9/27/2010

Dominica is a Developing Country

Evidence:

-cows on the road
-crater like potholes
-rivers of mud
-brown water in the sink
-no hot water in the sink
-limited food supply
-frequent power outages

Conclusion:

Always be prepared.

9/19/2010

It's Sunday Again Already?!

There's a saying here at Ross that the days may go slowly, but the weeks fly by.  How true that has been!  My week was full of outings and adventure.



Monday:  I got up early for the free shopping trip to Roseau.  The Ross Spouse Organization pays for a taxi to pick us up at the school library and then drive us to the capital of Dominica, Roseau, which is an hour away.  We stopped at the Coke Factory where you can get a case of soda for about 1EC a bottle, which is great but they didn't have any Diet or Coke Light.  Too bad so sad.  Once we got to Roseau our wonderful driver Bruno took us from store to store, helping us load up our groceries as we went.  I wish I had gotten a picture of the van on our way back.. it was jam packed with bags!  The other great thing was that we each got dropped off at our apartment when it was over.  So you could buy as much as you like, not as much as you could carry.  I spent about 1,000EC which my handy dandy converter tells me is 370US.  I know this sounds like a lot, but I basically bought what I thought would be what we need for the month, other than produce.  Hopefully I guessed right because the next Roseau trip isn't for a month!


Tuesday: I went to the prep school early to meet with the director because she said she had a tutoring job for me.  It is such a tiny school!  So, so different than Fairmont.  The director then talked me into volunteering once a week, hinting that if I did I would get tutoring jobs.  I agreed and she sent my phone number to a parent, and I got an afternoon job.  I have dreamed of this situation for years!  How great it would be to tutor in the afternoons for money, but not have to teach all day.  I'm so lucky!  I'm not going to make the same rate as in the states, but I will make 5 times as much as any other job I could get here.. so I'm happy.  The rest of the day I hung out with friends and went to the pool!

Wednesday: Our laundry came back.  There aren't laundromats here, so when the bags are full I call up Hermina and she comes and picks up our laundry and drops it off the next morning.  It costs about 7US dollars a load.  Everything is folded nicely and smells great when it comes back!


Wednesday was also our trip to Bense Pool.  It was a short hike down to an amazing pool and waterfall.  I made a video from the trip, but what I didn't get on tape was the natural water slide that you could take down from above which shoots you out at the waterfall.  It was a really fun adventure!



Thursday: It was ridiculously hot.  I spent the majority of the day hiding out in the CAC playing board games.  The CAC is like a rec center, with big TV's, pool tables, video games, and mostly importantly: air conditioning.  Then it was off to the Scuba Social, and then the girls game night/clothing swap. 


Friday: Up early again to go to the Moucherie Rum Distillery.  The tour was okay, they showed us the 19th century machines they use to crush the sugar cane, and the boilers they use to extract the alcohol.


The best part was the end when we got to do a tasting.  The guide brought us to a table of Rum and let us try whatever we wanted!


Saturday:  Bright and early we took a cab to the market.  Very oddly, there is next to nothing in produce at the local stores, you can only get it at the Saturday Morning market between 6 and 10am.  I came home with a huge bag of fruits and vegetables for less than 10US dollars.  Pretty awesome.  I even found basil!  So we had creamy pesto pasta for dinner last night, and it was delicious.  Also, I went to a "garage sale" where the 4th semesters who are leaving in December started selling the things they aren't taking with them.  I scored on a rug, bug spray, and several kitchen gadgets.  Mostly importantly, an oven thermometer because my oven is measured in Celsius.  Now, if I could only figure out how to turn the oven on...

Today/Sunday:  I was pretty excited about going to the beach today, but about noon it started with the thunder and lightning.  Hurricane Julia ruined my plans.  Knock on wood, hurricanes usually pass right by our little island and tend to hit the more northern islands, but we still get plenty of rain as they go by.  Instead of beaching, I spent time Skyping my mom and Kristen and then went to the CAC to play some games and watch a movie.  Then I made some yummy homemade cheesy chicken and broccoli rice for dinner.  My dinners have improved dramatically in the last few weeks as I collect more spices and staples in my cupboards. 

All in all, it was a great week.  Chris has his first test tomorrow, and is still up studying.  Wish him luck!

9/11/2010

Birthday in Dominica

  I've celebrated my birthday in many places at this point: Atwater, Azusa, England, Claremont, La Habra, Orange, and now Dominica! This was definitely the wettest birthday on record.  Actually, I can't recall any other birthday where rain was involved at all.  But it was also my first birthday in years where I haven't had to work!  Last year, I was pretty much at school until 9 pm becuase of Back-to-School Night.  No fun!  My first order of business was.. Iced Coffee!  Without a coffee maker, it's been a luxury to have a coffee these days.
  Half way to the university, there is a wanna-be coffee shop called Rituals.  It even has the green starbucks-esque font lettering on the front sign.  When I got home, the maid was just going into my apartment.  So, while the maid mopped, scrubbed, and cleaned, I Skyped with Kristen in Egypt.  (If anyone wants to ever Skype me, my name is: katieolsonprice.)  I enjoyed my afternoon reading all the wonderful birthday wishes.  Then it was time to get ready for Chris's White Coat Ceremony.  Knowing there is NO shopping on the island, I had picked and brought a new birthday shirt with me.
  We headed off into the rain for his ceremony.  The White Coat Ceremony is when the medical students get their first official white coat, which symbolizes the professional aspects of becoming a doctor.  The students read an Honor Code, which is basically an oath to do no harm, and are pinned.
  I kid you not, they played "We are The Champions" while the students were going up to be pinned!  It was a true Laugh Out Loud moment.  The Prime Minister of Dominica was there, and gave a short speech.  Apparently, he is the youngest head of state anywhere in the world right now.  We had a few snacks, ducked out of the rain for a while, and as soon as it cleared we headed home.
  We had to pop in to Rituals on the way home to wait out the rain again.  By the time we got home, I was done with walking in the mud for the day.  We ordered in from The Tomato, which is one of the more expensive, but really yummy restaurants here.  All restaurants deliver in Dominica, even the coffee shop!  I had penne pesto for dinner, and Orlando Bloom Chocolate WOW Cake for dessert.  Supposedly, while they were filming Pirates of the Caribbean here, the crew would frequent The Tomato and this was Orlando's favorite cake.  All in all, it was a good birthday.  Not quite as extravagant as in years past, but I'm learning that sometimes simple is just as satisfying.  :)

9/08/2010

Subway by the Sea

  Chris started his first week of school in Dominica.  He went to his first day of class, first anatomy dissection, and this Friday he gets his first white doctor's coat in a ceremony.  

  Life for me has been pretty lazy this week.  I'm giving myself a birthday present: a month of vacation.  It's the best present I could get.  Now, I'm still going to cook and clean and all that, but I've decided not to feel guilty about not working.  I'm going to take this month to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my months here... work or go to school or volunteer, or a combination.  Maybe by the end of the month it won't feel like a full time job just to go to the grocery store and make dinner.  Maybe I'll acclimate a little more to the weather.  Until then, I'm going to be kind to myself and take my time getting used to living in Dominica. 
  At lunch today I made a little video.  Because we are on the northwest side of the island, the ocean you see is the Caribbean Sea.  I'm calling this "Subway by the Sea!"

  Another highlight this week has been meeting some of the other spouses.  I think the fourth semester girls are great, and I'm sad that they will be leaving so soon before we even get to really know them.  My sponsor has been particularly fantastic, and I'm so thankful for all her help.   There are a few other first semester spouses who I really like, and I tomorrow there is going to be a gathering of all the spouses from all the semesters.  Maybe tomorrows video will be, Spouses by the Sea.  Stay Tuned!

9/05/2010

Rainy day in Dominica

  What a lazy, rainy Sunday here in Dominica.  I spent most of the day catching up on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and then reading.  That show cracks me up.  I don't know who annoys me more, Danielle from NJ or Kelly from NY.  It rained on and off all day.. but that doesn't mean it was much cooler.  I tried to take a video of the rain... but it might be too small for you to really see.

  The good news is that I finally made a decent dinner!  Homemade mac and cheese, Katie-style.  Milk here is either powdered, or boxed.  I went with the boxed milk that has probably been sitting on the shelf for months, but it worked!  I cooked the mac and drained it.  Then I used the same pan to saute some onions and hot dogs in butter.  I know what you're thinking, does she put hot dogs in everything?  And the answer is: only when it's the only meat available.  Although, I do think hot dogs and mac really do go together.  Once they were nice and browned I added the flour to make my roux and added the weird warm boxed milk.  When it started simmering I threw in my crumbled cheddar cheese, added the mac and stirred.  Viola!  Served with a little fresh onion on top, it was the best meal I've had in Dominica yet! 
  Tomorrow is Chris's first official day of school.  I don't think either of us are quite prepared for what's ahead.. but that's part of the adventure!

9/04/2010

Dinners in Dominica

  The food in Dominica is what you make of it, and I've been having trouble. I've tried to make several meals, most have been disasters. The first meal, spaghetti with sausage and marinara sauce, had potential until the propane tank ran out half way through cooking the pasta. I ended up dumping it all in a bowl and microwaving it. Bleh.
  Then we moved and got a new stove! For my first meal here I very unsuccessfully made a stir fry. There were several problems. With rice, it's a 2 to 1 ration rice to water. Of course, I did a 1 to 1 ratio until halfway through when I realized my mistake and added the other cups of water, only to have the rice turn out mushy. Also, it didn't occur to me to thaw the stir fry veggies beforehand. I was lcuky enough to find them at Tina's grocery store. The result was a very watery mess of veggies in the pan, to which I mistakenly just added some soy sauce and the rice and called it done. Needless to say, it was not good.
  Thinking I needed a break from cooking, the next night we ate out at a place called Riverside, which you guessed it, is by the riverside! haha.. I had a yummy plate of Chicken Pad Thai which tasted great but ended up turning my stomach by the nights end. Next was the Ross Welcome BBQ dinner, which was decent. It was a hamburger, with onions, ketchup, and mayo but no where near the ballpark of a good In-N-Out. Sadly, there were no side dishes left for us at the end of the line.
  Last night I was really craving Mexican. I found a can of real refried beans at Tina's Grocery (!) for 7.95EC, which works out to be $3.06 American. No, this is not one of those double sized cans.
  So I made up some ground beef with onions, garlic, cumin, chili.. you know, taco spices.  And feeling lazy because I'm literally dripping with sweat at this point, I tossed the can of beans in too and dubbed it mexican chili!  I served it with flour tortillas for dipping or rolling burritos with.  I bought the tortillas frozen an hour and a half away in the city of Rosseau, the capital of Dominica.  Imagine having to go to the capital city just for tortillas! There is more to that story, but I'll do a shopping post some other time.  Like I was saying, I called it dinner.

  Looks kinda gross, but it was pretty good.  Tonight though Chris tells me that his stomach was upset all day.  Now, who knows if it was the mexican chili from last night, or any number of other reasons.  Not to mention that he starts medical school on Monday.  I'm hoping it was some reason other than my dinner.
  Tonight was twisty pasta with hot dogs, onions, garlic, cheese and marina.  Kinda odd combination, but it was the best I could do with what I had.  It turned out... alright.  *Sigh* Generally, I consider myself to be a better than average cook.  Dominica has made me lose my groove.  Super expensive groceries, boiling temperatures, propane stoves, and lack of ingredients are my excuse.  But that's not going to fly for much longer.

9/01/2010

The Move


Before we got here, we had to leave our house.  That was the worst bit of this whole thing.  Super hot, super sweaty, super tricky to get everything we own into one upstairs storage unit.  The last two nights, I got about 2 hours of sleep because there was no time to stop.  It had to get done and it did.  Rodney Atkins says it all:









If your going through hell
Keep on going, don't slow down
If you're scared don't show it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there

Yeah, If you're going through hell
Keep on moving, face that fire
Walk right through it
You might get out
Before the devil even knows you're there


Love that song.  By the time we left, the house looked amazing.  It is a night and day difference from when we moved in.  Our tenant is one lucky guy, and we are one lucky set of landlords to have him.  Here are some before and after pictures of our home.  





 
After the carpets were cleaned and I handed my keys over to our Realtor, it was off to the airport for us.  Chris dropped the Shelby off at his parents and then we went to the bank and took out a huge chunk of our savings in cash for the trip and to get our bank account started here.  Then we headed to my sister Julie’s house, cats and all.  Thankfully, the cats and carrier weighed exactly 20.0 pounds (see last post).  

So with the kitties in tow, off we went to the airport still stuffing things into every last nook and cranny of our luggage.  Chris even put on two shirts and was stuffing shorts into his sweatshirt pocket.  Little did we know, the airline wasn’t even going to check if we had less than 70 pounds of luggage.  After all that careful planning and weighing, we could have brought 30 more pounds each!  *sigh*  I’m sure that if we had packed 100 pounds of luggage each, we would have been held to the 70 pound rule, as life often does.  Thankfully, Chris got to unload his pockets and extras into the luggage before it got sent off.

When we got to security, they told us we would have to take the cats out of their carriers and walk them through the metal detectors while they x-rayed the carrier and our luggage.  Thank goodness we were prepared for this with harnesses!  My mom is a genius for thinking of this ahead of time.  The kitties made it through just fine, and back into their crate they went for another... 24 hours or so.  If you can believe it, they were quieter than any of the children on board the planes.  No one even knew they were there!  And, no, neither of them had any “accidents.” 


The flight from LAX to Miami was quick and easy. I slept pretty much the whole time until the captain came on the next morning saying that Miami was currently closed due to weather and we would be circling until it cleared.  Great.  A few minutes later the captain comes on again and says that our fuel light is on and we are being diverted to Alabama, or something like that.  Fantastic.  Then, on he comes again, but with good news!  We are landing, but nearly an hour later than scheduled.  Off we run to the next terminal to catch our next flight to Puerto Rico which leaves in 30 minutes.  The last ones on the plane, they take Chris’s carry-on and without checking put down Puerto Rico as it’s final destination.  So, once we landed Chris had to go out through the airport to baggage, find his luggage, and go back through security.


Finally, we made our last flight to Dominica on a teeny tiny plane.  Customs was easy, it was even smaller than at Cabo.  Of course, none of our checked baggage made it, but we were kind of prepared for that, and we eventually got it two days later on Saturday.  


The first thing I have to say about the island is: It’s Hot!  Not California dry hot, but out of control, dripping sweat, feels like you’re in a sauna hot.  I’m sure I’ll adjust but it’s my biggest obstacle right now.  Walking anywhere is just torture.  There is no point in putting make up on, because it’s going to melt off.  No point in doing your hair, because it’s going to be dripping with sweat in 10 minutes.  God bless the people who have lived their whole lives here. 

Our apartment here is actually pretty nice, now that we’ve moved.  We spent the first 2 days in a middle floor apartment that was pretty small, but then our landlord suggested that we move to the top floor for $50 more a month to a much bigger place.  Not only is it bigger, but it’s nicer with a full sized stove, working windows, a bigger bed, 2 closets, and a vanity.   These seem like insignificant things until you don’t have them!  Here's a video of our new place.


Pretty much, island life has been about survival for the last week.  Getting the cat’s food (frozen ground beef), finding a litter box (literally a box of sand from the beach), learning to use a match to light the propane stove, figuring out what to do when your propane runs out halfway through cooking dinner, and more significantly getting Chris ready to start school with all the orientation stuff and check in’s, etc.

I’m going to be glad for things to settle down next week when his classes start.  Maybe I can find a groove here.  And after the groove, maybe a part time job or school.  We’ll just have to see!