Tuesday, May 19, 2009


I have a friend who has been vacationing in the Dominican Republic for many years. In fact, that is where I met him. He is a cool guy. He is funny, yet intelligent and focused. He can sometimes be opinionated. Not that I'm knocking it because everybody is entitled to one.

Okay, here is where I'm going with this blog entry. He and I were on the phone a few weeks ago discussing our recent trips to the DR and sharing the usual gossip. He tells me that he believes all of the ex-patriates that live there have lost their minds. Knowing that we share many of the same acquaintances I gave him the opportunity to clarify and to perhaps rethink such an all-inclusive statement. He said "no, they're all crazy."

He went on to reminisce about when he met various people in the DR and how at the time he met them they seemed to have things all together. He disclosed situations and circumstances that he believes have had an adverse effect on their sanity. He went on to conclude that if they were anywhere near their previous places of residence their behavior and mindset would be much different.

I have thought about that conversation a few times since it occured. While I do not believe that "they're all crazy," I must admit that I have observed changes in behaviors and beliefs and wondered why. I initially charged it to people adapting to their surroundings. But upon further study I admit there have been some instances when behaviors or reactions to circumstances were questionable. You know, one of those "wow, I can't believe that" moments when you witness something and know that the person you thought you knew would not, and should not, allow that to happen or react or behave in such a manner.

Perhaps it is the result of a paradise induced delirium. Maybe for some people living in paradise is like having one too many Cuba Libre's. What are your thoughts?


Anonymous said...

why so vague?

Let's face it. DR can be a boring little island. The undisciplined mind will wonder.

T-D Moderator said...

I wasn't being vague. As I said before, I have friends in SD also. So, I did not mention names or details so as to protect the (innocent until proven guilty).

I believe I shared enough info for readers to say whether or not they have had the same experience or whether or not they feel the same as my friend does.

Anonymous said...

An astute observation.

While I don't believe every ex-pat in DR has "lost their mind." there are MANY that this would apply to. Some still live there, some have had to leave the island (most not under their own steam).

I used to go down 3 or 4 times a year beginning in 2004. Many of the ex-pats I met initially had great ideas and plans and seemed focused on making a productive life for themselves in DR AND as a must see destination for the brothas (and others): and make a living doing so.

From my observations throughout the years, most became caught up in melodramas with each other, the boys and the everyday hustle of trying to make a life in paradise work out.

For most it hasn't worked out at all. There are a few who, through hard work, focus and keeping their wits about them, have made it work. it's not a paradise but it works for them. You can not have a productive life sitting in front of a restaurant gossiping all day. It just can't be done.

On my last two trips, I was astounded to see a very well known businessman (who I always admired as someone who was making it work) and what had become of his enterprise.

It's like watching a man fall into a ditch, in slow motion, without any idea of how to catch himself- EVEN WHEN THERE WERE MANY WELL MEANING PEOPLE AROUND HIM TRYING TO STOP HIM FROM FALLING (I had to shout that).

On each visit you could see how things were crumbling around him, yet for whatever reason he seemed resigned to let it go (even though from time to time he gave the appearance of taking control, it didn't last long).

This scenario repeats itself time and time again.

This is not an easy country to live in. Most have no idea of how hard it is until it's too late; they lose their money, their health, their friends and their minds.. not necessarily in that order.

I'm sure many of us can rattle off names from "the list" of who's who and who was in DR. I wouldn't do that and honestly hope no one else does. It wouldn't help in anyway.

While I still enjoy visits to the island, it's not as much fun as it used to be and so I've cut back the amount of time I spend in Santo Domingo and with ex-pats.

I hope it gets better. But given how much more of a grind living has become in DR (funny how over all these years, few things have improved in the country for ex-pats and Dominicans alike.. I mean they're STILL working out electric problems), I don't believe it will.

I will always have the great, great memories and pix and vids to remind me of how much fun it was. Like most things in our lives, you enjoy life while you can; nothing is promised for tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 11:01 poster. That was great fodder, a thoughtful comment.

Businesses fail all over...especially in these times. But you're right, it is more prevalent for individuals (ex-pats) in the Caribbean and, probably, other third-world "paradise" countries.

Too often, the dreams cloud the reality, resulting in a seriously flawed "business" model. Not REALLY understanding the local culture, economy, politics, bureaucracy, and social structures - not to mention the language in many cases - will make it very hard, if not impossible, to succeed.

Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, The Guns of War, others) wrote a terribly funny/sad book on this subject many years ago. It's not about the DR or gays, but it's very relevant, and a great read - "Don't Stop the Carnival."

I recommend it to anyone who is thinking of moving to, retiring to, or starting a business or new life in, any third world country.

It's nice to see some real discussion on this excellent blog. Thanks, T-D Moderator, for going beyond the usual with this one!

Anonymous said...

There are many sane well grounded ex-pats in Santo Domingo. There are those also who talk about their lives in the U.S., their positions of power or influence and the money they have. Many are one step ahead of the bill collectors even in the DR....some are escaping the bill collectors in the U.S. Some I have learned to take what they say with a grain of salt. I am pleased to say that I consider many of the expats as friends.....and look forward to spending time with them when I visit. Others I simply avoid.

Anonymous said...

OOOps! My bad! I meant to type "Winds of War," not "The Guns of War." We're nothing if not accurate.

Anonymous said...

Paradise??? Here on earth. I find that hard to beleive. I checked my dictionary and found.
par·a·dise (pār'ə-dīs', -dīz')
1. often Paradise The Garden of Eden.
2. The abode of righteous souls after death; heaven.
3. An intermediate resting place for righteous souls awaiting the Resurrection.
4. A place of ideal beauty or loveliness.
5. A state of delight.

As much a I enjoy my vacation to the DR. I would hardly describe it as paradise. Tropical yes, but paradise? I don't think so. Then again Webster also defines:
fool's paradise 
–noun a state of enjoyment based on false beliefs or hopes; a state of illusory happiness.
As for the ex-pats, many moved to Santo Domingo to fill a void. They didn't think beyond that wonderful vacation that they enjoyed so much. (Ignore the man behind the curtain) When in reality, it is just another city that happens to be in a tropical setting. If you were not fulfilled and happy here, it will not magically happen there. At the ripe old age of 64, I will not dulude myself into thinking that that 25 yr old man loves me. Not here, not there not on the moon. This may upset some of you. Que sers, que sera.

Anonymous said...

I believe everyone has a void to fill. Filling it is part of life's quest. Some do, some don't.

I would never fault or laugh at anyone for chasing a dream, or the desire to change their life even if it means fleeing to another country to do so.

Many people use paradise interchangeably with tropical setting. I have no problem with that. (though if you're living your life with the belief that there's a paradise waiting for you once you die.. well... I think you missed a few life lessons)

To those who chased their dreams (and for those who chased their dreams two steps ahead of whatever was/is chasing them!) I salute you.

But what impresses me most are those who are making life in DR work for them (without losing their minds). Now those kats deserve shout outs, fist bumps and high fives!

Unless you live there, it's hard to gage exactly what happens to those ex-pats who lose their minds. But it's not too hard to piece together how it happens.

Why, I know one guy who moved down from... well, I'll keep that story for cocktail hour!

T-D Moderator said...

Anonymous #6 thanks for your insightful comment. I am familiar with the definition(s) of paradise as are many other people around the world.

When considering the use of the word paradise while refering to "tropical" locales, most people would direct you to parts four and five of the definitions you found in your dictionary.

I dare say that the country has many areas that would be considered a tropical paradise. Even in the capitol city there are places, people and things that may place you in a state of delight!

So, I stand by my reference to the DR as a paradise.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous # 6 You had some inserting things to say. I'm glad that everyone in your ( our ) age group does not feel the same way. Life has a way of presenting us with so many unexpected situations that it is advisable to all of us to seize the moment. Even when we were 20, 30, 40, or 50 how many of us that travel to the DR regularly had some one to spend time with us and tell us that they loved us ( for free ) ? Hell we paid then and we're paying now. With a little imagination I'm able to create my very own Paradise for a few days while trying to remember to respect the rights of others. I'm not sure if there is a Paradise waiting for me after my death but I'm sure glad that for a few times a year I'm able to find ( create ) in the good ole DR.a Paradise that is acceptable to me.

alejandro reyes said...

Without money, access to a good lawyer, working knowledge of Spanish, and a support system in the USA and DR, living in DR as a US ex-patriot or exile is one thing only after a few months: a nightmare.

If you don't believe me, just ask some of those people Tropical Desires is talking about. They'll tell you when they stop babbling incomprehensibly.

TY said...

Wow! what an interesting topic, as a brother who has lived in the US and abroad (Haiti & London)I am pulled in many directions by the topic. It's very easy to judge ex pats life through your eyes outside in and another to live the reality. Ex pats for the most part live on a thin line maintaining parts of their first culture and incorporating new things from their adopted culture. This often presents situations and circumstances that would not normally occur or be tolerated, the success is in how it is handled. But there are a number of sick in the head ex pats that are chasing a dream of glamour that somehow keeps passing them by. We all have situations here, there and everywhere and sometimes we can handle them and sometimes we can't. It's much harder if you are in a foreign culture and can't handle it AND you have alienated yourself from all those (other local ex pats) that can help or guide you in the right direction. The biggest problem I have observed with ex-pats in the DR, PR and Trinidad is how easily they throw shade at each other and tear each other apart and then the bricks start falling and they're too proud to ask for help. Its one thing to be a poor homeless ho at home but to be a poor homeless ho in a foreign country living worse than the lowest locals is ludacris. But some of us should refrain from commenting at all since we can't get it together here or there. DR has it's fair share of level headed well directed ex-pats and its share of loony tunes running after the silly wabbit! I applaud their tenacity to give it a try because at the end of the day what ever makes you happy!