Up until my trip to the Dominican, my exposure and knowledge of Central America was entirely comprised of Fugees’ lyrics and a few Haitians and Dominicans that I met while living in Brooklyn (one of which could not figure out how to set or use a digital alarm clock.) It was very much like I thought it would be. Two worlds—one resort, one real—and whichever you were in, you were always desperate for the other.
Some days I am happy that I don’t know that kind of poverty, but other days, and maybe a majority of them, I see “that kind of poverty” as a release. I am trapped like the rest of us, fat, pretty, clean, spoiled-by-running-water types, into believing that poverty is bad. And that, all of the poor folks that we saw (saw from the relative safety of our tour bus) want to have more—more money, more food, more arugula.
And how arrogant am I? (I have been trying to answer that question outside of this context for 35 years to little avail.) Why would a Dominican person living in a nice house on a hill with coconuts, and palms, and dogs, and horses, and chickens—with a plantation/farm—want to live in Columbus, Ohio? Would that family like air conditioning and running water? Would they like strip malls, and traffic, and snow? What about working 70 hours a week (for someone else?) What about our music (not too much like Dominican—different beat, very different vibe)? Why is being an American so great?
The answer is simple. Being an American is so great because it’s what I am. I like Justin Timberlake and Biggie Smalls. I like air conditioning and showers and drinking the water in the shower and not getting sick, sick, sick. I like electric lights. I like football and soccer. I love cheese. And bread. And full-strength beer. Bud-weis-er. I like not trying so hard to communicate. (More on this later.)
It’s a pretty life that I have. Throwing Sylvia into her baby pool and watching her laugh and run around and not thinking about much is really good. I missed my baby and my home. It’s good to be back. I know that I am spoiled and should be grateful for what I have and not worry about the poor Dominicans. We will all be just fine. If they want more, that’s on them. If I want less, that can be accomplished as well.
Vacations are as good for perspective as for relaxation. Please remind me to take more. I get all wrapped around the axel and forget.
Recipe for Mamajuana
Roots and herbs (buy in Caribbean or order online):
Canelillea (Dominican grown cinnamon whose leaves and twigs are used for flavor, circulation and adds a little warmth to the mix)
Timacle (In the Taino language it means brave. It is a vine with big, twisted and gnarled roots. It is said to work on the ligaments to make one more agile for days. It is also said to make one energized and able to think more clearly)
Bejuco de Indio ( helps male impotency. It is said to even make the bottom parts of the body feel like they are vibrating if taken in large doses. It is said to make sweat and body odor have an essence that makes one seem more attractive, gets the pheromones flowing)
Bejuco de Costilla (the bark is also said to give the lower parts of the body extra life and vibrancy, for some it can make you feel quite warm and toasty)
Batata (also known as the plain old potato or sarsaparilla is a sexual stimulant)
Bitter Ginger / Gengiberes Amargo (a root in the ginger family but it is a bit more bitter and yellower than regular ginger yet it looks about the same. It is used to repel internal parasites, improves circulation, said to help with arthritis and may even be able to help with hair growth)
Yname/ true yam (said to enhance hormones. The inside is eaten in Dominican Republic and elsewhere like a potato and the outside is used in mamajuana)
Anamú (bark of the tree)
Bohuco (a type of creeper)
Brazil, Caro, Marabeli, Osua, Guyacan, Twigs of Palo Indio, Palo de Maguey and Pega Palo
Stuff herbs/roots into bottle.
Fill 90% of the bottle with dark Dominican rum.
Fill the rest of the bottle with red wine and honey.
Let the bottle sit for at least three days. The longer the bottle sits, the smoother it will taste.