The fantasy soon faded as the viciousness of this crime forced me to recognize the polarities of Dominican Republic. Everyone was talking about this senseless act and adding their own incidences they had either experienced or heard about; robberies at gunpoint, misconduct by the police, medical mistreatment and others.
My perspective on my new country was rapidly shifting from positive to negative. This new reality was hitting me like an oncoming train. The six-month honeymoon with my new home was now over. My dark feelings were self-perpetuating, and what’s worse, I didn’t know how to stop them. It was a downward spiral, as each negative thought attached to the next negative thought like links on a chain. The more links, the heavier the chain and before I knew it, I was a prisoner, captive of my own feelings.
For weeks afterwards, I tried to live life normally, telling myself that everything would be okay, but the confusion and doubt would inevitably return.
I decided that I needed to clear my head, so I took a walk along the beach to town, hoping the change of scenery would lift my spirits. It was a beautiful, sparkling day. The ocean was calm; without the wind swept waves it looked especially green and luminous. The sun was powerful overhead making the sand burn beneath my feet. As I walked, I breathed in the incredible beauty of Dominican Republic and reminded myself of the reasons I had moved here — the sun, the sand, the ocean, the fresh air, the mountains, the friendliness of the Dominican people, and the relaxed, unhurried lifestyle. By the time I arrived in town, my spirits had lifted.
But it didn’t take long for the storm clouds to return.
Once again, I was witnessing the painful contrasts of this place: Many of the local children were walking around under the hot sun with shoeshine boxes under their arms, hoping to make some money so their families could eat. I reflected on how difficult it must be to make a living as a shoeshine boy when most people wear sandals or flip-flops. I thought: What choices do these children have? Many are born in absolute poverty with no hope of an education or any chance for a better life.
I saw men carrying heavy boxes full of clothes, belts, wallets, and trinkets, hoping to entice the tourist as with their wares. But many of the tourists ignored them, and some were downright rude. A big expensive SUV rolled by, its passengers impeccably dressed in designer clothes, a chauffeur at the wheel.
I was finally ready to ask myself the questions that I had been afraid to, unsure if I wanted to hear the answers, now demanded recognition:
How can a highly sensitive person like myself be happy in a place like this? Should I go back to Canada and pretend that this suffering does not exist, that the tragedies of Marc El Wafi and others aren’t real because I am too far away to be touched by them? If I stay, can I handle it?