Sunday, November 6, 2011

Outdoor Movies

The pub around the corner has a huge screen - white painted plywood. They show videos every night. You sit on the road, along with the neighbourhood dogs and cats, drink beer and eat peanuts and watch. They show Jackie Chan type movies, and ridiculous melodramas about mongol hordes rampaging across Asia, "Gladiators" is a favourite.

We have a movie (The Harder They Come) featuring Jimmy Cliff's music, with Jimmy himself acting and singing. It is about the dark underside of the Jamaican music business. We took it over last night. As soon as it came up on the screen everyone whooped and cheered. They brought their chairs out of the pub and plunked themselves down front and centre in the middle of the road. They sang along and made fun of the Jamaicans! Outdoors movies at their best!

Jimmy Cliff's hits: You Can Get it if YOu Really Want it, Johnny Too Bad, Pressure Drop. Many Rivers to Cross, Rivers of Babylon.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


Apparently I have propagated the erroneous notion that I am not happy in Dominica. To counter this ridiculous notion I offer: reggae, powerful sun light, heat, fresh fish, bright colours, lush rain forest, Kubuli beer, abundant clean water, more protected area per capita than any other country on the planet, fabulous waterfalls, hot springs, the mighty Atlantic and the warm Caribbean oceans, responsible fishery, non chemical farming, rainbows everyday, much less complicated life …and Sono!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Montreal Misadventure

Today was a perfect early fall day, still green, cool, dry and sunny. I planned to take the number 24 bus all the way east on Sherbrooke Street to the Botanical Garden. I was all ready to go around 1:30 when I had to go down to the basement to put something away first. What I met down there was a strong wet smell and water on the floor in the large back room. There are no mops, buckets, cleaning rags, (cleaning tools of any kind – but that’s another story) in this house. I could only find the home phone number of the property manager. I called and left a message – 3 times. I rummaged around and found his office number, called him and he came over immediately. The water was seriously dripping from the ceiling in this room; all the pipes seemed to converge here. Fortunately his plumber was available and he came right over. By 4 PM he had fixed, temporarily, whatever the problem was. But it is not solved, major plumbing is needed.

It was still nice and warm out so I decided to walk downtown. I could still make a five o’clock movie. It was at the AMC. Now, the last time I was in Montreal, the AMC was on St. Catherine Street beside the Future Shop. I walked quickly and made it in plenty of time – except, of course, the AMC Theater was no longer there. I went into the Future Shop to ask where it was. The girl told me I was standing in it! OK…then I remembered that there was a movie theater at the Eaton Centre so I rushed off there and made it just on time. But that theater was also gone. At this point, I don’t remember how I figured out there was a theater complex in the next mall over, but off I went in search of Scotia Place. I found it eventually after going in circles around the corridors, shops, and boutiques. A nightmare. Shopping in Montreal is horrible. Now I missed the start of the movie, and it was 2 hours before the next showing. Should I hang around, shop, eat? Yes. I went to Reuben’s and had an expensive, not very good smoked meat sandwich (this is another story). I walked around the shops a little, sat outside the theater, went in early and gratefully sank into soft deep seat and had a nap in spite of the million-decibel soundtrack of the pre show trailers.

I saw “The Driver” an excellent movie. If you like dark movies, I recommend it. ,

Sunday, September 11, 2011


So here I am in Montreal for 5 weeks, and working at Ararat Rug and living, alone, at Harold and Jan’s house (my brother and his wife) while they are in Tibet and Mongolia.

I was really worried at the first about working – could I do it? Well, it seems that I can.

I was looking forward to being on my own at H&J’s, but it has become very, very clear that I really don’t like living alone. To be sure, I enjoy my time alone, I treasure those periods when I don’t have people depending on me and when I have time to myself, but to actually live alone – nope – that’s not for me. I like to know that someone is coming home at some point. I find getting up in the morning to an empty house a bit scary!

Montreal is a terrific city. I love it. But it is too inconvenient. I’d always said that if I were to live in a city it would be Montreal, but I’ve changed my mind. I think Ottawa would be it. However, it’s going to be Portsmouth, Dominica, not Ottawa or Montreal.

There are many, many reasons why I am returning to Dominica - but mainly, they are simply more fun - even in their poverty and despair.

The plan is to finish out my stint here in Montreal, go back to Brooke Valley, pack and return to Dominica by the end of October.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Things That Continue To Astonish Me

Bioche - a fishing village at sunset

Mero Beach

We sent a sick young man to the hospital with fever. They sent him back with a vial of his blood, in his hand, not wrapped, just as is, to be tested. He took it to the lab, by bus, to the next town where the lab is. The result of the blood test was that he had dengue fever.

A person with the Ministry of Education was on the public bus, writing government cheques to various agencies.

Reruns of 6 month old news casts on Dominica’s national TV channel.

Dominicans talk to each other at the top of their voice, often at the same time and always illustrating their point with actions and gesticulations.

Often the sun will shine in all its brilliance while it is pouring rain. One wears sunglasses and holds an umbrella!

There are always people about. Even in the dead of night, someone will be on the street, walking or just sitting in a doorway.

There is absolutely NO confidentiality. Everyone knows everything about everyone and can recite every family's geneaology. When meeting someone for the first time they will ask, "Who is your father?", although fathers are often not in the home and have children with several women.

The lab where they dissect bodies at Ross University is at street level with big windows. As you walk by you can look right into the lab and see the students at work on dead bodies. Honest

Monday, March 7, 2011

Going To The Dentist

An old gold crown at the back of my mouth came loose and dropped out. No big deal. This happens from time to time, and Dr. Chaplin simply cements it back, no fuss, no muss. It was uncomfortable wiggling around back there, so I thought I would chance a visit to a local dentist since no drilling or treatment would be involved. There is a dentist in Portsmouth, Dr. A. I called, and they took me the next day.

When I got there 10 minutes before the appointment she was on her way out the door and the “nurse” was cleaning up. They had forgotten, but they would do me a favour and take me anyway. I was taken into the room where there was an antique dentist’s chair and ordered to “sit there”. The “nurse” threw what looked to be a cloth diaper on my chest. The dentist, a tall big boned woman with blond extensions loose around her shoulders hitched herself up to my head on a squeaky rolling stool, snapped on some latex gloves, roughly yanked my already open mouth wider, and stuffed my mouth with wads of gauze. After a very cursory examination she declared that the tooth itself was broken, but she would re-cement the crown on it anyway. She did that quickly, and when finished both she and the ”nurse” left the room with me still in the chair with a mouth full of wadding. When no one came back I figured that it was over. I got up and went into the waiting room. The dentist had left, and the rather surly “nurse” was waiting for me. I was charged 200 Eastern Caribbean Dollars, about $100 Canadian and left. Two weeks later the crown came off.

I phoned to schedule another appointment. They told me to come in right away, as they were about to close. It was 12:30 p.m. I was there by 12:45. The waiting room was full. I took a seat on a hard bench and settled myself in for a long wait…and it was long. I wasn’t called until 2:00 p.m. There were two little girls, about 7 years old, whom the “nurse” was looking after, moving around the waiting room. Finally I was called, and ordered, by a flip of the hand, to get into the chair. This time though, the chair was not fastened securely to the floor and the whole apparatus, chair, lamp, and table, rocked alarmingly to and fro with every slight shift of my body. The headrest had lost its pillow since my last visit. I was obliged to position my head on a post. I looked up at the lamp, which was in a fixed position because its handles were broken.

Dr. A roughly stuck the diaper under my chin, and turned to the nurse asking her, “What cement did we use last time?” “I don’t know,” was the reply to which Dr. A. answered, “I don’t remember, let’s use something different.” My precarious confidence was evaporating and I was getting seasick from the rocking chair. My mouth was once again stuffed with wads of gauze. One of the little girls burst into the room wailing and threw herself on the dentist’s lap! Dr. A, with her gloved hand, stroked the child’s hair, cooed at her maternally, gave her a drink of water and told her she should not come into the room when “Mummy is working.” The “nurse” was preparing some material when Dr. A’s cell phone rang. The “nurse” answered it and handed it to Dr. A. who, holding my mouth open with her left hand, took the phone in her right hand and made babysitting arrangements with her mother. The little girl banged back into the room sounding like I felt, and put her head on her mother’s lap. This meant that she was looking directly into my ear. She poked my ear, ran around to the other side to check out the other ear. The crown was returned to its place. I’m not sure it was even looked at it, or cleaned it out. I was coping with motion sickness. No charge this time, but there would be a charge next time, keep your mouth closed for 15 minutes declared Dr. A, and she left the room. These were the only words that were spoken to me directly in the two visits.

Even though the crown came loose again that very evening, there will not be a next time.

Saturday, March 12 - Just got a call from the dentist who invited me to come in because she has an "idea" about fixing the crown!!! I didn't go. I'll take my chances with it and wait for Bob C. At the moment it is wedged in and only mildly uncomfortable.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Has it really been that long since my last blog?

Since that time I have had Christmas in Dominica – my first away from home. Aside from the obvious climate difference, Christmas in Dominica was almost a non-event. Dominicans are very laconical about the whole thing. I kept waiting for it to happen. When I realized it wasn’t going to happen among the people I am living with, I decided, at the last minute, to make it happen. I invited several if Sono’s strange relatives, and his two children, I brought in some ferns to stand in as a Christmas tree and I cooked a 15-pound turkey, (which cost $60 US!). The menu also included rice and beans, vegetable casserole, curried lentils, salad and ice cream. The guests, who came 2 hours late, sat around the decorated table hardly talking, ate everything in sight and were gone by 10PM. I got through the whole thing on a bottle of expensive (but awful) wine.

New Year’s Eve was something similar – i.e. a non-event.

Question: How do Dominicans (Caribbeans?) come by the reputation of being fun loving, relaxed, carefree and easy-going?

I do not know. I have lived and worked among the people for 2 years, and I find them to be anything but.

I am still working on revising my preconceived ideas, stereotypes and prejudices about Caribbean culture. For example: where is the music? All I hear is horrible computer driven, monotonous so-called reggae. Bob Marley must be spinning in his grave.

I rented a car during the long Christmas break. We took some really wonderful day trips up into the mountains, along the southern coast, explored an ancient volcano, and searched for the Sisserou Parrot. The weather was not good, so we didn’t go to the several nice beaches around the Island. For more photos go to my FaceBook page.

We watched the total lunar eclipse on the full moon from the seashore. Awesome.

It is now the first of February and Dominicans (no doubt, the rest of the Caribbean) are revving up to Carnival, March 7 and 8. Calypso songs are being written, costumes are being constructed, stories of Carnivals of the past are being told, potential Carnival Queens are strutting their stuff, great booming sound systems are being dusted off and there is general tension building. I have been here for 4 carnivals and I have experienced each one as a huge national 3-day drunk. I am hoping that this year I will get behind the scenes, that I have, in fact, missed the point, that I will see, or be shown, the ‘real mas’ “.

Meanwhile I am still teaching and organizing at CALLS, fending off the mosquitoes, and figuring out how to live in Dominica.