Saying Au Revoir to Special French Friends in Dominica

The Alliance Francaise is located on the Elmshall Road near the intersection with the Valley Road, on the eastern side of Roseau's Botannical Gardens.

The Alliance Francaise is located on the Elmshall Road near the intersection with the Valley Road, on the eastern side of Roseau’s Botanical Gardens.

Some of my most enjoyable experiences in Dominica have arisen from the events and programs offered at the Alliance Française de la Dominique.This French cultural institution has played a significant part in my life on the Nature Island – and I am very grateful for its presence here.

Gemma is the warm and welcoming Administrative Assistant at the Alliance Francaise de la Dominique. She can assist you with any questions about classes or events - in both English and French!

Gemma is the warm and welcoming Administrative Assistant at the Alliance Francaise de la Dominique. She can help you with any questions about classes or events – in both English and French!

During the past one and a half years, I have gotten to know a very special French couple through the Alliance Française:  Carole Bogdanovscky and Gildas Lefèvre.  Carole took up her duties as Director in September 2012 and taught the most advanced course that is offered at this time:  the ‘C1’ as per the Ministry of Education in France.  As I had previously completed all the courses leading up to this one, I decided to take it, knowing very well that it would be a challenge!

We worked through  a number of very in-depth and sometimes scholarly articles, which were rife with new vocabulary and unfamiliar terminology. I also learned an incredible amount about the Republic of France, its lengthy and fascinating history, as well as many items of great interest to me in terms of its rich and renowned culture.  Sometimes I really struggled to understand the topics and to communicate well, but Carole was always encouraging and completely dedicated to helping me and my classmate understand so much about her exceptional country and its beautiful language in a short span of time.

In addition, her husband Gildas, who is a computer software engineer by profession freely offered a conversation class every Friday afternoon. In this setting, we covered a range of topics, including Québec and the  Mayor of Toronto (2013-14) – en franςais, bien sûr!  I don’t think Gildas realized at the time that he has a penchant for teaching, but those of us in the class who have spent time in front of students agree that he definitely has a knack for this fine profession!  We really had a lot of fun – the word games increased our vocabulary and as we had a collective interest in cuisine, we also had opportunities to savour fine foods with a French flair – not only from France, but from other Francophone countries too!  You can read about some of my experiences with la gastronomie franςaise here and here!

With Carole’s contract in Dominica completed as of January 31, 2014, I await the new director and continue with revision classes in a course I have already  successfully passed with another exceptional instructor, Julien St. Jean.  He is a Dominican teacher who studied in France.  And yes, the review is certainly helpful too!

I am very sad to see Carole and Gildas leave the Nature Island, but I do understand that this young couple has plenty of  other plans to undertake immediately.

Before they left, I queried them about their somewhat short stay in Dominica with a few questions.  It seems to me that we will likely see them on the Nature Island again someday!  Here is what they had to say en anglais:

Gwendominica:   How do you feel about leaving Dominica after 1 1/2 years?
Carole: I would say that we have mixed feelings about leaving Dominica. On one hand, we are heart-broken to leave this beautiful country and above all, all the wonderful the people we’ve met here. On the other hand, we feel like we have made the most of our short stay and we are excited about the future and our upcoming projects
    Gildas: I would say the same, it is a mixed feeling. I am really happy about our next adventure but I am so sad to leave this beautiful island and all the amazing people we met and are going to miss.
Gwendominica: What did you like most about Dominica?
Carole and Gildas: Its lushness and its loudness! The rugged landscapes, fabulous sunsets, gorgeous waterfalls and lakes, rejuvenating hot springs, and above all the truly wonderful people we met here.
Gwendominica: What was your greatest challenge in Dominica?
Carole: From a professional point of view, adapting to  “Island Time” was a challenge: things can take more time in Dominica than what I’m used to. But I will mainly remember all the positive things when I think of Dominica in the future.

Gildas prepared two French Favourites: Boeuf Bourgingnon and Chicken Colombo for the Francophone Food Fair in March 2013.  He certainly does love to cook!

Gildas prepared two French Favourites: Boeuf Bourgingnon and Chicken Colombo for the Francophone Food Fair in March 2013. He certainly does love to cook!

   Gildas: My main challenge when I arrived was to learn how to cook new vegetables! I am really fond of cooking and it was a real pleasure to try new recipes.

Carole organized a Francophone Food Fair in March.  I and many others devoured the food that Gildas prepared for this event!

Carole organized a Francophone Food Fair in March 2013, which included a number of Francophone countries, including Dominica and Canada!

 Gwendominica: What were some of the things that you did for fun in Dominica?
Carole and Gildas: All types of outdoors activities: we went hiking, canyoning, diving, snorkeling, kayaking… Dominica is a nature-lover’s paradise, and I think we were very lucky to enjoy so much of what the country has to offer.
Gwendominica: Did you make any personal accomplishments in Dominica?

Gildas got to take a break from cooking as I hosted a Christmas lunch for him and Carole and my cla

Gildas got to take a break from cooking as I hosted a Christmas lunch for him and Carole and my classmates.

Carole and Gildas: We eventually completed the Waitukubuli National Trail! We are extremely proud of that, even if it took us one year.  We’ve met tourists doing it in 10 days…  Carole also started diving, and I could not dream of a better environment than Dominica to do so. Gildas also became a true Creole cuisine chef!
Gwendominica: Where are you going now and what will you be doing?
Carole: I will be going to India where I will work as deputy director of a Linguistic center. Then after a few months in Paris, we will move to New York, where Gildas will start a new job.
Gwendominica: Do you think you will ever return to Dominica?
  Carole: We do hope so!
Gwendominica: Is there anything else you would like to say about your experiences in Dominica?
Carole and Gildas: We would like to thank all our French students for their motivation and dedication throughout the year!

Carole and Gildas came for a Canadian Christmas lunch at my home on December 17, 2013.

Carole and Gildas came for a Canadian Christmas lunch at my home on December 27, 2013.

It was such a pleasure to get to know Carole and Gildas.  They helped me so much to improve my French and learn more about their country. At the same time, they enjoyed Dominica and some other countries in the region to the max!  They’ve kept a blog of their adventures and experiences.   It is called: Two Froggies in Dominica.You can read it here.  It is written in French, but even if you need to take a few lessons to understand all of it, you can enjoy their amazing photos in the mean time.
Until I meet  them again, and I just know that I will, be it France, New York, Toronto, Montreal or Dominica, I would like to  sincerely thank Carole and Gildas for adding another incredible experience to my life in Dominica.  Bonne chance et au revoir!

Savouring Fine Flavours at the Francophone Food Fair in Dominica

As a long-time French  language student of the Alliance Française in Dominica, I  enjoy participating in the various cultural activities that are offered to the public by this active institution.

The Francophone Food Fair at the Alliance Francaise  formed part of the activities held during International Francophonie Month.

The Francophone Food Fair at the Alliance Francaise formed part of the activities held during International Francophonie Month.

During March, much of the world observes International Francophonie Month and Dominica is no exception.  Apart from special French  performances in dance, theatre, poetry and a Mademoiselle Francophonie pageant, one of the highlights for me was the opportunity to taste foods from several countries who are members of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. Of course, Canada as a nation and the provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick  form part of this group of 75  states and governments  comprising 56 members and 19 observers.

I happily prepared some

Gwendominica baked goodies from well tested Canadian recipes.  She tempted customers with oatmeal almond cookies; coconut/chocolate brownies; dark fruit cake; and Aunt Vivian's carrot-banana bread.

Gwendominica baked goodies from well-tested Canadian recipes. She tempted customers with oatmeal-almond cookies; coconut/chocolate brownies; dark fruit cake; and Aunt Vivian’s carrot-banana bread.  Photo taken by my French conversation professor, Gildas.

desserts for the occasion, as a proud Canadian who is Québécoise by birth.  Although I was the only table out of seven that offered sweets, they seemed to go down well after about 100 customers had consumed delectable main courses from six other countries:  Congo; Côte d’Ivoire; Dominica; Haiti; France; and Lebanon.  I can assure you that all the dishes were definitely more than delicious!  And the prices for the exquisite offerings were very reasonable too.

Proceeds from this event helped to off-set the costs of hosting  performers Catherine Denecy, a contemporary dancer from Guadeloupe and French actor Jacques Martial, who appeared in  a theatrical piece called  “Notebook of a Return to my Native Land” (Cahier d`un retour au pays natal). It was created by the late Martiniquais playwright Aimé Césaire.  I immensely enjoyed both shows and appreciated the opportunities to experience the high-calibre productions of these renowned  foreign artistes.

As for the culinary arts (and sciences), I already knew what one of my main courses would be before I entered the Food Fair. The instructor of my French conversation course, Gildas Lefèvre, had told the class a few days earlier about his chosen recipes for the event: Boeuf Bourguignon and Chicken Colombo.  I sampled the exotic chicken dish.  It was divine.  The French people seem to have a flair for creating and cooking flavourful foods  (la gastronomie).  I guess it was my lucky day!

Gwendominica student at the Alliance Francaise  posed during a quiet moment with her French conversation professor, Gildas. Photo taken by fellow classmate, Geis.

Gwendominica, student at the Alliance Francaise posed during a quiet moment with her French conversation professor, Gildas. Photo taken by fellow French conversation classmate, Gys.

Gildas represented France well with his exotic preparations of Boeuf Bourguignon with potatoes and Chicken Colombo with rice. 'Colombo' is a combination of spices with a curry-like flavour that orginates in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Gildas represented France well with his exotic preparations of Boeuf Bourguignon with potatoes and Chicken Colombo with rice. ‘Colombo’ is a combination of spices with a curry-like flavour that originated in Guadeloupe and Martinique.

Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of the Alliance Francaise sold tickets and drinks to eager customers, such as my classmate, Geis.

Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of the Alliance Francaise sold food tickets and drinks to eager customers, such as my French conversation classmate, Gys.

Gildas serves dishes from France to his French conversation students husband and wife Geis and Georgie.

Gildas serves dishes from France to his French conversation students husband and wife Gys and Georgie.

Mr. Raffoul (right) served up his delectable Lebanese dishes to enthusiastic customers.

Mr. Raffoul (right) served up his delectable Lebanese dishes to enthusiastic customers.

The delegation representing Lebanon offered numerous dishes to many interested people.  Mr.  Raffoul, a superb chef, has a reputation around Roseau for the delectable dishes that he serves up at special

events and private parties.  It had been a several years since I savoured such  mouth-watering hummus and tasty taboulleh, which perfectly satisfied my vegetarian side.

Yann, propietor of Le Petit Paris Bakery and Monsieur Agpa, a professor at the Alliance Francaise offered hungry customers a taste of Cote d'Ivoire.

Yann (right), proprietor of the delectable Le Petit Paris Bakery and Monsieur Akpa, a professor at the Alliance Francaise offered hungry customers a taste of Cote d’Ivoire.

I was curious to try the chicken in a flavourful peanut sauce from a Côte d’Ivoire, French West Africa recipe, but unfortunately my pre-existing nut allergy prevented that.

Ronnie, representing Congo preapred teh savoury Sakasaka. Yann, proprietor of Le Petit Paris Bakery, assisted with preparations at the Cote d'Ivoire table.  It was pleasure for participants to sample these unfamiliar foreign flavours!

Ronnie (left), representing Congo prepared the savoury Sakasaka. Yann, proprietor of Le Petit Paris Bakery, assisted with preparations at the Cote d’Ivoire table. It was pleasure for participants to sample these unfamiliar foreign flavours!

About 100 people came to the Alliance Francaise to experience different tastes from seven different Francophone countries.

About 100 people came to the Alliance Francaise to experience different tastes from seven different Francophone countries over 3 hours on Sunday March 17, 2013.

However, from all accounts, it was definitely delicious!  Fortunately, I was able to indulge in another French-African dish from the Congo, called Sakasaka.  It was made from finely chopped  manioc (cassava) leaves and a delicately seasoned fish (tuna, I think).  I really liked it!

The dishes on the Haitian table were all labelled in Creole.  I didn't have to understand the words in order to enjoy the tastes!

The dishes on the Haitian table were all labelled in the  Creole language. I didn’t have to understand the words to enjoy the tastes!

I was busy at my Canadian table until almost the end of the event.  Finally, I had a

Lovely Anaila, who represented Haiti, welcomed everyone to the Food Fair and introduced a group of young Haitian-Dominican dancers.

Lovely Anaila, who represented Haiti, welcomed everyone to the Food Fair and introduced a group of young Haitian-Dominican dancers.

chance to go to the Haitian table, where I was acquainted with some of the servers, but not their foods.  There, the lovely and friendly ladies ladled out  complimentary samples of all their  vegetarian dishes for me.  My recyclable containers were filled to the top!

At 3 p.m., the Food Fair was ready to close down. I had a few pieces of Carrot-Banana Bread left-over, but I wished to share them before I departed. With the permission of Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of the Alliance Française, her husband Gildas Lefèvre took the plate of sweet-bread around the room.  It came back empty within minutes.

Carole, Director and professor at the Alliance Francaise and her husband Gildas, who teaches French conversation smile with satisfaction at the successful conclusion of the International Francophone Food Fair.

Carole Bogdanovscky, Director and professor at the Alliance Francaise and her husband Gildas Lefevre, who teaches a French conversation class smile with satisfaction at the successful conclusion of the International Francophone Food Fair.

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Some young Haitian dancers entertained the diners and servers at the Francophone Food Fair.

Both consumers and servers were satisfied with the results of this culinary international francophone event. The Alliance Française was delighted to have had the opportunity to present various Francophone cultures that exist in Dominica.

And  I was also happy to have a few delicious ready-to-serve exotic meals in my fridge for the next couple of days!

*With special thanks to Carole Bogdanovscky, Director of Alliance Française de la Dominique for reviewing this draft.  Her tremendous  efforts to promote the French language and culture  in Dominica are very much appreciated. I am also grateful as a student to benefit from her dedicated and patient  instruction in the classroom!