Wednesday, July 21, 2010


It occurs to me that having written about why I am leaving Dominica, I should also write about the reasons to stay or return. There are several strong reasons. I will do this in the next weeks.

Meanwhile, here is a story


Sono and I had to go to Rosseau to pick up the new propellor, the 25 ho motor and do some other city errands, so we hired his friend, Cockter (pronounced cock-tah, a patois word meaning a stick to dig in the earth or a staff) and his pick up truck.

It was raining, but Cockter was more or less on time. He had to "do something" before he came to get us! Off we went at top speed in his rattling, rusty rogue of a truck. Cockter is a big man and the gear shift was on the floor, so Sono and I were squashed hard up against the passenger door.

Now, Rosseau is only 30 miles from Portsmouth, but the road is winding, twisting and narrow and features potholes the size of a bath tub, so it takes an hour to get there. The road is snug up against the mountain on one side and a precipice going down to the ocean on the other. It is a very busy highway with an endless stream of huge Diatsue dump trucks carrying tarish, pickup trucks carrying people, people carrying loads on their heads, vans, busses, cars, goats. Dominicans drive on the left - sort of - mostly in the middle and the prevailing attitude is every man for himself.

So, as I said, off we go. I give myself over to fate and decide to enjoy the ride.

About 10 minutes into the trip, Cockter parks on the non-existent shoulder, jumps out, opens the hood (bonnet). Sono is not far behind, They jiggle the battery, declare it "good to go" and jump back in. Another 5 minutes of driving, reminiscent of a midway ride, and Cockter pulls over again, this time to pee. "Let's go again", he says as he heists himself back into the truck.

Sono and Cockter keep up a constant flow of chatter in broad idiomatic Dominican mixed with patois. I understand less than half of what they are saying. Between them Sono and Cockter know everyone we pass. There is much honking and waving. The personal and family histories of all are discussed in detail.

Closer to Rosseau the Chinese (chi-nee) are reconstructing the road. Huge bulldozers are carving away hairpin curves, building sea walls and preparing new road beds. The process is analyzed and, of course, found to be wrong. No one stops for the construction. You just push through.

And so we reach Rosseau. It is a humid 38 degrees C. The Rosseau River is dirty and the harbour is muddy because it is raining. Poor Sono stumbles out of the vehicle. He has been bouncing along on the metal rim of the seat and the CD speaker has been jamming into his shoulder, "My cote bondar (arse) hurts and my shoulder is mashed up," he says.

Our first stop is the Mercury agent to get the propellor, which is too small, then over to Fisheries for the motor, but they are closed (?) and nobody knows why. Then we go to the police station to pick up Sono's passport, but they are closed for lunch. Next we find a shop to buy a battery for my watch, and discover a long lost brother! No kidding, really. They haven't seen each other for years. They are genuinely happy to see each other, but nothing much transpires and they go their separate ways. Back over to the police station and get the passport.

On the way home we have to stop in Fond Cole, an industrial park, to buy some rope. Sono knows exactly where the place is, Cockter does not. He drives where he thinks it should be, not listening Sono's directions. Cockter quickly realizes he can get under Sono's skin by randomly driving all over the place and pulling in to any old factory parking lot. Sono is sweating trying to keep his temper. By sheer accident Cockter pulls into the right place and we get our bales of rope.

Finally, we head for home picking up a lady and her basket of tomatoes on the way. Luckily it has stopped raining because she is perched on the bales of rope in the back of the truck. She gets down at Picard and we buy a delicious Bar-B-Q'd chicken. We are home by 4.

The day isn't over yet...but that's another story.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


How do I feel about returning to Canada?

Apprehensive and unsure would describe it.

My immediate family, Hans in particular, and friends have been more than lenient with my moods, vagaries, and eccentricities. My friends have been amazingly undeerstanding and supportive.

I am not finished! I will require more patience from family and friends.

I do not know where I will live
I do not know where I WANT to live
I do not know what I want
I do not know how to figure this out
I am embarassed to have these existential problems at my age
I am afraind of making the wrong choice

I will badly miss my Dominican family, and especially Sono.

And that about covers it


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.