Sunday, October 2, 2011

Day 2 (or Day 1, Part 2 if you want to get technical)

Day 2: What has been better than you expected?

My time in Dominica has been full of pleasant and unexpected surprises, but if I had to pick just ONE thing that has been better than I expected, it would be the sunsets. The sunsets here are like nothing I have ever seen before. They are so bright and colorful and each one is different from the last. After 13 months of living here, I can honestly say that I have not tired of them one bit. In fact, I have begun restraining myself from going outside and snapping pictures of the sunset every night because I have SO MANY pictures of Dominican sunsets that its getting a bit ridiculous.
Though the sunsets are simply gorgeous no matter where you are in Dominica, I've gotten an extra special view for the last 6 months since we moved to an apartment that sits right on the beach. Nearly every night at about 6:30pm, I take a break from whatever I am doing and go sit outside for a bit to watch the sun dip down below the horizon. It is absolutely one of the most breathtaking and peaceful things I have ever experienced. I am going to miss those sunsets very very much when I'm no longer living on this little island.

view from my porch

Sitting on the beach in front of my apartment

Blog Challenge!

My friend Katie, a fellow spouse down here, came up with this fun blogging challenge called "10 Days in Dominica." The challenge actually started yesterday, October 1st, but, in true island fashion, I am late. Woops. Anyway, look for 2 posts today and then hopefully I'll be back on track.

Day 1: What do you miss most about home?

Without question, the thing I miss most about home is my family. I know that sounds corny, but it's true. My family is crazy and awesome and I miss sharing life with them! I miss hanging out with my siblings and laughing 'til I cry at completely childish humor. I miss weekend fish fries at my dad's house. I miss random trips to the store with my mom that always take 3 times as long as they should because we both get easily distracted. I miss talking with my amazing 91-year-old grandma and soaking up her wisdom about life. I miss holding my sweet baby nephew and watching him grow. I miss hearing my niece tell silly jokes that don't make any sense. I miss teasing my little brother and nephew and watching them get totally embarrassed by me. I miss being able to attend my little brother's football games and school events. Most of all I miss being surrounded by people that love me unconditionally and understand who I am and where I've been (because they were raised by the same crazy parents too!). Sure, I can email my family and talk to them on the phone, but I am counting the days until I get to be back with them in person. It's true there is no place like home, but there is also NOTHING like your family!

In no particular order, the things I miss just slightly less than my family are as follows: air conditioning, driving my own car, Target, fancy pants grocery stores, and hair salons.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Homeward Bound (sort of)

Some time last semester I made the decision that I was going to make a trip home in the summer to visit my family and friends. I was super hesitant about it at first because I've never been away from Joe for more than 2 days or so. Ever since April when I booked my ticket home, this has been weighing on me. On the one hand, I'm so excited to see my family and friends back in Kansas. On the other, leaving Joe just bums me out. This weekend though, I got a little extra incentive for traveling home:
I have a sweet new nephew!!!! William Don Clark was born just before midnight on July 2nd. I am so excited to meet this little guy! As a proud aunt, I have the best job EVER. I get to hold, cuddle and spoil my new little nephew then give him back when he poops or cries :) So excited!

*Side note: My trip home would not be possible without my awesome sister, Stephanie, who got members of my family to all chip in and pay for my ticket home-not to mention the chunk of change she donated herself. Thanks sis!!

*Side note #2: I am excited to see all my family including my other niece and nephew. William gets the special blog post because he is 6lbs of cute wrapped in a blanket. No one else in my family fits that description at the moment :)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let me take a moment to clarify...

Let’s blog, shall we? In recent weeks, I’ve had numerous conversations with friends and family back home who seem to still be harboring some rather misguided interpretations of my life in Dominica (some making Dominica seem better than it is, some making it seem worse and some I’m not quite sure about). For that reason, I am making a rare blog post in order to, hopefully, clear up some of the confusion.

Misconception #1: I live in the Dominican Republic.

No. I live in the Commonwealth of Dominica. It is a small island in the Caribbean with few similarities to the Dominican Republic that I am aware of. Therefore, if you excitedly tell me you are soon going to be vacationing in Punta Cana, this means nothing to me. Punta Cana (located in the Dominican Republic) is just as far away and foreign to me as the United States is right now. We will not be meeting up to hang out if you go to the Dominican Republic on vacation, sorry. You can blame Christopher Columbus for this confusion. He liked to name countries he came across based on the day he found them. Apparently, Sunday was a busy day for him (domenica=Sunday)

Misconception #2 I live on an island full of latinos/Hispanics

I’m not even sure where an idea like this gets put into someone’s head, but let me clarify anyway. According to Wikipedia, Dominica’s population is composed of 86.8% black, 8.9%mixed, 2.9% Carib, 0.8%white, 0.7% other. So there you have it, Hispanics don’t even register on the list of ethnicities/races present in Dominica.

Misconception #3 Locals on the island are pushy and dishonest like those people in the Bahamas that try to sell tourists crappy souvenirs.

Actually, Dominicans are some of the kindest and most honest people I have ever met. People say hello to you whenever you cross paths on the street, they love to teach you about their culture or help answer your questions, they will let you buy on credit at many restaurants and just trust that you will pay them back later. I can count on one hand the number of Dominicans I have met during my 11 months on this island that were not wonderful and friendly. The people here really are incredible. It will be hard for me to return to America where people largely just ignore one another unless forced to interact.

Misconception #4 I have a never ending supply of fresh fruits and vegetables at my disposal here.

The truth is there are many, MANY fruits and veggies you just can’t get down here. The climate is too hot for many kinds of plants to grow and many kinds of produce would spoil before they could get shipped down here. Dominica does grow a few things REALLY well: mangoes, coconuts, guavas, bananas, eggplants, avocados-all are amazingly fresh and delicious down here. However, I find myself missing things like: any kind of berry (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), varieties of lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli etc. They just don’t exist down here and that makes me a little sad some days. Then I eat a mango that’s just been picked off a tree in my yard and feel a little better J

Misconception #5 I just lay around on the beach all day, every day.

It’s true I have more free time down here than I ever had back in America, but I’m certainly not just lying around all the time. I have 2 small jobs-one working 3 afternoons a week at the preparatory school on campus (where the students and professors send their kids to school) and I write articles for the university’s newspaper. This second job usually requires me to meet with professors to do interviews or attend various events on campus to write reviews. I also volunteer at a local school as a counselor where I work with about 10 girls aged 16-22. When I’m not doing those things, I also cook Joe dinner and take it to him on campus nearly every night, I have a bible study I go to once a week, I’m the fundraising chair for the Ross Spouses Organization board where I help plan fundraisers and other events to provide money for local charities, I do dishes by hand about every day (no dishwashers in Dominica, folks!), I do all the grocery shopping (which requires either a 2 hour round trip on a crowded van to get to a grocery store or hunting for my groceries in town on foot and carrying everything back to the house in very hot weather)and I handle any other household chores that need done (paying bills, etc.) When I’m not doing any of those things, then yes, I go to the beach or the pool and enjoy a little Caribbean sun J

Misconception #6 I have air conditioning so being hot down here is no different than being hot at home.

Ha. First of all let me say that December through March is absolutely gorgeous in Dominica. If it felt that way all year long, I would probably never leave this place. However, April through November is a whole different story. Dominica gets hot and humid like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve felt what an Arizona summer is like and it feels hotter than that. I’ve also felt how humid a Florida summer can be. It’s more humid than that here. I don’t know what words to use to describe what it’s like down here other than to just say it gets HOT and it gets HUMID. Also, I do not have an air conditioner to run like I would back in the states. Most apartments come with a small a/c unit in one room (usually a bedroom). These little suckers work pretty well, but they cost a fortune to run. For Joe and I to use A/C only while we are sleeping at night costs us over $100 dollars a month. That does not include the money spent using electricity on other things such as the fridge, fans, kitchen appliances etc. I can’t even fathom how much it would cost to run our A/C all day. Plus, I’d have to stay locked up in the bedroom in order to benefit from it which would get pretty dull. Needless to say, being hot here is much different than being hot in America. Oh and did I mention I walk every place? No air conditioned car to drive around either. So if you ever hear me say I’m hot, please do not respond with “I know how you feel, it’s hot here too!” because trust me, it is not the same.

So, I think that concludes my long winded explanation of the misconceptions I hear most often about life down here. Overall, I have to say life is good in Dominica and I’m enjoying both the good and the bad of living down here. If you actually read this entire long blog I am so proud of you. You get a gold star.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Cure For What Ails Ya...

Today I mentioned to several of my local friends that I had not been feeling well lately (no, I am NOT pregnant, so don't bother asking). Immediately they chimed in with their helpful suggestions of all kinds of local remedies for how I should get better. Many of them were common things that I had heard before-lots of rest, fresh juice with lots of Vitamin C-while others were more, ummm....unique. My favorite of these suggestions was to take a sea bath. Apparently, I am supposed to walk into the sea far enough so that only my head is above water. Then, stand there for half an hour. That's it. I'm told this will cure all that ails me. I honestly have no idea how this is supposed to help anything, but I have to admit it sounds kind of intrigung. Maybe I'll give it a try......

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Simple Sunday

I thought I'd write about how I spent my day today. I'm not sure why really. I suppose it was just a good day and I would like to relive it a bit before I move on....

I started the day by going to church with Joe (always a good way to start any Sunday)....

(Note: this is not what my church in Dominica really looks like)

Then, I tagged along with Joe while he went to study. I sat next to him and read and tried my best to not be distracting. I'm reading Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult right now, so far I really like the book. Perhaps I will tell you all about it when I am finished. Next, I met with my friend, Nicole, for a coffee date and some much needed girl talk. I had a caramel apple muffin and a latte for "lunch" while we filled nearly 3 hours with conversation.

(Sadly, my latte was not this pretty, but it was still pretty tasty.)

After my coffee date, I walked down to the beach, found a comfy spot to sit and pulled my book back out. I read, enjoyed the sound of the waves, and sipped on a fresh grapefruit juice for a good hour or so until the sun started to set. I marvelled at the sunset for a few minutes, as I do pretty much every evening here, then packed up and headed home.

(This picture, unlike the others in this post, is genuine. Its a picture I took of an actual sunset in Dominica, not an image I found on Google)

On my way home, I had this sudden craving for a tuna salad sandwich. For most people, this wouldn't be that unusual, but I have spent my ENTIRE life hating both canned tuna and mayonnaise. And when I say hate, I mean H-A-T-E. Like, just the smell of either one usually makes me wretch and gag. When I opened the can of tuna and the jar of mayonnaise, I still felt a little repulsed, but the finished product just sounded so good! So I carried on with my tuna salad making and devoured the entire thing. I am still not sure what got into me. No, I'm not pregnant. I'm thinking more along the lines of possible brain tumor or serious head trauma which has caused me to suddenly begin liking absolutely repulsive food products.

(Even now, this sandwich still looks tasty to me. What is going on with my tastebuds?!)

After my tuna salad sandwich endeavors, I pretty much just laid low the rest of the night, watched some silly reality TV and enjoyed a peaceful night at home.

So there you have it, my Sunday in a nutshell. I hope you were both captivated and spell bound by the recap of my daily adventures. I know I was.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A phone call from home!

Last night, I got a call from my Mama! I know it may seem silly that this is blog-worthy news, but when you're 3,000 miles from home, phone calls from family are a pretty big deal-not to mention the fact that my mom is my all time favorite person to talk to on the phone. For the last week or so, my mom has been super sick with pneumonia, so it was extra encouraging to hear that she is doing better and healthy enough to be back home (she was staying at my grandma's house while she was really sick).
I know that most people probably think their moms are pretty great, but I honestly think that my mom is THE coolest lady ever. Our relationship has had some ups and downs over the years, as most relationships do, but as an adult I have come to love and respect her SO much. She is just one of those truly remarkable people-the kind of unforgettable person that leaves a permanent imprint on your heart, Whenever I get a call from her, I always drop whatever I am doing (sorry bible study ladies) to answer because I know that a conversation with her will do my heart good. No matter what craziness is going on in her life, she is always so upbeat and encouraging when she talks to me. She is one of those few people in my life that are truly accepting of me no matter what I do or what decisions I make. I always leave our conversations feeling so loved and so appreciated, even when I haven't really done anything especially worthy of love or appreciation. She completely exemplifies the meaning of unconditional love and I am SO thankful for her!
So here's to my mama and all her awesomeness!!