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!

 

 

 

 

Ti Domnik Tales Blog Has Published 100 Posts about Dominica, the Nature Island!

Dominica, the Nature Island as seen from the coastal waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Dominica, the Nature Island as seen from the coastal waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Mission accomplished!  The piece I wrote about Kalinago Culture and History was the 100th article  posted on Ti Domnik Tales blog. I have now realized my original objective with this significant posting about an important cultural aspect of Dominica.  When I created  this blog in March 2012, I was not sure how far I would get in terms of the number of published posts.  But as you can see, the fascinating topics about the Nature Island are virtually endless!

Therefore, I will continue to write about my experiences on Dominica, as there is much more terrain to cover! Postings may be more sporadic though, as I am turning my attention to my other blog which has been dormant for a while.

Gwendominica walks on red rocks at beautiful Pointe Baptiste, on Dominica's northeast coast - to be presented in a forthcoming post.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Gwendominica walks on famous Red Rocks at beautiful Pointe Baptiste, on Dominica’s northeast coast – to be presented in a forthcoming post. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

During the summer of 2014, I will be posting on: www.canarygal.wordpress.com

My Canary Gal blog focuses on  environmental  health  issues and personal experiences related to living with  this challenge.  In fact, I moved to Dominica so that I could better manage this increasingly common condition.  Watch for my travel diary as I spend a little time in” my home and native land” – as this Canary flies north for a few weeks.

I will post the introductory paragraphs on this blog for a short time only with a link to each complete piece on Canary Gal.  I do hope you will be able to join me (vicariously) for some Canadian  summer fun and adventure.  If you are curious about what happens next while I am “home,”  kindly click the ‘follow’ box which you will find midway down the right hand side of the page.

I would be remiss if I did not renew heartfelt thanks to my immediate and extended family, friends near and far,  faithful “followers’ (close to 100!) those who ‘like” me (almost 90!) and/or particular pieces, the people who care to share a comment or two and the thousands of  interested readers from around the world.  Your continued support means a great deal, and helps to keep me motivated to write about the wonderful experiences that form part of my  life on Dominica, the Nature Island.

With appreciation,

Gwendominica

Author

Ti Domnik Tales and Canary Gal blogs

 

 

Ti Domnik Tales Receives Distinction as Expat Blog of the Month!

EB_ENG1213I am delighted to be recognized by  expat blog, ‘the living abroad website, by expats, for expats’ this December as their ‘Blog of the Month’.  You might like to check out other fascinating expat  blogs on Dominica and many  other countries  around the world by registering to become a member of the expat blog  website here.    It’s a great resource for networking with other expatriates, getting information about particular countries, making new friends and finding our about their experiences around the globe. Special thanks to Julie and the expat blog team for their special interest in Ti Domnik Tales.

YOU CAN READ MY INTERVIEW ON EXPAT BLOG HERE.

Why I Like to Hike on the Nature Island

Gwendominica departs the Valley of Desolation and commences the arduous climb up Morne Nicholls on the challenging Boiling Lake trail.  Photo taken by Liz Madisetti.

“” Gwendominica departs the Valley of Desolation and commences the arduous climb up Morne Nicholls on the challenging return from the Boiling Lake. Photo taken by Liz Madisetti.

Recently, I was contacted by the folks at Backpack ME and asked if I would be interested in writing a short piece on Dominica for their feature entitled Around the World in 80 Posts.    

My article was published in Backpack ME on July 17, 2013 and you can read it and other fabulous entries for The Americas and Caribbean HERE!

 

It's a real 'high' to get lost in the clouds hovering over Freshwater Lake in Morne Trois Piton National Park.  Photo taken by Edwin Whitford.

It’s a real ‘high’ to get lost in the clouds hovering over Freshwater Lake in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Photo taken by Edwin Whitford.

 

Zara, travel writer and videographer of Backpack ME had this  to say about my piece:

“Thanks so much for such a nice contribution about such a rare place!
I NEVER come across articles about Dominica in all the travel blogs I read, so I’m very happy we can include something about it in this collaborative post.”

Admittedly, it was a little tricky to encapsulate my intrepid experiences in 300 words, but it was a good exercise in brevity.  It also caused me to seriously ponder why I like to hike on the Nature Island.  I never could have dreamed that I would have been able to cover so much ground on Dominica in 16+ years!

So let me share this secret with you and hope that it will inspire you to do something outside of your comfort zone today!

Hikers a generally a very social lot and always help each other when the going gets a little tough (as on Segment 7 of teh Waitukubuli National Trail)!

Hikers are generally a very social lot and always help each other when the going gets a little tough (as on Segment 7 of the Waitukubuli National Trail)!

I am so glad that I can say I successfully climbed up and then got back down Morne Diablotins, Dominica's highest peak with my brother in 1999.  It was an 8 hour journey that we will never forget!  Photo taken ny Liz Madisetti, at the trailhead which intersects with Segment 10 of the Waitukubuli National Trail.

I am so glad that I can say I successfully climbed up and then got back down Morne Diablotins, Dominica’s highest peak with my brother in 1999. It was an 8 hour journey that we will never forget! Photo taken in 2012 by Liz Madisetti, at the trailhead which intersects with Segment 10 of the Waitukubuli National Trail.

I like to hike on the Nature Island because:

  1. I feel so much better physically in pure clean air  with no sources of pollution in sight.
  2. Being connected to nature – surrounded by so many shades of green is a visual delight!
  3. I am able to overcome psychological fears and physical limitations by thinking positively and believing in myself.
  4. I am always in the company of people who feel the same way I do about nature and physical activity.
  5. I can push myself  a little, knowing that my companions support and encourage me.
  6. The physiological effects of the hike (endorphins and adrenalin, perhaps) give me a tremendous sense of well-being and calmness.
  7. Being surrounded by nature has given me an even greater respect for and desire to preserve our precious environment.
  8. It’s a great way to distract from worries and cares by experiencing and discovering something new or different on the trails.
  9. It gives me a tremendous sense of accomplishment to have completed a challenging trek.
  10. I can apply the life skills learned on the trail to everyday situations.
The spectacular Atlantic awaited me after a lovely little hike down the Glassy Trail from Boetica, in Dominica's southeast.  Photo taken by Edwin Whitford.

The spectacular Atlantic awaited me after a lovely little hike down the Glassy Trail from Boetica, in Dominica’s southeast. Photo taken by Edwin Whitford.

So, no matter where you are this summer, go and do something physical and perhaps a little more challenging than your usual routine in the great outdoors.

I think that Segment 1 of the WNT is my favourite – done in reverse – that is, from Soufriere to Scotts Head. But I am not going to tell you why! You have to give it a try! Photo taken by Simon Walsh of Images Dominica for the DHTA.

Let me know if it works for you!

Crossing the mighty Layou River eight times on the Jaco Flats/Steps Hike was defintiely beyond my wildest dreams!  Photo taken by Simon Walsh of Images Dominica for the Dominica Hotel & Tourism Association

Crossing the mighty Layou River eight times on the Jaco Flats/Steps Hike was definitely beyond my wildest dreams! Photo taken by Simon Walsh of Images Dominica for the Dominica Hotel & Tourism Association

‘Ma Pampo’ and the Centenarians of Dominica*

Dominica's Mountainous Terrain, Lush Valleys and Clear Sky
Photo by Edwin Whitford

‘Longevity’ is a household word on Dominica, the Nature Island.

Presently, around 20 centenarians thrive as part of the country’s 70,000 people. That’s about three seniors over the age of 100 for every 10,000 residents. Reports suggest that their prevalence in the population is higher than most developed western countries!

A scientific study has examined a number of common traits among these 100-plus-year-olds. The findings suggest that this accomplishment is neither coincidence nor is it genetic.

Consider Elizabeth “Ma Pampo” Israel, who passed away in Dominica on October 14, 2003 at the extraordinary age of 128 years.

In 1999, a curious caregiver found a copy of her baptismal certificate in local Roman Catholic Church records. It indicated that her birth date was January 27, 1875. Shortly afterwards, a Dominican broadcast journalist announced this amazing piece of news to the media. Then Pampo achieved international notoriety in various publications including Time Magazine (February 14, 2000), as well as mentions on popular television programs.

However, the original birth record was destroyed by Hurricane David in 1979 and a building fire that same year burned the relevant government documentation. Therefore, the Guinness Book of Records could not authenticate the claim that Ma Pampo was the oldest human ever.

Nevertheless, the Government of Dominica and senior church officials remain proud to acknowledge Ma Pampo’s incredible achievement. She received the country’s highest tribute, the Dominica Award of Honour in 2002. When she died, hundreds of people attended her official ‘state’ funeral.

Dominican broadcaster and playwright Alex Bruno spent much time with Ma Pampo during the last few years of her life. He considers her the link to Dominica’s historic past from the modern world. She candidly revealed some insights as to the possible reasons for her abundance of time on earth. He was so inspired by her revelations that he wrote and staged a play entitled Pampo: the Drama, which is about her life. (www.cakafete.com/pampo).

Although she was the oldest of six children, she laboured on a plantation near Portsmouth on the northwestern coast of Dominica from a young age and retired when she was 104. She married “later in life” and had one child – a son, when she was in her forties. Her priorities were to take care of herself, her family and her job. Her daily toil initially earned her a penny a day. While she did not have many material goods, she managed with what she had.

Many varieties of locally grown fruits are found at the Roseau Market.

Organic produce is readily available on the Nature Island.

Even at an advanced age, she was very particular about what she ate. She felt that no one would live long if they ate fruits and vegetables contaminated by synthetic fertilizers. It was also clear that she practised a holistic lifestyle. Pampo firmly believed and demonstrated that people should embrace simplicity, honesty, good faith and proper health care – along with humour, patience and kindness every day of their lives.

A healthy diet can still be easily obtained on Dominica, thanks to fertile soil for growing numerous natural foods.

Coincidentally, a scientific research report was undertaken by professors at the Portsmouth Dominica campus of Ross University Medical School. It is entitled ‘Extreme Longevity in Dominica, West Indies: A Population Study’ (2004).


The results disclosed that there are specific trends and characteristics in common that prevail throughout the lives of other centenarians as well as Ma Pampo.

Clean fresh water is abundant on the Nature Island.
Photo by Edwin Whitford

It also revealed that Dominica’s pristine environment, very low levels of pollution, tranquil surroundings, minimal stress, abundant organic produce, high-protein, low-fat consumption; minimal use of alcohol and cigarettes, and clean water have enhanced the long lives of the centenarians. Life-long physical activity and accessible public health care also contributed to their well-being.

Elizabeth ‘Ma Pampo” Israel was a humble, hardworking, clean living person who did not bring any prominence upon herself. The remarkably similar healthy lifestyles of all living centenarians in the above-mentioned research study serve as an example to all that the right ingredients for a long life are readily available on Dominica – the Nature Island of the World.

Copyright ©2008, 2012 by Gwenith M. Whitford. All Rights Reserved.

*This post was originally published on a web site in 2008 that has since closed down.  There have been a few slight changes to the piece to make it current.  Pictures of Ma Pampo will be found on some of the linked web sites.

Online Resources and Links (2012):           

www.avirtualdominica.com/mapampo.htm

www.thedominican.net/pampotwo.htm

http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/all-news/general/census-shows-slight-decrease-in-population-haitians-main-migrants-to-dominica/

Hard Copy:

‘Irma is one hundred’ in The Sun Newspaper, Commonwealth of Dominica, Monday November 21, 2011, Front Page.

Whitford, Gwenith. ‘How to live to be 100’ in Queen’s Alumni Review (Kingston, Ontario Canada), Spring 2002, Back Page.


An Afternoon in the Rainforest

gwendominica on the suspension bridge over the Breakfast River Gorge 300 feet below.

UPDATE: MAY 30, 2012.

Dominica’s Rainforest Aerial Tram has ceased operations.  This is a very sad day for the tourism industry in Dominica.  I wish all the staff the best of luck and thank them for providing an excellent tourism product.  For further information, consult:

http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/business/sixty-six-jobless-as-aerial-tram-shuts-down/  and

http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/business/aerial-tram-dominica-explains-shut-down/

On a cool and drizzly Sunday afternoon, I accepted a friend’s invitation to join her and members of the Dominican Welfare and Hospital Aid Scheme on an outing to Laudat in Dominica’s interior .  In this lush location, we took a tour on the Rainforest Aerial Tram. (http://www.rainforestadventure.com/)

I had not been back to take another Tram tour since it first opened in 2003!  I wasn’t really sure what to expect after all those years.  When we arrived, we had to wait for some time, as a number of groups from a cruise ship were preparing to board the gondolas which could each only hold 8 guests and a guide. In the mean time, there was delectable Dominican coffee to drink, sheltered picnic tables upon which to sit and spectacular scenery to admire at the ‘ground level’.

After about half an hour, we were asked to assemble in an orderly  fashion and we quickly  boarded several of the 22 gondolas in preparation for our above-ground tour.  Our ascent would begin at about 2,000 feet above sea level.  We would climb to 2,500 feet (the upper limit of the rainforest) where we would disembark for a brief walking tour.  Then we  would descend on another cable line that would keep us above the tree-tops for most  of the return journey.

Our friendly guide, Craig Johnson  incessantly plied us with piles of  fascinating facts about the flora, fauna, geology and history  of Dominica for more than one hour. My only regret is that I was not carrying a notebook .There was so much to remember!

A friendly ‘Parasite’ forms a symbiotic relationship with a tree

Craig told us about the four levels of the rainforest and its abundant foliage. There seemed to be endless plants, trees, flowers and birds thriving in this moist and fertile terrain.  He especially amazed us with his in-depth knowledge of plants and their scientific names, as well as their English and Creole versions.  I was further impressed with his understanding of the medicinal and traditional uses of a number of  plants. It seemed that a remedy for almost every ailment can be found in the rainforest.  We saw plants that could alleviate migraines, reduce hypertension, soothe sores and enhance sexual vitality, among other things.  We all  agreed that nature’s pharmacy is obviously found on the Nature Isle.

The plaintive calls of thrushes and the melodious trills of the elusive mountain whistler accompanied us as we  slowly moved along while admiring all of the stunning sights. “Rider,” a bold little Bullfinch hopped on board for part of our excursion as he searched hopefully for a crumb or two.  We were certainly completely immersed in our rainforest experience!

While we oooed and aaahed at this ‘heaven on earth’, Craig  reminded us that there are frighteningly few rainforests and that they only cover  about 6 % of the entire planet.  These precious portions of land are too vital to our survival  to ever be destroyed again.

As an avid hiker, I also paid strict attention to which plants could provide food and water in case I were ever lost  in Dominica’s  dense  jungle.

But next time, I’ll be sure to bring that notebook!

Magnificent buttresses of the Chatannye (pronounced Sha-tah-nay)tree.They are a prominent and spectacular sight in Dominica’s rainforest areas.

The rainforest here is dense and lush with hundreds of plants and trees, which have regenerated since Category 4 Hurricane David wiped most of them out in 1979.

Look out below! The depths of the Breakfast River Gorge 300′ below the suspension bridge. It flows into the ‘mother’ or female cascade at the twin Trafalgar Falls.

Mighty Morne Macaque (French) Micotrin (Carib) which means monkey in English is one of Dominica’s highest mountains at 4,006 as seen from the upper descending gondola line’. There are no monkeys on the Nature Isle, but you would have to be one to climb it!

Another Day in Dominica

But this is no ordinary day, I should say.  That’s because I have finally decided to post some articles, thoughts, and feelings about Dominica on my new blog.

It’s slow going, but that is the name of the game here.  I am on ‘island time’, after all.As a long time resident of Dominica, I feel very much at home here on the Nature Island.  I am very fortunate to benefit from the bountiful clean air, food and water on this lesser-known island in the Caribbean. It has been said repeatedly, that if Christopher Columbus were to revisit the Caribbean now, Dominica would be the only island that he would easily recognize.  I feel very lucky to live here, and my health has benefited from it tremendously.

Today is very showery and breezy, typical of this time of year when the strong trade winds from the east blow over Dominica’s tall mountains and low clouds moisten the exotic rainforest and the seaside.

More about me later, as this blog unfolds.  For now,meditate upon a photo or two of this lovely island until my next episode.