Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I'll take "Hodge Podge" for $200, Alex

This blog story is a hodge podge of minor items (for anyone who doesn't recognize the title above, it comes from the quiz show Jeopardy, which sometimes threw a variety of questions under a category named "Hodge Podge"). I hope you enjoy it!
I took some pictures recently of pelicans diving for fish just off our beach. I find it fascinating to watch their methods, as they glide around searching for their target, then dive bomb down beak first to catch their fish. Here is one as it sailed over my head.
Below are a pair flying together. In the distance on the right, you can see the local coastal landmark known as the “Lion's Back.” The large gray rock looks like the back of a sitting lion, while the green trees comprise his mane.
The next two pictures show a pair executing their dive bombing mission (note the splash on the right side of the second picture). After swallowing their fish, they take off from the surface of the water, glide around the beach, and start hunting all over again.

I've attended several rounders games on Sunday afternoon. Rounders is a bit like baseball, but is played by women using something similar to a tennis ball. Instead of a bat, they used a solid wooden racquet about the size of a tennis racquet.
In the diagonal picture above, you can see our school in the top right corner. Towards the lower left corner, you can see the “L'islet” peninsula that separates our two beaches. In the picture below, taken from the opposite side of the field, you can see part of our village in the background. Note that the bases in this game are really bamboo poles set inside five gallon buckets. Base runners must touch or grab the poles. Batting takes place in a spot about mid-way and behind what would normally be the baseline between home plate and first base. If you get a hit, you run to touch the poles, and if you make it all the way around, you score a run.
In the picture below, on the far right edge you can see that the pitcher (cut in half with only her orange jersey showing) has released the ball, which is headed to the batter in the green and black uniform.
Finally, some of may recall my story about “Mr. Whippy,” the ice cream truck. Well, he got a fancy new truck, complete with big plastic ice cream cones on the top front corners.

Many Americans lament that today's youth spend too much time indoors playing expensive video games. Here in my village, children still play outside most of the time. Recently, some of the boys were racing the home-made “sleds” (in the photo above) up and down Main Street. These are the simplified versions of the fancy “drivable” wooden trucks (which are a traditional Dominica toy) that were included in my report about the Carnival Parade. Shown below is a picture of a fancy gas tanker truck that wasn't included in the Carnival Parade story.
The children in my village are very resourceful when it comes to creating fun toys. Someone had thrown out an ancient computer keyboard, which some of the boys salvaged from the trash. They discovered that they could slide down a steep sidewalk by riding atop this plastic keyboard, as shown in the pictures below.

Above and below are a couple of pictures from a great hike I did a few weeks ago with a number of my students. We started at the end of one of the village streets and hiked way up the mountainside before coming back down. I got to try eating something that grows on a tree here that smells horrible on the outside (it actually smells a bit like “poop”), but once you get it out of its shell or pod, it tastes great on the inside. I also enjoyed seeing pineapples growing and tasting cinnamon bark right off the tree.

Speaking of cinnamon, it is a major spice that is included in something called cocoa tea. There are plenty of cocoa trees here, but processing them into what Americans think is chocolate is difficult. Locals prefer to mix their cocoa with a variety of spices and roll them into sticks, which can be grated into hot water to create cocoa tea. I found a good article that explains it better than I can—check it out at http://www.foodrepublic.com/2014/08/18/cocoa-tea-the-best-hot-beverage-youre-not-drinking-but-should-be/.
In the picture above, a local woman has her table filled with cocoa tea sticks she made that afternoon. Notice that they are sitting to dry on banana leaves (which are commonly used for various kitchen purposes). Also note that they look a bit like dog turds, but they are delicious!
On the way home from school tonight, I was given some sea snails (a local delicacy known as bwego), which I fixed with my dinner. I washed these four large snails and then boiled them (as shown above). After cooking, I was able to pull them from the spiral shell with a fork tine. The picture below (taken while rinsing them off) gives you an idea of their size (and also shows the round “door” that protects the opening to their shell).
In the picture below, I have cut off the round protective shell that covers the opening to the spiral shell, as seen on the right side of the plate. The two snails in the middle still have their black tails intact, but I've already cut off the tails of the two on the left side of the plate. They provided a nice appetizer to my dinner tonight.

Two of my friends (one from my former workplace and the other from high school) recently sent me packages for my school. The first one included much needed supplies such as pencils and erasers, as well as wall-mounted pencil sharpeners (just like I had when I was an elementary student). However, the most popular item from that shipment may well be the carbon paper, which our teachers are already putting to good use here (see the picture above).
Today we got another box, but this one contained 110 paperback books, many of which were non-fiction for early readers—just what we wanted! We will put these books, some of which are shown in the pictures above and below, to good use!
I noticed that one of the books is a biography about one of my favorite authors—Cynthia Rylant. She is from southern West Virginia and finished her undergraduate degree at the University of Charleston shortly before I arrived on campus as a student there.

Finally, I thought I'd include some pictures of flowers I saw during my walk to school this morning (I took a different route to work by cutting down by the church, crossing the creek, and passing by the Health Center). I can't tell you much about them, but I know my mother loves flowers, so I'm including these for her.


  1. Thanks for your great blog posts David! I wish I could read more of them, so will keep trying, but all I've read just bring back so many memories. As I probably told you, I spend the last 6 months of my Peace Corps service in 1984 based in Vieille Case, with weekly visits to Pennville and Thibaud teaching music and collecting folk songs. I also note the hiking. We PCVs serving in the north of Dominica seem to have a knack for that -- three of us PCVs teaching at PSS twice took a group of our students on a week-long hike completely around the island each of the summers we were there. Looks like you might be catching the hiking bug. Hey, we MAY be back this summer and if so, would love to come visit.

  2. I totally love that Cynthia Rylant - of course one of my favorite children's authors as well - is present! It makes me happy to know she's being shared with the children.

    -Jeff Sapp