Published: February 21st 2012January 24th 2012
I am currently 4 hours ahead of California and 3 hours ahead of Colorado. Since the Bahamas we have traveled 785 nautical miles.
Waking up today there was much excitement throughout the ship to get off for the first time, at the first port and explore. I packed my towel, snorkel, mask, and underwater camera in my backpack. I grabbed a hat, my money belt and camera, put on some sunscreen and headed up stairs to meet up with Anna Sophia for breakfast and then to go exploring in Roseau. Where we were ported was beautiful! The view off the back deck of the ship was a steep green mountainside with all different colored houses and a steep road built into it. At the very top right hand side of this mountain was some sort of crop that looked like bananas all being grown in a clump. At the base of this steep living anomaly was a thin coastline road that wound around the coast until it went around a steep bend I could not see past.
Off the side deck of the ship was a small town that looked a bit industrial, being a port, but
looking past this were great steep mountains and volcanoes covered in lush green that seemed to jut up right out of the middle of the island. It was absolutely amazing and beautiful, reminding me a bit of Hawaii except better, greener, steeper, and with rocky cliffs lining the shore sides. I wanted to go exploring, to hike through the jungle and explore this so called “Nature Island” with so many waterfalls and interesting new things. In classes over the past few days I had learned a lot about Dominica, but now I was eager to go see it all.
This city of Roseau itself was not very visible from the ship, but the main road that went past the port was clearly the main road that leads off to the right of the island and towards the city where I could see the outskirts of denser and a little more flat civilization. After eating breakfast with Anna Sophia and a few people we knew it was time to go! Everyone lined up at the gangway awaiting their turn to swipe their card to check out from the ship and go exploring. The gangway this time was on the fifth
deck, which was strange because we had to go down this several story scary metal staircase that rocked back and forth a little with the ship.
On the docks we walked past several checkpoints with guards for the way back in. We walked past a big open brick structure that looked like a place for storing dock stuff, but was currently filled with all sorts of local merchants selling touristy souvenir gifts. We kept walking around this building and past all sorts of industrial and machinery stuff until we came out to a large fenced security area. We stepped out onto the streets and it was clear that this area was bustling because we were here. Some locals sat on walls just watching all of us pass by while others looked like they were asking for money and many vans certified as taxis pulled over asking us if we wanted a ride into town. Although the sun was beating down on us and the pavement was reflecting the heat back up, we were a large enough group that we wanted to stick together and experience the walk into town.
We walked the sidewalk along the coastal road and
past small areas of schools and a few shops on the opposite side of the street that met up with the mountainside. As we kept walking the small city started coming more into view. We crossed a bridge over what we had been told was one of the main rivers flowing into the ocean off Dominica. The sad thing was that I could see plastic bottles floating in it and it did not look very clean, at least down here where the city met the water. Crossing on the bridge I noticed a woman doing laundry on the dirty rocks piling her soaking wet clothes in a grass basket. She was wrapped in a faded cloth dress and squatted shoeless, in what didn’t look to me like a good place for cleaning clothes, scrubbing away. I also noticed that the cars were driving on the opposite side of the road from the U.S. and so were the people walking. Oops. We were crossing the bridge on the wrong side of the road as the people and the cars were all headed towards us. I had forgotten it would be this way since it had once been under British rule. Across
the bridge a sign with a Dominican woman wearing a feathery boa and hat and not much else said, “Welcome to Roseau!” I noticed a change in the air as it changed to smell slightly of stagnant water and air pollution, but it wasn’t unbearably bad.
As we turned down the first appealing street the first thing we did was enter a small grocery store hoping to find some snacks we could store in our rooms to supplement the ship food we knew would become increasingly bland. What we found were several minimally stocked shelves. Mostly there were canned foods and some cereal boxes. A refrigerator on one side of the store had soda cans and the local beers while the one in the back had all sorts of unfamiliar looking meats. This area did not smell like any kind of meat you would want to eat and as I turned I was startled to see that sitting in a tilted bucket facing me was a single pig’s snout in a bag. What anyone would use just a pig snout in their cooking for I have no idea, but it smelled and looked absolutely disgusting, yet I was intrigued
and curious what it was that these islanders ate. Realizing there was nothing snack worthy in this strange place, we all filed out of the store passing the one woman cashier who sat on a chair solemnly nodding and occasionally smiling as every single one of us left without buying a single item. I felt bad for her as she looked like the owner of the store and we had given her nothing. Being the last person in our line I noticed the look of disgust and disappointment she had on her face when she thought no one was looking as we left the store.
Continuing on I chatted with the new people I was walking in a group with. Sarah and Grace were there along with a whole group of people I hadn’t met before but were very nice. As we chatted and wandered further into town the funniest thing happened. “Hello, my name is Brynn.” “OH MY GOD!! You are Brynn! I’ve been meaning to find you on the ship! Hi I am the other Brynn! I’ve been hearing about this other Brynn the past few days and I did not believe it and now
here you are!” I was shocked! Another Brynn on the same ship, what a small world and not only that, we spell our names the same way. I had never met another Brynn before that I was going to get a chance to know, let alone one that spelled it the same; the double n is very unusual. With excitement she and I chatted for a while and it was clear we were going to get along with each other very well. For the rest of our walk we continued to introduce each other to other people and say each other’s names giggling because it was so fun to say our own name but referring to someone else. We would randomly call out to each other and just say, “Oh hey Brynn!”
We seemed to be a little lost within the colorful buildings because we weren’t getting to anything that looked like the center of town. The streets were narrow and the cars strange. The roads were paved very patchy and the sidewalks were very thin, had holes and ditches and were sometimes dirt strips or non-existent. The gutter/side of the road had clumps of trash here and there
and quite a bit of stagnant water that looked discolored and smelled funny; better not step in that. Someone attempted to communicate with a man selling bananas who spoke little English to point us in the right direction. Off we went towards an area he thought we might be looking for. We found a good sized Save a Lot figuring we should step in for our snacks. It was a basic grocery store, organized a little strange, but with some more familiar looking things. We all got to the snack aisle, where we grabbed some semi-familiar looking granola bars and other packaged snacks. Passing the meats I was once again confused when it smelled bad and I saw bags of pigs feet; why?! Feeling like a confused tourist I handed over a bill and received some coins that looked really neat. Outside next to the Save a Lot was a KFC. Well that’s interesting. A KFC on a tiny island like this, I guess that’s kind of normal.
We came across a small food market that we decided to check out. Wandering between all the yellow umbrellas and tables everything looked either foreign or was a kind
of fruit we had been advised not to eat and didn’t look like something I wanted to eat. Continuing on we passed a strange brick building that was very open and filled with men sitting around, listening to music, talking, and generally looking bored. I’m not sure what this was about or what they were doing but we were getting a lot of looks so our group got a little tighter and kept walking as we turned the corner. Around the corner was another much nicer looking port with a huge German cruise ship docked. This street looked more like the downtown we had been searching for.
The streets were lined with little umbrella covered tables and vendors selling all of their souvenirs. Men with tour shirts on asked us if we wanted to go on hikes, see the waterfalls, snorkel, go to museums, or anything else they could think of. We told them, “maybe tomorrow” and kept wandering looking at all of the tables of fun stuff. Finally we found a bank where I got some Dominican bills from an ATM. Past the post office, tourist info and some other stores the street ended in a beautiful view
of some of the mountainous steep island. Out in the water there was a small ship, docked and lifeless in the water that looked a lot like a wooden pirate ship. Rumor was that it was from Pirates of the Caribbean filming. It is true that parts of Dead Man’s Chest were filmed here on the island of Dominica. The scenes where Jack is stuck on an island as the tribal leader, the bone hanging cages, and all of the tribal scenes where they are chasing the crew of the black pearl and shooting at them were filmed here. I hope I can see some of these spots tomorrow.
Unsure what to do next we turned up a steep street towards where we had just heard there was a botanical garden. Part of the way up the hill a taxi driver spotted us and pulled over, asking of if he could take us to any hiking locations or sight seeing. Anna Sophia and I said no because we had to be back to the ship in time for our snorkeling trip, but the rest of the group seemed very interested. They talked with him for a while
until suddenly they were all piling into the van and headed off to see waterfalls. They seemed confused when three of us didn’t get in, waved and said goodbye. Off Sarah, Grace, Brynn and all the other awesome people I just met went, to do exactly what I wished I could be doing. I was torn and now felt suddenly left out.
I tried to convince the other two that we should still walk to the botanical gardens but they wanted to start heading back. So not wanting to be left alone I wandered with them. I was very happy for my short hair as the sun beat down on us. I was feeling very unhappy about the lack of adventure and interaction I was currently having in Dominica when we stumbled across a high school and an old Catholic church with beautiful crumbling stone work and stained glass. I observed for a little while and snapped a few pictures. We headed back to the main strip by the port and wandered back memorizing where things were. As we came back down to the end of the street with the brick building full of men I noticed a giant
sign on a tall pole in huge letters that said KFC with an arrow pointing towards it. The sign was carefully placed so that passengers coming off ships at the port would see this first when the looked down the street; obnoxious but very smart on their part.
The three of us made the semi-long walk back to the ship where we passed through the multiple securities and clambered up the metal steps back into the cool ship. The cool air felt great! We went our separate ways to change into swimsuits and grab our snorkeling stuff. Anna Sophia and I had lunch on the ship where I sat getting very excited for the upcoming snorkeling experience. We met with our group in the Union and headed back out into the hot air to load onto small buses.
Our driver sat on the right side of the car and introduced himself with a thick accent that I had trouble discerning, but I understood that his name was Scratchy. When the vehicle was full a very large Dominican woman got in with us. She was a younger adult, about our age, who was going to college and she told
us she was going to be our guide. We didn’t know we would have a guide so this was a fun surprise. First thing she told us was that there is English… and then there is English. When we asked her what she meant she explained that she was speaking our English, proper English, with us right now and we could understand her. However she also explained that the kind of English she would normally speak with Scratchy was still English, but would sound partly like gibberish to us. We wanted to know what she meant so she said something to Scratchy and although I could make out some words, she was right the rest was all strange slang sounding English with an accent that I could not understand.
Driving through and past Roseau gave me perspective on how small this capital city really was. In no time we were out of Roseau and moving through other neighborhoods and little towns. I lost all concept of time as our guide told us all about Dominica. The island has about 72,500 people on it. They rely on eco-tourism, being the nature island with 365 rivers. It is a
geological hotspot with a boiling lake and active volcanoes that could blow someday. She told us that if there were ever tremors, she would be getting in a boat, any boat, and leaving as fast as possible. The island is 29 miles long and 16 miles wide. The Caribbean side of the island, which we were on, is more protected from storms and tsunamis then the Atlantic side, but the steep landscape helps protect the island from these kinds of issues. They were fought over by British and French because the island to the south was British and the island to the north was French and Dominica was the perfect spying island. She told us about the school system and said that they always had to wear uniforms and had to pay for their schooling. She also told us about how committed everyone is to keeping the island the nature island. They are very good about their trash and have laws in place to prevent littering. They are even so strict about trash that if you set your trash out on a day that is not your trash day, you can be fined massive amounts of money. I will admit,
out of all of the places we are going I think that Dominica will probably be the cleanest and the people the most well off.
As we got closer to Champagne Reef she told us of the once pristine reefs that are now being destroyed by climate change, over fishing, and over nitrification from sediment and agricultural run off. She told us that the reefs on Dominica were still the healthiest reefs in the Caribbean. She also told us about the thin continental shelf that almost immediately drops off deep into the ocean, where there is a subduction zone. Because of this sheer drop off it offers great protection for whales to breed and is a hotspot for them. This made me very excited for tomorrow’s whale watch.
As we wound our way up a big hill on the narrow streets I was amazed that it was possible to drive up this. I had noticed that a lot of the cars here were from Japan and had Japanese writing on the windows, very interesting. We parked along the side of the road and filed out and down to an open restaurant looking area. Here we gathered in our
massive FDP group of about 50 people. A fit young Dominican man told everyone not to touch anything especially corals and not to stand on the coral. He then demonstrated the use of these really dumb flotation vests that reminded me of the life vests off of airplanes or something. We were required to wear the stupid orange things the entire time. In a big hustle and bustle everyone acquired masks and fins of the right size and headed on down to the shore. Wishing I had brought my own fins that I know fit my odd shaped achy feet, I grabbed some fins of my size that I knew were too narrow to accommodate me, but they were all this way.
I headed to the rocky shore with my mask, fins, underwater camera and stupid life vest. There was a wooden walkway that had been built up to make the long walk down the beautiful shore less of a struggle. The scenery was amazing and beautiful! The mountainous green slopes shot straight up out of the sea and formed spiked ridges. Clambering down the rocks at the end of the path I stumbled my way into the lukewarm
water and hobbled back and forth trying to get on my uncomfortable flippers. Once on I jumped the rest of the way and swam out a little ways to the group. The water was so warm! As I peered through my mask into the ocean all I could see was murky water; everyone had kicked up sand. A little further out and I started to see clearly. Turf alga was the first thing I noticed about Champagne Reef. The underwater rocky shore was coated in these unhealthy reef algae, which is typically a sign of coral bleaching and an unbalanced reef. Ignoring this, I swam on until I was amongst the notorious gas bubbles floating up from between the cracks, giving the water a champagne look and the reef it’s name.
The bubbles were very warm and came up from the rocks in solid streams for a while, and would then stop and come up somewhere else. It was fascinating to watch, as the bubbles seemed to be appearing out of solid nowhere. The bubbles tickled my tummy as I swam over them, and out further I started to notice rocky areas that appeared to have a little more
life. There were towered clusters of green and yellow sponges standing amongst the sea floor and rocks like little cities. They were absolutely beautiful and fascinated me, as I had never seen sponges clustered and growing quite like these. Near by were a few twisty brain coral. The relatively small size of these corals and sponges indicated to me that they had not been thriving here for very long and I had yet to see any fish. A truly thriving and diverse reef would have many schools of fish of many different species and corals whose skeletons had built up layer after layer. Moving on further out from the shore with our massive group of kicking flippers, the reef started to dive deeper. Here I started to see much more life.
Now where there was turf algae there were many sea urchins. Black ones littered the cracks and holes within the rock with the occasional delight of a bright red one. I wondered if part of the reason for the reef looking the way it did was due to these little sea floor munchers. I remembered from last semester’s invertebrate zoology class that urchins love to eat the holdfasts
of kelp, but I do not think kelp grows off the coast of Dominica. Urchins also like to eat other types of algae, so maybe they are not the reason for the turf algae, but are so abundant here because they are eating the turf algae. In Marine Biology class we discussed a species of black urchin that does eat turf algae, but recently had and epidemic. Maybe all of these little black urchins were a sign of a come back in the balancing species. Whatever the case, the combination of black and red made for a beautiful reef floor.
Moving on the water started to get deeper leading up to an underwater drop off and I started to see more fish. We were now snorkeling further away from shore and it was easy to see that this part of the reef was much more healthy and thriving. There were massive round purple sponges with ex-current siphons the size of my head that looked like they had been growing for many years. Around them swirled schools of yellow fish, some sergeant major fish, a small parrotfish and a few other species here and there. Although there were fish out
here on the reef, they were not very abundant. This of course may have had to do with the lack of coral cover or the disturbance of so many excited people with kicking flippers.
Where there were numerous corals, they were beautiful! There were all sorts of colors shapes and sizes. I especially liked the fuzzy purple fire coral, which seemed to be an abundant species possibly because of their poisonous sting. In these areas of coral covered rock there was a lot less turf algae, but most of the coral consisted of smaller sized corals, with the exception of one large and thriving Elkhorn coral and a few large fan corals swaying back and forth with the tide. These coral areas seemed very diverse and luckily there were no clearly visible signs of coral bleaching. I was excited when I found a small pair of snails with brown speckled shells clinging to a fan coral. They were so small and so pretty. Around the corals I also noticed a few small anemones hidden in the cracks here and there but none of them were very big or inhabited by clown fish. As I took a deep breath and
dove down past the warm surface water I was able to get a close up look at the reef. When I got closer I was able to spot several Polychaeta worms, beautifully spiraled but small feather duster worms, a variety of small snails and large donkey dung sea cucumbers. The presence of these benthic dwellers is a sign of a healthy reef.
Heading back towards the shore I noticed that there seemed to be a few more fish, but probably because I had dropped back behind the group and the fish were not being scared away by the massive group of intruding humans. I kicked along back towards the bubbles and rocky shore snapping pictures with my underwater camera when I reached the turfy shallows and stumbled across an octopus! The octopus was fairly small, maybe the size of my hand and continued to walk along the rocks until he saw me. He then sucked down onto the rocks getting very low and changed his coloring using the chromatophores in his skin to look like the surrounding turf algae. He even raised his skin in little tufts to fit in even more with his surroundings. He didn’t fool me.
I swished a bit of water at him, which disturbed him and probably scared him, causing him to change colors flashing white and yellow. My first close up underwater encounter with an octopus and I got a good picture; YES!
The reef was not at all as I had suspected, as my expectations had been set too high. The bubbles however, were awesome! What a unique anomaly. I did very much enjoy the snorkeling at Champagne reef and would recommend it to anyone; lot’s of neat stuff. However, from my observations on this reef I think it is safe to say that it is an ecosystem that is on the tipping point between starting to do better and rapidly declining. From class I know that champagne reef is a protected no fishing zone, but the surrounding ocean is not as restricted. Although it is great that this area is protected it is clear that in order for this reef to continue to thrive, more of the surrounding area needs to be protected and more fishing restrictions put in place. The lack of many fish and all large fish is evidence to this need. It is not clear to me
how much of an impact the tourism has on this location, but with all the human intruders stirring up the water and urinating I would infer that the reef is becoming disrupted and over nitrified decreasing reef growth and fish inhabitants and encouraging algal growth. Some of this nitrification may also come from land run off and everything it picks up along the way.
Excuse my science nerdyness, as some of the above writing is from my marine biology class reflection. Clambering back out of the water clumsy me fell over the rocky shore. Making it back to the little shop I returned my flippers and went to rinse off. As I waited my turn and rinsed off in the cold spurting water I noticed that one of the snorkeling guides, who had been pointing stuff out to everyone, was watching me very closely. I rinsed of my hair and my mask and started to walk past him saying a friendly hi. He replied with, “Hello. How are you?” as he looked me up and down and then asked, “Would you go to the Crazy Coconut with me tonight? It’s a really fun place to dance. All the SAS
kids will be there and I would love to dance with you.” He was attractive and a very nice local guy and I was tempted to accept and have a fun night dancing in Dominica, but wary as I am about these kind of situations I told him, “Thank you, but I have other plans tonight with some friends and have to get back to the ship.” He smiled understandingly and kindly asked if I was sure. It was clear he had taken a liking to me for whatever reason and I could tell he was not being creepy, I didn’t get those vibes, but I kindly rejected and told him to have fun as I grabbed a complimentary Dominican beer and started to dry off. He left me alone and went back to work, but continued to look over and smile on occasion as I discussed with friends what we had seen.
Content with my Domincan beer and the photos on my camera I clambered back into the small bus with others and shared my octopus pictures with those who had missed it. On the way back our guide told us about government. Dominica had gained independence in
1978 and she believed that the president was simply an important figure that did not do much besides show up to meetings on time. According to her, it is the prime minister who the people are behind and therefore has the most power. She explained the history of the prime ministers, which included some very interesting stories. As we drove past important places, she pointed them out and one of them was the house that the president was supposed to live in but does not because it is believed to be extremely haunted. She said the building is now used for meetings. Anna Sophia has a goal of collecting music from every country so our guide told us a bit about the local calypso event where only one will be named the king. She pointed out a few music stores we should stop in and named off her favorite bands, so that we could go get their music tomorrow.
Back on the ship Anna Sophia and I were not sure what to do since all of our friends were gone, it was getting dark, and everyone was headed out to drink or party at the Crazy Coconut. Together we
chatted about our day and had some more bland ship dinner. Exhausted from walking, swimming and the heat all day we decided it would be fun to watch Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest with our new outlook on the location of the scenes. Lying out on the pool deck we laughed and learned about each other’s lives as Jack did silly things on the screen. For the first time on the ship the two of us went in on some of the expensive snacks and had Fritos, pretzels and gummy bears, which were a delicious treat from the ship food. Overall a great day in Dominica! I am very excited for tomorrow’s whale watching trip! I heard that the trip today saw seven whales and several dolphins!!
Woke up today very early for the whale and dolphin safari. I was so excited to see some whales!! Sun screened up with backpack containing seasick meds, water, hat, snack, jacket and camera I rushed up to breakfast and ate with Anna Sophia again. We again met up in the Union with our group and headed outside. Although I was extremely tired from staying up late
watching movies I couldn’t help but get really excited for the day ahead. Being a marine biology major/zoology major who is obsessed with whales I felt like a great experience was about to happen with Dominica being one of the whale breeding hotspot. Down the scary steep gangway we went, the hot sun already beating down on our backs and radiating off the black top of the dock. On the dock we boarded a nice little two-deck passenger boat.
As we pushed off the dock a relatively young man introduced himself as the whale biologist onboard this tourist boat. He told us that he has been collecting data on whales for several years on this boat and that all of the money from these whale tours goes to paying for the research, the fuel, and the people who work onboard the boat. He explained to us that we would be heading out away from shore a ways to search for the whales where we would then drop hydrophones to listen for them. He also told us about the kinds of whales they usually see which was a little bit of everything but mostly sperm whales and grey whales. This
made me very excited because I had never seen a sperm whale before. Lastly he told us that he cannot control the whales and when they decide to show up, so there is an 80% chance of seeing a whale and if we didn’t then the only whale we would see was the plastic one he was holding. Surely since the last group saw whales yesterday we were going to too.
When we were far enough away from shore they cut the engine and dropped a hydrophone into the water. It didn’t sound like much but there were some clear clicking sounds that the scientist identified as a male sperm whale in the area. Based on his previous knowledge he tried to predict where the whale was or was heading and we started up the engines and headed in that direction. I got super excited! First sperm whale! I know that is a bad sounding name for a whale, but they are actually very interesting. They are one of the only toothed whales and are the largest toothed mammal in the world. Their main diet consists of deep-sea giant squid. You can often see scratches around their head from
battles with these squid. They are also the deepest diving whale in the world reaching up to nearly two miles deep and capable of staying that deep for 90 minutes before the next breath.
From way out this far I could see the expanse of the entire island with the other islands off each end in the cloudy distance. I could also see a few of the other towns, clearly smaller then Roseau. We all leaned over the sides of the boat frantically searching for a whale spout or fin with high hopes. After speeding in one direction for a while we stopped and put the hydrophone back in the water. This time there were dolphin clicks and the sperm whale was much fainter meaning we had gone in the wrong direction. We tried another direction. This happened to more times without a single sign of any life. Not even a bird. Starting to get sleepier and less excited, I took the traveling opportunity to take a nap in the sun after taking seasickness meds. I woke up to a guy talking on the microphone again about what he heard underwater but could not see or seem to find.
Needless to say, they kept searching, with some people giving up and taking naps while others sat down searching more casually with binoculars.
Unfortunately, we traveled back and forth and in and out from the shoreline for four hours, until everyone started to loose hope of seeing anything and it started to get cloudy and the waves more choppy at which point the guides decided it was time to head back. I woke up and used my whale spotting eyes and the zoom on my camera to give one last effort of searching as we headed in. I was waiting for a spout and just hoping, when the engine started to slow and I looked around to see that we were nearing the dock once more. Disappointed the people unloaded as the guides said they were sorry and there was nothing they could do. We all replied with big smiles, “No worries! Thank you very much for trying.” I was so disappointed! I had heard so much about the Dominica whale breeding grounds and how it was the perfect season. It had been so hyped up with so many promise that I felt severely let down. I had spent
around $50 to nap on a boat and not even spot a turtle or a bird, however I do understand that whales are moving animals and there was nothing that could be done, it was just bad luck. It was afternoon now and feeling a bit gloomy now I went to lunch.
Not many people were to be found on the ship, at least not anyone I recognized. So knowing that I wanted to go back out to explore I grabbed the only person I knew and I headed out to town. Being the nature island I knew I had to do a hike or something this afternoon before on ship time. Anna Sophia wanted to go into a music store and we both wanted souvenirs and after that adventure time! Once again we walked the seaside path into town and started to search for the music stores the guide had mentioned to us yesterday. As we somewhat aimlessly walked in a group of three down busy streets asking locals where a music stores were we eventually made our way to a little music shop on the second story of a colorful little building.
As we entered we
got a few strange looks. Here in Dominica white skin is a minority, although they are accustomed to tourist ships bringing group of people. Upon entering the small shop upstairs, there was one wall covered in pirated DVDs in cheap cases with photo copied covers and another wall with the same for CDs. I was rather astonished that nothing was original. Being an Island I guess they do have to import a lot of supplies and copying them is faster, but I was still shocked and amazed that it seemed completely normal and legal here. There was a lady behind a counter who looked very bored for there was no one else in the store. A kid stood in the corner watching us shyly but curiously. We gave the woman a few names of the CDs that had been recommended to us with no luck. She told us she was out of them all and recommended we go down the street and down a street to the left where we would find another better music shop. I was kind of surprised that she didn’t try to get us to stick around to buy something, she didn’t even recommend something similar,
she just sent us off kindly down the street.
We really had no idea where we were going and didn’t want to look lost. All ages of kids were starting to wander the streets in their school uniforms. Stopping a teenage girl, we asked her where the place was we were looking for. She nodded her head and without saying a word started walking looking over her shoulder once to make sure we followed. It was kind of strange, she didn’t seem to want to speak to us and never smiled, I almost felt we were following her on a miss understanding and that she did not know why we were following her. Sure enough she rounded a corner and there was another music store. She pointed nodded and kept walking as we said thank you.
Crossing the street we stepped up the large curb towards the larger looking, graffitied with music notes and art, building. Some angry looking men sat smoking on the street side that we calmly walked past and in the door. This store, although a bit larger, had a smaller selection of music on one wall, however it did have lots of original copies
of music. We talked to a beautiful young Dominican woman with well-kept dreads. She spoke perfect English. She knew of the music we were talking about, but explained to us that it was very popular and had been out long enough that the CDs were hard to come by. She told us that on the island only a certain number of CDs are produced by local artists and once they are sold out, they are gone and you must wait for them to release a new album. We got talking to her and she recommended us some of her favorite albums on the shelf of local artists. She played a little of each on a CD player and we decided we liked it.
We each pitched in to purchase a local woman singer’s album that we liked, and a reggae style CD that she had to copy because it was the last one. We started talking to her only to find out that she worked in the customer service call center for Comcast, small world. She really didn’t like all the angry people she had to talk to all the time. She thought that the company itself was horrible
and half the time never even bothers to fix the problems she takes calls for. It also turned out that the little boy that had been playing with a car on the floor behind us was her son Jacob who had been born in the U.S. Her husband owns the store and she was just running it for the day. I got the feeling that she was a little bit more wealthy then some of the Dominicans I had met because she talked a bit about traveling and going to the U.S. to buy clothes.
While we chatted a friend of hers walked in and he asked us if we had a good time at the Crazy Coconut the previous night. We told him we didn’t go and he said that it had been the craziest he has ever seen, full of SAS kids and he was the DJ. Meanwhile the woman we had been talking to went into the back of the store talking to her friend to make us a mix of all of her favorite local music. Anna Sophia and I spent our time waiting by hitting a balloon around the room with Jacob. It’s truly
amazing how easily amused you can be when you are so young. The goal was to keep the balloon off the ground and if it fell to the ground Jacob would yell and laugh and kick it up into the air again. He was reckless and wild running all around the store kicking it. We had to wait for quite a while as she picked, labeled and burned her 20 favorite songs, so I wrote four postcards as well.
After some good long island time spent in the store we said our goodbyes and hurried on down to the area where we knew the souvenirs were. We wandered through the little stands looking at magnets and shot glasses. One thing I have never understood is why when you go to another country’s souvenir shops are there rows upon rows of salesmen and woman who all have the exact same stuff. I picked out a few things for my friends and I, trying to bargain as much as possible with the women who were clearly trying to overcharge me.
I was starting to feel a bit heat sick on the scorching pavement when we ran into some other SASers
that were getting ready to head back to the ship. I was disappointed to hear this because I was the only one in the entire group who actually wanted to spend my last few hours seeing a waterfall or going on a short hike. I was desperate to do something of the sort on the nature island of the Caribbean and felt that I would not get the full Dominican experience otherwise. Unfortunately, although I tried, people did not want to spend more time outside and were concerned about being late to on-ship time and the penalties that would follow. Feeling the need to stay safe and stick with the group, I started to walk back with them disappointed and annoyed with their lack of adventure.
I strolled along trailing a little ways behind the group observing my surroundings and wishing I had more time. When we arrived at the shore side stretch I noticed some SAS girls collecting things on the beach. I didn’t want to waste my last few hours on the ship, so I hopped the wall onto the beach and asked them what they were looking for. Turns out, there is a lot of sea
glass on the beaches of Dominica. So taking my hiking boots off (probably not the best idea) I joined them in watching the sand as the waves rushed buy and revealed all different colors of smoothed fragmented sea glass bits. The water was incredibly warm, almost like a bath that was just starting to cool off. I was excited about this, I had never collected sea glass before. The hardest part was finding dark blue pieces; it seemed to be the rarest type. When it was a half hour before on-ship time, I dusted off my sandy feet, putting my boots back on and started to walk back with my new Chinese friend Yi. She was thirsty and so was I, so I spent my last few East Caribbean Dollars on two Cokes and we sipped them as we headed back.
Dominica is a wonderful and often-overlooked place, in fact I had no idea what it was until I got there. Over winter break I had thought we were going to the Dominican Republic, which is an entirely different country and place. The people here really go out of their way to be welcoming and kind making it a
very enjoyable island. Although I didn’t get all the things I had wanted out of my time in Dominica, I must say I had an absolutely wonderful time and very much enjoyed my experiences and interactions in the first port of my journey. I got to see everyone else’s nature adventure pictures on the island and I have decided that one day when I come back I will do all of those things. Last thing I did was call my best friend Jenna and wish her a Happy 21st
Birthday!! Happy Birthday Jenna!!
I am very excited to be headed to the Amazon tomorrow!
There are more photos below