Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Middleham Falls

Yesterday I caught an early bus to meet with other Peace Corps volunteers at the office in the capital of Roseau. With school starting on Monday, September 5 (and staff reporting tomorrow, September 1), we wanted to get together for one more adventure. These activities provide a good bonding experience between the existing volunteers and the new volunteers who were recently sworn in.
This time, the destination was Middleham Falls. So the ten of us who were able to go got a bus to take us up in the mountains to the trailhead. From there, it took nearly an hour to hike through the lush forest (with pleasant conversations along the way) before reaching the falls. One of the interesting parts of the hike was a section where the ground was covered with a network of exposed roots, causing one to carefully pick their path across this portion.
Dominica has lots of waterfalls (see my previous stories about Bwa Neff and Trafalgar Falls), and this one was just as beautiful as the others. The water drops nearly 300 feet to a gorgeous pool of cold water at the bottom. Below, I tried to take a vertical panoramic shot to get the entire length of the waterfall into one picture.
The picture below shows some of our group who chose to swim in the pool, gathered near a large hole in the wall.
I enjoyed gazing upward and watching individual spurts of water as they went free-falling down to the bottom. Although some of the girls got a bit cold, I enjoyed the cool spray from the falls, compared to the usual heat I endure regularly down here. I don't think I can say that I've been cold since I arrived. There were maybe two nights during the “winter” that I pulled the sheet over me while I slept, but even that wasn't dreadfully cold.
The picture below shows the view from the observation deck of the stream continuing down the canyon from the waterfall pool. If you look close, you can see a few other small waterfalls on the far side joining the main stream.
On the hike back, we enjoyed a nice conversation with an interesting American. Brian Saupe is a retired law enforcement officer who purchased a 41 foot catamaran yacht. He does charters out of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands during tourist season, but is now island-hopping during his off season, and is currently exploring Dominica for a few days. After having lived for many years high in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and now living at sea level, he named his boat “Altitude Adjustment” ( It was interesting to discuss our mutual observations on life in the Caribbean.

It seems that all of us are having a good time down here! Bring on the new school year!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Erika – One Year Later

Just a quick note to mention that today is the one year anniversary of Tropical Storm Erika. That storm caused the deaths of 31 Dominicans and over $1 billion dollars in damages (according to today's news reports). The island is still not fully recovered from the devastation.

The main road between the two largest cities (Portsmouth and the capital of Roseau) has three bridges that were all destroyed. Detours were built to temporary single-lane Bailey Bridges (named for the British designer back in WWII) that are still being used today. There are other places along the road where caution barrels warn of the roadway being undercut from the water damages during the storm, plus a large section of the road that fell into the Layou River, resulting in a major dirt detour up the hill and around the slip. It will be awhile before this, the most important road on the island, gets back to normal.

If you haven't already seen them, I've written four blog stories related to this storm.

With this story, I just want to cover a few points. First, the worst part about this storm was the loss of communication. Not being able to let the outside world—whether it was Peace Corps officials or my friends and family back in the USA—know that I was safe was very worrisome. We got a lot of rain, but it really didn't seem all that bad. It was the repercussions from all the rain that made life difficult. With our local spring, life without public water wasn't difficult. Dealing with no electricity was not a huge problem. However, the loss of phone service and internet was the most frustrating in today's world. Technology is essential in today's world. I remember writing in the first story listed above that if I was to try to lay out a huge message on our playing field to communicate with airplanes or helicopters passing overhead, I would be saying “Send Internet” rather than the conventional “Send Food.”

Secondly, as I mentioned in the first paragraph, it is tough in developing countries to recover from an unexpected disaster such as this. There were a lot of countries that provided disaster assistance (and were much more visible than the USA), but even with a lot of outside help, the signs of damages are still readily apparent. I think it will be a long time before all remnants of the storm damage has been fixed.

Thirdly, I found out later that I was being talked about in the upper echelons of the Peace Corps and the State Department. As the only Peace Corps Volunteer who had not been able to check in and confirm my safety during this disaster, both government bureaucracies were concerned. Thus, by Sunday, when ships started running passengers between Roseau and Portsmouth, the Peace Corps security manager and my country director sailed to Portsmouth and then hired a driver to bring them to my village so they could confirm I was alive (and to relocate me to the capital if I had desired). They went to my host family's house, only to be told that I was helping out with the landslide removal on a nearby street. They eventually found me, and the security manager took the picture below of me with my country director (with my shovel and a wheelbarrow behind me). I declined their offer to relocate me, because I was fine in my village, and there was still a lot of work to do. If the residents were staying, so was I.

Finally, there was a silver lining to Erika's clouds. My village has a great sense of community spirit, and rather than wait for the government to send equipment to clear landslides (as other villages did), we started doing it ourselves, using shovels and wheelbarrows. By volunteering to help with this landslide clearing effort, I was able to gain the trust of villagers and get to know them better. It helped me integrate into my community more quickly and more meaningfully than other Peace Corps volunteers.

Despite this silver lining, I hope I don't experience any more major storms during my stay here!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Titou Gorge

Serving in the Peace Corps is a two-year commitment. Last Friday, the latest group of volunteers were sworn in to start their two years after completing their training. The photo below shows the newest class members, joined by my class, as well as the class that preceded mine (I'm at the top left). Yesterday, those of us still serving here took the new class on a day trip to some of our favorite spots on the island.
We met at the Peace Corps office in the capital, and then had our van driver take us up to Freshwater Lake (pictured below), which is at a very high altitude (and provides much of the hydroelectric power for the island). I had visited this beautiful lake previously, but this time it was warm and sunny instead of cool and misty. This picture only captures a portion of this large lake.
Although we didn't have time to explore, they got a brief look at Trafalgar Falls. We also visited the hot springs in Soufriere (pictured below), and finished the day by snorkeling at Champagne Reef, all of which I had enjoyed before (click on the links to review my previous stories).
The one place we visited that was new to me was Titou Gorge. I had heard tales of this tourist attraction, and knew that it had been one of the spots used in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie that was filmed here. I was eager to check it out for myself.

Titou Gorge (“Ti tou” means “little-thoat” in the local Creole dialect) is a narrow canyon with a deep, cold, clear stream running through it. It reminded me of cave tours I have done (including Old Man's Cave State Park in Ohio), with its stark stone walls winding on either side. However, if one gazes upward, there is a narrow slit of blue sky and green vegetation at the top (probably fifty feet or so above you at its highest point). It is a surreal setting.

I understand that one of the recent episodes of Discovery Channel's “American Tarzan” featured Titou Gorge. With the help of ropes, they went further up the gorge than the typical tourist, as shown in this brief video clip.

As you wade into the water, it is rather cold at first. The water deepens quickly, and I was eager to swim just to warm my body. You do get a workout swimming upstream, because the current in the narrow parts of the gorge is fighting against you (there was one wider “room” which had a point on the side where you could stand on the bottom and rest). The current becomes more prominent as you approach the first waterfall.

Just to the right of the waterfall is a small round area just slightly larger than a telephone booth, where folks can get out of the current and stand for a rest. From this point, you climb along the rocky wall towards the waterfall, using a limited number of handholds while your feet struggle to find solid points under the frothy water. Upon reaching the waterfall (actually more of a cascade), the guide helped us to climb up it, stepping through the strong flow of the water which was coming down “steps” (a drop of about five feet over about a three foot length). It was a bit challenging, but all of us made it.

The next pool above the first waterfall was much shorter, but just as cold and cave-like. There was a much larger waterfall (about 10-12 feet?) dumping itself at the head of this pool. It was possible to work your way around the back of the falls, or to “take a shower” under the force of the falling water. However, this was the end of the line for most visitors swimming up the Titou Gorge.

To exit, we swam back to the top of the first waterfall. The preferred method for getting around this five foot cascade is to jump from the top into the pool below. Normally, this would not be a problem for me, but one must add into your calculations not to jump out too far and hit your head on the “cave” wall above the targeted landing zone. Too far to the left, and the water is too shallow for a safe landing, but too far to the right and you might hit the wall in flight. However, I'm probably making it sound worse than it was, because everyone made the jump with no problem.

From there, we had the current behind us as we swam out of the narrow canyon. I enjoyed swimming on my back so that I could look upward at this very unusual scene. Obviously, I couldn't take my camera with me on this wet adventure, but a friend snapped the picture below as I emerged from the gorge, followed by two of the new volunteers. You can't feel the water temperature in this picture, but you can see the clarity of the water in this stream.

Notice that even though I was a good enough swimmer to pass the Red Cross life guard test years ago, I went ahead and paid $5 Eastern Caribbean dollars (about $2 US) to rent a life jacket, because others had told me how important it was here. I highly recommend a life jacket for anyone trying this, because of the current and the water temperature.

There is also an opportunity to jump (actually, it is more like just stepping off) down between the walls into the deep water about 15 feet below. It is just beyond the opening of the gorge that I am swimming out of in the picture above. I don't have a photograph to share, but I did find a YouTube video of someone else taking the leap if anyone wants to see what it was like.

Personally, I enjoyed my leap off the end of Rodney's Rock into the Caribbean better as far as jumps go, but I am very glad I got to experience this unusual tourist spot on the Nature Island of Dominica. I will remember it for the rest of my life.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Nothing but Net

One of the new sports that I've been introduced to down here is netball. It is primarily a sport for women, and just like rounders can be considered a derivative of baseball for women, netball can be considered a form of basketball for women. It got its start in England around the turn of the 20th century, and is very popular in the British Commonwealth countries.

If you were a good shooter in basketball and could swish your shots without using the backboard, you'd be an asset for a netball team—because there is no backboard on a netball court. There is just a pole connected to a hoop and net (as shown below). It is either "in the hole" or not—no friendly bounce off the backboard to help you score.

Unlike basketball, there is no dribbling. The ball is moved up and down the court by passing. Once you catch a pass, you must “freeze” and then pass the ball to a teammate. Your teammates are likely running around trying to get away from defenders and get open to receive the next pass. After passing the ball down the court, someone gets close enough to make a shot at the basket. [Note in the photo below that the basketball goal is on wheels and pulled back when netball is being played.]
I snapped these pictures on Saturday while I was in Portsmouth (the second largest town on the island). This court serves as both a basketball court and a netball court, and includes some nice bleachers for spectators. The photo below shows the ball in the air above the goal on the other end of the court.
I was introduced to this sport by playing with the few girls in our school. For most of the year, we only had three girls in the upper grades, so I played with the youngest, a 3rd grader, against the two 5th graders. I quickly found out that it could be a physically demanding sport as you are constantly trying to defend or conversely, running around trying to get open. I have fun whenever we play.

We were just practicing how to move the ball up and down our playing field, because our school does not have a netball court. There is a physical education teacher who travels around to the different schools in our area. Because of our small population of girls (but with our large playing field), she brings with her a handful of female students from another small school, allowing both groups of girls to play sports together. Towards the end of the school year, this combined netball team competed in a tournament at the nice netball court in Portsmouth. Not surprisingly, we lost to larger schools with better facilities.

We do have a small basketball court at our school—if you can call it that (see pictures above and below). At the end of the driveway that went to the old school (which was torn down), a basketball court has been set up. However, the pole is just stuck in a hole with rocks surrounding it. This means it is not very stable, and ends up leaning at an unusual angle. There is a very sad looking partial tattered remnant of net that hangs down from one portion of the rim. The boys still enjoy shooting the basketball sometimes, but it is not that big of a sport here. Soccer (known as football) and cricket are the two most popular team sports for the boys, and rounders is the most popular game for women.
Yesterday, our village hosted a double-header at our beautiful playing field. There was a rounders game beginning at 1:00, followed by a football game at 4:00 (plus a domino tournament that evening). In between, several of us went across the road and swam in the ocean. Below is a shot of the football game—look close and you can see a home team player wearing a red jersey about to kick the ball.
I enjoyed being “out and about” now that my two-week period of potentially being contagious following my Zika illness is over. Of course, I am still taking precautions to avoid mosquito bites, but my blood should no longer carry the virus. I would hate to pass it along to someone else, especially any of the young women in our village who might become pregnant. Now I need to enjoy my final days before school starts up on September 5.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Slap! My less agile left hand slammed down on the back of my dominant right hand. Lifting my left hand revealed a smudge of flattened black mosquito carcass, as well as a trace of bright red blood that had just been sipped from me. Another one bites the dust—a small victory in the ever-present war against mosquitoes in the tropics! Yet once again, I told myself “I hope that one didn't have Zika.” I resumed my lonely watch for the transport van I would catch as it rolled by my village in the dawn's early hour this past Saturday (the beautiful view from the bus stop is shown below).
By Saturday evening, I wasn't feeling quite right. Dang it! That mosquito may have been the one that finally infects me, I (mistakenly) thought. Just to be safe, I took a couple of the generic acetaminophen tablets issued in our Peace Corps medical kit (shown below). After a rough night's sleep, I woke up on Sunday morning with a low grade fever (99.9 degrees). At that point, I didn't have any rash or other symptoms. I skipped my usual trip to the Catholic church service and took it easy all day. I decided not to mention it to my sister and parents during our weekly video chat, since at that point I really didn't know anything for sure.
Later that day, I noticed a small group of red bumps on my chest area. I prepared an email to the Peace Corps medical officer explaining my situation, and attached a picture of the rash on my chest. The two doctors assigned to the Eastern Caribbean take good care of us! There had been a number of Zika cases in my village over the past several months, including some of my students who live nearby. I was hoping I wasn't the latest casualty in this mosquito war.

The villagers seem relegated to mosquito-borne illnesses. They had already figured out that the symptoms of Zika were a lot milder than the others—with the important exception for the impact it can have on pregnant women. Most of them have had dengue, chikungunya, etc., when those mosquito-borne viruses invaded the island. It is just a fact of life in this part of the world, and they accept it. As Doris Day used to say, “Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be!”

I don't mean to imply that the folks here don't care. I wrote a blog story back in February about the concern for Zika. There were various clean-up efforts to minimize breeding areas, and we tried to educate the school children about it. However, once it finally arrived in our village, no one was surprised. About all we can do is hope there are no babies are born with microcephaly.

On Monday morning after reading my message, the Peace Corps medical officer reminded me that the mosquito which bit me on the back of my hand on Saturday could not have given me Zika. The virus doesn't spread that quickly, so if I had Zika, it must have been from an earlier bite. Or perhaps I had something different. I had complained of headaches (which I almost never get), back ache, and pain in my neck when turning my head. The back of my eyeballs seemed to be the focus for the headache pain. I assured the doctor, however, that this pain was mild compared to the time two decades ago when I had meningitis. I certainly didn't want to go through that experience again! Spinal taps are not fun!

Since I was not going to teach summer school with a 100.2 fever on Monday morning, I walked to a neighbor's house to give some materials to take to my counterpart teacher at the school. Several members of that family had already been through Zika themselves. As soon as they saw me, they noticed all the red rash that I had not noticed yet. [The red rash definitely is more visible on my white skin than on their dark skin!] It had spread up my neck and was starting to work its way out my arms.

I knew my back had been itching a bit, but I thought it was just from a spot of sunburn I received after I didn't get my back completely covered in sunscreen when I was snorkeling. So I lifted my shirt for them to check it—indeed, it was covered in rash. I took some pictures so I could update the doctor. She told me to keep taking the generic Tylenol and arranged for me to get some testing in the capital city for Friday. However, Zika is so prevalent now that they only test to make sure you don't have dengue fever.

Over the next few days, the rash spread over my body, eventually reaching my hands and later all the way to my feet. Fortunately, I didn't really itch all that much. However, the joint pain increased all over. It wasn't major pain, but any unusual twist of the wrist, or just simple movements such as clenching your fist, let you know that something wasn't right. Heck, even normal walking was different, because your knees, ankles, and toes didn't have their normal flexibility. I hate looking like an old man when I walk!
Fortunately, by Tuesday night, my fever broke. On Wednesday I awoke to find the red rash was beginning to dissipate, clearing up in the order that it had first appeared (my thigh is shown above). The worse part of the symptoms was behind me, although it was going to take awhile before all traces of this illness are gone. The final area with the red spots is my feet (shown below).
Perhaps the worst part is that I hate becoming one of the victims. I tried to take precautions, but now the virus resides in my blood. I can only hope that some future mosquito which bites me (which is virtually inevitable down here, despite prevention efforts) doesn't pass it on to a pregnant woman. I am just one of many in my village who got Zika, so it hardly matters whether it comes from me or someone else. However, I will do all I can to reduce the chance of that happening. For now, I am spending much more time inside my cottage. Plus, I will continue to use mosquito repellent when I am out, burn mosquito coils on my porch, and sleep under my mosquito net, as described in my earlier Zika story linked above.

I am not the first Peace Corps Volunteer to get Zika. I'm not sure who was the first, or the exact total, but a number of us on the four islands supported by the Peace Corps have been infected. Here is a blog story written by one of my colleagues on St. Lucia who got it. I'm glad my mother (a former nurse) read his account prior to learning that I had acquired the virus, because it made her less worried about me. By the way, my counterpart teacher came down with it the day after I did. We are convinced we got it from a mosquito at the school.

Of course, this means that I am now a carrier of the Zika virus. I need to return to the USA in October for my daughter's wedding (I'm hoping for an early frost to kill all the mosquitoes before I return). I guess every Peace Corps Volunteers brings home some sort of souvenir from their country of service—my “souvenir” is just a bit more unique than a coffee mug or a t-shirt. Indeed, for the first time in my life, I have a disease that is (at least temporarily) capable of being sexually transmitted (also known as an STD). Fortunately, I've not had a lot of young women throwing themselves at me down here.

The mosquito at the bus stop may not have been the one that gave me Zika, but it did bite me in a spot where I've suffered bites before—the back of my hands. After applying repellent, I always wash my hands, so that I don't end up inadvertently getting the chemicals in my eyes or mouth via my fingers. However, that washes the repellent off my hands, making them vulnerable. It is a difficult balance—how much repellent to use to prevent mosquitoes, without suffering consequences from the harsh chemicals? How much effort should one put into what may eventually be inevitable? Some experts have said the best vaccination against Zika is to get Zika, since it is rather mild compared to other diseases. Now that I've had it, I can say it really doesn't amount to all that much.

I guess that is why the locals, for the most part, just go about their normal routine, and chalk up whatever happens as “Que Sera, Sera.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Village Feast

The biggest weekend in my little village recently drew to a close. The annual village feast is held at the beach and draws hundreds of folks from around the island (as well as expatriates from abroad). It provides the majority of the revenues necessary for our local government, plus gives local shopkeepers a much needed economic boost. More importantly, it also provides a good time for one and all!

It all started back in 2008, when my village organized a homecoming reunion that proved to be very successful. It was held during the Christmas/New Years time frame, when many relatives who had left the island for work elsewhere were back home to visit. The success of that reunion led the village to think they could expand their traditional August Monday celebration into a larger event that would draw outsiders to our village. [The picture below was taken from part-way up Mont Rouge on Monday afternoon, and gives you an idea of the beautiful setting for our festival.]

First, let me explain that the first Monday in August is a holiday here, commemorating the end of slavery in British colonies back in 1838. I understand that our village had always held some sort of local event during this three-day weekend, but after the successful reunion in 2008, plans were begun for a much larger August Monday celebration. [Note that I don't hear people refer to this holiday as Emancipation Day—it is always just August Monday.]

So, after our “community carnival” was finished in February, the village leaders turned their focus to planning for the village feast—or as it is known in the local kweyol dialect, the “fete.” The village council set up various committees for the different functions, and representatives from each committee (a mix of elected councilors and citizens) met every other Tuesday night from late February to June. As the date neared, the village feast committee met every Tuesday night for the final month. Throughout these months, the fete was a major topic at the regular monthly village council meetings as well. The different committees that met independently and then reported their activities to these joint meetings included entertainment, publicity (see poster below), vending, security, sports, and exhibition.

Last year, the event spanned ten days, with some early events held the weekend before the August Monday weekend. I was fortunate to arrive on August 1st last year and see the feast in action just before it closed. This year, it was decided to cut back to just Friday through Monday. The small core of dedicated volunteers who run this event were simply stretched too thin last year, as this is a big event for a little village to put on.
The primary focus of the feast is the nightly entertainment, with dancing under the stars next to the beach. Other events include athletic events on the playing field (which unfortunately were rained out this year), domino tournaments (shown above—note the specialized scoreboard in the background), a county fair-type exhibition of local crafts, and various games on the beach (such as the three-legged race pictured below).
Another popular part of the weekend is the Jouvert, which is a street dance that begins at 4:00 AM on Saturday morning on the main street inside the village. Just as is done during Carnival (see that description in the story linked above), a large truck is outfitted with a huge sound system (covered with a tarp) and crawls slowly through the village, with lots of folks dancing around it during the pre-dawn hours.
The days leading up to the fete are quite busy. At the beach, a large stage is built for the bands, and a “shanty town” of small bars are built along the back side. These vendors build their temporary establishments using scrap wood and bamboo, with tarps or old pieces of corrugated galvanized sheet metal for roofs. The two pictures below show the progression of some of the bars, from rough layout to partial completion.
As the event neared, we even had presentations from local law enforcement officers, who spoke about safety, security, and how to spot counterfeit bills. The health department also sent a representative to give our vendors a quick training session on food safety. There was a flurry of construction activity at the beach as the perimeter wall was built along with the stage and vendor buildings. A portion of the completed bar area is shown below
Because the village council is considered my secondary project (the primary project being a teacher at the school), I have attended all the regular meetings as well as all the special planning meetings for the feast. It was decided that Friday night there would be no admission fee, but a $10 wristband would be necessary to enter the grounds on the other three nights. The admission fee is crucial to the financial success of the fete. The picture below shows some of the fencing (made with bamboo and rented plywood sheets) that surrounded the grounds, to ensure that everyone paid to get inside.
The village council serves as the distributor for all the beverages served by the vendors. The beverages are delivered to the village council office, and then the vendors purchase the drinks for their booths from the village council. There is generally some leftover cases of beverages, which the village council strategically used as “incentives” for volunteers when Tropical Storm Erika hit. Those who helped shovel out the landslides were rewarded with shots of rum, ginger wine, etc. It made it worth shoveling all that dirt!

Between the proceeds from the admission fees, the vendor permits ($100 for a spot to set up your bar on the grounds), and other small fees, this event provides most of the revenue used by the village council for maintenance and improvements. Without it, the village council could not function adequately.

In Dominica, local governments were primarily funded through the payment of “house rates”—something akin to property taxes in the USA. It is a nominal amount based on the size of your house. However, there is no enforcement mechanism to force people to comply—it seems to be considered a voluntary donation over the years that fewer and fewer residents are bothering to pay. In West Virginia, your name is published in the newspaper if you don't pay your property taxes, and eventually your property can be auctioned off from the courthouse steps if you refuse to comply, but this process doesn't exist in Dominica. Technically, the village council could take residents to court, but that it simply not done by one neighbor to another here (or any other villages, as I've heard the problem with non-payment of house rates is widespread). So with the revenue from house rates in decline, the feast came along at an opportune time to enable the council to fill its coffers and balance their budget.

One of my contributions to this event was hand-lettering with donated paint a 12 yard long cloth banner that was attached to the red rock cliff where our road veers off the main road. I also did some other minor lettering work, such as the entrance/exit signs, one of which can be seen in the photo below (also notice the large stack of speakers in front of the main stage). My biggest job was that I worked each night at the ticket booth (set up behind the security bars on the front porch of our school), attaching wristbands after collecting the $10 admission fees (roughly $4 in US dollars). Each night, we would double-count the proceeds after closing down the sales of wristbands.
I had remembered seeing all the trash after this event was held last year, just as I had arrived in the village. Before this year's event, I decided to ask a guy in the village who is a wood craftsman to make me a “trash spear.” I remembered from my childhood the Boy Scout troop that would pick up the trash at the race track my dad managed in the 1960s. I always wanted my own trash spear, and I finally got it!
I was pleased with my new trash spear, and hoped that it would become a bit like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the picket fence. Sure enough, when kids saw me using my trash spear, they wanted to get to use it, as shown above. Thus, my students helped do a lot of the clean-up of the school yard, playing field, and beach area. Thankfully, no one stabbed their own foot!
In the end, everyone seemed to have a great time, as shown in the night-time photo of the main stage above. Our little village of a couple hundred residents, through the efforts of dozens of volunteers (both young and old), successfully pulled off a major event that drew outsiders from around the island. There were nearly 700 attendees on Saturday night, and slightly smaller crowds on the other days. My limited contributions to the fete pale in comparison to the incredible amount of work performed by some of the others here. It makes me proud of the community spirit that I see in this village! I am lucky to have been assigned here!