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.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well said Brandi, well said. I wish I could copy this an send it to all our friends and family who have had the same misconceptions about this place, especially the weather. Being from AZ our family is constantly talking about the heat...sorry, but I have no sympathy for you in your air-conditioned world.