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Dominica

July 21, 1990

We went for a late breakfast after ironing, showering, and putting in laundry. Mikki and Jay had already gone into town house-hunting so Brad and I went back to the Shillingfords’ house for the morning. I read my international version of Newsweek and watched cartoons with Devi. I got to see “Beetlejuice.” The Shillingfords decided to all go to town and leave Brad and me on our own. Mr. Shillingford told me if I had a daughter with a black woman it would be the same color as his daughter Sheree. Mr. Shillingford proudly told Brad and me once before that his grandfather was white.

After they left we watched TV including “The Naked Gun” on HBO and went to lunch. After playing cards and meeting with Don and Sue we went to Don’s homestay to get Sue’s and Brad’s hats made by Catherine of Grand Bay. We also walked to the bay and got our feet wet and other parts. My shorts and shirt are still damp. Sue saw a scorpion on the coast.

Brad and I went to the Shillingfords because I had to hang up clothes which were no longer being washed once the water went off. Teresa hung them up although I’m not positive they were thoroughly rinsed. We went for dinner played cards some more and I lost again. We got the chance to watch wrestling with Mrs. Leathum. She was really into it. It was TBS wrestling. Brad and I left to get back and prepare for tomorrow’s move to St. Lucia.

July 21

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Dominica

July 20, 1990

After finding some dry clothes on the line I dressed up for today’s activities. Brad and I left for breakfast on foot. We left after eating custard, bananas, bread, juice, and meat.

Upon arriving at the school we had a combined class (all 9 of us) in patois and a lesson in singing the National Anthem. I was the worst singer of the nine, but I figure if I sing it loud enough it won’t sound too bad in St. Lucia.

After that we got on transport to town. I sat on a block behind a rasta whose locks got closer to my mouth as he leaned back in the overcrowded bus.

When we made it to town I exchanged some money, bought postcards, a t-shirt, and flags to wave when we sing the national anthem of Dominica. Our planned session on family relationships was canceled when the speaker did not arrive. I went shopping again for plastic shoes (Toyotas in green, yellow, and red) and the papers with the Peace Corps articles. We listened to the current PCVs’ suggestions on housing at 1 pm. 

After those words of wisdom, I played around with the spreadsheets and database programs on the Peace Corps Macintosh. Brad and I then went shopping for gifts for our homestays. We bought a map for the Leathums and a book for the Shillingfords.

Mikki and Jay joined for another cramped ride home. This time Mikki almost didn’t make it without puking. Mr. Shillingford was home and offered us beers when we arrived. Brad and I were let known that alcohol-drinking was the proper, manly thing to do in Dominica. I had a beer but Brad doesn’t drink. Mr. Shillingford was amused that I could drink about 4 beers with friends compared to his 20.

We ran down for dinner shortly after and then Brad, Sue, and I visited Don. I had an attack of diarrhea and [had] some tea to cure it. We saw Don’s homestay, Catherine, make a hat. We finally made it home and happily because tonight there were lights and power.

July 20

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Dominica

July 19, 1990

After a horrible night’s sleep of roosters (starting at 3AM) and Sheree crying we woke up and went to breakfast early in order to get to Rouseau in time for a Portsmouth transport. The transport left around 9 and we arrived at the Portsmouth Secondary School after 10.

Brad and I gave our qualifications to Mrs. Murdock who will be leaving the position of principal soon to travel with her husband, the former APCD of Dominica. She filled us in about the school, introduced us to Brian, who is a Math teacher there, and gave us the books we will be using. They seem very easy to me. Mr. Fabien was also there.

After that meeting, he drove us to the Catholic Presbytary, where we met Father Reggie. Like Athlene Murdock he promised to keep an eye open for housing possibilities for us.

Following that meeting we had a long wait for transport back to Rouseau. On Thursdays Rouseau used to close down in the afternoon and people are still in the habit of not going to town. Thursday is also the day the banana boats are loaded.

Finally we made it back for the rest of a dry speech on politics in Dominica. The speaker was so tall he almost walked into the overhead fan. Jay gave away the sandwiches Mrs. Leathum prepared for us but we didn’t take. I had some Kool-Aid at the Peace Corps office and a soda and Milo bar in Portsmouth.

We made it back to Grand Bay in a minivan that at one time held 20 or more people. We hung the clothes that were in the washer and put in one more load. Toni invited me up to his snackette and gave me a Coke. I also got a lesson on politics.

I left for dinner which included Macaroni & Cheese, played “Up & Down” and won my first time playing, by candlelight. The lights went off again.

written on July 20

Categories
Dominica

July 18, 1990

Wednesday started with a patois lesson on verbs and tenses and the days of the week. Interviews were going on with our APCD MaryAnn Murray. I had to wait for an hour for it. It was primarily a chance for her to get to know us better. At lunchtime we hd tuna and tasted fried breadfruit which is similar to french fries. After lunch we heard from Chief Education Officer Anthony Lockhart. Mrs. Shillingford confirmed what he said. We learned that their education system is only for the best and the standards are much higher than those in the U.S. We worked in the cemetery from 5-6:30 moving stones from the lawn, cutting plant growth, and raking up dead grass. Bill, Sue, Mikki, Jay, Brad and I made some small improvements. During our dinner which included a custard and Kool-Aid the lights went out. Apparently they usually go out on Thursdays because of the work on the hydro-electric plant but they also went out .. today.

written on July 19

Categories
Dominica

July 17, 1990

In today’s class we learned more patois: how to tell your name, profession, nationality, and your state. We learned the words for relatives, too. Mikki is continuing to do better.

Brad, Sue, and Micki walk to training at Grand Bay Secondary School. July 1990

Her husband Jay wasn’t feeling well. He had the Hershey Squirts and did not go to the afternoon session.

He went to morning language lessons while the people from my group went to the health center. I started my community service by cutting grass. The girls talked to nurses and Bill got a chance to visit the fire station.

After that visit we had lunch and went for a history lesson on Dominica. The information was important and presented well but I was hit by down-time. Lennox Honeychurch, the presenter, lives in or near Portsmouth and he seemed hopeful to see me there.

Brad and I got our laundry off the line and went back down to the Leathum’s. I broke a glass on the patio before we took off for church meeting. It was much longer and more personal than I expected. We got a chance to do some community service, more for me and finally some for them, by agreeing to help clean the cemetery. 

After the meeting we went nuts over dry mix chicken soup after finishing ice cream on the way home.

July 17

Categories
Dominica

July 16, 1990

On Monday we began our lessons in the patois after a community meeting. We learned the sounds of patois and greetings. My half of the group was very good. Mikki got frustrated and cried unnecessarily. She had the most trouble but wasn’t that bad. Bill and Yolanda were also in the group and Felix Henderson taught us. 

Felix Henderson

After our lessons we had time for community analysis but spent most of the time talking with John and Joel who just finished their first year teaching in Dominica. Yolanda and I walked along the wrong path and ended at the top of the hill where four other Peace Corps workers joined us for refreshments at the snackette. I had a 7-Up. 

I walked Yolanda to her homestay’s house and had a glass of water and then started on my way back. I ran into Don on the way back and tried my creole on him- bonapwemidi -but he didn’t understand.

I finally made it back to the Leathum’s and had lunch. I made sure I consumed many liquids. Then we went back to school.

We heard PCVs talk about personal safety. There should not be too many problems trying to be safe. It just takes some caution.

We also heard about hurricane safety. I pray that we will be spared the experience of a hurricane. I think overall it would be a life-enhancing experience but one I could do without. 

After that we went to the Leathum’s and had our dinner. I had guava jelly which was great. We walked home after dinner.

I got the chance to watch Pro Wrestling with Mr. Shillingford and we started on our laundry. As soon as we finished the power went off and we went to bed. Before bed I had my first BM on the island.

written on July 17

Categories
Dominica

July 15, 1990

Today again started early with a visit to 7AM church service. The service lasted two hours and was interesting and similar to the wedding service, even though Mr. Lethrum was not happy about the amount of time or the drum which inspired shaking.

After church we ate breakfast and went for a visit to see Fred. A mad lady who quoted Bible verses to us as we sat on the balcony followed us and disturbed our meeting.

Next door the Baptist church started their service and two van loads of white people arrived to see the church they were helping to support and to start dental and eye examinations.

After we finished talking to an older lady from South Carolina we came back to the Shillingfords and I watched He-Man with Devee.

We left to go on an outing to Soufrier and Scot’s Head. We went there only after construction made us go the other way. It rained only when we ate and afterwards we walked to the top of the mountain on Scot’s Head. We swam in the Caribbean Sea and saw the Atlantic Ocean on the other side.

On the way back I had a chance to try their ice cream which had a strong coconut flavor. I also noted that I burned a little today on the face as I looked in the mirror at the end of the day.

July 15, 1990

Categories
Dominica

July 14, 1990

I beat the alarm clock again this morning. I did not want to get up before 6:30 so I lied in bed. Brad’s alarm clock went off and he woke up and showered. I finally got up and took a cold shower. There was one knob and one temperature. Today I remembered to take shampoo into the bathroom and wash my hair. Devee asked me how I got my wet hair to look its way after combing it. She and her father were watching pro wrestling.

After pressing my shirt for today and tomorrow we went off to the Lethrums for breakfast of a roll, passion fruit juice, and a mango. We then took off for market.

Bill, Jay, Brad, and I sat in the back of the truck while Sue and Mikki sat in front with John (that’s his last name). When we arrived the first thing we did was taste coconut juice. It was rather plain. The coconuts were very young with little pulp. When we returned we walked to the bottom of Le Ley to see the Atlantic Ocean. Much garbage was at the shore where it is very rocky.

The view of the Atlantic Ocean from Grand Bay Secondary School. July 1990

On the way back, we met Yolanda and her host and then returned for a lunch of dolphin fish, rice, and other platters of dasheen and spinach.

After lunch Mr. Lethrum drove us back to Teresa’s in order that we could get ready for church. We were going to a wedding. I read the National Geographic article which was much more interesting after seeing the island. I napped a little and got ready for church. I did not shower because the water was not running earlier in the afternoon and I did not want to waste it.

National Geographic
Column from the June 1990 issue of National Geographic

The wedding was fabulous. It followed the typical format in the U.S. Catholic churches. Following the wedding we went up steep winding hills to the reception. There was soft drinks, beer, appetizers, meals for everyone. People danced. I did not get a chance to dance.

I met some important people who gave me some names to check out in Portsmouth when I look for a place to live.

July 14

Categories
Dominica

July 13, 1990

Breakfast was much more enjoyable than the dinner last night. We were served around 8 am an hour and a half after I woke up to the irregular sound of the rooster. 

Breakfast began with Milo, a Nestlé chocolate drink that tasted more like coffee. We were also served an omelet that tasted like potato pancakes, fried bananas, cucumbers, delicious rolls, and guava juice. I stocked up on this meal.

We left with the luggage we wanted to store at the Peace Corps office, almost without Bill who has a habit of wandering away on his own. After that we arrived to the hall for our introduction to volunteers and supervisors. 

The volunteers were extremely helpful in filling us in on Dominica and how poor our advice was prior to arrival. Two supervisors discussed the possibility of finding a way for Brad to come to Portsmouth.

I found out there is a medical school for Americans in the area and that they were used to renting to Americans in that area. Mrs. Murdock also said she would help us check out places for rent on Wednesday.

We were served refreshments which included cupcakes, muffins, meat pies, sandwiches, and my favorite juice passion fruit. After clearing them out we went back to End of Eden and began our trip to Grand Bay.

My first picture of Dominica. The view from the “End of Eden” guest house. July 13, 1990.

Grand Bay is the place for us to be immersed in culture and meet our host families. Mrs. Leathum was introduced as my host. Brad and I were staying with her daughter, Mrs. Shillingsford, but being fed by Mrs. Leathum.

Dinner was marvelous. She served fried chicken, rice, salad, potatoes, dasheen. Again, I drank passion fruit. Her house had a TV which was on constantly. When I arrived a CBS station from Colorado was on but it changed to MTV and VH-1. Apparently the cable operation pirates off the satellite feeds. There are other stations that I assume are more constant. 

The new edition of the newspaper contained an article informing the public of our arrival and earlier ceremony. Mr. Leathum bought the paper which we saw it in.

Some friends from St. Thomas visited him and the Petersons walked Brad and me home.  I gave them my torchlight because it gets dark after 7 and there isn’t too much street lighting.

I met Mrs. Shillingford’s daughter Devie and Mary (sic). The former is 5 and the latter 11 months. Devie is very precocious and smart. She counted to 100 by one’s and fives.

We watched TV (the changing station) and Brad started falling asleep in his chair. It was getting late and I decided to turn in when Mr. Shillingford, Arthur, arrived. We talked to him for a while. He smelled of rum and mentioned that they were very wary of having guests in their new house. Felix was able to talk them into it. Finally they turned off the TV and I am now going to try and sleep. July 13, 1990

Categories
Dominica United States

July 12, 1990

Although I sat most of the day there was a lot of action for me today. Bill’s alarm rang before 5am a few hours after I finally stopped tossing and turning. I wasn’t sure what it was and tried to go back to sleep after he shut it off. Luckily he told me it was time to get up.

Group leaders had to be in the lobby at 5:30 and I was in charge of Dominican volunteers. My job involved handing out passports, tickets, and tips.

Sometime after 6 we made it on the bus and arrived at the airport to struggle and push our luggage to check-in. Some people were worried about the weight of the luggage but we had no problem. One person from St. Vincent had their luggage out too early -they were to leave later in the day – and it ended up at the airport with us. Luckily it was noticed and sent back.

We flew to San Juan and then Antigua where our unity began to dissolve when the independent minds wandered off without notice.

We made it to Dominica around 5:40 p.m. It was NOT the airport the greeters expected. After customs searched our luggage, we took a ride lasting more than an hour through the forests of Dominica. It was totally green except for the blue stockings protecting bananas from insects.

We arrived and unloaded and met MaryAnn, Felix, and Judy. We received our itinerary and locations of work. It turned out I was going to Portsmouth alone, the only volunteer there. I was initially disappointed to be separated from the group but changed my mind after weighing the pluses and minuses. 

We were served dinner which was very bland. I enjoyed the rice and beef the most. We also had good juice, a choice between cherry, guava, and passion fruit.

I ended the day packing for the next four weeks of training for my 2 yrs of service.

July 12, 1990