What we do all day…

Contrary to popular belief, I do not sit around and pick my nose or eat bon bons all day long (only for a small part of the day).  I am actually really busy most days, as is Charlie, who rarely has a chance to enjoy the beach, or much of anything, for that matter.  After tests and exams, however, we both look forward to a fun afternoon and evening together.  Until then, however, here is what a normal day here is like…

I get up between 8 and 10, put away the dishes that dried overnight, and do whatever dishes were left in the sink from the day before.  Then make coffee or tea and have breakfast (usually fruit, oatmeal, or eggs) outside, if the porch isn’t swarmed with the remains of dead bugs (in which case I avoid going outside for as long as possible so I can put off sweeping them up.  It’s pretty sick.  Currently the porch is covered with the inch-long wings of these crazy rain-fly termite things.  ICK!).  If Charlie is media-siting (watching class lectures online) that day then we’ll have breakfast together, if I’m up early.  If he’s going to class, he’s gone by 8.  After breakfast I do the breakfast dishes.  Then I make the bed, clean up our apartment, put away clothes or laundry.

bug covered porch... good stuff.

If it’s a busy day, I’m up early for an RSO meeting, an assembly at CALLS, a day trip with friends.  If it’s a low-key day,  I will check emails, write a blog post, catch up on news and blogs, read about re-finishing furniture and other how-tos which I will bookmark for use in several years when we have a real home.  I’ll peruse the food blogs and book mark recipes with minimal and/or tropical ingredients for current use, and ones with fancy shmancy ingredients or luxuries not available here like berries, buttermilk, and arugula for later use (again, in several years, when I can also break out those DIY home projects, like making an upholstered headboard!).  If I’m feeling energized (which usually I’m not), I’ll walk to the gym and get in a nice air-conditioned work out, or I’ll visit my friend Brandi and play with her 4 week old kittens.  At noon, Charlie will come home for lunch or I’ll make him lunch and bring it to him at school.  We’ll sit outside under a tree by the library if the weather is nice.  I’ll head home after lunch and do some more dishes.  Then I’ll relax and watch some TV shows on my computer… The Wire, Big Love, Mad Men, Weeds.

lunch with Charlie at Pagua Bay after exams

If I’m feeling brave, I’ll do some laundry.  Here’s how this goes down without a washer or dryer: I’ll turn on our hot water heater (which we rarely do these days, as cold showers are the only way to go when it’s just as hot or often hotter inside our apartment than it is outside), put a bucket in the shower, add a scoop of detergent to the bucket, fill it up with hot water, throw in some clothes, and swish them around for a little while with a clean plunger.  Then I’ll rinse the clothes and wring them out in the shower.  Then I’ll go on the porch and rig up a clothes line and hang up the clothes to dry.  I’ll do this for about an hour and if I’m lucky, the clothes will smell nice when they’re dry.  Sometimes, they still smell sweaty once they’re dry, and I lose my gumption and send my stiff, sweaty, horribly hand washed and line dried clothes out and pay someone and deal with them effectively.

After the laundry nightmare I’ll read for a little while and figure out and google some recipes to help figure out what to make for dinner.  I give myself extra gold stars if the meal requires little to-no oven time.  Here’s why: 1. Our oven sucks.  When you bake anything, the oven handle gets so hot that when you touch it your burn your hand.  2.  Our oven really sucks.  In our last apartment, the baking temperatures were in degrees Celsius.  That I could handle, I just made a conversion chart on a post-it and stuck it to the fridge.  Boom.  In our new apartment, however, our oven is the worst.  Seriously, THE ABSOLUTE WORST.  There are no temperatures.  Yes, you read that correctly.  No temperatures.  Just a knob that says “1 2 3 4 5.”  (I really wish I were making that up.)  So, I just guess on baking temperatures.  You can imagine how that turns out… burnt everything, all the time.

every baker's dream

Good stuff.  Anyways, I figure out what to make for dinner.  Usually it’s something vegetarian because sometimes the meat here is scary and/or hard to find, or just really expensive.  I wish I could say that I bought and cooked fish all the time, but I don’t.  I’ve bought it once.  Buying fish requires walking for 20 minutes down to the waterfront when you hear someone blow a conch shell.  The problem is that where I live, you can’t hear anyone blow a conch shell, so then you trek down to the water and loiter and act sketchy and wait for several hours until you actually see someone blow a conch shell, and well, that is really not my idea of fun.  Then you trek 20 minutes home with a plastic grocery bag full of fresh fish.  I need to figure out a better system for this, because the fish is amazing.  It’s literally fresh out of the ocean, and is usually tuna or mahi mahi, for $7 a pound.  I made the best fish tacos with the tuna I bought last semester.  Note to self: figure out the fish situation, ASAP.

If it’s a Tuesday, I help my friend Emily teach a sewing class at a local Women’s Center.  (Actually, I provide moral support and do a kid-friendly fabric project with the women’s children, while Emily teaches the sewing class, since I literally cannot sew a stitch).

me with my little friends at the women's club... aren't they precious?

If it’s a Thursday, I tutor at CALLS, the local alternative high school that gives at-risk students a second chance.

me with some of the amazing girls I've gotten to know at CALLS

If it’s a Friday, I spend the afternoon at the park in Portsmouth with friends and local children at In.Light.In, an after school program and ministry, where we play with the kids, do a craft project, and then feed them a meal.

some of my favorite sassy ladies at in.light.in

Some days I’ll spend a few hours at the pool with friends, read a book on our porch or in the hammock if it’s not excruciatingly hot out, go to yoga in the early evenings, walk to the grocery story (not an option until a few months ago!), go on a hike or take a trip with friends, or meet friends for coffee at Rituals, the fabulously air-conditioned coffee shop.

after a hike and swim at Bense Pool

Charlie and I have dinner together almost every night around 7.  Usually I cook and he either comes home for dinner on the porch or I bring him a meal at school.  Then, he hits the book again until midnight.  After dinner, I do some more dishes, tidy up the apartment, and either enjoy a cold shower and some TV or a movie in our air-conditioned bed room (we have AC in our bedroom only and only turn it on for a little while before we go to bed since electricity is pricey here.  We have don’t have AC in living room/kitchen (they are the same room) which is brutal this time of year!), or a meet friends for game night, drinks, a night swim at the pool, a cookout, or a Friday night movie on campus.

By the time the day is over, I’m usually exhausted.  Between the heat, the walking/carrying everything everywhere all the time, and all the cooking and dish washing (I am the dishwasher), I am out like a light by bed time.  Charlie conks out, too, exhausted from the heat, the walking, and mostly the studying.  That, my friends, is how we spend out days!

Charlie, victoriously posing with 7 weeks of material, after Mini 2

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Yoga by a Waterfall

I am really loving life here in Dominica.  I am pretty adventurous and am really trying to take advantage of all the opportunities I have to explore the island and try new things.  About a month ago, my wonderful yoga teacher, Trudy, hosted a “Yoga by a Waterfall” retreat at an eco-resort near Roseau.  We spend the morning practicing yoga, bathing in the waterfall, and swimming in the hot pools.  Then we had a delicious brunch featuring local dishes — fruit, juice, bush tea (herbal tea), callaloo soup, coush coush (a purple potato-ish dish), fig pie (green bananas are called “figs” here, and they treat the green ones like potatoes), fish steamed in banana leaves… it was so yummy and was such a treat!  After lunch we took a tour of the resort’s beautiful, tropical gardens — they were pretty amazing.  It was a wonderful day definitely a once in a lifetime experience to do yoga by a waterfall!

Where we ate brunch!

Papillote Wilderness Retreat and Nature Sanctuary

the past two months in photos

Studies, Trips & Island Life

Charlie relaxing on our whale watching trip

So I’ve been a delinquent blogger lately… I know this because many friends have sent me emails saying “update your blog soon!”  Sorry that you have to ask!  I have been busy lately and have been enjoying the island and even forgetting to bring my camera with me everywhere (gasp!).  And I feel like a blog post without photos is no good, no good at all.  But I scrounged up some photos and poached a few too, so hopefully I won’t disappoint you!  Here is what has been going on lately:

Charlie in his scrubs before his first anatomy lab

For Charlie, studying.  Always.  He is working super hard and did well on his first exam, which is awesome.  He is trying to get his study routine down, but is struggling with information overload:  tons and tons of material and the impossibility of studying and knowing every single darn thing, which is a hard thing to handle when you are expected to know every single darn thing.  But he is doing well!  He actually went and played tennis with a friend yesterday and went to “Yoga at the Desk” to help him de-stress, so all is well in the land of science.

banana truck

I have been busy with friends (yes, Frannie, I finally have friends!), trips, volunteering, cooking, reading… I would like to fit in more art, more yoga (I have done some of both but not as much as I’d like), and more working out.  This can be done.  I am volunteering with a few different groups here on the island.  The first is called CALLS and it is the alternative high school here in Dominica for students who have had to drop out of high school or leave school for one reason or another.  Students choose to return school and attend CALLS and they all have pretty amazing stories and have gone through hardships that I cannot even imagine experiencing, especially as a high schooler.  The students range in age from 15 to early 20s.  I am working with a 17 year old boy who is hilarious.  I meet with him 1 hour a week as a mentor/tutor and work with him on reading and English.  After the CALLS students finish the 2 year program, they take the Dominica equivalent of a GED test.  The school also provides the students with vocational training and summer internships in their area of interest.  I am not sure who exactly runs the school, but there are some nuns there from Canada who are in charge of the mentoring/tutoring and there are also Peace Corps volunteers teaching there.  I have only been twice so far, but it is a pretty cool experience.  My latest challenge is finding a book on a third grade reading level on the topic of “drugs and the law” at my student’s request.  I am pretty sure that will not happen, and luckily geared him towards mystery/crime type books.  We’ll see.

sailboat and gorgeous view on our whale watching trip

I am also volunteering at InLightIn (pronounced “enlighten”), a group founded by a pastor on the island who was either a Ross student or spouse (can’t remember which) that provides a fun after school program for elementary school students in Portsmouth, the neighboring town, on Fridays.  We play with kids, do a simple craft project, provide them with a snack, and teach them some sort of lesson about virtues like kindness or generosity.  This past Friday we went to Portsmouth to hand out fliers and candy to get the students excited about starting InLightIn next week.  It was such an incredible experience to meet the kids and see their homes.  They all had the biggest smiles on their faces and were so excited to see the volunteers who they knew from previous semesters.  So that is going to be really fun. Here are some photos of the kids from InLighIn poached from my friend Heidi’s blog. A few more pics…

Me in front of a view of Batibou Beach on the hike down

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Yoga & Apartment Tour

Seaside Deck where yoga classes are held!

Charlie’s first week of classes are under way, I am reading my 3rd book, our barrels are here and unpacked, and we have really started settling in.  Tonight Charlie and I went to yoga class which was one of the coolest yoga classes I have ever experienced.  Yoga class is held on the school’s seaside deck, literally towering over the ocean.  During class the sun set and the tide changed, and we stretched and bended listening to the crashing waves and chirping crickets, with a view of the moon, stars and clouds overhead.  Pretty amazing.  We left class relaxed and rejuvenated, and hiked up the hill towards our apartment, where we made a pit stop along the way at a delicious restaurant called The Tomato.  The food was great, and now we are about to begin our evening routines — Charlie will study and I will read, play on the computer, and watch TV.

Also, here is a link to a video of our apartment so you can see where we live: Apartment Tour.  If you are hungry for more, we have some photos of from the trip we took on Sunday — a day long island tour, where we hiked up to twin waterfalls (Trafalgar Falls) and swam in the pools, saw the town of Roseau and its botanical gardens, and finally visited Scott’s Head, a site at then end of the island where you can dip your feet in the Atlantic Ocean, and then walk 30 feet to swim and snorkel in the Caribbean Sea.  We did it all — such a cool day!  Island Tour Photos

Bon soir!