Happy New Year to one and all!
Although the holiday season may by now seem to most people a distant memory, I only just finished celebrating last night! As you know from Part 1 of this memoir, Dominica was one of a number of islands in the southern end of the eastern Caribbean severely pummeled by an intense rain storm on the morning of Christmas Eve. In case you missed my descriptions from the day after (Christmas, in fact), you can read about them here.
Since then, there has been much discussion internationally about the apparent adverse impact of climate change on small tropical islands. Two thought-provoking and informative articles were written on this subject recently by Sir Ronald Sanders, a former Caribbean diplomat and Senior Research Fellow at London University . You can review his insightful commentaries at: www.sirronaldsanders.com.
While I remained storm-stayed for a few days over Christmas, my French conversation class had Christmas lunch with me on Friday December 27th. While fresh vegetables were in short supply, I was reminded of winter days in my Canadian childhood when one “made do” with whatever was in the larder. Fortunately, I was well stocked with other provisions. As I had planned the menu in advance, I did not panic without salad greens at hand. In fact, my offerings added to the authenticity of my festive Canadian meal – which emphasized both traditional English and French specialties that had been served up by my parents to family and guests in days gone by.
The ‘plat du jour,‘ which was a curiosity to my European/Caribbean classmates had been previously described and discussed. Now it was time to sample it: La Tourtiere! (French Canadian meat pie). This savory mixture of pork and beef, with vegetables and seasonings was always served up on Christmas Eve at my childhood home. I continue to do it here on the Nature Island and my brother Marc and family do the same thing ‘up north.’ I guess we really do love it and I am glad my niece and nephew are experiencing this tradition – even if they do live in an English-speaking part of Canada. (But they do go to French immersion schools – so the meal complemented their studies too!).
Although I am always worried about how my dishes would be received, I was definitely reassured when Gildas (French) and Gijs (Dutch) went back for second helpings of the
From that moment on, I relaxed completely into the joie de vivre of Christmas 2013, even if it was a bit delayed! So while we ate and enjoyed the view of Roseau from my porch on a momentarily fine day, we discussed climate change, and odd weather patterns in North America, Europe and the Caribbean, among other things. But we didn’t speak much French. Instead, our instructors Carole and Gildas freely spoke English. They didn’t really mind, as they will be relocating from Paris to New York City in about a year’s time! Unfortunately, Carole’s term as Directrice at Alliance Francaise was up and they would be returning to France for a while. There’s much more to the adventures of my exceptional young French teachers – and I’ll explain it all in an upcoming post!
When we got to dessert, I presented my Canadian-inspired assemblage of sweets – most of which were prepared according to my mother’s recipes and her added annotations to make them taste the best.
Then we got a very special present from Gildas.
He had recently returned from job interviews in France and he brought back champagne!!! We toasted to health, happiness and a hopeful new year, with many good things to come in 2014.
By now, my Christmas celebrations were in high gear! Even though I was not able to hike, I put on my boots and walked on slick roads, while negotiating broken pavements, muddy walkways and persistent puddles. While infrastructure in my neighbourhood is presently being assessed for damages and (hopefully) repairs, I limit my drives to roads that are free of landslides and have only a few potholes!
Of course, wonderful music continued towards the close of the Yuletide season, culminating with a communal concert at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Goodwill ( a northern ‘suburb’ of Roseau) on Sunday January 5th. Choirs, ensembles, soloists, instrumentalists and even some dancers came together to acknowledge Epiphany (that is actually January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas when the Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ child). As a member of the In A Chord vocal ensemble, I and my colleagues gave thanks through our gift of song for this wondrous occasion.
With help from friends, I was able to attend other congenial feasts and good times – some in homes in mountainous areas that had endured various hardships due to that now infamous storm.
I sincerely hope that you felt the seasonal spirit of peace and goodwill as much as I did, despite the challenges imposed by Mother Nature in many parts of the world.
Thanks to my friends, neighbours and colleagues for making Christmas 2013 the most memorable one I have ever experienced in Dominica – regardless of the weather!