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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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’!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!