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

 

 

 

Two Months after Tropical Storm Erika: An Independence Season of Reflection, Renewal and Hope

Morne Trois Pitons towers over the island's interior on a beautiful day several weeks after Tropical Storm Erika. A land slide on the right bank can be seen here.

Morne Trois Pitons towers over the island’s interior on a beautiful day several weeks after Tropical Storm Erika. A landslide on the right bank can be seen here.

As Dominica continued to recover from the devastating after-effects caused by Tropical Storm Erika, this year’s Independence

activities reflected the overall mood of the nation with quiet celebrations and ongoing efforts to rebuild the country.

I was on-island for about a month before I ventured beyond the environs of Roseau. My neighbour’s mother, with whom I was acquainted had recently passed away

The Wesley Catholic Church is a beautiful house of worship on Dominica's northeast coast.

The Wesley Catholic Church is a beautiful house of worship on Dominica’s northeast coast.

and I honoured her memory by attending her funeral in Wesley, on the northeast coast of the island. Buses had been organized to take attendees across the mountainous interior, and I was fortunate to take a front seat for the best view of the terrain.  Of course, my camera was in hand, as I was curious to capture the current state of the land one month after my return.

While major landslides had been cleared, there was still evidence of instability with occasional mounds of dirt and stones blocking one

The Layou River overflowed its banks in the area of the village of Bells, in Dominica's interior.

The Layou River overflowed its banks near the village of Bells, in Dominica’s interior, leaving severely eroded banks following T.S. Erika.

lane of the  interior highway.  As well, this main road had been undermined in several locations where it followed along the course of  powerful rivers, such as the Layou and the Laurent near Bells, deep in the Heart of Dominica. Restoration works were also well underway around the perimeter of Douglas-Charles

Morne Diablotin, Dominica's highest mountain forms a misty backdrop to the repair works underway at the Douglas-Charles Airport.

Morne Diablotin, Dominica’s highest mountain forms a misty backdrop to the repair works underway at the Douglas-Charles Airport.

Airport at Melville Hall, following the repair and reopening of the runway where I had  safely landed a few weeks earlier.

When I arrived at Wesley, I joined hundreds of others at the Catholic Church in that village for the funeral of Theresa Gordon.  We collectively paid tribute to a lady who was obviously very well  respected by all who knew her or her immediate family. Despite the sadness of the occasion, it was clearly evident to me that feelings of love and good will prevailed.  I think that ‘Ma Gordon”, as I called her, would have been very happy about that and I was moved by the positive atmosphere that surrounded me there.  I was reminded once again, that despite tragedy and loss, Dominicans are a very resilient people who determinedly ‘carry on’, no matter what challenges they have endured!

Cartwheel Cafe offers tasty breakfasts - not just on Creole Day, but every day! The seasoned codfish, boiled egg and breadfruit makes a very filling meal.

Cartwheel Cafe offers tasty breakfasts – not just on Creole Day, but every day! The seasoned codfish, boiled egg and breadfruit make a very filling meal.

This year, persistent inclement weather put a bit of a damper on Creole Day

Many seamstresses create beautiful variations on traditional Creole wear - for all shapes and sizes!

Skilled seamstresses create beautiful variations on traditional Creole wear – for all shapes and sizes!

festivities, but it did not prevent me from enjoying delicious traditional foods, especially the vegetarian and fish varieties. And I always enjoy the seasonal fashions, created with bright madras fabrics, although I was more subdued with my style of  dress this year. The spirit of the season was definitely ‘out there’, but in a low key and respectful

Simone at Kai-K Boutique poses beside the manequin beside Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront.

Simone at Kai-K Boutique poses beside the mannequin close to Cartwheel Cafe on the Bayfront.

way.With the cancellation of the World Creole Music Festival and Creole in the Park  due to the post-T.S. Erika situation, the streets were much quieter too.

Who is this' belle dame'? If you think you know, let me know!

Who is this’ belle dame’? If you think you know, let me know!

It is my usual annual habit to breakfast at Cartwheel Café on the Bayfront in Roseau. The staff is consistently in high spirits, and clients always seem to be in a Creole mood as they eat and chat with each other, which suits me fine!

Piano teacher Leanne looks very sweet in a lavender/rose-hued madras blouse, with matching lipstick and eye glass frames!

Piano teacher Leanne looks very sweet in a lavender/rose-hued madras blouse, with matching lipstick and eye-glass frames!

I devoured my codfish and breadfruit breakfast there, then wandered the streets searching for the Creole spirit.  I did find it here and there, and took pleasure from conversations with friends and strangers. When it began to rain more heavily,

I couldn't wait to take a bite from this avacodo/accras infused whole wheat bake from Stone Love Ital Shop on Cross St. in Roseau.

I couldn’t wait to take a bite from this avocado/accras infused whole wheat ‘bake’ from Stone Love Ital Shop on Cross St. in Roseau.

I purchased a large cup of tangy pomme-citan juice and an avocado vegan accras ‘bake’ from Stone Love Ital Shop. Then I picked up a few slices of rum cake and banana cake from the Urban Garden Café around the corner before heading home to savour these treats a little later.  (More on those two wonderful  natural foods eateries in the next post!)

I feasted on these filling avacado/farine (cassava flour) balls made by Marvo and staff at her snackette on Independence Street.

I feasted on these filling avocado/farine (cassava flour) balls made by Marvo and staff at her popular snackette on Independence Street.

I do confess to indulging in a delicious  vegetarian pizza  at Fusion Village Restaurant in the heart of Roseau  the next day.

It was wonderful to meet with my 'sister' Liz and friend Nancy (photographer) for pizza adn treats at the Fusion Village Restaurant over the Independence weekend.

It was wonderful to meet with my ‘sister’ Liz and friend Nancy (photographer) for pizza and treats at the Fusion Village Restaurant in Roseau over the Independence weekend.

However, the

I met up with other Creole-inspired friends at the Roseau Market: Anne (l) from Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar Karen from Roots Farm Organic Produce in Cochrane.

I met up with other Creole-inspired friends at the  Saturday Roseau Market: Anne (l) from Papillote Wilderness Retreat in Trafalgar and Karen from Roots Farm Organic Produce in Cochrane.

objective was to meet and spend time with good friends with whom I hadn’t really connected since my return from Canada.  Our lengthy lunch  and catch-up certainly added to my personal enjoyment of this unique Creole Season. Thanks Nancy and Liz!

The Freewinds Cruise Ship glowed at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berthon the evening of Kai & Vicki's Kids' Charity fundraiser in aid of children in need in Dominica

The Freewinds Cruise Ship glowed with anticipation at the Roseau Cruise Ship Berth on the evening of Kai & Vicki’s Kids’ Charity fundraiser in aid of needy children in Dominica.

Independence celebrations were far from over, but the highlight for me was the special fundraising concert that I had the pleasure of attending on the Freewinds Cruise Ship on Sunday November 1st.At this auspicious occasion, internationally renowned Dominican singer Michele Henderson offered her talents, along with the Freewinds band and other first class musicians from the Nature Island in aid of the Kai & Vickie Kids’ Charity, which

Vickie & Kai hold up an autographed West Indies Cricket Team shirt, which was auctioned off on the spot!

Vickie & Kai (after whom the charity is named)hold up an autographed West Indies Cricket Team shirt, which was auctioned off  for a ‘steal’ on the spot!

Michele is a phenomenal flautist, as well as a powerful singer, with a brilliant and versatile soprano voice.

Michele is a phenomenal flautist, as well as a powerful singer, with a brilliant and versatile soprano voice.

supports underprivileged children locally.

Michele opened the performance with some well known songs from Dominica. Her husband Junior is on bass guitar.

Michele opened the performance with some well-known songs from Dominica. Her husband Junior is on bass guitar.

Michele's daughter Kai jams with mum and her version of Purple Rain, which closed the show. The Free Winds bassist backs them up.

Michele’s daughter Kai jams with mum and her version of Purple Rain, which closed the show. The Free Winds bassist backs them up.

As usual, this amazing artiste delivered a world-class performance to the delight of the  enthralled audience, comprised of local politicians, foreign diplomats, citizens, expatriates and children.  Michele has the uncanny ability to easily cross musical genres, and as such everyone got a taste of different styles of local and popular music. I love it all, but I am partial to Dominica’s cadence, which is a specialty of this exceptional lyricist, composer and singer. To her credit, she also surprised us by presenting some rising stars on the Nature Isle, and everyone appreciated their obvious potential.

With a few hundred people filling the performance space, and an

Michele is one of Dominica's pride and joys. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador for her country.

Michele is one of Dominica’s pride and joys. She is also a Goodwill Ambassador for her country.

auction of some enticing goods and services, I am certain that this charity raised several thousand dollars.  These monies will directly aid children who were adversely affected by T.S. Erika in numerous ways.

It’s impossible to walk away from a Michele Henderson performance (and I’ve been fortunate to have heard her countless times over the years) without feeling inspired, uplifted, joyful and hopeful.  Music of that calibre has a way of bringing people together, which was most fitting for the mood of this unique Independence season on Dominica.

Because I did get chilled in the a/c on the ship and then walked a distance through a persistent drizzle in the cool night air, I did succumb to the sniffles the next day.  By Independence morning, I was ‘under the weather’, so I gave those  official festivities a miss this year.  However, if you’d like to see some photos, you can find them on Dominica News Online  for November 3, 2015.

Plastic is a huge polluter, no matter where we live on the planet. Please think before you throw. It's the least we can do to protect our earthly environment.

Plastic is a huge polluter, no matter where we live on the planet. Please think before you throw. It’s the least we can do to protect our earthly environment.

By the next morning, I was thankful to have rested the day before, as it was National Day of Community Service and I had made a pact with myself that I would do something for my neighbourhood.  I am not much good at hoisting a shovel, but I can certainly put on a back pack filled with garbage bags – and that is what I did.  It was a hot, humid morning, and I was guaranteed a healthy sweat – just what I needed.  I started at the top of the main road in my subdivision and worked my way down to the junction at the bottom of the hill, which is part of my usual walking route.  If I did this stretch at a normal pace, it would take me half an hour total to go down and back up to my home.  But with rubber gloves, hiking boots, and four and a half garbage bags filled with curb-side debris, the activity actually took  over three hours.  Although I was really fatigued by this exercise, I felt good that perhaps I had made a tiny difference on my beloved Nature Island . There were many formal projects taking place all over the country, and significant numbers came out to lend a hand.  I got the distinct impression that the tragedies and losses incurred as a result of T.S. Erika, prompted  people to pull together to restore Dominica to her former glory.

Despite plentiful rainshowers during Dominica's 37th Independence season, there were a few gorgeous sunsets, such as this one!

Despite plentiful rain showers during Dominica’s 37th Independence season, there were a few gorgeous sunsets, such as this one!

After a good rest, I ended my energetic day with a refreshing and relaxing  ‘sea bath’ as the sun set on Independence 2015. I floated on the calm and soothing waters,  and reflected on the power of hope and the realization that Dominica shall indeed renew herself, and rise again.

On the Ground in Dominica: Recovery After Tropical Storm Erika is in Full Swing!

Through the taxi window, the mountains of Dominica look as lush and stunning as ever. But benath them, it's a different matter!

Through the plane window, the mountains of Dominica look as lush and stunning as ever. But beneath them, it’s a different matter, thanks to TS Erika!

Readers may be wondering about my return to Dominica from Canada, so I will briefly report here.  Unfortunately, I do not have many photos to include  at this time, but you can always scroll through Dominica News Online or through the Facebook page of Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica for visuals

When I arrived at Douglas-Charles airport on Tuesday afternoon, September 29th, it was truly a beautiful day on the Nature Island. The flight from Barbados was smooth and uneventful.  My seat companion , who was headed home to St. Kitts, told me he had never flown in to Dominica before.  When he gazed out the window at the slopes filled with coconut palms, he gasped in amazement.  He had never seen so many of those trees before.  I told him that my wish would be to partake of their delicious jelly coconut water, if they hadn’t all fallen off of the trees during Erika!

When I disembarked from the aircraft, I turned around slowly on the tarmac. The cleared runway stood out starkly against the rocks, broken pavement and debris that lined it.  I proceeded to take a few photos, but was quickly informed by an airport security guard who ran over to me that photographs were prohibited.  While the officer did not demand that I remove the shots from my camera, I assured her that I would not publish them.  Therefore, please refer to the sites above to get a sense of the rapid recovery underway at Dominica’s main airport.

I think everyone else in the shuttle taxi must have seen the devastation before, as I seemed to be the only one who loudly exclaimed shock and dismay as we travelled through the mountainous interior en route to Roseau. The reality of this startling situation really hit home when we encountered not one, but two landslides along the roadway that traverses the Central Forest Reserve. The driver skillfully manouevered the single lane of broken rocks one moment only to be immediately delayed at another larger slide.  We waited on the road for about 20 minutes while a large caterpillar cleared the blocked area. On that dry, sunny day, I  realized that it did not have to be raining for the ground to ‘give-way’ and that the earth must still  be  unstable.  Right then and there, I decided that I would be Roseau-bound for a while, as I did not care to encounter falling rocks on any of my forays!

As we moved along, I stared in horror when we rounded the sharp turn and the seemingly-rickety bridge over the River

The taxi was moving too fast fro me to capture the work being done to restore the road and river banks located near RiverStone Bar and Grill in Bells, Dominica. Thankfully, the establishent was not damaged extensively.

The taxi was moving too fast for me to capture the work being done (background) to restore the road, bridge and river banks located near RiverStone Bar and Grill in Bells, Dominica. Thankfully, the establishent was not damaged extensively.

Laurent, which passes very near to the RiverStone Bar and Grill, one of my favourite places in Dominica.  The river bed looked as if it had expanded to four times its size, and huge boulders covered the terrain as far as I could see. Instantly, I was alarmed and wondered why I had not heard about any storm-related problems at this popular establishment, which is not visible from the roadside.  Later that evening,  I checked RiverStone’s facebook page, and was subsequently assured by propietor Maxine that all is well and  that they will reopen for business very soon, after completing some renovations.

As we headed west and approached the  Springfield area, I could see that the main road had been badly eroded, and at one point, there was a clear view of the Springfield River from the ‘highway’, which was never there before.  When we finally reached the West Coast road heading into Roseau, I gazed up into the mountains, now east of me, and was stunned at the changed landscape due to numerous  gigantic landslides in the interior.

While the appearance of Roseau was more or less the same to me, I was reminded of the flooding – and then I noticed the bridges across the Roseau River.  There is much work to be done and two of the three are closed at the moment, causing considerable congestion and a necessary re-routing of traffic during rush hours.

When I was almost home, I again gasped when I saw the rocky expansion of the banks of the once tiny river at Castle Comfort.  Mind you, the volume of water has returned to normal.  I was relieved that all was well at my home, thanks to my good neighbours who were mentioned in this post.

The weather is very hot and steamy.  Abnormally high temperatures are affecting all of the Caribbean islands. At this writing, there are no hurricanes in the forecast, but the season does continue until November 30th. Please keep Dominica and all the other islands in your prayers and send us plenty of good vibes!

In the hurricane zone, all Caribbean countries are vulnerable. I think of Michelle, proprietor of the lovely Lazy Tulip Cafe in Barrie, Ontario, Canada, whose ‘second home’ in the Bahamas was devastated by Category 4 Hurricane Joaquin this past weekend.  She wrote to me today, stating that: “[W]e are living in a parallel universe as I sit here now in the same shoes you were in a few weeks ago. Rum Cay got hit by Joaquin and is currently in a state of devastation. I set up this Facebook page in hopes of communicating!” https://www.facebook.com/rumcaycommunity Please take a look at this site.  Perhaps there is some way you could help those folks out too. These days, we just never know when or where disaster will strike!

By now, I have heard and read some sensational stories of bravery, ingenuity, compassion and resilience on the Nature Island.  I won’t repeat them all here right now, but there are a few that really stand out and prove to me that drama does not always have to be a work of fiction! In the coming weeks, I intend to share some of the incredible actions that have taken place in an effort to preserve and continue with life in as normal a manner as possible, given the extreme dire circumstances that have arisen since Erika.

Suffice to say that I now firmly believe in the resilience of the human spirit, as clearly evidenced by those who have been adversely affected by this severe storm.  I am also encouraged by the level of compassion that has been demonstrated by all of the donors worldwide, who have shown that they really care about this beautiful little Caribbean island called Dominica – my adopted home!

I understand that cash donations are still needed and are now a priority, as Dominica begins the lengthy rebuilding process.  If you have not already done so, or would like to do so again, please consult the first paragraph of this post for a list of Government of Dominica approved bank accounts and organizations. The people of Dominica are very grateful for your help!