Sunday, February 28, 2016

Back to Where it Started

Early in the morning on August 1, I boarded a passenger ferry boat leaving from St. Lucia, headed to my new home on Dominica. I wasn't sure what I was getting into, but when you are in the Peace Corps, you just go with it and roll with the punches. I was leaving an island (and a host family) where I had become quite comfortable during our initial training, only to start all over again with a new host family in a new location. I hoped it would all work out okay.

While I didn't get sea sick, I certainly got queasy as the lumbering ferry boat rocked and rolled with the sea swells. I was very grateful that our four hour journey was nearing an end when the southeastern tip of Dominica came into view. The stunning green mountains of my new home made quite the first impression. Plus, there was that unusual peak seemingly just off the coast of the bottom corner of the island.

Later, I learned the peak was called Scotts Head, and that it is actually attached to the island by a narrow isthmus. It is quite the geological oddity, as it separates the crashing surf of the Atlantic Ocean from the docile waters of the Caribbean Sea. During Christmas break, I was able to visit this area for the first time and climbed to the top of the peak (see my previous blog story). It is a fascinating spot!

Today I got to see Scotts Head from an entirely different angle, both in terms of my vantage point and in terms of why I was there. This time I was invited by a family in my village to accompany them to a birthday party at a relative's house in the village of Scotts Head. When we finally arrived, the van we were riding in turned off the main road and slowly worked its way up a labyrinth of side streets to reach the house near the top of the village. Once we got there, the view from the back porch was incredible!
The view from the porch. The boy on the right is one of my students.
It was a beautiful day, and I loved simply gazing from this new perspective at the turquoise shallow waters surrounded by the darker indigo blue of the deeper areas. Dozens of sailboats made their way around this corner of the island over the course of the day. Judging by the angle of their masts, some of them were really tilted over as they rode the strong wind. Tourists with a snorkeling excursion group from the big cruise ship docked at the capital fanned out across the water with their neon yellow or neon orange air vests. We even watched fishermen in a small boat lay out a net in the bay and then pull their catch back into their boat.
Look close and you can see three sailboats plus a motorboat just north of Scotts Head.
I also enjoyed watching one of my favorite birds down here—the frigate bird. Its dark black color, sharply angled wings, and long pitchfork tail make it quite easy to recognize (to put it into WWII terminology, I like to think of them as a combination of the F-4 Corsair wings and the P-38 Lightning tail). They would slowly glide across the sky, slightly twitching their wings or tails to react to the wind changes. I also watched them riding thermals (rising columns of air), as they tightly circled in a vertical corkscrew motion to gain altitude. In addition, a few pelicans were also part of this bird parade, including a “squadron” of four of them, seemingly flying in formation as they passed in front of us.
This panorama shot provides a different view (although it makes Scotts Head seem more distant), including a glimpse of the garden area below the porch.
Besides the socialization, music, food, and drink, we also spent some time swimming in the sea next to Scotts Head. The water was crystal clear! It is pretty nice to be able to go swimming in the sea during the month of February when it is so cold back home. We were right in the inside corner of Scotts Head that was visible from the back porch, because it has a sandy bottom that is easier on your feet.
Not long before we left for the long return trip to the opposite corner of the island, I noticed the ferry boat making its northerly run, and took the shot above as it passed through the sun-glinted waters. I wondered if there might be a passenger on board looking over this way as he prepared to land on Dominica for the first time. It made me think about how much I've grown since I was on that ferry boat on August 1, looking over at the exterior portion of Scotts Head and my new island country. At that time, I didn't know anyone on this island, but here I am now, having been invited to a family get-together with people who were not even my host family.

I realized how well things have gone for me here in Dominica. Not only had my vantage point on Scotts Head changed, but my viewpoint on “home” has been modified. West Virginia will always be home, but Dominica has won a special place in my heart as my current home. It was a great ending to a memorable day.

As the sun set over the Caribbean, I took this final shot before we left for “home.”


  1. While reading what you wrote shows the love that you have for island and the people there. The pictures are beautiful it is wonderful that you have settled into life there taking in all that life has to offer. Please continue to share with us life in the Dominican.

  2. beautiful writing, David, as is your evident love for where you're at. Thank you for continuing to embody all 3 of the Peace Corps objectives!