A Nature Meditation at Springfield Dominica*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Morne Micotrin as seen from the heights of Springfield Estate.

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

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

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Heliconia plants thrive in the lush terrain at Springfield.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The same area AFTER T.S.Erika

Springfield River

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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English Immersion on the Nature Island: French Students Learn about Dominica’s Cuisine and Culture*

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains and dasheen puffs and farine balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mild Creole sauce gives the protne that makes a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

I love a Creole lunch! Watercress and a slice of avocado make up the greens, fried plantains, dasheen puffs and farine  (from cassava flour and avocado) balls make up the starches, and grilled local tuna in a mildly seasoned Creole sauce gives the protein for a hearty, wholesome and healthy meal!

After the English immersion students from Ludicademi in Martinique spent a busy June weekend touring major sites in Dominica: Indian River; Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley; Emerald Pool; The Carib Territory and its Kalinago Barana Aute ( Carib Model Village), they dragged themselves into the classroom on Monday morning looking collectively exhausted! We were concentrating on Creole foods that day.  Fortunately, there are many of the same and similar recipes  in the ‘French Islands’, so the vocabulary lesson was not especially difficult!

Because we were not in a cooking class, I offered the students the following video clips about Dominican cooking:

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island.  Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower.  It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

Pepper sauce (r) is a prolific product on the Nature Island. Sorrel juice (l) is a spiced drink made from the red sepals of the hibiscus flower. It is delicious and is a Yule-tide favourite beverage.

1. How to Cook – Dominica Style

2. Tropical Vegetable and Fruit Garden Dominica

3. Cassava Bread Making in Dominica

4. Dominica Food for the Soul

I could not emphasize enough the proliferation of crops that thrive in Dominica’s fertile volcanic soil.  Some people say that you can plant practically anything on the Nature Island; You just have to stick it in the soil and watch it grow! Some farmers may disagree with me, but I suspect there are numerous places to till the soil!  There is no need to artificially season one’s recipe when cooking on Dominica:  celery, chives, green onions, peppers, parsley and thyme are a few of the herbs that thrive here.  There are also many starchy root vegetables which are traditionally called provisions : tannias, dasheen, cassava, cush-cush, sweet potatoes, yams.  There are others that grow on trees and are considered essential staples: green bananas, plantains, breadfruits, to name a few.,

We went through all the standard cooking terminology, but the class was definitely more drawn to the similarities in meals with their own country, Martinique.  We talked about callaloo soup, which is made from the leaves of the dasheen plant. It’s a popular dish around the Independence season in October and November. Some people like to add crab to their soup when they can be hunted at that time of year.  Sancoche is another tasty dish, if you like  the smoked flavour of codfish or chicken.  It is sometimes available at Cartwheel Cafe  on the Bayfront in Roseau during the year .Souse (pickled pig, cow or chicken)  delights many Dominicans.  There is also black (blood) pudding (like sausage) which can be found in Roseau and villages, largely  on weekends. On Friday nights, many little snackettes and little shops offer customers goat, fish or chattoo (octopus) water, which is a tasty seasoned broth containing these meats. Titiri are little river fish that are seasoned and fried in a batter for a filling snack called accras.  They can be found in various smaller establishments, such as Marvo’s Snackette on Independence Street (near King George V Street intersection).  There is so much more: fig pie is actually a small banana which is cooked, mashed and then baked with a fish such as tuna in a cheesy or creamy sauce.  I love it! Everyone has their own version of Creole sauce, which frequently adorns fish and chicken plates.  It contains many of the above-mentioned seasonings and usually has a tomato base.

And there are so many fruits. I wonder if anyone has an exact count of the different types.  Some of the more exotic/unfamiliar (to my hearing and/or taste) are; sapadilla; apricot (it’s huge!); carambola; pommerac; pomme citaine (golden apple); gooseberry; fwaise ( like a strawberry); canip;  tamarind;guava; papaya; cherry; passionfruit; pineapple; banana; all the citrus varieties; and that’s only naming a few! (Please excuse any incorrect Creole spellings!)

I didn’t get a chance to talk about sweets in the class – but I’ll save that fort another post!  The students made it through that day and were rewarded with a soothing soak at the Soufriere Sulphur Springs that afternoon to regain their vitality!

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

Dominica and Martinique share a number of cultural customs, including this type of Creole wear. The hat (tete mawe) and the jupe (overskirt) are made from madras cloth. The underskirt (jupon) and blouse (chemise decollotee) are created from white cloth, often with lace adornments.

On the last morning of class, the students looked much more refreshed, and as this was the day we would cover vocabulary about Dominica’s culture, I offered them a surprise when I asked them to stand  up straight away.  Their eyes opened wide when I sang the first verse of Dominica’s National Anthem for them.  Then they performed a few songs for me, such as Frère Jacques, which we sang as a traditional round.  What a great way to start this day!

We then jumped into having a look at Dominica’s motto, Apres bondie, c’est la ter (After God, it’s the land).  The students were most intrigued that Dominica’s endangered Sisserou Parrot is a national symbol which features prominently on both the Flag and the Coat of Arms.  They were further awed when they observed that Dominica’s critically endangered Crapaud (mountain chicken) frog has a place of honour on the Coat of Arms as well.  They had just been learning about these creatures in the previous class on Flora and Fauna.

Again,  as with foods, there were many similarities in terms of traditional dress and language, as the mix of European and West African cultural practises are also evident on the French islands.   As well,  Dominica is home to the Kalinago people, who paddled up to Dominica over 1,000 years ago from South America and called the  mountainous island ‘Waitukubuli’, which means “tall is her body.”  It was Christopher Columbus who named her Dominica, as he sighted her on a Sunday  on his second voyage in 1493.

The Creole language does reflect the influence of English, French and Kalinago words, mixed with African grammatical speech syntax.  The Martiniquais students could easily understand Dominican Creole, so they were cautioned by me to only speak English when out and about on the Nature Island, as that was the point of their visit.  They assured me that they stuck to their immersion experience except when they were really confused.  I hope that wasn’t too often!

Creole wear is sometimes worn in the French islands too.  I have seen ladies at the produce markets in both Guadeloupe and Martinique sporting the colourful

Contemporary desingers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a 'chapeau paix' (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear in Dominica.

Contemporary designers such as Dora (l) create modern versions of Creole wear. She is also wearing a ‘chapeau de paille’ (straw hat) which is a traditional head wear on Dominica.

madras cloth in traditional styles as such as the Wob Douillette, which is fashioned after French styles of the 17 and 18th centuries.  Heavy gold jewelry frequently complements the outfit, and is said to

A type of "Wob' (dress) which is worn by Madame Wob during the Independence season in 2012.

A type of “Wob’ (dress) which was worn by the ‘Madame Wob’ competition winner during Dominica’s Independence season in 2012.

have  been inspired by African traditions. The same thing can be said for dance styles of old on the Nature Island.  There are competitions all over the country that acknowledge this art form during the Independence season. As examples, the French inspired Mazouk looks like this.  A very African type of dance, called the Bélé, looks like this.  And there were English types of dance too, such as the ‘heel and toe’!

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are  big part of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison 'Dice' Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Beauty Pageants and Calypso Shows are big parts of Carnival celebrations. Miss Dominica 2012 Nadira Lando and now 6 time Calypso Monarch Dennison ‘Dice’ Joseph lead the Opening Parade for Carnival 2013.

Carnival is another area of Dominica’s culture with strong ties to African and European traditions.  The students said that while they do celebrate Carnival in Martinique, it didn’t seem to be anything like what Dominica has to offer.  I hope they will come back to find out during the next one! I have always described Mas Domnik as being original, traditional and fun!   I am certain that most Dominicans will agree with me.  It is celebrated in Dominica and the French Islands on the two days preceding Lent in the Catholic faith.

We also talked about the other festivities that draw large crowds from near and far –  around the time of Independence in November and the World Creole Music Festival in October.  It seems to me that there are always celebrations on the Nature Island – be

Dominica's friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. She is also a repeat regional winner now too.  You go, girl! XO

Dominica’s friendly, informal Carnival means that it is possible to have photos taken with popular participants wearing their traditional costumes, such as Miss Dominica 2013 Leslassa Armour-Shillingford. This exceptionally talented young lady is a repeat regional winner now too. You go, girl!

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival are rooted in African traditions.

Sensay costumes, seen during Carnival parades are rooted in African traditions.

it Hike Fest, Nature Island Literary Festival, DOMFESTA, Dive Fest, Emancipation and more.  Further details about these events can be found here.

Internationally-renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

Internationally renowned Dominican divas Michele Henderson (l) and Ophelia Marie performed at the 16th annual World Creole Music Festival in 2012.

The last hour of the  class was given over to a special guest, who knows culture through and through.  The Cultural

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess's instruction about culture in Dominica

The French students were very attentive to Gregory Rabess’s instruction about culture in Dominica.

Division’s Gregory Rabess   is a Creole specialist, poet and musician.  He elaborated dramatically on the bits and pieces of cultural history and subsequent  vocabulary that I had offered the group.  They hung on to his every word!

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

Cultural Division Officer Gregory Rabess emphatically demonstrates a point to the class.

We were all especially delighted when he closed the session with one of his own Creole compositions that required active class participation in the refrain.  It was in Creole language of course, so the only person who perhaps missed some of its meaning was me!

Although I was extremely tired after the four English immersion classes, I did thoroughly enjoy my short and sweet teaching stint.  I wish the students of Ludicademi in Martinique the best of luck with their continuing studies of the English language and their English-speaking neighbour , Dominica.  I hope I will see them again sometime on the Nature Island.

Reference: Africa and Dominica by Lennox Honychurch, PhD.

*This mini English immersion course was organized by Tina Alexander of Lifeline Ministries, Roseau Dominica.  Thanks for having me along, Tina!

English Immersion on the Nature Island: French Students Learn about Dominica’s Flora and Fauna*

Students Carole (l), Victoria and Marie-Agnes from Ludicademi in Martinique demonstrated tremendous interest and keenly participated in class discussions.

Students Carole (l), Victoria,Marie-Agnes and Charles from Ludicademi in Martinique demonstrated tremendous interest and keenly participated in class discussions.

The Crapaud frog (aka Mountain Chicken) is critically endangered and is endemic to Dominica and Montserrat. Read about its plight and the exceptional efforts to save it here.

The Crapaud frog (aka Mountain Chicken) is critically endangered and is endemic to only Dominica and Montserrat. Read about its plight and the exceptional efforts to save it here.

During a class held at the University of  the West Indies Open Campus in June, the English immersion students from Ludicademi in Martinique grasped the significance of  relevant and meaningful vocabulary  that could be directly applied to plants and animals on the Nature Island. Over the course of three hours, they began to understand  the meaning of biodiversity, the importance of wildlife conservation, as well as how, why  and what endemic, migratory,  endangered and vulnerable species are found here.

By the amount of questions that they posed, it was clear they were tremendously interested in the less common  and threatened species that exist on Dominica. That afternoon,  renowned author and  Forestry and Wildlife Officer Arlington James (retired) would be taking them on an interpretive tour of the Syndicate Forest Nature Trail (located above Dublanc on the west coast, in the foothills of Morne Diablotin). I was assured that they would come away from this day’s topic with a great appreciation for and understanding of Dominica’s flora and fauna.

The Fragile’ Mountain Chicken’ Frog

They were particularly fascinated by the ‘Mountain Chicken’ frog (aka Crapaud), which is critically endangered (almost extinct!) due to a persistent fungal infection. It is a regional endemic, as a very  are few found on Dominica and Montserrat. Those that manage  to survive are being closely monitored by Forestry and Wildlife Division officers, with much appreciated assistance from specialists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Birds, Birds, Birds!

The Imperial or Sisserou Parrot is endangered and is only found on Dominica.  This is a female.  Photo taken by Forestry Officer Stephen Durand.

The Imperial or Sisserou Parrot is endangered and is only found on Dominica. This is a female. Photo taken by Forestry Officer Stephen Durand.

I referred them to the classification system of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) where they would discover the survival status of specific species. They had no idea that Dominica’s two parrots, the Sisserou which is endangered and the Jaco which is vulnerable are only found on Dominica.  That means that they are endemic to this country alone!  However, some of the students wondered if they might have seen Jaco parrots on Martinique.  I could not confirm this, of course.  I do hope that they queried Mr. James.  The Jaco’s numbers are increasing and the distance between Dominica and Martinique is not great, so I wonder if it is possible…I will certainly check with my friend, Forestry Officer/Bird Specialist Bertrand ‘Dr. Birdy’ Jno Baptiste when I next see him!

Certainly, Dominica can be described as a bird enthusiast’s ‘heaven’.  Over 200 species of our feathered friends have been sighted here, although only about 50 are resident year-round (reference:birdlife.org).  Of course, the others are migratory.  The class was intrigued when I showed them a photo of a Blue-Headed Hummingbird, which is only found on Dominica and Martinique.  That means it is a ‘regional

The vibrant colouts of the male Blue-Headed Hummingbird are a sight to see. it is only found on Dominica and Martinique.

The vibrant colours of the male Blue-Headed Hummingbird are a sight to see. it is only found on Dominica and Martinique. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

endemic’!  I was very surprised that no one in the class had ever seen one on our sister island to the south.  I could only hope that they might catch a glimpse of one in the Syndicate area, as I had with ‘Dr. Birdy’.

Snakes and Lizards

Friends took me to see a nest of Boa Constrictors (locally called 'Tet-Chien' in Creole) on Canada day 2012.

Friends took me to see a nest of Boa Constrictors (locally called ‘Tete-Chien’ in Creole) on Canada Day 2012.

I showed the class a number of other photographs of animals on Dominica – at least my favourites!  They were really astonished by the possible length of the endemic species of Boa Constrictor snake – which can reach 10 feet!  I assured them that it was not poisonous, nor were the other three species that are found here.  While the confirmed numbers of this reptile are not exactly known, it is felt by some experts that they might be vulnerable, especially due to habitat loss and hunting.  They do play a vital role in keeping down the rat population.  I am always thrilled to come across one in the forest, which is not that often!

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The endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana (called Leza in Creole) is the largest lizard on Dominica. Recently some other types have colonized here from other countries.

The other reptile that I enjoy watching up close is the Lesser Antillean Iguana.  

Amazingly, the class had seen a bright green juvenile in the Botanical Gardens the previous day but didn’t know what it was!  It is the largest of about nine species that thrive on the Nature Island. Again, it has been suggested that  their numbers are in decline and that they are classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List.  However, on Dominica, these creatures are protected by law, so I hope they fare better here than on other islands.  I have seen them  in various locales along the west coast, including Champagne Beach, Mero Beach and  seaside at Coulibistrie.

This 'stick insect' is endemic to (only found on) Dominica!

This ‘stick insect’ is endemic to (only found on) Dominica!

Whales and Dolphins  and Other Mammals

Of course, I told them a little about the sea creatures as well, including a resident year-round pod of Sperm Whales, and plentiful dolphins.  A number of other types of whales are migratory and pass through Dominica’s waters annually.  Dominica is known as the ‘Whale Watch Capital of the Caribbean’, as the likelihood of spotting some cetaceans  on an excursion is very high.

Then we talked about  a few of the other 16 mammals that exist on Dominica:, including 12 species of bats, the rodent-like agouti, and manicou (opossum).  They are similar to, if not the same varieties on Martinique, according to some of the students.

Sea Turtles

There was a very lively discussion when I showed the class some video clips about the three types of endangered sea turtles that regularly nest on Dominica’s beaches (Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Green).  To see the females come in to  dig a nest and lay many eggs, or to watch hatchlings run into the sea are awesome sights.  As these animals are protected by law on Dominica, some students queried the balance between tradition and conservation.  Historically, turtle meat and eggs have been eaten by some people here.  There was  some concern  in the class about being denied one’s rights to eat a traditional food or to protect an endangered species.  It can be a delicate subject, but I urged the students to consider that if they were plentiful, and if there were no other food sources, I could understand the need to hunt them.  Most definitely, that is not the case these days, and anyone caught interfering with the turtles is arrested.  I also told the group that a number of community associations, especially on the east coast, patrol the beaches at night when the turtles come in.  They also offer turtle  watching tours!

Flora/Plants

There was so much to say about the flora and fauna found on Dominica that I ran out of time.  It was important to point out that the Smithsonian Institute In Washington D.C. has previously described Dominica as “a giant plant laboratory, unchanged for 10,000 years” (Fodor’s Caribbean, 1996).  I made sure to emphasize that there are over 1,000 flowering plants in Dominica, of which 11 species are only found here, and nowhere else!

These red and pink ginger lilies are called exotic plants because they were introduced to Dominica from sources in Malaysia.

These red and pink ginger lilies are called exotic plants because they were originally introduced to Dominica from sources in Malaysia.

These beautiful anthurium lilies belong to the monocotyledons class, of which tere are 186 species on the Nature Island

These beautiful anthurium lilies belong to the class of ‘monocotyledons’, of which there are 186 species on the Nature Island

Two species of heliconia flowers are only found on Dominica.

Two species of heliconia flowers are only found on Dominica.

Prolific Gommier Trees are indigenous to the caribbean region.  There are about 200 forest trees in Dominica.

Prolific Gommier Trees are indigenous to the Caribbean region. There are about 200 types of forest trees in Dominica.

I quickly showed them a few more photos of my favourites and then they were off for their excursion with retired forestry and wildlife expert Mr. Arlington James to learn more in the forest at the Syndicate Eco-site.

This "chicken of the forest' mushroom is edible, although there are other species on Dominica that are poisonous!

This “chicken of the forest’ mushroom is edible, although there are other species on Dominica that are poisonous!

I think they were truly amazed about the extraordinary amount of biodiversity on the tiny lush Nature Island!

* This mini English immersion programme was organized by Tina Alexander, Executive Director of Lifeline Ministries, Dominica.

Reference: Overview of the Flora and Fauna of Dominica [notes] prepared by Stephen Durand For Dominica State College Basic Skills Training Programme, October 2006.

English Immersion on the Nature Island: French Students Learn about Dominca’s Environment

Members of the English immersion class from Ludicademi in Martinique.  They certainly were model students, who listened attentively and participated actively in the sessions.

Some members of the English immersion class from Ludicademi English Language School in Martinique. They certainly were model students, who listened attentively and participated actively in the sessions.

When Tina Alexander, Executive Director of Lifeline Ministries approached me about teaching English to a group of adults from Martinique, I accepted with great  delight and slight trepidation.  My task was two-fold: to better  familiarize French speakers with conversational English and to give them an overview of  vocabulary for four important Dominican topics – its environment; flora and fauna; cuisine; and culture.  These particular students from Ludicademi English language school in Martinique spent a week on Dominica.Their visit included four mornings in the classroom with me at the University of West Indies Open Campus, and  educational outings every afternoon, as well as a full weekend of activities. It was an intensive English immersion program!

As I did not know their level of English while I was preparing their classroom material, it came as a big surprise to me when they declared that they were all “Beginners” at the start of our first session.  Upon reflection, they might have thought of themselves that way, but based on their collective interest, enthusiasm and participation, I certainly disagree!  Although they occasionally asked me not to speak so quickly, I could see and hear that they were taking in a considerable amount during our lessons about the Nature Island!

In fact, it was Gervase, the youngest student in the class who answered first when I asked what they thought about Dominica after having spent only a few hours on its terrain.  “”It is very beautiful!” she declared.  What a lovely way to introduce a discussion about Dominica’s pristine environment.

Dominica is called the Nature Island because of its abundant clean air, food and water. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Dominica is called the Nature Island because of its abundant clean air, food and water. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Dominica's magnificent rainforest predominates in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo taken from the peak of Morne Nicholls, en route to the Boiling Lake.  Morne Anglais can be seen in the distance.

Dominica’s magnificent rainforest predominates in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo taken within the park from the peak of Morne Nicholls, en route to the Boiling Lake. Morne Anglais can be seen in the distance.

With the aid of several relevant video clips about Dominica (such as Are You Breathing?  and organic farmer Roy Ormond )  as well as photos, the class observed and heard about environmental initiatives on the Nature Island.  During our conversations about what makes Dominica outstanding as the Nature Island,  ‘rainforest’ was repeated over and over.  I know  that they will never forget that word, and its importance in terms of Dominica’s biodiversity and protected wilderness.  They also heard a lot about organic farming,the importance of purchasing local produce,  and a proactive organisation on-island which supports sustainable  agricultural  practises,  called DOAM. 

Of course, they were told about the sustainable living movement in Dominica too: to reduce, reuse and recycle!

Organic produce is available on the Nature Island and is a growing commodity.

Organic produce is available on the Nature Island and is a growing commodity.

The Roseau Market is the perfect place to find plentiful locally-grown produce.

The Roseau Market is the perfect place to find plentiful locally grown produce.

Geothermal activity is plentiful on the Nature Island and the government intends to make good use of this type of renewable energy for the benefit of Dominicans. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

A wind turbine provides energy for Rosalie Bay Resort, which is located on the southeast coast of Dominica.

I also had a chance to show them  a sampling of  Dominica’s renewable energy initiatives through photos and subsequent discussion.  Certainly, they were familiar with geothermal, wind turbines, solar power and hydroelectricity, but only in their mother tongue!  Now they knew something about this type of environmental awareness in English too!

Dominica derives about 50 % of its energy from hydro-electricity.  Water is certainly commonplace on the Nature Island!

Dominica derives about 50 % of its energy from hydro-electricity. Water is certainly commonplace on the Nature Island! This is the mother cascade at the twin Trafalgar Falls.  A hydro generating station is nearby.

Lenny, a tour guide from the village of Woodfordhill takes hikers on Segments 7 and 8 of the Waitukubuli National Trail.  He knows these segments very well, as he helped to build them!

Lenny, a tour guide from the village of Woodfordhill takes hikers on Segments 7 and 8 of the Waitukubuli National Trail. He knows these segments very well, as he helped to build them!

We also touched on eco-tourism, which is a vital part of Dominica’s economy. Our conversation covered  health and wellness offerings

Papillote Wilderness Retreat  is an initmate hotel in the Roseau Valley that offers health and wellness pursuits.

Papillote Wilderness Retreat is an intimate hotel and spa in the Roseau Valley that offers health and wellness pursuits.

here (hiking, natural spas, river bathing, etc.), as well as community-based initiatives. Many villages in Dominica  welcome visitors to spend time with them, partake of activities in their communities and even stay in their homes to see how they live!

I think the class was truly amazed with the diversity of  environmentally based endeavors, organizations and objectives on Dominica!  This was reinforced by their visit to Roy Ormond’s organic farm in Bellevue Chopin and a tour of The Coal Pot natural soap factory in Grand Bay that afternoon.

Before their first English immersion class was over, I gave the students a fill-in-the-blanks quiz  about Dominica’s environment. They all answered very well.  Give it a try and see how you do!

Fill in the blanks:

 

1.     Solar energy is a ________________________ energy source.

 

2.     Dominica is called the ___________________________ (2 words) because of its clean environment.

 

3.     _________________ farming means that no chemicals are used on the plants or soil.

 

4.     Many visitors who come to Dominica wish to experience _________________ and _____________ activities.

 

5.     Eco-tourism on Dominica can include____________-_____________ tourism which helps many people in small villages to earn money to support their families.