10 Days In Dominica: Day 1

My good friend Katie, from Priceless Adventure, is hosting a blogging challenge:

One post a day, for ten days, answering a question about life in Dominica each day.

What do you miss most about home?

Of course what I miss most are my friends and family.  Life moves on, whether we are there for it or not, and it is always bittersweet to miss celebrations, weddings, birthdays, and just good old daily life with those we love.

Besides family, what I miss most are these suckers:

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs!

I miss the crabs because 1) they are a delicacy and are my favorite food of all time; 2) they are, for me, the embodiment of summer; and 3) they always mean treasured (and usually very hilarious) time with my large family.

“Crab Feasts”  in my mom’s backyard, on my aunt’s patio, or on the deck at the beach.  Step one: breaking out card tables, moving kitchen tables outdoors, and assembling a compound of newspaper-covered tables with a plethora of mismatched chairs on the deck or grass.  Next, collecting any item which can be used as a mallet/cracker/claw-opening device (for the weak) and placing it on top of the newspaper alongside the dishes of melted butter for dipping and the water bowls and paper towels for cleaning messy fingers (I am hardcore and prefer to just cover my claws with a piece of newspaper and smash it with my fist.  I also pass on the butter.  Just good ole crab meat for me.  And I never wash my fingers of Old Bay until I am finished… and that will take me at least two hours!).  And finally, the coup de grace: the fresh bushel of Old Bay seasoned local blue crabs, ready for barbaric picking.  This is one of my favorite family experiences.  Usually 7 to 25 of us gather around a table, the young and the old, enjoying the summer weather, delighting in the rewarding treat of crab meat extracted from an expertly picked crab.  The soundtrack is always the same: relatives sharing stories from their childhoods and pasts, many of which are classics, retold again and again.

There is always an annual crab feast, the joint birthday dinner held for my youngest sister, Margaret, and my mom, whose birthdays are just a day apart (August 20 and 22).  Growing up, my sisters and I were always allowed to choose the special meal we’d like for our birthday dinner.  Margaret always chooses, without fail (from age three until the present), “crabs and chocolate milk.”  (Okay, so maybe not so much the chocolate milk anymore, but still the crabs!)

I also remember how excited I was when I first taught Charlie how to expertly “pick” a crab.  Now he’s an old pro!

{In case you couldn’t tell, I am very proud of my expert crab-picking skills.  It requires skill and patience to extract each small, but delicious piece of meat, and I will always be one of the last at the table (with Charlie and a few of my equally hardcore crab-picking uncles).  We eat all of the crabs and then move over to the “scraps” — the poorly and barely picked crabs left by our less fanatical cousins/nieces (I think you know who you are) — where we finish pickin’ the crabs clean.}

Amen!

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2 Ladies, Come & Gone

My two besties

Tropical cyclone Emily:  We’ve been busy preparing for her for the past 2 days… Purchased electricity, check. Filled up all our water bottles and pitchers with water, check.  2 extra gallons of water from the grocery store, check.  Washed all the dishes in the sink (the water cuts off when it rains for long periods of time, so if you forget to do those dishes… yuck!), check.  Non perishable food in case we really get in trouble, check.  Luckily, Emily has now passed us and all we’ve seen of her is a little wind and lots of rain.  We did wake up this morning with no water though, so I am glad we have lots of extra on hand, because I am using it already!

This week Charlie and I were also lucky enough to have a sweet little puppy for a few day, until we found her a permanent home. We aren’t allowed to have pets in our current apartment, and our landlord tends crops in the garden behind our apartment, so she’s around way too much to sneak anything past her.  We found our pup a home for good last night, with some loving students, but I’m not going to lie, Charlie and I both definitely cried a little when we had to give her up!  She was the sweetest little puppy, and we loved her!  We’re not sure what kind she was — but she looked like a mixture of an island dog with a Rottweiler or Doberman Pinscher.  She had the sweetest little personality!

And now, the humorous story of how acquiring the puppy went down.
Last week when I went to Portsmouth to tutor, I spotted her as I was walking down the street.  She was cowering and crawling out from under a shack.  She approached me timidly, crouched down in fear, but she covered my face in kisses the minute I scooped her up.  I held her for a little while and then put her back on the ground, and she stayed near me, although she was also interested in scouring a nearby trash pile for something to eat.  A group of local women passed me and told me, “Take her!  She need a home.  This is not a life!”  I told them that I’d love to take her, but that I didn’t want to take someone’s dog.  They replied, “She live on the street, she need a home!”

Done.  I knew right then that I couldn’t leave such a sweet little lady on the street!

I carried her down the street to CALLS, where we played with some of the kids in daycare while I waited to meet James for tutoring.  She loved me, she loved the children, she loved to play.  After CALLS, we walked to Best Buy (the hilarious Caribbean junk shop, not the awesome techy Best Buy of the U.S.) so I could buy her a collar.  I walked in holding the puppy, and a woman inside smirked.

“Where you find dat po-ppy?”

“I found her in the street in a trash pile.”

“That Alvin’s po-ppy!”

{Oh sh*t.}

“Hey, you see dat po-ppy?  That Alvin’s po-ppy!”

“Yeah, dat Alvin’s po-ppy.”

{Double sh*t!}

“Oh, then I’m going to put her back. I don’t want to steal someone’s dog.  A group of ladies told me she was a stray, that’s why I was taking her.”

“Alvin don’t care for her.  She live on da street.  It don’t even look like he feed her.  She need a home.  Take her!”

“Well I don’t want to steal someone’s dog…”

“Take her! Take her, people don’t know how to treat dogs round here.”

So I leave the store, worried that some man named Alvin is not going to be happy with me.  I walk back to the spot where I found her, deciding if I should leave her or not.  I turn around and see that one of the women from Best Buy has followed me.  She sees me and laughs.

“Don’t put her back.  She need you.  My store is right here.  If you can’t keep her, you bring her back to me and I will find her a home, but take her.  Go, go.”

So… I hopped on a transport {bus} and took Little Lady on her first bus ride.  I. Stole. A. Puppy.

Don’t tell Alvin!

{Coming soon: how we cared for Little Lady, found her a home, and as a result, a security guard was paid $200 EC…}

Cheers to 3 years!

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been married for three wonderful years!  The time has really flown by.   In those three years, we’ve had so many adventures. We’ve . . .

. . . lived in 3 different countries.

. . . lived in 4 different apartments.

. . . attended college level/grad school courses on 5 different colleges campuses.

. . . traveled to 5 countries together.

. . . mastered public transportation systems in 2 countries.

. . . learned to crack/hack open coconuts ourselves to drink the coconut water.

. . . visited some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

. . . had a few “pets”: a pack of feral cats (Richmond), curly tailed lizards (Bahamas), and a rat, an anole tree lizard, and a frog (Dominica).

. . . studied our butts off (me, attending grad school full-time during my first year of teaching art and our first year of marriage; and Charlie, now and ever since he began the whole med-school experience last August).

. . . learned that we can survive pretty much anything together!

Happy anniversary to my amazing,  handsome husband.  Thanks for being so sweet and for always supporting me and making me laugh!

Wedding Day in Chincoteague

Honeymoon in France

Enjoying an evening out after completing our first semester here on the Rock

Today Charlie is studying and I am laying low, but we’ll be celebrating tomorrow with an afternoon at the beach and a delicious dinner at Red Rock, one of the tastiest restaurants on the island.  Cheers!


Nesting Season

In case you aren’t addicted to Facebook like I am, here’s what you missed this week:

our apartment = rat central

Apparently it is nesting season around here.  A rat chewed through our screen window in our kitchen and climbed on in.  That little punk gnawed through a banana and roamed all over our apartment, pooping on everything: kitchen counters, kitchen table, sofa, bathmat… you name it.  We were pretty grossed out, especially since we’ve been hearing horror stories about all the diseases that rats carry around here.  So, I spent the following day disinfecting our entire apartment.  A special thank you that that bi-atch of a rat for making me re-wash all of my clean dishes that were drying in the drying rack… you suck!  Really, the worst part was not knowing if the rat was still in our apartment.  Had Splinter nested in suitcases?  Dresser drawers?  Kitchen cabinets?  You may think I’m being a bit dramatic.  But this was a RAT.  Mice, I could handle.  But the rats here are nasty and filthy and disease-y.  Yikes.  We searched the apartment and found no rat.  I even bought and set up some scary metal mouse traps and left those out with cheese and crackers on them for a few days, just in case… but no rat.  Lucky for us, the rat is out, and the windows are closed for good.  (Bad news: being the in the kitchen without the windows open feels like death).  Unfortunately, the rat visited my neighbor and chewed through her screens the following night… ewwww.  Enough with the rats!

If you know me, you know that I love my family and friends, and I love Richmond, but I’m really not one to be homesick.  This rat, however, has made Charlie and I both really miss home.  Family, friends, homes without rats… we miss you all!  {Please know that even though sometimes we’re both really bad at keeping in touch, we still love ya and think of ya often!}

Since I’ve been a little homesick, I’ve been doing some nesting of my own, dreaming of the future, of our someday one-day home, of quality design, artful homes, fun colors, cozy beds, “real” furniture, dishwashers, non-fluorescent non-exposed-bulb overhead lighting, dream kitchens, fluffy pillows, washing machines, clean sheets, soft towels, comfy sofas…  My fabulous friend Emily taught me how to use a fun photo editing program called Picnik, so I’ve been “window shopping” online and making some collages, trying to beef up my pretty pathetic graphic design-ish skills.  Here are some collages I made of favorite things I’m coveting from far away places like Anthropologie and West Elm…