It is with deep regret and much hard thinking that I have decided to leave Dominica, and most likely I will not return. There are reasons, of course. Here are some of them.
I am lonely. After a year + I have not made a satisfying life for myself. Although I know a lot of people, have volunteered umpteen hours at 2 schools, been somewhat involved with the fisher folk and their life, attended the local Anglican church, enjoyed being greeted warmly by the local people and the children as I walk through Portsmouth, I am still alone - and I don't like it. Now that school is over I truly have nothing to do, no reason to be here,no purpose. I have done nothing creative since I have been here - no painting, no sewing, no embroidery. I have done some writing.
Although I am 100% healthy. no aches, no pains, lots of energy, there is no place that I can see to spend it. I have done all the usual tourist things, seen the Island from land and sea, There is nothing to do. The library is dismal, there is no cinema, there is occaisional theater which is often in patois, and no listenable music. It is not safe ton go out alone at night. There are no restaurants or coffee bars. Ross Medical University is a closed American enclave which I have not been able to penetrate. The women I teach with, for whom I have some respect, are nuns. People here do not drop-in or visit back and forth. It is just not done outside the family. Society's structure can be described as 'tribal'. I think this explains why. I do not have a car. I will not watch TV during the day, and the evening TV is awful. Renting DVD's has not reached here yet. I could travel to other islands, and perhaps even see more of this one, but doing this alone is no fun.
I am not cut out for the Caribbean life style. I am a bred in the bone type A person and I can't seem to make the mental adaptations necessary to 'relax' here. I have given it an honest try, and I just get more restless. There are many non Caribbeans living here who have no problem. I think I know how they do it. (1) they live in expat communities and have each other (2)the white women who choose to stay are young (3) they have the money to live in comfort (4)they have jobs and work here.
The family that I have been apart of for the last year is not MY family. I do not want their ups and downs or their problems. I have been living with a man(who has 2 teen age children) who is a shipwright by trade, but he has not built a boat in the last year. He is also a fisherman, but cannot make a living fishing. He, as many others, live hand-to-mouth. It goes like this: to go fishing for the day he must have 4 five gallon tanks of gas. This costs something like $150 Canadian. He must catch enough fish to sell to at least make his gas money back so he can fish another day. This rarely happens,and for the past 10 days there have been no fish, no one is catching. There are no government subsidies. I do not know how men with young families manage. Yes, I could give him the money for gas, but I strongly believe that this is his life, his occupation, his enterprise and he must support it - not me. It gives me great pain to watch. I do not want to watch it any more.
And finally there is the physical discomfort. It is relentlessly hot,never cooling off at night, and I am allergic to the mosquitoes. Dominica is a third world country with all the poverty, inefficiencies, inconveniencies, corruption and pollution that that brings.
Just a note about cultural differences: yes, they can be overcome, and certainly have been by many people all through the ages. Class, however, is a different matter. Intelligence, values and education notwithstanding, the gulf that results from deeply rooted differences in taste, approach to problems, world view and histories, is much more difficult to live with. And then there is semantics! The combination of cultural differences, class differences and semantics is something for young people to wrestle with. Love does not conquer all.
Geographically, Dominica is a gorgeous island with majestic mountains rising proudly out of the warm powerful Caribbean Ocean. There is no match for the grandeur of Dominica - not the Rockies, not the mighty rivers of the Canadian north, not the North Atlantic itself! To see Dominica from the air, or the sea, is truly breath taking. To travel up and down her mountains and valleys is a marvel. And then to realize that what you see rising above the ocean is mirrored below the ocean - that those volcanic mountains and valleys exist under the water is simply beyond description.