Thursday, November 3, 2016

Looking Great at 38, Dominica!

Today is Independence Day in Dominica as they celebrate their 38th birthday as an independent country. I wrote a blog post last year about some of their Independence Day traditions (, so I will try to focus this year's blog story on what was new and different. One thing that was new and different was our beautiful new banner for our school, which incorporates design elements from the Dominican flag (I had it made while I was home).
Schools participate in marching drills down here, culminating in the National Youth Rally at the big sports stadium in the capital the day before Independence Day. This year, our school participated in a smaller regional rally at Portsmouth, the second largest city, on Monday, October 24. It gave us some marching experience prior to the big event in Roseau yesterday. After some introductory speeches, schools marched across the big playing field in Portsmouth (see below), and then paraded through the streets of town. [We used our old banner because we wanted to save the debut of our new one for the big rally in Roseau.]
The weekend before Independence is the “World Creole Music Festival,” which is a really big event here. Like many other activities last year, it had been cancelled in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika. This year, it returned to the big sports stadium, featuring Wyclef Jean as well as other popular Caribbean and local performers. Although I didn't attend its Friday through Sunday run (expensive tickets, transportation hassles, no one to go with me, plus I'm getting too old for all night concerts), I did get to attend the preliminary event that takes place on the weeknights of the week leading up to the World Creole Music Festival. It is held in the Botanical Gardens at Roseau and is called “Creole in the Park.” Below is a picture I took of the stage from my vantage point on the hillside when I attended on Wednesday evening (the main stage is beyond the Carib Beer tent in the foreground).
Creole Day was observed on Friday, October 28, and once again the students looked fantastic in their traditional clothing, primarily featuring the Madras plaid (as pictured above and below--look close in the one below and you can see me in the back). I enjoyed eating the Coco San Coach (?) meal fixed at the school for lunch. It was fish in a coconut milk and curry mixture with rice. At the end of the day, they gave me some leftover crab and callilou soup to take home (which is what I wrote about in last year's story). All the food on Creole Day was delicious!
One thing different this year was that we held a parade through the village, as shown below. Just like at Carnival, our students followed a “sound truck” blaring loud dance music from a giant speaker powered by a portable generator in the bed of the truck. I carried one of our smallest students on my shoulders for the whole trip.
Our local branch of the National Co-operative Credit Union went all out on decorating for Creole Day this year. The pictures I took simply don't do it justice, but the lobby was beautifully decorated. Plus, they tried to portray our village on the outside of the building, with a small pool (which included fish caught in the river) to represent La Soose, a beach area (including a large crab with a leash on its pincher), and a recreation of the large playing field. It was quite a production! Below is a picture showing a diorama of our fisherman's boat pulled up on the beach (it's not the greatest picture, but it gives you an idea of what was involved).
Yesterday was spent at the National Youth Rally, and the picture above shows our entrance onto the parade ground. The first picture (with our new banner) at the beginning of this story was taken after the event was over, when we went over to the nearby Botanical Gardens. The structure behind the children holding the banner is a large cage with some of the parrots native to Dominica on display. Below is a picture of our school as our students passed by the reviewing stand.
It has been an eventful couple of weeks, but tomorrow will be an important day as well—National Day of Community Service. More about that in my next blog story!

BONUS: One of my Peace Corps colleagues who was assigned to St. Lucia does a weekly report on the television news there about the Peace Corps, entitled "Corps Values." In this four minute story from their newscast, she covers the recent Mid-Service Training that all of us attended recently at the Benedictine Abbey on St. Lucia. It was great to see all my "classmates" again, after we were split up and sent to different islands upon completion of our Pre-Service Training in 2015. Her report gives a good sense of what we do in the Peace Corps. [I can be seen a few times wearing a bright green shirt near the front of the room.]

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