Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Tragic Feast

I'm usually not a “night owl” type of person. However, this past Saturday night/Sunday morning, I didn't get home until after 4:00 AM (nearly as late as the previous night). The only reason I'm staying up to such late hours in the night is because this is our annual “Village Feast.”

Months of planning and hard work culminates in a massive holiday weekend party on the beach. I'm in charge of selling wrist band tickets from the safety of our school building, with its burglar bars protecting the front porch. A couple of us lock ourselves in, accept the admission money through the bars, and affix the designated color wristband for that evening. Dominican parties such as the village feast continue long into the night.

So after falling asleep at around 4:30, I was awakened this morning by an incoming text from the school principal. She was alerting us to the tragic deaths of five young men, including a sports teacher who often came to our school. My Facebook feed was soon filled with my Dominican friends expressing shock and sadness over this tragedy.

It wasn't just Facebook where this sadness was evident. One of my students stopped by my house to tell me about this graphic details. The car had hurdled off one of the most precarious cliffs along the main road around the north of the island, crashing into the edge of the ocean far below.

Many pictures from the crash site were appearing on social media. [I got the pictures above and below this paragraph from Dominica News Online.] With the prevalence of cell phone cameras, that seems to be a common happening down here (even on St. Lucia when I was there for training). Apparently some of the grisly crash scene pictures were also circulating, but thankfully none of my friends had posted them—only their written reactions to those horrifying pictures.
I have written about this particular cliff (and overlook) where the wreck occurred in the past. In fact, just two weeks ago, it had been included as a stop for the tour bus carrying the 23 American volunteers who had come to Dominica with the Courts for kids project. I couldn't help but remember how these Americans had marveled at the view from that overlook, which now had claimed five promising young lives.

Indeed, all five of these men had attended our village feast that night—I may have sold them their tickets to enter. I may not have really known them, but I probably had crossed paths with all of them during my years here. For example, one was a government health inspector, and I had attended the food handler training session he had given prior to the village feast for the vendors who sell food at the event.

More importantly, although none lived in my village, there is such a small population here that it seems that everyone is somehow related to everyone else. Many of the good folks living in my village lost friends or relatives in this deadly crash. Five new holes will be dug by hand in the uneven ground of the cemetery. Today there was a pall hanging over the village. You knew that this sad news was on everybody's mind. But the feast will go on tonight. Life goes on.

Life is so tenuous; you never know when it might end—and life can be hard living on this volcanic rock jutting up from the ocean. All that one can do is to try to make the most of the time we are given. That is one reason why I joined the Peace Corps, and it has paid off for me. As my term of service comes to an end, I am grateful that I undertook this life-changing experience.

P.S. I'm happy to report that the half-court line and the foul lines were painted on the court today (look close and you might be able to make out the green lines on the new court). The concrete has had time to cure, so I'm glad that at least these minimally required lines were completed. I'm indebted to a fellow Peace Corps Volunteer who came to help with the village feast and to give me a hand with the final touches on the Courts for Kids project.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so sorry David that you will be leaving soon with this in your memory. I know a piece of you will remain there forever. I am thankful to be your friend and grateful for your service as a Peace Corp Volunteer. Have a safe trip home where you will be welcome.