Tons of Photos From the Trip

Calibishie Panoramic

I finished uploading a bunch of fantastic photos from our trip onto my website. You can see the non-underwater photos here, and the underwater photos here. Enjoy!!

The End My Friends

Better late than never? As sad as we all were to say good bye to our gorgous home for this past wonderous week, we all had to pack up and set off for home. The drive to the airport was relaxing yet sad for it would be our last pass through the tropical forests of our Dominica. Upon arrival at the airport check in went quickly and smoothly. Airport security in Dominica was a little…contradictory. One of our companions had a conch shell removed form her possesion for it was deemed a weapon however, they missed their other shells and a bag of sea glass….. The plane ride from Dominica to San Juan Puerto Rico was a satisfactory one. Going through US customs turned most of us into shaky, paranoid, messes. It turned out that only one of our poor comrades got searched. The flight from San Juan to Boston was smooth and we arrived ahead of time.

Upon stepping outside of the airport in Boston we were all turned into human-sicles. It was a 50 degree difference; from 85 degrees farenheit to 35 degrees farenheit. Most of us still have not adjusted back to our winter wonderland of Maine. We all had an absolutely amazing time and had experiences that we wouldnt of had anywhere else. From tropical hikes, crystal blue waters, to cultural emersion our time in Dominica is one we will never forget and forever cherish.

Dominica’s people

We visited the Carib Territory today in the central and eastern parts of the island. The ancestors of these Kalinago people named the island Wai’toucoubouli (which means “tall is her body”) as they traveled up their sea highway in canoes thousands of years ago settling the islands of the Lesser Antilles. Unfortunately, due to Western expansion and colonization in the days of Columbus, the Kalinagos were reduced to living on Dominica because it was the least inhabitable Caribbean island. The Europeans began calling the natives “Caribs,” a corrupted version of their name, and the clash between the two groups continued for centuries, while simultaneously the Caribs retreated further and further into the interior of the island. Catholic missionaries attempted to ease the tension by forming the Carib territory. However, they neglected to take into consideration the Carib heritage of living off the sea, and to this day the Caribs have restricted access to the ocean.

Our travels for this last day brought us to their lands (see previous post for more details), and as I reflect on my experiences here the last week I am finding that the greatest thing for me here in Dominica is the people. I am by no means cultured, so this is a very new experience, but talking to the locals was fascinating. Everywhere the people are warm and welcoming, proudly saying “Welcome to my beautiful home. Enjoy your stay!” and happily wave as we drive by. The Carib territory is no exception. Even though they have been repressed for a long time, the are just as hospitable as all the rest. Walking around the church and old ruins today I met five girls from the ages of 3 to 15 standing on the steps of building nearby. They boldly said hello and asked me my name, so I went over and began talking to them.

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Our conversations lasted only twenty minutes or so, but they impressed me with their intelligence, courtesy and confident, yet humble manner that I don’t think I will ever forget the encounter. They spoke four languages: their native tongue, as well as English, French, and Spanish – three of which I’m positive they could do fluently. Their favorite subject was English, and when asked what they were going to do over their two week break for Easter Holiday, they giggled and said study for exams and play cricket.

I was sad to have to go (we had a tight schedule we had to stick to), but grateful to have had the opportunity to learn something from those with a modest living but incredibly rich minds and culture.

Last Day

On our last day in Dominica we went to the Carib territories, but first, we spent 5 last minutes saying our goodbyes to the black sandy beaches. It was very hard for all of us.  Then we took another strenuous, leg burning hike/climb down to Dog’s Head.  There were many gigantic waves crashing onto the cliffs and rocks, and since many of us are adventurous and daring, we stood on the edge of the cliffs to take a better look…  I dared the waves to reach me and then a tidal wave [in my eyes] came roaring through.  I was running for my life, tripping on rocks, hoping that this wave won’t grab me by the ankle and drag me back into the ocean.  It was quite horrifying and I thought I was going to die.  Well, I obviously didn’t die, and also I didn’t learn my lesson of standing on the edge of a cliff because I stayed there.  It was exciting! 

Afterwards, we went to the church where the Carib territories first started.  There we met a couple of artists, and also a very interesting man looking for women to take back home. . . None of us went. . .  that’s all I have to say about that.  Then, we went to a few stands on the side of the road, I talked to a few of the vendors selling hand-made baskets and other.  They told me how they made their baskets, getting different colors by how long they leave the baskets in the mud.  It was quite interesting. 

At the end of the day, the staff of ITME prepared a fabulous dinner party for us.  We all dressed up, there was candle light, and the food was delicious, as always.  I have some more movies made for you all and unfortunately, since we’re leaving so soon, they will be posted up when we get back home around 2 in the morning.

Bois Cotlette Estate

Today we did some more snorkeling in some pretty intense water at Scotts Head. I finally saw my first wild sea turtle! 🙂 That was amazing. I also got stung a few times by some jellyfish, which obviously wasn’t so amazing. I got to see an adult stoplight parrotfish which was also incredible to see. Next we moved on to our second stop for the day.  

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There, we visited a plantation called the Bois Cotlette Estate in Soufriere Valley. The plantation got its name from the Bois Cotlette tree (Citharexylum spinosum), which is common in the area. Michael Didier owns the estate, which has been passed down through his family since the 18th century. They are believed to be related to Empress Josephine of Napoleon.  In its hay day (the 1820’s), the plantation grew coffee and sugar, was 300 acres and utilized 20 slaves. In the 1890s the production of sugar had been deserted and the economy was shifting toward growing cocoa, which along with limes was seen as recovery for the economy of Dominica. The old sugar boilers on the plantation were modified so that they could boil lime juice. 

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Didier’s own background is in agricultural science, and he spent a lot of career working for the Dominican Ministry of Agriculture, where he developed sustainable banana harvesting techniques.  Currently, he is using the plantation grounds to cultivate and produce compost for local farmers.

It was a very educational and fun day. 😉

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A Great Day In Dominica

Today was another amazing day. First we started out with a bit of snorkeling. I saw some species that I have not seen yet on our trip but, was unable to get any pictures of them. I saw a spotted drum, a pair of French angelfish, a blackbar soldierfish, a princess parrotfish, and a stoplight parrotfish. I found several different schools of fish that I pretended to join as they swam away from me. The school of brown chromis was the most excepting of me allowing me to get within a chromis body length of them. We continued to a plantation where we were given a history lesson about the plantation. The only standing windmill on the island is located here.

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When we got back to ITME I was able to play basketball with some of the people in the area. This was the second time I got to do this. The competition was very good and provided for a lot of excitement. This was a great experience for me to see the culture of Dominica up close and in person. I had some stimulating conversations about what people do for recreation on the island. This was also a good chance for me to make some friends in basketball. Tomorrow will be another fantastic day in Dominica.

The Johnny Depp extravaganza and some snorkeling fun!

After a delicious breakfast this morning, we all headed out to Scotts Head to snorkel for our last time on this trip. On the way there, we had the opportunity to see one of the sites for the second Pirates movie! The “cannibal village” site is here in Dominica, and yes I relished in the very spot where Johnny Depp stood, and no I was not ashamed. LOL! It was great fun, and one of the little huts was still there!

Afterwards we snorkeled at Scotts Head, and although the water was rough and the water murky, I saw some beautiful parrot fish, blue tangs, the biggest sea urchins you could ever imagine, and I even swam along top a sea turtle for quite some time. It was amazing how I was swimming as fast as possible to keep up with him, and he just glided along the way a bird catches the wind. My other favorite moment was diving down to hang out with a fairly large trunk fish who was very unconcerned with my company.

I’m sad it was our last snorkeling adventure today, but I’m very happy that we’ve been able to be in the water as much as we have. Now I want to snorkel everywhere in the world to experience any marine life I can! I have had an absolute blast encountering all the amazing creatures I’ve seen, and it’s given me a feeling of joy I’ve never had before. It’s one thing to watch shows on the Discovery channel about ocean life, but it’s a whole ‘nother wave of excitement to see it before your eyes. I’m so blessed to be here and to have met all the people and animals who make this beautiful island their home. 🙂