Published: January 18th 2011January 18th 2011
This is my first official post from a port! We arrived in Dominica very early in the morning on the 16th and were cleared by 8 am. I remember looking out my window and seeing nothing but ocean, but soon I realized that my window on the ship didn’t actually face Dominica. I decided to get out to the balcony and see what was on the other side. It is really hard to explain to someone what coming into an island port feels like. You feel so small! You’re in this tiny ship in the middle of nothing but endless water and out of nowhere there is this huge landmass. I've got to admit it felt really good to see land after all the rocking and sea sickness in the past few days (even though now I pretty much have my sea legs). For all of you who don’t know, Dominica is a very mountainous looking island. It is in the Caribbean sort of next to St. Lucia. There are two important things you should know before reading this: 1) It is pronounced DOM-IN-IK-AH not DO-MIN-A-KA, and 2) it is not the same as the Dominican Republic….actually Dominica is really known as the Commonwealth of Dominica. So I decided to start my day off very early and explore the town a little bit before my field trip. Some things that you notice right off the bat is that everyone in Dominica drives on the opposite side of the road. Also, they speak English and Creole (another broken form of French). This is all because Britain and France were trying to gain control over Dominica…but by 1987 they finally became independent…therefore some of the British and French influences still remain. If I’m starting to boar you, just scroll down and you can skip all the historical and fun facts. Anyways, their biggest export is bananas and various other types of tropical fruits. Two really cool facts is: 1) Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was filmed on location here and 2) The laws here are insane! First of you can drink starting from when you are born, there is no speed limit anywhere, and you are allowed to drive drunk. They also celebrate their independence day for 6 weeks where all they do is party! Sounds amazing! So as I was wondering around the town, I got to say I didn’t feel all that safe. We had a small group but there were guys, the problem is that the locals are very pushy. I learned this is because their entire economy exists on exports and tourism. There was literally a taxi that asked us for a ride somewhere probably every 5 seconds. A man actually followed us for a while because we wouldn’t buy his coconuts from him. Anyways we were safe and ended up seeing most of the capital (Rosseau). A priest or reverend I’m not sure actually invited us into his church to talk to us about Semester at Sea and American values and traveling. He was very nice and we had a very good conversation. So at this point we were all so hot and thirsty….it must have been 85 or 90 degrees. I grabbed some lunch and headed to the pier to catch my van. I decided to go see a tribal village on the top of the mountainous/volcanoes. I should mention here that Dominica’s population is roughly around 4,000 people who are native to the island and they all live scattered on top of the island. The island is 90% volcanoes and 10% limestone. On our way there we stopped at Dominica’s famous Emerald Pool. Then we continued for another hour or so all the way to the top of the volcano to the Carib Indian village. The ride there was soooo scary. It was 360’s and zig-zag turns the whole way up and the ledges were not very built up. But we made it there! I made a friend on the trip her name was Claire and we ended up sitting next to each other. The villagers took us all around the reserve. We got to meet some of the locals, see their homes, watch them basket weave, cook their famous cassava bread with guava jelly (don’t know spelling) and learn the history of Dominica and its people. They have so much fruit and healing things available to them that they can live off their lands, which makes them very healthy. In fact the oldest living women known to date is from Dominica, she was 128 years old!!! After we were finished we all went under a hut and enjoyed some of their food. I wrote down what I ate so I could share it with all of you.
· Boiled green bananas
· Sugar cane
· Cassava Bread with Guava Jelly
· Cheese Pastry
· Dasheenà basically is a fried or boiled root
· Cod Fish Salad
· Coconut Candy they put ginger, nutmeg and cinnamon from their islands in it
· Passion fruit and Hibiscus Juice
I ended up sitting with a life-long learner couple. If you don’t know what that is refer to my previous blog. Their names were Betty and Boyde. There are both almost 90 years old and are going on the trip with us. I sat with them and talked about so many topics. Betty is so interesting she has climbed the Himalyas and been to Africa several times. And I got to say both of them kept up so well on the hikes…I was impressed. Boyde is really nice and likes to ask me many questions. I brought my journal to take field notes for anthropology and also to journal and they were asking me what I was writing about. I like to think of them as my fun adopted grandparents on the trip. It was really cool to watch the professors do actual fieldwork. All the things I learned about in anthropology classes was right in front of me. So in short, it was an amazing trip and I learned so much.
That night everyone started coming back from their trips by 8 and we all ate dinner. So if you ask the locals what you should do at night, they will tell you one thing……drink rum punch and have a good time, man! So of course that is what we set out to do. We eventually found a descent sized group and headed out into the main street. We came across a bar called JR which was completely packed. Over 10 taxis were outside begging for rides from us. Apparently the hip place to go around here is called Crazy Coconuts, which we didn’t end up going to because it was going to be 10 dollars to get there and back and a five dollar cover charge. So we took some other SAS’ers advice and headed across the street to a shack looking bar called Ruins. We were honestly the only ones there for about 10 minutes until loads of SAS people started packing in. It is really weird how the drinking age is not 21 here! I got a passion fruit rum and it was amazing. I will put out one word of advice, if you are going to drink rum in the Carribean just know that it is very strong and very intense! We all had an amazing time hanging out, meeting other SAS kids and dancing.
Anyways today it was really hard to wake up so early because everyone was completely exhausted. After getting a quick breakfast, I decided to go with some people to try to find a grocery store. I bought myself some guava jelly…I’m soooo excited!!! So I was supposed to go snorkeling but ended up doing a 4x4 Rainforest Adventure. I went in a jeep all opened bar cars that drove us to the Botanical Gardens to see the parrots and see the flora and fauna. We also saw lots of waterfalls and ended the trip at a cave that we actually all went into. The water was sooooo freezing that I was completely numb by the moment I stepped in. Anyways you go through the cave and end up at the waterfall. I eventually got there but with the strong current I had to push up against all the rock and cave walls to get there. We off-roaded all the way back to the ship but it was really fun. Honestly, I have no idea when we’re all going to do all this schoolwork….but the teachers seem more interested in just letting us explore, meet people and journal. Tomorrow I’m back to classes for a week and then we will dock in Manaus, Brazil!!! Looking into some camping in a tree house in the Amazon trip and something with food obviously!