A Magical Way to Start the Day:Dominica’s Carnival 2016 J’ouvert!

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Gwendominica ‘played mas’ on J’ouvert Morning of Carnival Monday 2016.

When I arrived  in Roseau around 5 a.m. to participate in the Dominica Carnival annual predawn celebration called J’ouvert (pronounced joo-vay) , the streets of the city were filled with revellers.  Many of them were in disguise or at least, dressed very differently than one might expect. Some had formed small bands, and  were wearing the same type of costume. They really captured the attention of admiring onlookers. Others were dressed in any old thing, including pyjamas, underwear and very short shorts.  It’s the  bacchanal, after all!  But in keeping with Carnival traditions, plentiful groups of  brightly costumed Sensays added to the magical aura of this celebration on the dimly lit streets.

This year, a number of lapo kabwit  bands, (the drums were

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Some of the people who help to make Carnival happen were on the road very early on J’ouvert morning!  From left, Mrs. Anita Bully, Film Development Officer at the Discover Dominica Authority, her husband, renowned cultural icon Dr. Alwin Bully; middle man not identified;Mr. Colin Piper, CEO, Discover Dominica Authority and Mrs. Piper.

originally made from goat skin),with modern and traditional percussive instruments and horns of all types kept everyone ‘chipping’ (a fast walk) to the beat on the pre-established parade route. I delighted in admiring the costumes and the cheerful ambiance of the participants.  I did not notice many by-standers,other than those situated on porches and balconies.  In my view, almost EVERYONE was on the street, enjoying themselves immensely – seemingly catching hold of authentic Carnival ‘vibrations’.

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Gwendominica hailed the spirits of Carnivals past as day broke at the end of the J’ouvert celebration on the streets of Roseau.

Just before 6:30 a.m., I noticed the sky lightening up over the mountains to the east: almost daybreak!  This is the time of J’ouvert when I can actually feel the spirits of

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The house in the background once belonged to the family of internationally recognized Dominican writer, the late Jean Rhys. When she was a child, she would have gazed down on a similar scene in the late 19th and early 20th centuries!

Carnivals past descending from the hills and infusing everyone who cares to ponder about this ancient ritual with a little intrigue and  appreciation for the magic and mystery that represents the true meaing of Carnival.  If this concept sounds a little far-fetched, well, you have to be here to appreciate my meaning!  I am sure friend Jen, who has ‘jumped J’ouvert’ with me before has a good idea of what I am trying to say! You can read about our  earlier fun-filled experience here.

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Charismatic  Chester ‘Daddy Chess’ Letang, calypsonian and lead singer of the Swingin Starz band is surrounded by adoring fans and other members of the band.

In the full daylight of this Carnival Monday, I abandoned the streets and enjoyed a Viennese coffee along with a feta and egg crepe at the Cat Café, located upstairs at 50 King George V Street.  I appreciated this tasteful French inspired meal, and was grateful to have a front row seat on the porch.  Of course, it wasn’t over yet – in fact, Carnival street festivities had only just begun.

From 7 a.m., huge hi-fi trucks with mega-amplified sound systems and some local bands appeared as if out of nowhere, with hundreds of weary but ecstatic fans immersing themselves in the blasting, pounding sound that could only infuse the spirit of Carnival into one’s soul.

After I finished my delicious breakfast, I leaned against the railing, and moved my body to the incessant beat of the passing hi-fi trucks. I enveloped myself in the vibrant ambience of a memorable morning, unlike any other, because I had willingly succumbed to the

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Check out some scenes from magical J’ouvert below.

magic of J’ouvert in Dominica.

DSCF6852Many thanks to Mylène, proprietor Cat Café, for the early opening, delicious food and available porch for my Carnival enjoyment.  Also, big up to Melinda, who willingly took photos of me and served up the wonderful meal.

 

Here’s a glimpse of some of the faces on the road:DSCF6720

 

The musicians kept us moving to the incessant beat:

There were traditional Sensays with a colourful twist:

Some of the ‘trucks’ on the road:

 

Revellers filled the streets as dawn arrived on the Nature Island:

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Dominica’s Calypso Fever: It’s Contagious!

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Showdown Mas Camp is one of two popular weekly ‘tents’, where enthusiastic audiences watch and hear member calypsonians in the run up to the formal competitions during the Carnival season in Dominica.

I’ll never forget the first calypso show I

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King Dice did it again!  He won the 2016 Calypso Monarch competition last night – that’s his 8th crown! (Photo taken in 2012).

attended in Dominica. It was Carnival season 1998 and I walked in to the Stardom Monarch of the Tent competition at the Sisserou Hotel with a young Dominican lady that I had only recently met.  The place was packed – with hardly a space to move, but somehow this attractive young woman was able to charm bystanders so that we could step in front of them to stand directly below the stage.  I looked up at a handsome man, known in calypso circles as ‘De Hunter’ who was dressed in traditional Kalinago attire.  He was singing a composition called  ‘Carib Bacchanal‘.  I was so caught up in the  powerful refrain, the throbbing beat and the sweet repetitive melody that I instantly fell in love with this special genre of music. And that year, ‘Hunter’ went on the win the big Carnival Calypso Monarch  competition with that enduring song.

Since then, I don’t attend as many shows as I once did:  too many late nights for me in the damp, chilly air (relatively speaking) that prevails in January and February.  But that doesn’t stop me from continuing with my deep affection for this art form.  I listen to all the songs each year, the detailed professional commentaries and  also contribute to lively discussions with friends and strangers alike.

So, what makes calypso so ‘hot’ on the Nature Island?  “Let me tell you something…” to use a Dominican expression.  It’s true, it didn’t originate on the Nature Isle.  That honour belongs to Trinidad, where Carnival, in which calypso plays a huge part, is a  VERY big deal. But that being said, Dominica’s brand is not to be underestimated. Part of the fun is the intimacy of the performances, the familiarity of the political and social issues and the overall popularity of the songs amongst a small population that gives tremendous support to its calypsonians.

The concept of calypso evolved from a fusion of West African and Latin rhythms, with the idea of a lead singer with crowd responses about social injustices during the periods of slavery and colonialism.  A more detailed description of its background can be found on the web site of local historian Dr. Lennox Honychurch, right here. In Dominica, calypso competitions became formalized in the 1950’s, where one singer discreetly performed/presented a certain social or political issue to a listening audience. More details are available in a previous piece on Ti Domnik Tales right here.

The Dominica Calypso Association is a formal organization that ensures that standards

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Daryl “De Bobb” Bobb is a gifted and  longstanding calypsonian who also writes his own lyrics.  He placed second runner up in the Calypso Monarch 2016 competition.

are met in terms of the art form and the calysonians’ performances.  If you think that writing a calypso or performing it is just a simple matter of venting one’s concerns in any old way, then think again!  Specific guidelines exist that outline the way in which this genre of song must be written, composed and performed. A detailed breakdown of the components required in a calypso song can be found  here on the avirtualdominica.com web site.  Lyricists must cleverly disguise the outstanding theme in the literary guise of double-entendres, puns, metaphors, similes, and parodies, with plenty of satire, allusions and sometimes parables.  The point is that the message is not supposed to be glaringly obvious, but it can be deciphered by the listeners as a result of the careful crafting of the composition: the obvious subject often alludes to an entirely different matter.

When I taught students  English Literature at Orion Academy, I derived tremendous pleasure from using examples of literary devices from the calypso songs of the day to illustrate their meaning and usage.  The kids really enjoyed it too.  On one occasion, we were graced with the presence of prolific veteran calypso songwriter Pat Aaron, who writes exclusively for 8-time (2016) Calypso Monarch Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph.  He had written lyrics for a calypso entitled ‘Animal Farm’, which was performed by ‘Dice’.  It was based on themes presented in the allegorical novel, ‘Animal Farm‘ by George Orwell, which I was teaching to second formers at that time.  He carefully explained to the class  about his methods for incorporating some of the ideas from the novel into the calypso song, making it relevant to various political, social and topical issues of the day in

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Tasha ‘Tasha P’ Peltier was the first woman to ever win the Calypso Monarch Competition in 2011.

Dominica.

There is one caveat, however.  If one is not familiar with the issues of the day in Dominica, then it is more difficult to interpret the message that is being relayed by the calypsonian.  I found this out in my early days here. Apart from being entertained by the spectacle of the staged show, and being caught up in the excitement of the crowd, I often did not understand the disguised message in the songs.  But after almost 20 years on the Nature Isle, I can assure you that I am well versed in the issues of the day, as I follow current events very closely and frequently discuss them with my Dominican friends!

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Janae Jackson is a very talented 17 year old girl who went all the way to the Calypso Finals this year.  While she did not place, she did win the Calypso Queen 2016 award. She is definitely one to watch!

So last night was THE big night for the Calypso Finals.  This enormously popular show is traditionally held on the Saturday before Carnival Monday. While I didn’t attend this year, I was able to listen to part of the show on the radio. But it went well into the early morning hours, and I fell asleep before it was over. When I woke up sometime later, I immediately went to my computer to find out the results.

Calypso fever finally spiked and King Dice did it again – the eighth time in fact! He’s now tied with Trinidad’s  ‘Mighty Sparrow‘, renowned all over the world – who previously captured the crown in his country that many times.  Congratulations to ‘Dice’ for a superb performance and to his songwriter, Pat Aaron, who has an uncanny gift for creating the best in calypso lyrics.  What a team!

I am also delighted for Webster ‘De Webb’ Marie, who was awarded the first runner up position.  I have had the pleasure of singing with this young man in the RiverSong choir many years ago.  He has a wonderful tenor voice and is a natural on stage.  He was a longstanding member of the well-known Sisserou Singers and was the first winner of Dominca’s annual Cadence-lypso competition in 2012.

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I have to update my photo with King Dice, now 8-times a Calypso Monarch.  Wendy Walsh took this photo of me with the talented calypsonian a couple of Carnival Mondays ago.

Now that this year’s calypso fever has broken, I’ll prepare myself for tomorrow’s early morning J’ouvert and all the fun that follows in the next two days (Carnival Monday and Tuesday).  I’ll be on the lookout for the amazing Calypsonians on the Carnival route and will certainly offer my heartfelt congratulations for keeping Calypso music very ‘HOT’ in Dominica!

 

Author Kristine Simelda of Dominica Launches ‘A Face in the River’

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Kristine Simelda, American-Dominican author of ‘A Face in the River’

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On Saturday January 23, 2016, I had the pleasure of attending the ‘official’ launch of A Face in the River by American-Dominican author Kristine Simelda. She has lived on the Nature Island for more than 20 years! Dozens of supporters and literary enthusiasts participated in this celebratory event, which was hosted by the fine folks at Romance Café on lovely Mero Beach. During this auspicious occasion, we had the pleasure of listening to Kris read a seasonally-appropriate and highly entertaining chapter from her book, entitled ‘Don’t Stop the Carnival’.

Throughout this beautiful afternoon in Dominica, we also chatted informally with the author,  bought   copies of A Face in the River   and then lined up to have Kris put a personalized note in each one. Under bright sunny skies with a pleasant onshore breeze, we celebrated Kris’s success while we listened to mellow background music provided by superb saxophonist Jussi Paavola.  We

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Renowned local saxophonist Jussi Paavola provided the perfect background sound for author Kris’s (right)enjoyable book launch.

also munched on tasty treats and devoured delicious Caribbean-French infused home-cooked meals at this renowned seaside restaurant.

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Gwendominica was delighted to have author Kristine Simelda sign her personal copy of A Face in the River.

When I got home that evening, I began to read this new novel, set on a lush, beautiful

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Author Kristine Simelda captivated the crowd when she read from her novel, A Face in the River, at her book launch.

Caribbean island.  Over the next two days, I was hardpressed to put it down! I became completely engrossed in the adventures and misfortunes of the protagonist, Krystal Sutherland, a divorced American businesswoman who leaves her comforts behind to follow her heart into  unknown tropical territory.  She quickly discovers that her preconceived notions about ‘life in paradise’ are more than a little off the mark! As an expatriate, I could readily identify with many of the main character’s challenges.  I was also intrigued by the fast-paced twists and turns of the plot and the colourful dialog that really moved the story along.

I  have since electronically linked up with Kris, and in advance of a face-to-face  literary chat in the weeks to come, she has graciously and candidly answered some of my questions about A Face in the River, and more, right here!

Gwendominica:      What/who/where was the inspiration for A Face in the River?

Kristine Simelda: I always say you have to have felt it to write about it. When I was trying to find a publisher who was willing to take a chance on an unknown author writing from a relatively unknown part of the world, I was pitching the book as a fictionalized memoir. No one was interested, so I finally published the book as “a novel” under the ‘River Ridge Press’ imprint, which is the name of my farm. Some folks might recognize certain aspects of the setting and  storyline, and the name of the heroine, Krystal Sutherland, does sound a lot like Kristine Simelda, but beyond that I plead the 5th [amendment]!

Gwendominica: Where did you write it, did you have a particular process, and how long did it take you?

Kristine Simelda: I wrote A Face in the River right here in Dominica, although I had to teach myself to type before I began! I had only written a few snippets of poetry previously, and was so ignorant of the process of writing a novel that I decided to tell Krystal’s story first.  I had so much to say that the original manuscript was 150,000 words long!

When my house burned down in 2000, the original copy went up in flames with it, so I had to start all over again. It took a couple of more years to resurrect the story, during which I managed to get rid of about 50,000 words. Then, while I learned about the craft of writing through workshops and constructive criticism, I edited the manuscript ruthlessly. Finally I was ready to take the next step and publish it as an eBook in 2014.

Gwendominica: How have readers responded to the book?  What kind of reactions are you getting?

Kristine Simelda: Everyone has been very supportive. The general consensus is that it’s a fast read and a great story. I’ve learned a lot [about the writing process] at seminars, by reading other authors’ works (good and bad) and especially from my invaluable editor, Elizabeth Brown.

Gwendominica: Do you think there is a market for ‘tropical fiction’ outside of the tropics?

Kristine Simelda: Most definitely! The First World has become so homogeneous that readers are dying for a taste of the really real world, stories about people and places just like wild, beautiful Dominica. Maybe it’s because I write from the Caribbean, but I feel a there’s a positive  shift  in literature  toward ethnically diverse characters living in far-flung places.

Gwendominica: What was the  biggest challenge in terms of creating this novel?

Kristine Simelda: Technology. I am basically a Stone Age woman. I haven’t had a TV for 25 years, don’t have an IPhone or a Kindle. Believe it or not. I lived without electricity for ten years before I installed solar power five years ago. Before that I ran my laptop from a generator. If it hadn’t been for the cyber gals (Wendy Walsh and Petrea Seaman) at Delphis Ltd, the manuscript for A Face in the River would still be molding in a bottom drawer.

Gwendominica:  What’s next, in terms of your writing plans?

Kristine Simelda: One thing is for sure: I’ll never run out of things to write about while living in Dominica!

I have lots of completed work in the queue, all of which is set in the Caribbean and deals with issues that are close to my heart. In River of Fire, a sequel to A Face in the River, an older and wiser Krystal copes with the fact that the island blows up on the first page due to a volcanic eruption caused by environmental terrorism.  Then she resurfaces as a sage old woman in the novella, Back to the River.

My most recent novel, Nobody Owns the Rainbow focuses on issues of class, love, family, and genetically modified horrors as perpetrated by foreign exploiters. I have also written a young adult novel, Rainforest Rescue, and have enough published short stories for a collection.

Meanwhile, I continue to submit short fiction to publications, revise older work, and wait to win the lottery. I have already begun to formulate novel number four, a romance/ horror narrative where the little gal stands up to the big bad wolf and all his kin.

Gwendominica: What are your other interests, hobbies, occupations?

Kristine Simelda: As a child, I was never much of a reader. My school mates recall a me as a wild and crazy misfit, a bohemian artist. In my middle years, I morphed into a go-girl who rode horses, bicycled around the world, and played a hard game of racquetball.

When I moved to Dominica, I discovered snorkeling and hiking. Then I settled down to farming and breeding large dogs when I landed here in the rainforest. These days, I still have my kayak, and my dogs, but I can’t think of anything more rewarding than settling down with a good book and a glass of wine in the evenings. (Well, maybe I can…)

Gwendominica: As an expatriate, do you have any words of advice for people who are thinking of making a big move to a little  tropical island?

Kristine Simelda: According to the epigraph to A Face in the River: “Consider, my friends, the high price of enchantment.”

Now that readers of Ti Domnik Tales know a little more about this engaging American-

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Now and then, Kris (in pink) enjoys taking a break with her friends at Romance Cafe, on Mero Beach.

Dominican author, you can follow the tropical adventures of her ‘heroine’ Krystal in A Face in the River by getting a paperback or Kindle copy through www.amazon.com  or the visit-dominica website.  The book can be purchased locally in Roseau at Jay’s Bookstore, Kai-K Boutique and Buy Dominica, as well as at Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar. Follow her blog at www.kristinesimelda.com

Many thanks to Kris, for candidly sharing some background and personal anecdotes.  I wish you every success with your creations and eagerly await the release of  River of Fire, the sequel to a A Face in the River – and all of your other  forthcoming literary works!

 

 

 

Under the Spell: Carnival Magic in Dominica

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Carnival Queen 2015, Odessa Elie and Calypso Monarch 2015, Gregory ‘Karessah’ Riviere warmly greeted spectators while their float guided the 2016  Opening Parade along the streets of Roseau Dominica.

When the Carnival Dream berthed at the Roseau Cruise Ship Pier on the same

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The Carnival Dream arrived in Dominica on the same day as Dominica’s dreamy Opening Parade!

day as the Opening Parade of Mas Domnik 2016, I felt that it had to be a magical coincidence.

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What’s going on?  This band of ‘Darkies’ wanted everyone to know that it is Carnival time on the Nature Isle!

I arrived at the start of the parade route near the Fort Young Hotel on Victoria Street just before the 3 p.m. start time.  The bands, that is, specific groups of participants were assembling and warming up for this celebratory afternoon.  It would be the first major event on Dominica since the devastation of Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015.  While the country continues to recover and rebuild, I noticed that this much-anticipated Carnival  event brought joy to the faces of the revellers and spectators that afternoon.

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This pretty Carnival Princess contestant  welcomed everyone as she processed in her float along the parade route.

Although the parade started a little late, it was well worth the wait.  To see the smiles of delight on the streets after several stressful months lifted my spirits and brought tears of happiness to my eyes.

Of course, there were hundreds of cruise ship passengers viewing the spectacle too.  I spoke to a few of them and they were completely in awe of the creativity and colour that surrounded them on this beautiful day in paradise.

Traditionally, the Opening Parade gives everyone a taste of what will come over the next few weeks, culminating in two days of street jump-ups on Monday February 8th and Tuesday February 9th this year.  Those particular days precede Ash Wednesday and the commencement of Lent.  You can read more about the origins of Dominica’s Carnival in an earlier post right here.

Beauty pageants, along with calypso song competitions form a big part of the Carnival activities.  All of the Queen, Teen and Princess contestants looked lovely and sported their sweetest smiles in anticipation of winning their ‘crown’.

Here is a peek at some, but not all of the lovely ladies and girls who made their presence known on that beautiful Saturday afternoon in Roseau:

 

From top left: Carnival Princess 2015 Lytleen Julien; Supporters of their  Convent High School Teen Pageant Contestant; Teen Pageant Contestant from Convent High School

From bottom left: Contestant in the Dominica State College Jambouree; Miss Dominica Contestant Nawana Shillingford; Miss Dominica Contestant Tasia Floissac

All of the young ladies sparkled and shimmered in their finery.  I succumbed to the magic of their Carnival charms as if I were walking around  in a fairyland!

But there was much more than beauty on the streets of Roseau that dreamy, steamy afternoon in the nation’s capital.  After the procession of pageant contestants, plentiful beasts emerged en masse, creating an extreme juxtaposition with the earlier serene scene. The prolific masqueraders clearly portrayed what ‘playing mas’ is all about!

Scary  bestial Sensays in horns and masks, the fiersome and feared ‘Bann Mauvé’  with their wizard-like hats from the village of Colihaut, frightening ‘darkies’ covered in black, cracking whips all added to the sinister side of Carnival magic.  Some of them did actually try to scare me as I boldly stepped on to the street to capture them with my camera.  However, I did not succumb to fear for one good reason: despite their attire, they all appeared to be having a fantastic time.  I could only smile and laugh along with them.  What better Carnival dream than that!

Here is a glimpse at what they looked like ‘pon de road‘:

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Then the Carnival dream changed direction again, and I found myself admiring a large band of little boys pushing their cleverly constructed home-made toy trucks, called

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Young boys proudly push their  creative kabouways in the Carnival 2016 Opening Parade.

kabouways. This longstanding Dominican tradition has recently regained prominence, and the craft is a tremendous source of pride – especially for fathers and sons who make them together.

And little girls demonstrated their rhythmic and athletic prowess in coordinated movements, despite the soaring temperature, as renowned ‘Flag Wavers’.DSCF6517

DSCF6451I also admired an ornately-dressed band of Kalinago people from the northeastern village of Sineku.  Their pride of traditions was clearly evident and they too, were clearly enjoying themselves.

After an hour and a half, the late afternoon sun began to cast long shadows, as well as an intense glare on the road. The magical dream switched again and this time gorgeous revellers and other vibrant characters, suggestive of the bacchanal appeared on the street, captivating onlookers with their flamboyant costumes, like this:

This Carnival fantasy just didn’t seem to end.  But I began to return to reality with the pounding beat of the traditional lapo kabwit (goat-skin drum) bands.  Sweat poured from their brows as they marched along the parade route.  But there was no stopping them: the rhythm of the magical Carnival season is in their blood!

 

There were reality checks too:  The Police Band posted this sobering suggestion on the front of their Carnival truck:DSCF6489

As I awakened from my personal revelry, I realized that I did not see the ever-popular stilt-walkers (Bwa Bwa), as they must have entered the parade further along the route.  I’ll be sure to include them in my next Carnival dream!

Once again, I had fallen under the spell of Carnival magic in Dominica.  I suspect the potion should last until Ash Wednesday.  Be assured that I’ll let you know about other reveleries I experience during Mas Domnik 2016!

 

A Sensational Start to 2016 on Dominica, the Nature Island

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The 4 acre garden at Papillote Wilderness Retreat near Trafalgar Dominica is a place to really appreciate the splendour of the Nature Island.

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You know it’s the Christmas season when beautiful Poinsettias are in bloom in Dominica.

There are hundreds of tropical plants to admire and appreciate at Papilotte Wilderness Retreat.

There are hundreds of tropical plants to admire and appreciate at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

What better way to start the New Year in Dominica than to take day trip up the Roseau Valley to spend some time with friends at Papillote Wilderness Retreat. It seemed incredible that I had not been back to one of my

A therpaeutic soak in natural hot mineral waters is always a treat at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

A therapeutic soak in natural hot mineral waters is always a treat at Papillote Wilderness Retreat.

favourite places on Dominica since April 2015!  Of course, Tropical Storm Erika had something to do with my delay, as I was  reluctant to venture into areas where her heavy rains had altered infrastructure and terrain.  Thankfully, four months after this significant weather event, the road was passable, with only a couple of tricky spots, and the countryside looked as lovely as ever.

January 1, 2016 was a fine day for this outing, and I started out well ahead of my lunchtime rendez-vous to check out the changes to the twin Trafalgar Falls.  These cascades are only a short distance from this award-winning eco-lodge, and I was more than curious to observe the ‘new’ landscape that was created by the intense and prolonged rainfall of August 27, 2015.

After I announced my presence to the friendly staff at Papillote, I headed up the steep hill to the eco-site, and sauntered along the groomed trail for about 10 minutes before catching my breath – not from being winded from slight exertion, but from the dramatic scene that greeted me at the sheltered viewing platform.

I had been told that one could only fully ‘appreciate’ the extent to which TS Erika ravaged the Nature Island after having seen it first-hand.  Now, I could completely comprehend that sentiment.  Before me, a very changed landscape helped me to understand the power and the force behind such a catastrophic weather event.

Unfortunately, I was not able to walk towards the Mother Fall as before because the walkway and track had been destroyed by the excessive torrents.  However, I did step just beyond the cautionary sign to take a few photos of the unfamiliar surroundings below the cascades.  As the flow of the water was ever strong, the two waterfalls were as always, awesome and awe-inspiring.  I recalled the most basic life lesson on this lovely New Year’s Day in Dominica, that NOTHING stays the same.  Life is always changing, and Mother Nature is definitely in control.

The twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform in April 2015.

The twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform in April 2015.

At the same time, I was reminded of how human beings have negatively affected the planet with pollution and

Th twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform on January 1 2016 (about 4 months after TS Erika).

Th twin Trafalgar Falls as seen from the viewing platform on January 1 2016 (about 4 months after TS Erika).

overall thoughtlessness about our precious environment. On Dominica, climate change is increasingly apparent, and the heavy prolonged rainfall produced by

The area below the waterfalls experienced a massive landslide during TS Erika in August 2015.

The area below the waterfalls experienced a massive landslide during TS Erika in August 2015.

Tropical Storm Erika which resulted in extensive flooding and destructive landslides is only one example in one country of the harm we have done to our dear earthly home.

The path towards the Mother Fall at Trafalgar was destroyed by these boulders during TS Erika in August 2015.

The path towards the Mother Fall at Trafalgar was destroyed by these boulders during TS Erika in August 2015.

The Father Fall at Trafalgaris even more remote following TS Erika on August 27, 2015.

The Father Fall at Trafalgar seems even more remote following TS Erika on August 27, 2015.

When I faced these natural wonders in mindful meditation for about half an hour, I resolved to be ever-conscious on a daily basis of how I can help to protect our precious environment every day in every way possible as an individual. Will you join with me in enacting this New Year’s resolution?  Please give it some serious thought!

The CHristmas tress in the dining room at Papillote gave it an especially homey ambiance on New Year's Day.

The Christmas tree in the dining room at Papillote gave it an especially homey ambiance on New Year’s Day.

Under light rainfall, typical of this rainforest setting, I returned to Papillote about 15 minutes later. There, I joined longtime friends Anne Jno Baptiste, who is the proprietor of this beautiful eco-hotel, and Nancy Osler, who is the managing director of ATREC, an international research and educational learning center based at Springfield for a delicious lunch in the airy dining room. We caught up on year-end news and toasted the New Year, with the collective hope that it would be a good one.

The staff at Papillote never have to ask me what I ould like for lunch. I am in love with their flying fish platter!

The staff at Papillote never have to ask me what I would like for lunch. I am in love with their flying fish platter (with dasheen puffs, fried plantains and salad)!

In this relaxing setting, I further unwound later that afternoon with a luxurious soak in a natural hot water pool.  As I gazed in ceaseless wonder at the sensational splendour all around me, I could only wish  for a better year than the one before and dream of playing my part to make it a reality.

A soak in a hot pool at Papillote is a heavenily experience on earth.

A soak in a hot pool at Papillote is a heavenly experience on earth.

Happy New Year to one and all!  Pray for peace and protect our precious planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Christmas 2015 Letter from Roseau Dominica

Season's Greetings to you from my home in Dominica, West Indies!

Season’s Greetings to you from my home in Dominica, West Indies!

Dear Readers of Ti Domnik Tales:

Merry Christmas from the Nature Isle!  I know it’s been a while since I have posted a note. Please accept my apologies for the delay.  I have been concentrating on preparing for an advanced level French exam here at Alliance Francaise for the past couple of months.  I only completed it just before Christmas.  You might also be curious to know that following Tropical Storm Erika and its devastating aftermath, I was not inclined to venture far from my home, for safety’s sake, as the ground was unstable and hiking trails (and roads) had to be cleared of storm debris.

However, I have recently traversed the island to spend a few wonderful

I appreciated a little 'dwon-time' in a lovely cottage opposite this one at Beau Rive, near Castle Bruce, Dominica.

I appreciated a little ‘down-time’ in a lovely cottage opposite this one at Beau Rive, near Castle Bruce, Dominica.

DSCF6311

This gorgeous angel adorned the top of the Christmas tree at the Beau Rive boutique hotel near Castle Bruce, Dominica.

days and nights at the charming Beau Rive boutique hotel near Castle Bruce on the east coast.   I am delighted to report that the roads are in good condition, and it was an easy journey through the mountains of the island’s interior. I will certainly be venturing further afield in the New Year, as bailey bridges have been erected across rivers where the previous structures had been washed away and most of the roads are motorable.

But life has not completely returned to normal here, as dozens of people who lost homes and properties as a result of the storm are being temporarily housed as they await new homes, which are presently being built by the Government of Dominica in safer areas.  Repairs to infrastructure are ongoing, and it is possible to completely enjoy the offerings of the Nature Island.  However,  it is important to remember that the destructive effects of global warming/climate change are leaving their marks, as evidenced in vulnerable countries and small island states such as Dominica.

This spectacular ocean view and teh crashing waves in Richmond provided the perfect back-drop for my year-end contemplation.

This spectacular ocean view and the crashing waves in Richmond Bay below Beau Rive provided the perfect back-drop for my year-end contemplation.

My recent break at Beau Rive was, in effect, a mini-retreat and pause for reflection over the past year, as well as an opportunity to document intentions for 2016. In this peaceful setting, I was able to look back on 2015, and recognize that my life in Dominica had changed to some degree, as I  actually spent more than four months abroad – some of it in Paris to attend the wedding of my wonderful French friends Carole and Gildas in January, followed by an extended ‘vacation’ in Canada as a result of Tropical Strom Erika.  That summer sojourn lasted from mid-June until the end of September. My delay resulted from the destruction  of the Douglas-Charles airport, which was quickly repaired within one month, thanks to the generous assistance and technical support of several caring countries.

While visiting with Mark, the Managing Director at Beau Rive and Angela, one of his repeat guests (17 times!), I paid close attention to our conversations.  In my quest for inspiration about the forthcoming year, I listened attentively to what was said that particularly resonated with me.  Suffice to say that our discussions centred on thinking of others who are less fortunate and being mindful of what we can do to make the world a better place in which to live. I also admired Angela’s personal strength and determination to have a fulfilling and rewarding life, and to not let any type of obstacle prevent her from living out her dreams.  Above all, I felt surrounded by kindness, consideration and good will.  I returned home with uplifted spirits and hope for a brighter future by  setting intentions to consciously spread good cheer (in any form)all year round.

I have much to be thankful for and I wish to express gratitude to all those who have  touched my life in very meaningful ways this past year.  In particular, I am grateful to my family in Canada for their support and encouragement, and for hosting me for an extended period when I was ‘storm-stayed’ in Canada.  I also appreciate the generous gesture of my niece Mara and my nephew Dallin, who willingly offered their usual Christmas present from me to help those in need in Dominica. I also wish to thank Canadian-Caribbean writer and friend Susan M. Toy, who included my blogs (Ti Domnik Tales and Canary Gal) on her list of notable authors for 2015.  She is the perfect example of someone who thinks of others with a giving heart while  happily pursuing her own career.

DSCF6281In the past couple of months, I was also profoundly moved by the positive results arising from the COP 21 climate action accord in Paris.  As well, I enthusiastically participated in Dominica’s week of thoughtful international documentaries about climate change, which was organized by Alliance Francaise. These sessions culminated in

During Dominica's 'Day of Action' , I was surrounded by new friends and old friends of like mind with respect to environmental responsibilities. From Left: new friends Dan and Maria and old friends Wendy and Liz.

During Dominica’s ‘Day of Action’ , I was surrounded by new friends and old friends of like mind with respect to environmental responsibilities. From left: new friends Dan and Maria and old friends Wendy and Liz.

Dominica’s Day of Action, coordinated by the Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation. While the attendees were small in number, the spirit of the movement was very big, and I congratulate all participants who are leading by example in Dominica.

During Dominca's Day of Action, children and adults created a waterfall from plastic bottles in the Botannical Gardens. The irony is not lost on me!

During Dominica’s ‘Day of Action’, children and adults created a waterfall from plastic bottles in the Botanical Gardens. The irony is not lost on me!

During this event, I made friends with two young people, Maria and Dan. Although we were just becoming acquainted, I really admired their passion, determination and dedication to eliminating and reducing environmental concerns on the Nature Island and of course, globally.

As the sun sets on 2015, I welcome the New Year with joy, hope, peace and love!

As the sun sets on 2015, I welcome the New Year with joy, hope, peace and love!

Despite the ravages of Tropical Storm Erika, Dominica’s resilience is apparent everywhere.

As 2015 draws to a close, I will send off this post to you, with warmest wishes for a peaceful, loving and caring New Year.  I hope that your adventures will be fruitful, and that you will give careful consideration to how you can make the world a better place now – and for the future!

The joy of life is the adventure! Photo taken in Montmartre, Paris in January 2015.

The joy of life is the adventure! Photo taken in Montmartre, Paris, France in January 2015.

I’ll be in touch in 2016, as I share my journey on the sensational Nature Island – and elsewhere!

Sincerely,

Gwendominica

 

 

 

Two Months after Tropical Storm Erika: An Independence Season of Reflection, Renewal and Hope

Morne Trois Pitons towers over the island's interior on a beautiful day several weeks after Tropical Storm Erika. A land slide on the right bank can be seen here.

Morne Trois Pitons towers over the island’s interior on a beautiful day several weeks after Tropical Storm Erika. A landslide on the right bank can be seen here.

As Dominica continued to recover from the devastating after-effects caused by Tropical Storm Erika, this year’s Independence

activities reflected the overall mood of the nation with quiet celebrations and ongoing efforts to rebuild the country.

I was on-island for about a month before I ventured beyond the environs of Roseau. My neighbour’s mother, with whom I was acquainted had recently passed away

The Wesley Catholic Church is a beautiful house of worship on Dominica's northeast coast.

The Wesley Catholic Church is a beautiful house of worship on Dominica’s northeast coast.

and I honoured her memory by attending her funeral in Wesley, on the northeast coast of the island. Buses had been organized to take attendees across the mountainous interior, and I was fortunate to take a front seat for the best view of the terrain.  Of course, my camera was in hand, as I was curious to capture the current state of the land one month after my return.

While major landslides had been cleared, there was still evidence of instability with occasional mounds of dirt and stones blocking one

The Layou River overflowed its banks in the area of the village of Bells, in Dominica's interior.

The Layou River overflowed its banks near the village of Bells, in Dominica’s interior, leaving severely eroded banks following T.S. Erika.

lane of the  interior highway.  As well, this main road had been undermined in several locations where it followed along the course of  powerful rivers, such as the Layou and the Laurent near Bells, deep in the Heart of Dominica. Restoration works were also well underway around the perimeter of Douglas-Charles

Morne Diablotin, Dominica's highest mountain forms a misty backdrop to the repair works underway at the Douglas-Charles Airport.

Morne Diablotin, Dominica’s highest mountain forms a misty backdrop to the repair works underway at the Douglas-Charles Airport.

Airport at Melville Hall, following the repair and reopening of the runway where I had  safely landed a few weeks earlier.

When I arrived at Wesley, I joined hundreds of others at the Catholic Church in that village for the funeral of Theresa Gordon.  We collectively paid tribute to a lady who was obviously very well  respected by all who knew her or her immediate family. Despite the sadness of the occasion, it was clearly evident to me that feelings of love and good will prevailed.  I think that ‘Ma Gordon”, as I called her, would have been very happy about that and I was moved by the positive atmosphere that surrounded me there.  I was reminded once again, that despite tragedy and loss, Dominicans are a very resilient people who determinedly ‘carry on’, no matter what challenges they have endured!

Cartwheel Cafe offers tasty breakfasts - not just on Creole Day, but every day! The seasoned codfish, boiled egg and breadfruit makes a very filling meal.

Cartwheel Cafe offers tasty breakfasts – not just on Creole Day, but every day! The seasoned codfish, boiled egg and breadfruit make a very filling meal.

This year, persistent inclement weather put a bit of a damper on Creole Day

Many seamstresses create beautiful variations on traditional Creole wear - for all shapes and sizes!

Skilled seamstresses create beautiful variations on traditional Creole wear – for all shapes and sizes!

festivities, but it did not prevent me from enjoying delicious traditional foods, especially the vegetarian and fish varieties. And I always enjoy the seasonal fashions, created with bright madras fabrics, although I was more subdued with my style of  dress this year. The spirit of the season was definitely ‘out there’, but in a low key and respectful

Simone at Kai-K Boutique poses beside the manequin beside Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront.

Simone at Kai-K Boutique poses beside the mannequin close to Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront.

way.With the cancellation of the World Creole Music Festival and Creole in the Park  due to the post-T.S. Erika situation, the streets were much quieter too.

Who is this' belle dame'? If you think you know, let me know!

Who is this’ belle dame’? If you think you know, let me know!

It is my usual annual habit to breakfast at Cartwheel Café on the Bayfront in Roseau. The staff is consistently in high spirits, and clients always seem to be in a Creole mood as they eat and chat with each other, which suits me fine!

Piano teacher Leanne looks very sweet in a lavender/rose-hued madras blouse, with matching lipstick and eye glass frames!

Piano teacher Leanne looks very sweet in a lavender/rose-hued madras blouse, with matching lipstick and eye-glass frames!

I devoured my codfish and breadfruit breakfast there, then wandered the streets searching for the Creole spirit.  I did find it here and there, and took pleasure from conversations with friends and strangers. When it began to rain more heavily,

I couldn't wait to take a bite from this avacodo/accras infused whole wheat bake from Stone Love Ital Shop on Cross St. in Roseau.

I couldn’t wait to take a bite from this avocado/accras infused whole wheat ‘bake’ from Stone Love Ital Shop on Cross St. in Roseau.

I purchased a large cup of tangy pomme-citan juice and an avocado vegan accras ‘bake’ from Stone Love Ital Shop. Then I picked up a few slices of rum cake and banana cake from the Urban Garden Café around the corner before heading home to savour these treats a little later.  (More on those two wonderful  natural foods eateries in the next post!)

I feasted on these filling avacado/farine (cassava flour) balls made by Marvo and staff at her snackette on Independence Street.

I feasted on these filling avocado/farine (cassava flour) balls made by Marvo and staff at her popular snackette on Independence Street.

I do confess to indulging in a delicious  vegetarian pizza  at Fusion Village Restaurant in the heart of Roseau  the next day.

It was wonderful to meet with my 'sister' Liz and friend Nancy (photographer) for pizza adn treats at the Fusion Village Restaurant over the Independence weekend.

It was wonderful to meet with my ‘sister’ Liz and friend Nancy (photographer) for pizza and treats at the Fusion Village Restaurant in Roseau over the Independence weekend.

However, the

I met up with other Creole-inspired friends at the Roseau Market: Anne (l) from Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar Karen from Roots Farm Organic Produce in Cochrane.

I met up with other Creole-inspired friends at the  Saturday Roseau Market: Anne (l) from Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar and Karen from Roots Farm Organic Produce in Cochrane.

objective was to meet and spend time with good friends with whom I hadn’t really connected since my return from Canada.  Our lengthy lunch  and catch-up certainly added to my personal enjoyment of this unique Creole Season. Thanks Nancy and Liz!

The Freewinds Cruise Ship glowed at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berthon the evening of Kai & Vicki's Kids' Charity fundraiser in aid of children in need in Dominica

The Freewinds Cruise Ship glowed with anticipation at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berth on the evening of Kai & Vicki’s Kids’ Charity fundraiser in aid of needy children in Dominica.

Independence celebrations were far from over, but the highlight for me was the special fundraising concert that I had the pleasure of attending on the Freewinds Cruise Ship on Sunday November 1st.At this auspicious occasion, internationally renowned Dominican singer Michele Henderson offered her talents, along with the Freewinds band and other first class musicians from the Nature Island in aid of the Kai & Vickie Kids’ Charity, which

Vickie & Kai hold up an autographed West Indies Cricket Team shirt, which was auctioned off on the spot!

Vickie & Kai (after whom the charity is named)hold up an autographed West Indies Cricket Team shirt, which was auctioned off  for a ‘steal’ on the spot!

Michele is a phenomenal flautist, as well as a powerful singer, with a brilliant and versatile soprano voice.

Michele is a phenomenal flautist, as well as a powerful singer, with a brilliant and versatile soprano voice.

supports underprivileged children locally.

Michele opened the performance with some well known songs from Dominica. Her husband Junior is on bass guitar.

Michele opened the performance with some well-known songs from Dominica. Her husband Junior is on bass guitar.

Michele's daughter Kai jams with mum and her version of Purple Rain, which closed the show. The Free Winds bassist backs them up.

Michele’s daughter Kai jams with mum and her version of Purple Rain, which closed the show. The Free Winds bassist backs them up.

As usual, this amazing artiste delivered a world-class performance to the delight of the  enthralled audience, comprised of local politicians, foreign diplomats, citizens, expatriates and children.  Michele has the uncanny ability to easily cross musical genres, and as such everyone got a taste of different styles of local and popular music. I love it all, but I am partial to Dominica’s cadence, which is a specialty of this exceptional lyricist, composer and singer. To her credit, she also surprised us by presenting some rising stars on the Nature Isle, and everyone appreciated their obvious potential.

With a few hundred people filling the performance space, and an

Michele is one of Dominica's pride and joys. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador for her country.

Michele is one of Dominica’s pride and joys. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador for her country.

auction of some enticing goods and services, I am certain that this charity raised several thousand dollars.  These monies will directly aid children who were adversely affected by T.S. Erika in numerous ways.

It’s impossible to walk away from a Michele Henderson performance (and I’ve been fortunate to have heard her countless times over the years) without feeling inspired, uplifted, joyful and hopeful.  Music of that calibre has a way of bringing people together, which was most fitting for the mood of this unique Independence season on Dominica.

Because I did get chilled in the a/c on the ship and then walked a distance through a persistent drizzle in the cool night air, I did succumb to the sniffles the next day.  By Independence morning, I was ‘under the weather’, so I gave those  official festivities a miss this year.  However, if you’d like to see some photos, you can find them on Dominica News Online  for November 3, 2015.

Plastic is a huge polluter, no matter where we live on the planet. Please think before you throw. It's the least we can do to protect our earthly environment.

Plastic is a huge polluter, no matter where we live on the planet. Please think before you throw. It’s the least we can do to protect our earthly environment.

By the next morning, I was thankful to have rested the day before, as it was National Day of Community Service and I had made a pact with myself that I would do something for my neighbourhood.  I am not much good at hoisting a shovel, but I can certainly put on a back pack filled with garbage bags – and that is what I did.  It was a hot, humid morning, and I was guaranteed a healthy sweat – just what I needed.  I started at the top of the main road in my subdivision and worked my way down to the junction at the bottom of the hill, which is part of my usual walking route.  If I did this stretch at a normal pace, it would take me half an hour total to go down and back up to my home.  But with rubber gloves, hiking boots, and four and a half garbage bags filled with curb-side debris, the activity actually took  over three hours.  Although I was really fatigued by this exercise, I felt good that perhaps I had made a tiny difference on my beloved Nature Island . There were many formal projects taking place all over the country, and significant numbers came out to lend a hand.  I got the distinct impression that the tragedies and losses incurred as a result of T.S. Erika, prompted  people to pull together to restore Dominica to her former glory.

Despite plentiful rainshowers during Dominica's 37th Independence season, there were a few gorgeous sunsets, such as this one!

Despite plentiful rain showers during Dominica’s 37th Independence season, there were a few gorgeous sunsets, such as this one!

After a good rest, I ended my energetic day with a refreshing and relaxing  ‘sea bath’ as the sun set on Independence 2015. I floated on the calm and soothing waters,  and reflected on the power of hope and the realization that Dominica shall indeed renew herself, and rise again.