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

 

 

 

Recognizing Acts of Kindness at Christmas-time on Dominica, the Nature Island

This bouquet of beautiful anthurium lilies from Trafalgar in Dominica's lush Roseau Valley. They symbolize my gratitude to those who have bestowed acts of kindness upon me!

This bouquet of beautiful anthurium lilies was harvested at Trafalgar in Dominica’s lush Roseau Valley. They symbolize my gratitude to those who have bestowed acts of kindness upon me!

As Christmas 2014 draws near, it’s an opportune time to express gratitude to some people and institutions that have been kind to me in recent times on the Nature Island. T’is the season of peace and goodwill, after all!

When I think of it, there is so much to be thankful for, as I  did note in my Thanksgiving post this past October.

Admittedly, I am somewhat saddened by the absence of my lovely kitty Tia-pet, who departed this earth in May 2014. One of my last fond memories would have been one year ago, when Tia snuggled up under the Christmas tree. I subsequently submitted a photo of this serene scene to Dominica News Online  and they posted it over the Christmas 2013 holiday!  You can see that pretty pic of the Yule-tide pussy cat here.

When Tia passed away, it was my friend Nancy Osler, Managing Director at Springfield who helped me to lay him to rest. He’s buried in a beautiful setting on that property at the edge of the rainforest and I am certain that my little pet is at peace there.  I thank Nancy profusely for all the help she gave me on that very sad day.  I will never forget her acts of kindness during my time of grief.  As well, I owe a debt of gratitude to hiking pod partner Liz Madisetti. She was willing to look after Tia (if he had survived) so that I could spend some time in Canada.  Although that did not become necessary, she is always ready to lend a hand without hesitation!

No Christmas tree this year, but the poinsettia adds to the spirit of the season.  They do grow on Dominica.  This one was lovingly tended at Green Mountain Flowers near Giraudel by proprietor Daryl Phillip.

No Christmas tree this year, but this poinsettia adds to the spirit of the season. This one was lovingly tended at Green Mountain Flowers near Giraudel by proprietor Daryl Phillip.

When my eyes  became severely inflamed from unknown allergies for several months this year, optometrist Dr. Debra Williams of Island Vision Inc. monitored my condition very closely.  She was very attentive to my overall health condition and with professional concern, checked my eyes on numerous occasions – sometimes three times a week until there was improvement.  But not only that, she is still watching the progress of my eyes –  willingly, freely and with an open heart.  I am profoundly grateful!

I had had some difficulties with my little car, and while some attempts had been made to fix it, the source of the problem was not located.  Although it was pronounced fit to drive, I became very upset en route to an appointment  for a manicure and pedicure when I heard a new “strange” noise.  I was distressed because I was about to drive across the island’s mountainous interior  later that week to spend some time on the east coast  at lovely Beau Rive. It was a Saturday afternoon and I really did not know what to do! When I entered The Glam Day Spa in Roseau, I was on the verge of tears.  All of the staff showed great concern, and when coaxed, I did tell them about my car woes.  They were so gentle with me, and showed such compassion.  Even those who were not attending to me came over to commiserate and  empathize with my situation.  The staff at The Glam certainly put me into a better frame of mind in that healing environment.  However, I was still a little rattled when I left (I now had to deal with the car!).  I did make it home, but when I arrived, I looked in  my purse and thought that I was missing some money, but wasn’t sure. It wasn’t a huge amount, and I figured I must have overspent at the market in the morning…or something.  About an hour later, I received a call from Venetta, the receptionist at The Glam.  She asked me if I was missing any money.  I exclaimed, “Yes!” and immediately volunteered the amount.  She then said she had found that sum on the floor just after I left and wondered if it had fallen out of my purse.  The staff held it for me and I collected it the following Monday.  Of course, it was already destined for car repairs!

When I arrived at Beau Rive a few days later, I still did not feel confident about the latest round of repairs on the car.  I did express this to Mark Steele, proprietor at Beau Rive Boutique Hotel.  He willingly drove my car up his steep driveway and was always on-call, if anything should happen while I traveled around (nothing did!). During my stay I was treated exceptionally well by him and his staff, with much kindness, generosity and consideration.  I am very grateful for the blissful time that I had at that lovely locale.

With car troubles still simmering after that excursion, I went to  Julius, a well-established mechanic in my neighbourhood with a reputation for honesty and good work.  He assessed the problems and informed me about what needed to be done (or  not done) in order for the car to run more smoothly.  When I offered to pay for his time, he graciously declined!  Of course I will return to him for the actual repairs.  This positive experience was completely contrary to what I had endured at a larger  specialized establishment.  I guess their loss is Julie’s gain (and mine too)!

If you’ve ever waited a long time for an important package by”snail mail,” then perhaps you’ll empathize with me. It took one of mine that I had sent from Canada in June four months to reach Dominica!  And that is not the first time.  Unfortunately, items invariably get sent to the Dominican Republic, and there can be long delays before the package finally arrives on the Nature Island.  I feared that the workers in the Parcel Post Section of the General Post Office in Roseau would get tired of seeing my face.  However, they have always been extremely pleasant and have gone out of their way to assist me in tracking delayed or missing packages.  Most of all, they have encouraged me to “keep the faith,” and in doing so, everything has turned out well every time!

Even though I don’t have a pet at the moment, I do help to take care of a couple of dogs that are attached to a business in my area. When I became worried about the state of the young female on the premises, one of my wonderful veterinarians, Dr. Nausima Paul offered to come with me and examine this canine.  She proffered her professional opinion to the owners. (I had informed them about my concerns and had volunteered to bring the vet for a consultation at my expense).  After Dr. Paul was finished with the examination, I drove her back to her clinic.  As she stepped out of the vehicle, I extended my hand with cash in it to pay her – and she declined! I was surprised, as she had willingly come along with me despite her own discomfort from injuries sustained in a recent accident.  She and her husband Dr. Ronnie George took constant care of Tia-pet during the last couple of years of his life.  I am further grateful for their compassionate and caring attention up to  Tia’s death, as he was an exceptionally long-lived cat.

I would be remiss if I did not express extreme gratitude to Mrs. Cecily Lees, my lawyer in Dominica.  She is also one of my first friends on Dominica and she has assisted me in numerous ways, both personally and professionally over the years.  While her  legal specialty is real estate at Safe Haven Real Estate  , she has always “been there” for me and I appreciate everything she has done for me from the bottom of my heart!

This lovely winter solstice sunset was taken at Zam Zam Cafe in Citronier, a mile south of Roseau.

This lovely winter solstice sunset was taken at the fabulous Mexican-inspired  Zam Zam Cafe in Citronier,just south of Roseau.

Finally, I extend sincere thanks to you, dear reader for taking the time to read this post, and for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales. This year, the site reached over 50,000 visits and  now has about 100 ‘followers’.  Stay tuned for more adventures and experiences in the New Year!

If you can spot the Green Flash of the sunset on this Winter Solstice Eve, then I hope you will have lots of luck in the New Year!

If you can spot the Green Flash of the sunset on this Winter Solstice Eve, then I hope you will have lots of luck in the New Year!

This plate of homemade cookies is intended for Santa. From the bottom of the plate, clockwise: Chocolate Chip Bar; Fruit Hermits; Oatmeal Shortcakes; Gingerbread; Chocolate-Coconut Brownies.  All recipes of Canadian origin!

This plate of homemade goodies is intended for Santa. From the bottom of the plate, clockwise: Chocolate Chip Bar; Fruit Hermits; Oatmeal Shortcake; Gingerbread; Chocolate-Coconut Brownies. All recipes are of Canadian origin!

I am heading to Paris just after Christmas to attend the formal wedding celebrations of French friends that I met on Dominica: Carole Bogdanovscky and Gildas Lefevre.   I am certain to have some wonderful adventures in the City of Light and will be writing about them on the Canary Gal blog upon my return.

In the mean time, may the peace of this magical season be upon you.  Merry Christmas! And may the New Year be filled with kindness, compassion, love and goodwill, wherever you live on the planet!

A Christmas 2013 Memoir from Roseau Dominica: Part 2

This beautiful rainbow appeared over Roseau at about midday on Saturday January 11, 2014. Since then, the weather has been brighter and drier (fingers crossed!).

This beautiful rainbow appeared over Roseau at about midday on Saturday January 11, 2014. Since then, the weather has been generally brighter and drier (fingers crossed!).

Happy New Year to one and all!

Although the holiday season may by now seem to most people a distant memory, I only just finished celebrating last night! As you know from Part 1 of this memoir, Dominica was one of a number of islands in the  southern end of the eastern Caribbean severely pummeled by an intense rain storm on the morning of Christmas Eve.  In case you missed my descriptions from the day after (Christmas, in fact), you can read about them here.

Since then, there has been much discussion internationally about the apparent  adverse impact of climate change on small tropical islands.  Two thought-provoking and informative articles were written on this subject recently by Sir Ronald Sanders, a former Caribbean diplomat and Senior Research Fellow at London University .  You can review his insightful commentaries at: www.sirronaldsanders.com. 

While I remained storm-stayed for a few days over Christmas, my French conversation class had Christmas lunch with me on Friday December 27th.  While fresh vegetables were in short supply, I was reminded of winter days in my Canadian childhood when one “made do” with whatever was in the larder.  Fortunately, I was well stocked with other provisions.  As I had planned the menu in advance, I did not panic without salad greens at hand.  In fact, my offerings added to the authenticity of my festive Canadian meal – which emphasized both traditional English and French specialties that had been served up by my parents to family and guests  in days gone by.

My French conversation class was small, but we the amount we learned was very large!  Fom left: Gijs, Georgie, Carole (Director) and Gildas (instructor).

My French conversation class was small, but we the amount we learned was very large! From left: Gijs, Georgie, Carole (Director) and Gildas(Instructor).

The ‘plat du jour,‘ which was a curiosity to my European/Caribbean classmates had been previously described and  discussed.  Now it was time to sample it: La Tourtiere!  (French Canadian meat pie).  This savory mixture of pork and beef, with vegetables and seasonings was always served up on Christmas Eve at my childhood home.  I continue to do it here on the Nature Island and my brother Marc and family do the same thing ‘up north.’  I guess we really do love it and I am glad my niece and nephew are experiencing this tradition – even if they do live in an English-speaking part of Canada.  (But they do go to French immersion schools – so the meal complemented their studies too!).

Although I am always worried about how my dishes would be received, I was definitely reassured when Gildas (French) and Gijs (Dutch) went back for second helpings of the

My French teachers from Alliance Francaise de la Dominique are ready to taste the Christmas tourtiere (French Canadian meat pie).

My French teachers from Alliance Francaise de la Dominique (Carole and Gildas) are ready to taste the Christmas tourtiere (French Canadian meat pie).

Tourtiere.

From that moment on, I relaxed completely into the joie de vivre of Christmas 2013, even if it was a bit delayed!  So while we ate and enjoyed the view of Roseau from my porch on a momentarily fine day, we discussed climate change, and odd weather patterns in North America, Europe and the Caribbean, among other things.  But we didn’t speak much French.  Instead, our instructors Carole and Gildas freely spoke English.  They didn’t really mind, as they will be relocating from Paris to New York City in about a year’s time!  Unfortunately, Carole’s term  as Directrice at Alliance Francaise was up and they would be returning to France for a while.  There’s much more to the adventures of my exceptional young French teachers – and I’ll explain it all in an upcoming post!

Gwendominica describes the plate of sweets as serves up Canadian Christmas cakes made according to her late mother's recipes. Photo taken by Gijs.

Gwendominica describes the plate of sweets as she serves up Christmas cakes made according to Canadian/family recipes. Photo taken by Gijs.

When we got to dessert, I presented my Canadian-inspired assemblage of sweets – most of which were prepared according to my mother’s recipes and  her added annotations to make them taste the best.

Then we got a very special present from Gildas.

Gildas pours a very special drink for a very festive occasion.

Gildas pours a very special drink for a very festive occasion. Photo taken by Gijs.

He had recently returned from job interviews in France and he brought back champagne!!!  We toasted to health, happiness and a hopeful new year, with many good things to come in 2014.

By now, my Christmas celebrations were in high gear!  Even though I was not able to hike, I put on my boots and walked on slick roads, while negotiating broken pavements, muddy walkways and persistent puddles.  While infrastructure in my neighbourhood is presently being assessed for damages and (hopefully) repairs, I limit my drives to roads that are free of landslides and have only a few potholes!

The 'In A Chord' vocal ensemble 2014. From back left: Leng (Director/Accompanist), Caren, Celia. Front: Daria, Gwendominica

The ‘In A Chord’ vocal ensemble 2014. From back left: Leng (Director/Accompanist), Caren, Celia. Front: Daria, Gwendominica. Photo taken by Christopher.

Of course, wonderful music continued towards the close of the Yuletide season, culminating with a communal concert at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Goodwill ( a northern ‘suburb’ of Roseau) on Sunday January 5th.  Choirs, ensembles, soloists, instrumentalists and even some dancers came together to acknowledge Epiphany (that is actually January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas when the Wise Men brought their gifts to the Christ child).  As a member of the In A Chord vocal ensemble, I and my colleagues gave thanks through our gift of song  for this wondrous occasion.

With help from friends, I was able to attend other congenial feasts and good times – some  in homes in mountainous areas that had endured various hardships due to that now infamous storm.

I sincerely hope that you felt the  seasonal spirit of peace and goodwill as much as I did, despite the challenges imposed by Mother Nature in many parts of the world.

Thanks to my friends, neighbours and colleagues for making Christmas 2013 the most memorable one I have ever experienced in Dominica – regardless of the weather!

A Christmas 2013 Memoir from Roseau Dominica: Part 1

Tia-pet waits under the tree for Santa in a the most relaxed way. This photo also appeared over the Christmas holiday on Dominica News Online.  You can view comments here.

Tia-pet waits under the tree for Santa in the most relaxed way. This photo also appeared over the Christmas holidays on Dominica News Online.

“A very Merry Christmas

Gwendominica enjoyed a semi-dry, but cool   pre-Christmas 'Spa Day' at Papilote Wilderness Retreat on December 20th.

Gwendominica enjoyed a semi-dry, but cool pre-Christmas ‘Spa Day’ at Papillote Wilderness Retreat on December 20th.

And a happy New Year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear.” – John Lennon

While I do not have snow and ice to contend with, it’s been a blustery, damp December in Dominica.  Yesterday, the Nature Island received a deluge of heavy rain that caused flash floods ,landslides and plenty of mud underfoot! Even my neighbourhood was not spared, and I watched in amazement as torrents of water washed away parts of the main road, leaving hefty stones, broken pavement and overflowing gutters in its wake. I did not even attempt to go to ‘town’.Roads were blocked, bridges broken, houses dislodged and slick streets held no appeal for me on Dominica’s traditionally lengthy shopping day. You can see more  storm photos on Dominica News Online and The Dominican.Net

The streets in my neighbourhood looked like those in most areas of DOminica on December 24, 2013.

The streets in my neighbourhood looked like those in most areas of Dominica on December 24, 2013.

So today, I consider myself to be storm-stayed, although others are moving about.  For now, I will enjoy the peace and tranquility of a Christmas afternoon, as the sun bravely peeks through the clouds.  Although I am missing out on a grand Christmas dinner in the mountains with a number of friends, I did not want to take my little car through remaining obstacles on the roadways. (Yes, crews are working hard to clear them, but they’ve got loads of ground to cover all over the island…)  Tomorrow, I’ll go out to the main street in my neighbourhood and clear away the bigger rocks that do not pose a problem for larger SUV’s.  I’ll take on this laborious task because I love my little green car, nicknamed “The Button”.  It takes me almost everywhere – and thankfully big storms are few and far between!

And then –  the  lack of water issue – of course all the intake valves are blocked and had to be shut down for cleaning.  The little holding tank in my backyard is good for a bucket or two, so far.

It was a dark and rainy day for the cruise shippers in port, but at least there wasn't any snow or freezing rain!

It was a dark and wet day for the cruise shippers in port, but at least there wasn’t any snow or freezing rain!

But if it’s still off by

There was so much rain that the gutters overflowed for several hours.

There was so much rain that the gutters overflowed for several hours.

tomorrow morn, I’ll head down to a hotel for a shower – after I’ve cleared those rocks away from the road!  Thankfully, the electricity is back on today, and the temperature is more than 20 C, so I am happy for what I have.  I send thoughts and prayers to all of you “up north” who have various weather challenges this holiday season.  As my mother  and others would say, “This, too, shall pass.”

Elise, Wendy and Liz are definitely in the spirit of the season as they partake of Gwedominica's Christmas treats.

Elise, Wendy and Liz are definitely in the spirit of the season as they partake of Gwendominica’s Christmas treats.

Of course, I’ve had some fun too.  And  more details will follow  in the next blog post. As warm-ups to this special season, I hosted some friends with sweets and treats over tea.  I always enjoy baking Christmas goodies every year, as this craft enables my goodwill to grow.  Because of the inclement weather, I haven’t delivered all of my goodie plates yet.  It’s not a concern because there are still eleven more days of Christmas after this one!

Christmas would not mean so much to me without music, and this year was no exception.  In the damp drizzle of the evening of December 19th, In A Chord, the  4 part female vocal ensemble in which I sing Alto 1 was honoured to perform as guests of Dominica’s renowned “Music Lovers” Government Band.  We sang our hearts out in Sing We All Noël and Carol of the Bells  Our Director, pianist Leng Sorhaindo brilliantly  accompanied us on a sophisticated  and melodious  electronic keyboard. Instrumentalist Pious Jno Baptiste perfectly harmonized with us, first on the sopranino recorder and then he took up the steel pan, where he created the bell-like tones that blended with the keyboard’s in the second piece.  I always enjoy the sing-along with the Band too, because they play many of my favourite old-time carols and I still know almost all the words by heart!  It was a wonderful concert, which really added to the tidings of joy that I felt emanating from the audience and musicians alike.

And what would the Yuletide be without a pause for personal reflection and  thoughtful immersion in the truest sense of the season? These two “storm” days have permitted me some “down-time” to do just that. Perhaps you’ve had a chance to do the same – no matter what the weather in your part of the world.

Sunset on Sunday December 22, 2013 was a welcome respite from numerous gray days in a row.

Sunset on Sunday December 22, 2013 was a welcome respite from numerous gray days in a row.

Gwendominica and Tia-pet.  Photo taken by Elise at the Xmas Tea 2012.

Gwendominica and Tia-pet. Photo taken by Elise at the Xmas Tea 2012.

In any event, I sincerely wish  a “Happy Christmas to all – and to all a Good Night!