Remembering Mona, My First Friend on Dominica

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Mona George-Dill was a beautiful, dynamic and gracious Dominican woman.

It is with profound sadness that I write this post as a tribute to Mona George-Dill, my first friend on Dominica.  She departed this earthly life and ascended to heavenly paradise on Sunday October 30, 2016.

It is she to whom I give credit for guiding me during my early days in Dominica and helping me to understand a culture very different from my own.

Perhaps it was serendipity that brought us together in 1997.  I was looking for a place to live that would give me an improved quality of life, as I had been suffering from severe environmental health challenges in Canada for several years.  When I started to research other countries that offered clean air, food and water, I rigorously quizzed Mona, who was at that time the Manager of Springfield Plantation Guest House and a research institute called SCEPTRE, under the auspices of Clemson University in the United States.  Before I even set foot on the Nature Island, she informed me of her pro-environmental approach to the maintenance of the entire estate. She assured me that she would do her best to ensure my comfort and well-being during my initial stay.

When I finally arrived at Springfield around the end of March 1997, after having spent several hours travelling from Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines by LIAT planes that were sprayed with insecticide at every stop, I could barely hold my head up and was extremely nauseous. As I stepped out of the taxi after a  winding 20 minute drive into the mountains from the Canefield Airport, Mona warmly greeted me and showed me to my room, which overlooked the Antrim Valley down to the Caribbean Sea.  It was bright and breezy, and the air smelled  clean and fresh on the edge of the rainforest.  I’ll never forget the concerned look on her face when I told her that everything seemed to be fine, but that I would appreciate the removal of an area rug due to my allergies.  It was immediately taken out.

Later,  I had the first of many memorable meals, made from organic ingredients on the property.  The paw-paw (papaya) soup was divine, and I actually asked for a second helping, even though I was still recovering  from my travels!

When I finished eating that first evening, Mona came to sit with me and we began to get acquainted. I told her that I was a free-lance journalist, with a strong interest in environmental issues as a result of my health challenges.  She in turn informed me about a pressing issue in Dominica at that time, with respect to a proposed mining initiative.  I subsequently interviewed her about her concerns in that regard. The interview was then published in Alternatives, a Canadian environmental magazine.You can get a copy of that article by clicking Mining on Nature Island magazine article 1998. Immediately, I discovered that Mona was an outspoken conservationist who cared deeply for her country and had no hesitation in speaking out to voice her concerns.

At the same time, I learned that a mysterious fire had destroyed a student residence at Mount Joy,  located above the main plantation building, a couple of weeks before my arrival.  While thankfully no one was injured or killed as the students were on an outing at the time, she suffered tremendous losses and was not able to replace it.  Despite her worries and the shock of this event, she devoted considerable time to giving  me a ‘feel’ for life in Dominica, both the highlights and the challenges.  I listened attentively to everything she said and immediately fell in love with this pristine place as I willingly succumbed to the warm hospitality of this engaging lady and her caring staff.

As time went on, my admiration for Mona grew incessantly as I learned more about her.  For many years, her energy focused on environmental, conservation  and tourism initiatives through the Dominica Conservation Association (currently inactive), the International Whaling Commission and the Dominica Hotel and Tourism Association, to name a few.

As well, she constantly demonstrated love and provided various forms of support to many young people, who still refer to her as ‘mother’, which is evidenced in the tributes on her Face Book Mona George-Dill page. She was certainly protective of me, and as we were about 15 years apart, I preferred to think of her as an older ‘sister’. We connected instantly and easily.  Our private exchanges covered all manner of topics and sometimes ended  in tears or laughter.  She was someone in whom I could confide in the strictest of confidence.

I also related well to her love of all animals.  She had a particular penchant for little dogs as pets.  One time, she’loaned’  me one of her local breed ‘Pot-Hound’ dogs named Mother so that I would have company while I lived in a little house above the main plantation.From time-to-time she had cats too, and became well-acquainted with my Tia-pet, who was originally a Springfield cat.

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Mona at Springfield in October 2001. She considered this beautiful locale to be ‘a garden’.

Mona was  such a loving person that it was impossible to be in her presence and not feel how much she genuinely cared about one’s situation.  She was also a strong ally, and defended me in a couple of instances when people tried to take advantage of a naive newcomer.  I also admired her convictions and deep loyalty to her country  when I observed her at a political meeting at Springfield. During the session, she challenged (now deceased) Rosie Douglas (before he became Prime Minister) on various social issues and the position of the Dominica Labour Party on those matters. Curiously, she had only moments before introduced me to Mr. Douglas and I could tell that they had a great respect for each other.

 

When I first applied for Citizenship in Dominica,  Mona’s letter of reference stated that my health had improved here, I had never ‘bad-mouthed’ anyone in Dominica despite some negative experiences and that she felt I was worthy  of Citizenship. As I am now a naturalized Citizen of the Nature Island, I am forever indebted to her for vouching for my character and having abiding faith in me.

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Mona  is seated to the right of Gwendominica at a Baha’i meeting in December 2007.  Her daughter Connie (in pink) is  beside me on the left .My brother Edwin, who is also a Baha’i is on the far right. I was welcomed as a special guest and friend by the Baha’i community in Dominica.

My late friend was also a devout and longtime member of the Baha’i faith.  From her, I learned a great deal about this particular religion.  Although I did not formally join this church, I was always made to feel welcome and could attend their activities and services whenever I wished. I could see that she truly embraced the principles of her faith and that may be why so many people were drawn to her – because of her accepting and fair outlook towards everyone in any situation. I understand now from her daughter Connie and other Baha’i friends that she was prepared to accept God’s will.

 

This lovely Dominican lady could also be fun-loving: she took me to my first play at the Arawak House of Culture in Roseau. I didn’t understand Creole at that time and I didn’t get the jokes, but Mona good-naturedly explained everything to me.  She also took me along to Ballroom Dancing classes where I met a number of Dominicans with whom I am still acquainted years later.  She did introduce me to many people and helped me to find apartments after I left Springfield in search of a bigger space for my personal possessions from Canada.  When I lived at Springfield, she even included me on the insurance for her 4WD vehicle and let me borrow it when she wasn’t using it.   One time after I had moved out and bought my own car, I persuaded her to go to the beach.  That was a big deal, as she insisted that she was not fond of the seaside.

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An afternoon at Castaways on Mero Beach, ca. 2003. Mona is in the centre, with Dr. Pat Rodney from Ross University on the right and a guest from Springfield on the left.

As time went on, I made my way in Dominica and Mona retired from Springfield around 2005. She moved to the suburb of Goodwill, and although she was closer to me in terms of location, we saw less of each other.  However, we did occasionally chat on the phone or meet in Roseau for lunch.

Before I left Dominica to return to Canada this past June, I made a point of visiting with Mona at her home for an afternoon.Although she did seem more tired and frail than earlier times, her spirit was ever strong. We reminisced about many of my experiences that were connected to her during my almost 20 years in Dominica.  I expressed my appreciation to her in our conversation,and also gave her a card in which I had noted my extreme gratitude for all that she had done for me.  When I left her that day, the last thing I said was, “I love you,” to which she replied in kind.

Then, on my recent birthday in August,  Mona wrote on my Face Book timeline:”It’s hard to accept you are no longer on island. I miss knowing you are here. Enjoy your birthday, Virgoan. Hope it is the best.”

 

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Mona and Gwendominica ‘ham it up’ at Springfield in March 1999. Photo taken by my brother Edwin, who was visiting at the time.

Ironically, it is hard to accept that Mona is ‘no longer on island’.  And I do miss knowing that she is ‘there’. However, I rest assured knowing that we shall meet again in the heavenly paradise where she now resides with her Maker.

 

Mona, I hope you get this message – and yes I am repeating myself – but I will always love you and I thank you for being an important part of my life in Dominica. I do think you will be a spectacular angel. I can almost hear you modestly chuckling about that!

 

To Mona’s children Connie, Bobby, Randy and Richie, their families and everyone else who loved her, please accept my sincere condolences.

R.I.P. Mona George-Dill, September 3, 1942 – October 30, 2016.

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This plaque was erected by Mona while she lived and worked at Springfield.  It is also currently the banner on the Facebook page for the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center at Springfield as a tribute to Mona.

 

The Ghosts of Springfield

Voices in the night.

A light mist falls

and caresses the old plantation

like a lover in the night.

Stifling hot stillness is relieved

by soothing breezes.

The spirits speak kindly

to those who stay

and seek refuge

in a tranquility

rarely found elsewhere.

The garden of Springfield

blooms eternally

with a love

that will never die.

To Mona,

Love, Gwen

October 14, 1997

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A Thank-You Note to Dominica, My Island ‘Home’

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Springfield Dominica, situated  on the edge of the rainforest is one of the special places that I  miss the most.

It’s been two months since I left the Nature Island to set up  house in my ‘home and native land’, after nearly twenty years away.  Despite some allergy-related challenges, it is pleasant to be in Canada again, especially since the summer weather is extremely hot where I live.  However, I think of lovely Dominica every day and look forward to a return when winter closes in. Of course, the magic of Carnival is ever-present in my mind, beckoning me back for fun through  its abundance of festivities. And then there are those captivating mountains…pure fresh air, incredible hikes and entrancing vistas everywhere.

I’ve had some time now to reflect on the fascinating people I’ve met, the wonderful friends I’ve made and the amazing adventures I’ve had in that rainforest-filled land.  I feel overwhelmingly grateful to all concerned for being part of my life and making it so much

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When no cruise ships are in port, the twin Trafalgar Falls have served as the perfect site/sight for  my nature meditations!

richer.

An eBook about Dominica is presently in the works.  As I become more settled in my new location, I expect to actively work on it when fall returns to this northern land. It will be based on many of my adventures and experiences that have been documented in this blog. It’s actually good to have some distance from Dominica, my beloved subject, so that I can review the material and write more objectively and concisely about what transpired during those two unforgettable decades.  But  take note: it won’t be in the same style as the blog and some new topics will be included to add to the intrigue!

In the mean time, I’ll offer interested readers a teaser: my 10 (specific) favourite things to do on Dominica  that I intend to do again!  And a footnote about what I haven’t yet done that I still want to do! Watch for that post very soon. In Dominica, the possibilities for adventure are seemingly endless!

And finally – I would be remiss if I did not thank everyone who wished me well and sent me off with lots of love and best wishes . I won’t name any names just yet – but I think you know who you are.  The get-togethers, lunches, dinners,treats, gifts, surprises, cards and kind words are very much appreciated.  I will never forget you–but at the same time, I expect you will see me again in the not-too-distant future!  Continue to enjoy and make the most of your lives on the beautiful Nature Island!

Stay tuned for accounts of my adventures in my Canadian ‘home’, which will be posted on my Canary Gal blog.

To my Dominican ‘family’: thanks for the memories !  XX OO

 

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‘Ovwa'(Good-bye in Creole) Dominica! Thanks to proprietor Mark Steele and his staff at Beau Rive, Angela, Gijs and Georgie for the sweet send-off.  Photo taken by Gijs van Omme.

 

 

 

 

 

Dominica’s ‘Ti Domnik Tales’ at Four: A New Chapter Unfolds

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Gwendominica has really enjoyed walking the security dogs at Carib Sand & Stone near Pointe Michel. She is pictured here with (Fortune) 42. Photo taken by Charleston Charles, C.S.S.

Readers of Ti Domnik Tales might be curious to know that while I have been quiet in terms of the blog , I have been very active in a different way: preparing to relocate to Canada.  I did mention this in my last adventure, which was a fun-filled day touring around Soufriere Dominica.

While I pack up, distribute and organize this international move, I have had plentiful opportunities to reflect on my 19 incredible and unforgettable years of living full-time on the Nature Island.  Some of those wonderful experiences here have been included in this blog, which has just passed four years of existence.  Never fear, for there is

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It would be very difficult to stay away from the natural beauty found at Papillote Wilderness Retreat near Trafalgar.

much more to come. I am leaving half of my heart in Dominica, with the complete expectation to come back for more of this beautiful tropical island once winter sets in ‘up north’.

In fact, as I write this piece, there are several stories in the queue, so do stay tuned, as the adventures on Dominica are far from over! I do plan to continue to contribute my musings and stories whether on-island or elsewhere! As the  170 posts on the site approach 100,000 visits, I have no inclination to disappoint interested readers.  Besides, the capacity to write about this tiny Caribbean paradise is virtually endless, in my opinion.

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To think I’ve hiked up Morne Anglais, one of Dominica’s highest peaks three times over the years!  The 360 degree views on a clear day are, well, breathtaking! (as seen from Morne Bruce, above Roseau)

As well, the compilation of an eBook format of Ti Domnik Tales is in the formative stages.  I have been fortunate and delighted to discuss my ideas with an established Canadian editor, Rachel Small and popular Canadian-Caribbean author, publisher and friend Susan Toy.  I hope to move forward with this concept in time to come, hopefully sooner than later!

In the mean time, additional posts are pending as plans fall into place and new adventures await!  I also hope to resume contacts with the very active Commonwealth of Dominica Ontario Association in Toronto and the Rotary Club of Ottawa South when I return to my ‘home and native land’.  Those two Canadian organizations (among others)  helped to raise funds and supplies for Dominica immediately following the devastating Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015.  They certainly have the Nature Island’s best interests at heart, and “I in it!” which is an enthusiastic expression on Dominica.

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I’ve spent thousands of hours in Roseau, Dominica’s charming capital. It’s a fascinating and historic Caribbean city. (as seen from Morne Bruce)

DSCF6190At the end of the day (and this post) I daresay that “the joy of life is the trip.” I have been so fortunate to include a very long stay on Dominica as part of my journey, and I expect to return to again and again!

 

 

 

 

Sweet Meanderings Around Soufriere Dominica

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Soufriere Dominica is tucked into a valley which once formed part of an ancient volcanic crater.

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Soufriere is a very pretty and historic fishing village located in southwestern Dominica.

Although it’s been a while since I took a long hike on the Nature Isle, I am currently contented with little outings around Dominica.  Readers of Ti Domnik Tales will know by now that the possibilities of things to do are endless in this lovely little country.  For the past few weeks, I have been occupied with preparations for my overseas relocation to Canada, which is timely and necessary.  But every now and then, I take a break in order to immerse myself in the intriguing aspects of “nature, culture and adventure” that prevail in this beautiful tropical paradise.

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Scotts Head village and promontory as seen from the Soufriere look-off above Soufriere Bay.

 

 

 

On a Saturday afternoon not long ago,  I decided to take the short drive from my home to Soufriere, on the southwestern side of the island.  I hadn’t been there for a couple of years, and of course, I was curious to see how things had changed (or not) following Tropical Storm Erika last August.  This time, I did not travel down to the end of the main road, where the village of Scotts Head is located.  I did enjoy that journey a couple of years ago and you can read about it here.

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Soufriere is renowned for its historic seaside catholic church and is a prominent fishing village in Dominica.

 

 

This time, I decided to check out the Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-site, as I hadn’t been there for quite a few years.  First I parked at the main crossroads in the village and took a walk up the road to a popular view-point.  I gazed at the gorgeous southerly scene, which included tranquil seaside vistas of Soufriere Bay, the distant promontory at Scotts Head, and inland views of the steep hills that form part of an extinct volcanic crater.

DSCF7013I drove beyond the village down well-marked side roads and then entered the park where the famous and historic sulphur springs are located. I could immediately smell the pungent fumes

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The big pool at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs is a great place for a soothing soak.

emanating from the area, which is renowned for its sulphur deposits and hot  mineral springs, also indicative of the ancient volcanic terrain.  It was very hot and dry in this area, and I perspired profusely as I hiked a short distance uphill to

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A sulphur deposit at Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-Site

view the

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This once-flowing sulphuric river was completely dry – perhaps as result of TS Erika or maybe not!

mineral deposits.  I remarked to myself that the area did look somewhat different form my last visit there, as one of the strong streams was not presently flowing.  A few people were enjoying natural baths in small enclosed cabanas.Apart from the occasional bird call, all was quiet.  I caught an iguana having his midday

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This iguana was not bothered by my presence in his sleepy state.

nap on a tree.  While I stood very close to him to capture his essence on camera, he was not bothered in the least by my presence!  When I arrived at the large bathing pool, no one was in it at all.  It seemed somewhat eerie to me, as I recalled other times when one had to wait for a turn to enter the murky healing water, as it was filled with bathers.  Something didn’t seem quite right, but at that moment I didn’t know what it was.

 

DSCF7034I had already decided to take a sea/sulphur bath later, so I left the site and drove a short distance to another lovely locale that I had not visited for a few years:  Rodney’s Wellness Retreat. As luck would have it, I met a senior forestry officer, Jacqueline André as I walked down the little lane en route to this  attractive enterprise. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes and I shared my sense of something changed at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs Eco-Site with her. She then told me about the signficant damage that the site had sustained from Tropical Storm Erika, and that the entire park had been buried under several feet of mud!  She described the extensive clean-up process, and exclaimed that what had been done to restore the site was quite remarkable.  All of the pools had been submerged in silt, and the buildings located there had been damaged too.  Now I understood why it didn’t look exactly the same as I had remembered from a few years earlier!  .

I was very hungry by this time, and I welcomed the opportunity to have a meal in the open

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The open air restaurant at Rodney’s Wellness Retreat is set in a beautiful tropical garden.

air restaurant set in a pretty garden on the property.  On this lovely Saturday afternoon, I dined on Mahi-mahi, commonly known as Dolphin – but not the Flipper type!  Hummingbirds flitted to and fro amongst the colourful hibiscus flowers.  In this peaceful setting, with a fresh breeze blowing down from the steep hills, I further relaxed as I chatted with Bevin Lewis, one of the owners of this family run business. He encouraged me to take a garden stroll and to look at the newly built

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Sweet steel pan music is now a part of Rodney’s Wellness Retreat.

‘pan house’, where traditional steel pans would be housed to be teach students and entertain visitors and residents .

 

We also chatted about hiking, as Segments One and Two of the Waitukubuli National Trail are located in this area. Bevin informed me that a large landslide still exists on Segment One in the Morne Crabier area (March 2016).  He said he had had to rappel down the slope in that area, so hikers be forewarned!  I was so happy to have completed that segment when the trail was first opened.  I fell in love with the section of it known as the French Quarter, which is also part of an archeological dig as it was a inhabited by the French in the 18th century (not far from the village of Scotts Head).

DSCF7039Along one of the garden trails, I came upon an inviting hammock and was sorely tempted,but I felt there was too much else to see before taking a nap that day! As I wandered around the lushDSCF7033property, I became completely captivated with the concept of ‘caldera’, meaning large volcanic crater. I really gained a sense of being in a ‘bowl’ as I looked up at the verdant hills high above Soufriere.  And of course, I could see evidence of changes to the terrain DSCF7041resulting from landslides, thanks to TS Erika.  Thankfully, Rodney’s Wellness Retreat did not sustain damage from the devastating storm.

As the afternoon was wearing on, I had one more stop to make before heading home.  My reward for my very relaxing afternoon would be a dip and soak at the Bubble Beach Spa, seaside in front of St. Mark’s Catholic Church in the village of Soufriere.

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I enjoyed studying the sky above the Soufriere hills while I lounged in the Bubble Beach Spa.

 

 

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The hot pools at Bubble Beach Spa also offer a spectacular view. The promontory of Scotts Head is in the distance.

The angle of the sun was fairly low over the sea as I  first submerged myself  just outside of the stone enclosed hot water pools.  I bounced around in gentle waves in a shallow spot just offshore, and then walked over to warm up in the hot water, which results from sulphuric vents on the sea floor mixed with sea water.  I screeched when I stuck my big toe into one of the pools: it seemed to be boiling hot!  Then a young man who was in the same location but further away from shore informed me that the temperature was a little cooler in deeper water.  Bathers be warned!

 

I then submerged in another pool of more

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This young man was groovin’ to the disco tunes of the 70’s and 80’s, such as those from Saturday Night Fever. His enthusiasm  was definitely infectious!

moderate temperature.  I chatted with some of the other guests, and we even sang along to the oldie-goldies pumping out of the sound system at the beach bar on the premises.  Spirits were high and the scenery was out of sight!

 

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The bar at Bubble Beach Spa is cute and comfortable.  There is a change room too.

After the better part of an hour, I was sufficiently cooked and if I had stayed any longer I would have been overdone!  I thanked the proprietor and his wife for arranging this adorable spa, which also offers massages, drinks and food.  I was amazed that they only requested donations to help with upkeep of the beach and hot pools. I made my fair contribution and trust that everyone who visits this delightful spot would do the same.  It’s good karma, after all!

 

“Now that was an afternoon that needs to be repeated,” I said to myself as I drove off into

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There’s nothing like a Caribbean sunset to end a perfect day in paradise!

the sunset. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll spend some time meandering around Soufriere Dominica as soon as you can!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Roseau Public Library Highlights Black History Month in Dominica

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Dominica’s Public Library in Roseau proudly promoted Black History Month with displays of their circulating and reference collections that focus on Black history, culture and literature from national, regional and international sources.

It was not in Dominica where I first became familiar with the value and importance of the12593902_10153992852545962_6201929265960829090_o  celebration of Black History Month, which now takes place annually in many countries.  In the early 1990’s I was working as a librarian at the Nova Scotia Archives in that Canadian province’s capital city, Halifax. Within that library’s collection were numerous monographs and serials which emphasized the tremendous cultural, educational and historical contributions of African Nova Scotians  to the Maritime region in particular.

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The Roseau Public Library was built in 1906. It is a treasure trove of local, regional and international books!

Since that time, festivities surrounding Black History and Culture have expanded to many countries, including the Caribbean.  Dominica’s Roseau Public Library is no exception, and I was delighted to see their promotion of this important event during the  month of February.

As a bibliophile, I really enjoyed perusing the special collection of materials that emphasize Black authors, history and literature.  Although these books are housed in the reference section, they are available for a special loan. You can search the collection’s OPAC (online public access catalog) with the subject of Black History to see the extensive listings here.

Here is a glimpse at some of the incredible titles that are found in that section:

A carousel of books in the circulating collection also featured prominently upon entering the library.  I was delighted that one of my donations, The Book of NegroesDSCF6973

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This carousel featured books that represent Black history and related topics during the month of February.

by award-winning Canadian author Lawrence Hill has been heavily borrowed by keen readers in the past few years.

While I am always interested in books, I rarely take in a film or video, even though I can access these genres as easily as anyone else.

But during Dominica’s Black History Month, I broke that tradition, as I was very interested in seeing  one of their featured films: 12 Years a Slave.

Many people may have already viewed this renowned and acclaimed film, which was released in 2013. I was one of a small crowd that gathered at the library  one evening to see itDSCF6974 up close and personal.

From the start, I was completely taken with the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who lived in northern New York state  in the 1800’s. He was tricked into going ‘south’ in 1841 and was immediately sold into slavery, ending up in very abusive and cruel conditions on two plantations in Louisiana.  This movie was so graphic and detailed in terms of the gruesome violence that he and other slaves experienced that I could not look at the screen during those episodes.  It was enough to hear their cries of anguish. Tears were already falling down my cheeks by the time Northup meets a Canadian abolitionist who was working on the plantation as a carpenter.  This man risks his life to get letters delivered to family and authorities who in turn ensure Northup’s release from bondage by physically removing him from the property.  Of course, the southern slaves could only look on as he made his way back to freedom in the ‘north’. (Note: his experience took place a few years before the Civil War).

Certainly, there is more to the story, and I’ll leave that for you to experience on your own.  I can only conclude this brief review by remarking that human beings are capable of the most despicable acts of cruelty against each other, and on the other hand, the resilience of the human spirit is awe-inspiring.  I was so moved by this story that I dreamed about it.  I don’t think I can ever forget what I saw and heard in 12 Years A Slave. .  However,  I know that it reinforces my personal beliefs that we are all equal, regardless of culture, race or background and that when we treat each other with kindness, compassion and respect,  we will create a more harmonious, peaceful world in which to live.

Hats off the the staff at the Roseau Public Library and the organizers of Black History

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Miss Belinda is one of the friendly and helpful staff members at the Roseau Public Library.  You can find out more about events at this wonderful educational institution right here.

Month in Dominica. About 800 students, their teachers and the general public have benefitted tremendously from the presentations, displays and films that have given us further understanding and knowledge about various aspects of Black history in Dominica, and around the world.

 

 

A Nature Meditation at Springfield Dominica*

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It’s always restorative to occasionally return to Springfield, my first home in Dominica.

After having spent several days “under the weather” in the midst of planning my overseas “relocation” to Canada, I felt that a day spent in a nature meditation would put me “back on track.” What better place to go than my beloved Springfield, an old estate where I lived and became familiar with the beauty of Dominica and its people in 1997 and 1998.

Nowadays,  Springfield is actually a private international research and educational institution, called the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center (ATREC).  You can read more about it in an earlier article I wrote for Domnitjen Magazine by clicking here. I am fortunate to be well acquainted with its Managing Director, Nancy Osler, who is a longtime Canadian friend. On the day of my visit, there were no students or other researchers in-house, so I was able to freely roam the grounds for an afternoon and clear my mind of all things of immediate concern.

Although I had hiked part of the Fifi Road above the old estate with friend Jen about a year ago, I had never gone to its top viewpoint before.  I was certainly in the mood for a moderate workout and the slightly overcast conditions allowed for a very comfortable amble on a groomed trail through the rainforest.  As I strolled along, I admired the multitudinous shades of green, interspersed with colourful wild flowers and other tropical plants.  It was fairly easy going, with only a couple of felled trees to climb over or under.  As I looked into the distance, I observed obvious landslides and  recent gullies that reminded me of Tropical Storm Erika’s wrath upon the Nature Island only six months earlier.

But in the forest, with  background accompaniment of  intermittent calls  of warblers, finches, thrushes and parrots,  I could feel my mind quieting down.  In fact, I ceased to really think about anything at all, thanks to the distraction of the natural beauty that enveloped me on all sides. In this paradise-like setting, I was content to be “in the moment” – at least for the next hour or two.

After  a gradual uphill climb of about half an hour, I reached a clearing which faced east

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Prominent mountains such as Morne Anglais are part of the southerly view from Springfield esate.

and south of the Springfield property.  I gasped – in amazement, not shortness of breath! Before me was the most mystical and magical scene: low clouds shrouded the mighty Morne Microtin, situated at the top of the Roseau Valley, as I looked in a south-central direction.  As the skies cleared slightly, I also could see beyond this massif, as I looked further south. Morne Anglais prominently featured on the skyline, along with other mountains beyond her!  And when I turned my head to look at the densely forested ridge to the

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Peek-a-boo!  I think that’s a peak of Morne Trois Pitons  as seen in an easterly direction from the heights of Springfield Estate.

east of my vantage point, I observed a small section of a very high peak, which I guessed could only be Morne Trois Pitons,  the dominant feature in the centre of the island.  Forgive the cliché, but these “million dollar views” (as my brother Edwin would say about Dominica) were naturally breathtaking.

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The mountain village of Cochrane, as seen from the top of Springfield Estate.

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Morne Micotrin as seen from the heights of Springfield Estate.

I wandered around the small clearing for several minutes taking  in the views from slightly different angles.  Then I decided to let the scene soak in to my soul as I seated myself on an exposed tree root. It was impossible to think about anything troubling as I stared into the distance.  Euphoria seemed to be overtaking me and I didn’t even want to think why.  I just let it happen, as waves of tranquility washed over me.

When I had filled my mind (and camera) with plentiful images of the Nature Island at its

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Heliconia plants thrive in the lush terrain at Springfield.

 

finest, I  slowly wended my way back down this track.  Where it ended, I eagerly clamoured up  a few dozen concrete steps to an

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Some of the inviting steps up to the Mount Joy area of Springfield Estate.

area known as Mount Joy. This was originally an  independent estate but for many years has formed part of Springfield.  That detail is also found in my earlier article about this estate, which you may refer to here.   I did not linger long in this area, except to watch hummingbirds flit to and fro and admire the prolific heliconia plants and stately

coconut palms. I delighted in all the wildflowers along the way, such as these:

By this time, I had worked up an appetite, and as I was in close proximity to a popular eatery called Miranda’s

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Good food is always found at Miranda’s Corner, on the Imperial Road just above Springfield.

Corner, I followed the trail to the main road and walked a short distance further uphill.  Miranda is a woman who has a reputation for consistently good home-cooked Dominican-style food. And she always remembers me, even though I haven’t lived in the area for years.  Although she was not there at that time, her  welcoming daughter served me a deliciously seasoned meaty chicken leg and a huge serving of macaroni and cheese, accompanied by a small salad. Initially, I was afraid that I would waste some of the meal, as it was so large.  But that was not to be the case…I think I even surprised Miranda’s daughter when I showed her the empty plate!

It’s a good thing it was a downhill stroll back to Springfield, as my stomach was more than full.  By that time, it was mid-afternoon, and I was anxious to spend some quiet time at

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Santi is the sweet resident cat at Springfield who is always up for a few pats and a close chat.

the grave site of my dearly departed kitty, Tia-pet. He died in 2014 and you can read about his amazing life and our Springfield

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My dear Tia-pet rests in a beautiful natural setting that I adorn with flowers and rosemary whenever I visit Springfield.

connection here. I still miss him very much, as he was with me for 16 years. I like to pay tribute to my long-time companion by placing flowers on his resting place.  But before I continued to that site, I spent a little time with a lovely cat named Santi, who is the resident mouse-catcher and attention-seeker at Springfield.  She is very affectionate and I enjoyed a little down-time by benefiting from some  pet therapy too.

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“When angels are near, feathers appear.” I found this one not far from Tia-pet’s grave.  For what it is worth, I was comforted by that notion!

After a little while, I descended to the area of the estate where Tia is buried.  Whenever I am there, I always feel a tremendous sense of peace and calm. And this time, a little voice   in my head  encouraged me to go ahead with my relocation plans, while reassuring me that everything would work out fine.  Wherever it came from, I don’t know, but in this heavenly location, I reaffirm my belief in angels!

From there, I continued along a track  that leads to the Springfield River. It was all I could do to watch my step as I was constantly gazing around the forest as I visually absorbed copious shades of green!

When I arrived at the river bank, I gasped again – but this time it was in shock!  Tropical Storm Erika had definitely made her presence known here, as the scene was completely different than what it had been for the past almost 20 years that I had visited this spot .  Gone were the big boulders for sitting by the riverside, and the deep pools beside the track’s end had completely disappeared.  I was able to walk across the  now very shallow river in an area where it would have previously been impossible.  I did not linger long, nor did I take a river bath, as for numerous reasons, it just didn’t feel right.  When I return next time, I will take a ‘river walk’ in order to discover a new pool in a nearby location. There is no doubt that Mother Nature is in control.  As well, climate change has left an indelible mark on the Nature Island!

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Water once flowed freely in this section of the Springfield River below Springfield estate.

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The same area AFTER T.S.Erika

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The bathing pool below Springfield on the Springfield River BEFORE T.S. Erika.

However, I continued with my meditational reverie as I walked back up to the guest house section of the property.  There, I met Managing Director and friend Nancy, who enthusiastically showed me her growing garden. As I looked at the thriving plants, I felt very thankful for Dominica’s fertile volcanic soil, and of course, Nancy’s green thumb!

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Nancy’s garden is definitely thriving, thanks to her TLC and the fertile soil.

As the afternoon wore on, I felt tired but truly refreshed after having spent some time in this precious protected place and its pristene surroundings. In my mind, there is nothing more therapeutic than  being closely connected to nature and its offerings.

Why don’t you try it, and tell me what you think, no matter where you live on the planet!

* Special thanks to Nancy for the opportunity to have some  “downtime” at my favourite place on Dominica and for helping me identify the mountains and village in the photos.

 

Fantasy Becomes Reality on the Nature Isle: The Mas Domnik 2016 Costume Parade

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My favourite costume was worn by Tatyanna Dangleben, first runner-up in the Teenage Pageant.

On Tuesday February 9th, 2016,  a beautiful morning  dawned for Mas Domnik’s Costume Parade on the streets of Roseau.  Slightly overcast

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This was the only ship anchored off the port of Roseau on Carnival Tuesday 2016. I hope the crew and passengers had a fabulous time!  The promontory of Scotts Head can be seen in the background.

 

conditions and occasional drizzle acted as the perfect backdrop for the brilliant costumes adorned by the participants as they made their first pass around the route that mid-morning.  By the time it was over a few hours later, a brilliant sun heated up the streets but didn’t prevent throngs of revelers from jumping up well into the evening as they made the most of their ‘last lap’ of Dominica’s Carnival 2016.

I always delight in the spectacle of the Costume parade and the cheery ambiance that surrounds it. Much respect and admiration is also offered to the designers of these incredible outfits, as it is their creativity and ingenuity that is being ‘shown off’ by the ‘models’. DSCF6852

Once again, I was very fortunate to have a front row seat at the Cat Café on King George V Street . I appreciated the filling crêpe and energizing Viennese coffee as I perched myself on the balcony and occasionally ran down to street level for a different vantage point to watch the activity ‘on the road’.

When the parade passed by my location just after 11 a.m., I immersed myself in the magical fantasy of the seemingly surreal participants in their spectacular wear.  As I watched the King, Queen(s), Princesses and Princes of Mas Domnik, it was easy to forget about my cares and fill my heart with the joy of this celebration of Dominican culture and tradition.

So I gave myself over to the sheer enjoyment that surrounded me on the streets of Roseau during the Costume Parade of Carnival Tuesday 2016.

Pictures are worth plenty of words.  Therefore, I present to you some snapshots of that fun-filled occasion.  It is my pleasure to share a sense of this unique festivity with you.  If you like what you see, then please let me know!

Carnival 2016 Calypso Monarch, King Dice (Dennison Joseph) and Miss Dominica 2016, Queen Tasia Floissac easily demonstrated the essence of Carnival through bountiful smiles and spontaneous merry-making:

 

Then came a train of royalty that well-defined the meaning of Carnival pageantry:

 

 

Plenty of Princesses:

 

Revellers ‘playing mas’ in their own style:

 

Flag Wavers adding to the ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ of this special day:

The Old  Time Sake Band has a solid following.  Year after year, they establish their presence in the Costume parade.  I have had the pleasure of ‘jumping’ with them before.  You can read about that fun experience here:

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Then along came the prolific Thunderbirds band.  Their commanding presence and spectacular costumes earned them  a second place award with their theme: Junkanoo:

I remember the first time I ever saw the Karnival Korner band. It was at a pre-Carnival dance in 1998 at Springfield, my first home on the Nature Island.  There, the Swingin Starz band had everyone jumping to the beat.  I was in awe of the brilliant costumes that this troupe introduced to the enthusiastic party-goers. They’ve been around for a long time, and their annual creations always draw a crowd!  This year, they placed third in the Tuesday Costume parade with their Kaleidoscope theme, but they have been winners many times before.  They also captured the Adult King of the Band prize:

When you see these pictures of the exceptional, amazing, fantastical Afri-Culture Stilt Walkers (Bwa Bwa in Creole), you will easily understand why they won the Band of the Year prize, along with Adult Queen of the Band award. I confess that when I saw them on the parade route, I was  already convinced that they would receive the top honours.  I don’t have to explain further.  You can see for yourself:

I hope you won’t become hysterical when I tell you that I was not able to take photos of the sexy Hysteria band this year.  They were the last formal group to join the parade, on its third ‘lap’ around Roseau – and they won the award for the largest band on the road!  By then,I had taken so many photos that my camera’s battery ‘died’ before I saw them.  If it’s any consolation, you can see a few shots of cool ladies (and men) dressed for the Bacchanal that I took last year.  And unfortunately, ever-popular Mercury band, with its revealing costumes did not take part in Mas Domnik 2016.   But you can find some sizzling photos of their members  here.

Now if you are convinced that you really want to experience this fantasy for yourself, then this is a ‘heads-up’ for next winter’s escape plan:  Dominica’s  forthcoming Carnival Holidays are the 27th and 28th of February 2017.   Hope to see you ‘pon de road’!