with joy. They asked us why we wouldn’t bathe in the river with them. I smiled and explained that I would watch them making sure they would be safe. They were happy about not having to bathe again at night. I was cracking up hearing them tell each other this fact. Their purity and freedom brought tears to eyes. I was impressed by their physical skill, most notably their cycling skills. They have a little pink bike and they ride it up and down those hills like mini-amateur pros of BMX.

I cycled fiercely for over 10 years. I was a New York City bike messenger in 1997 and consider it to this day one of the best and most liberating professional experiences of my life. Riding down 5th Avenue on rush hour without stopping for red lights, is both stupidly dangerous but THE thing to strive to do, and boy did I do it. Seeing them cycle made me recall the freedom I had then, the simplicity of my life in my early 20s when I was a dancer, an athlete, actress, choreographer, touring artists and a young girl making an honest living and making this concrete jungle my home. Here’s the one picture I have of those bike messenger days with my friend Breed…

Breed and I, summer of 1997, New York City

Breed and I, summer of 1997, New York City

This trip was all about connections. Childhood. What stays inside you. Things that make you remember your purest self. Growing up. Creating yourself from child to adult. Making something of it. One of the lessons from this trip came from seeing these two little men be free despite having close to nothing. Yet, they had something crucial. Their forest, their river, the fruit of the land, and a little bike that can prove to anyone that their stamina and physical skill is all they need to make something out of the day. Such was my experience during my cycling time, and the messaging days specifically. Freedom and skill can go hand in hand.

I am my father's daughter and try to do the right thing whenever I can, so I want to get Wilbur and Julio a bona fide bicycle. Help me. Send me word. I’m starting an off-the-grid crowdfunding to get them one. They need it so they know, in time, that perhaps, their cycling skills can turn into something, maybe messengers, and protectors of their mountain home, if the world goes bust.

Thank you, father. Thank you to the Fernández Family, Nancy, Marta, Jasmin, Diego, Doña Mayra, Natalia, Cuchi, Amalia, Paul, Nati, José, Fide, Esther, Dariana, and to Wilbur and Julio…I think a part of me always stayed there and I got it back and it's made me feel so much better.

Be grateful and listen to your parents.