What has been better than you expected?
I knew that moving to Dominica was going to be an adventure. Before moving to Dominica we spent 4 months in Freeport, Grand Bahama for Ross University’s MERP program. That was our first adventure. I absolutely loved our time there — we lived in a nice, beachfront condo with a pool, poolside lounge chairs, and a restaurant/bar downstairs. Our condo was small but very comfy and recently renovated, with a fully stocked kitchen. We even had two bikes (that our local friend J.C. let us borrow during our time there). I was, however, the only spouse around, so my days were spent with a close group of friends: the Barefoot Contessa, Giada, and the Neelys; Mariska Hargitay (somehow Law & Order SVU was on at least two channels at all times of the day and night); and the hosts of Income Property, House Hunters, and pretty much any other show on HGTV. I read almost 15 book while in the Bahamas, attended yoga class religiously twice a week, and walked to the end of our beach and back every single night. You know in Eat, Pray, Love, when Elizabeth Gilbert goes to the Ashram in India for three months? Well, the Bahamas was my three months at the ashram, months full of introspection and reflection, healthiness, calm, and quiet.
By the time we moved to Dominica, I felt like I already knew about “island life”, even though I’d never been to Dominica and Dominica was much further from home than the Bahamas. I was already used to:
- Scavenging for groceries.
- Having minimal access to “normal” groceries and grocery stores.
- Learning to cook with what you have rather than what you want.
- Being creative in the kitchen since the grocery stores were often completely out of stock.
- Not having any restaurants around.
- Not having any stores around.
- Having to carry groceries long distances home.
- Acclimating to “island time.”
- Not having a car.
- Bargaining with locals.
- Expensive prices.
- Dealing with the astronomical cost of electricity.
- Power outages.
- Living on an island during hurricane season.
- Having “back up” food and water supplies.
- Sweating profusely.
- Dealing with very vocal Caribbean men (i.e., the “hello, beautiful” comments).
- Being by myself while Charlie studies.
- Training my ears to understand Caribbean accents.
- Stray dogs everywhere.
These were all things that I was prepared for, things that I expected, and things that turned out about right. Two things, however, stand out as being better than I expected.
The first: Dominica is so breathtakingly beautiful, much, much more so than I had expected. While I loved the Bahamas and my time for reflection, Charlie and I were both disappointed by the landscape there — the beach was obviously very beautiful (white sand beach and turquoise water), but other than that, the island was not all that pretty. The land was not very fertile, and it was flat and rocky, and littered with garbage.
Dominica, on the other hand, is truly a paradise. You can see the lush, green mountain forests from any point on the island. The view from our porch continues to amaze me every day.
The view here never leaves us disappointed!
The other thing that really surprised me about Dominica is the ease of getting around. So many things are within walking distance of our apartment here. Charlie walks to and from campus several times a day, and the grocery store, “Bread Lady,” and friends’ houses are just minutes away. In the Bahamas, hardly anything was within walking distance (including school) so getting anywhere required taking a bus or hiring an expensive taxi. (Luckily J.C. loaned us bikes once I started volunteering at a nearby school, so I was able to get to school each morning!) Here, if I want to go from one point on the island to another, near or far, catching a public transport is pretty painless and very cost-efficient.
If you recall, getting around in the Bahamas was not so easy. The buses were very, very irregular and a “bus stop” sign really didn’t mean a thing. You could spend over 45 minutes at a bus stop waiting for bus to appear. Here, I know exactly how to get where I need to go whether by public or private transport. I’ve been here long enough and go to town often enough that I know many of the drivers, and I never have to wait more than a few minutes to catch a public transport. While Frannie was here visiting, we explored Dominica on the cheap and took local transports all over the island with ease. As for private drivers, I have my favorite guys, Bruno, Victor, and Sampson, who I will happily call anytime I’m organizing a group trip.
If you come visit, you will most certainly view and experience these things, the spectacular view and the fun of riding in a transport. If you’re lucky, you’ll also meet Victor and take a trip in “The Lion” — always an adventure!