Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Morning Structure

Each morning Andy and I wake up for coffee and oatmeal or eggs. Warming up his brain for the daily study grind, he watches a study video and I read. The mornings are cool now, as it is winter here, and the rains blow in and out through the early hours.

I'm easing into island life and settling into this as my home. Our first home. The structures of my days are still settling into place. But the mornings are a breath of fresh structure among the seeming waves of change. I love change and fear monotony but a healthy amount of structure is life-giving. 

So, each morning, after eating and reading, I walk Andy to class. The walk includes a steep uphill and is just long enough that going back and forth wouldn't be optimal. I am still trying not to forget all of the things I want to bring with me on this trek. The sun and rain are both rather forceful here and like to make their presence known. So, I drink a lot of water, wear sunscreen and sunglasses, and carry a raincoat. We have 7 large water bottles that I take to the "well" (ie. fill up on campus) when empty.

The average morning walk includes the following images of my "travel" items and a few things I walk passed each day (and a philosophical musing thrown into the photo comments).

If you can, zoom in on the money... thats really what it looks like!
They just decided to include everything related to the Caribbean on each bill.  

Our neighbor's beautiful hung laundry.
Hers is definitely some of the more beautiful laundry I see hanging.
"Laundry?! Seriously?" You might be thinking...
Its hung with such care and precision, maximizing space, hanging by shape and size and color.
The contrast of clean white flapping fabric to the dirty heavy concrete and piles of dirt is a beautiful thing for the eye to rest upon. 

The tile at the bottom of our stairs. Assorted colors, textures, and shapes cemented together. 
The "Fun House"... I think I would be dizzy everyday if I lived here. 

So many colors everywhere... this one is like a burst of flames on the corner near some trash. 

Piles of ... treasure ... are in strategic locations. I've gotten some great things... more on that later. 

Construction of a new building. The sapling use fascinated me.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Practical Creativity: Rice Coin Sacks.

Dominica uses the East Caribbean Dollar, fondly (maybe?) referred to as the EC. One US dollar is 2.70 EC or 10 EC is about $3.70... whichever way helps you figure out the exchange. I use an iPhone just to be sure I don't think too much. Just kidding... I'll figure it our eventually. 

Anyways, why am I telling you about the exchange?! Because they use a lot of coins here. The dollar coin and the .25 coin is often the change given and the littler coins (.10, .05, .02, and .01) are tossed around here and there. Andy and I only had wallets for paper dollars and the change was starting to get annoying. Pockets, cups, table tops, and our backpacks had coins jingling. Now that makes it sound like we have a lot of money. Don't be deceived. Those coins were mostly .05 cent coins I picked up on the street (yes, I washed my hands). Anyways, we needed coin sacks. 

"DANGER: No jumping. No running here."
(Because the planks of the dock aren't all attached and its shallow/there might be a piece of wood or metal under the water... obvi.)

Tribute to an African hero.

Before I got around to purchasing two coin sacks, I took a trip to the beach. There is no jumping and no running here (see the sign in the picture above...) but there is plenty of exploring. I found a tribute to Nelson Mandela, a "party hut" to rent for... parties, and a piece of an old plastic rice sack.

RICE SACK?! ..... COIN SACK!! So, after scrubbing the plastic sack, cutting out coin sack templates, and taping the edges, I hand sewed them and put a tie on mine and a button hole on Andy's. Zero dollars, one broken needle, two hurt fingers, and a few hours later: two rice coin sacks! 

Note to self: next time use someone's sewing machine. Sewing through plastic and masking tape is... rough. 
The rice sack I found and made into our coin sacks. 
My rice coin sack. (pre-button)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Up Close and Personal: Tiny Treasures

Sometimes the littlest things have the most for us to notice if we take the time. A tree root bulging from the cement sidewalk, a cloud shaped like Jaba the Hutt, an oddly squished seed, or a lovely shade of rust on a pipe. Colors, textures, patterns, shapes ... it is wonderful to let your eye rest on these things as you rush from place to place.

Here are some tiny treasures from the details of Dominica so far.

Rusty leftovers

Street advertising

Progression of a Caribbean almond

Time goes by... so quickly here. Things ripen really fast. 

Little water fountain friend.

Paint it and paint it again. 

And his entrails gushed... (read Acts 1)

Baby coconuts (progressing here from toasted to raw... haha thats what this looks like to me.)

Sea glass color flow

Beach treasures

Dear beach, you couldn't get any cooler. Thanks. Love, Sarah.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fruits Fall From Trees

There is fruit everywhere. Bananas in our back yard, grapefruits on the way to campus, coconuts on the streets, sweet sop (have yet to try that) in piles at the shacks, papayas and mangos in their bright skin... all beckoning me to eat them. So I will. This week I bought some green bananas and a large papaya.

On the menu for the week: Tofu Papaya Salad (Dominican style) and Fried Banana Chips.

Tofu Papaya Salad:
Did you know that papaya smells distinctly like puke? Once you de-seed it, the smell lessens. But don't worry, it tastes delicious. Just don't smell as much while you are cutting/eating. Duh. The recipe I used was awesome and so fresh!
- Toast the sesame seeds for yummier flavor. 
- Dress the salad per plate rather than tossing it. Too potent. 
- Use less sodium soy like it says... its pretty salty. 
Wash it. Cut it. Deseed it. Chop each side in half and cut the skin off. 
Tofu Papaya Salad in a Tiffin. Tastes better in a Three Tiered Tiffin. 

Fried Banana Chips:
Did you know that green bananas stain and are very hard to get the skin off? I don't think you can call it peeling at this point. Green bananas are super starchy and perfect for making chips!
- Fry fewer 'chips' at a time so that they don't stick together. 
- Coconut oil worked for me! And I never checked the temperature. You can tell when they are working and when its too hot. 
- The oil froths A LOT when you put the bananas in. Don't worry, it goes down and you can see/stir the chips. 
- Don't fry more than 3 or 4 batches in the same oil. Gets old. 
Skin on. Skin off. In frier. In my mouth. 

Thinner is BEST. For the bananas. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Trip to the Market

Andy and I went to the market in Portsmouth on Saturday. Many people get there around 5am, especially when certain things are in season. There is plenty for sale but the early risers get the best picks. We decided not to be too picky this week and caught a ride there around 7 or 7:30am. The market was busy and loud, rasta music pumping and vendors shouting. I loved it. 

We had a list for my recipes for the week and went from stall to stall comparing items and prices. The yucca, yams, sorrel, and sugar cane really caught my eye. The following videos are sugar cane prep and coconut sales. Quite normal to see someone walking down the street with a machete. Enjoy two videos and 14 pictures below!

A sweet business. 

Market stalls and a butt shot. 

Buying basil. 

Market streets. 

Bananas, coconuts, and sugar cane

Load transfer. 


Getting some coconut water and scooping out the gel for a little snack. 

Wood siding standing out among the cement. 

A bottle in a window.

Market Purchases


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

First Foods

We got here on Sunday evening and went to dinner at Hope, a local Chinese restaurant. Thats right! Chinese on the island. There are lots of Chinese immigrants (the island sold their UN vote to China or something...) and that means there is lots of yummy Chinese food. "Hope" was Andy's favorite last semester. Its close to campus, the family is kind, and the food is authentically well done.

On Monday afternoon we went grocery shopping and went to The Shacks for lunch. The Shacks are small food shacks lining a really cool little alleyway next to the main gate of campus. They are colorful and host all sorts of things from smoothies to veggie burgers. Each of the connotations we have with food words are slightly different here. Still tasty... just different. We got veggie burgers at Healthy Shack #4...or is it 5? We took sandwiches and groceries home and ate lunch on our roof.

Unfortunately, the day took a turn for the worse and I got food poisoning! It was horrible as only food poisoning can be but I'm regaining strength even as I write. Obviously food was on hold for Tuesday and Wednesday-ish for me so I'll share more adventures as they come. The food poisoning was probably from the greens on the veggie sandwich but since Andy ate there almost everyday last semester, I definitely be eating another one soon.

This is HOPE restaurant. No, not the white fence on the left.... the lean-to shack back there! The only sign is actually on that shipping container - red painted letters that say "HOPE." 

Our first meal at Hope Chinese Restaurant. 
The Shacks!
I'll get used to it at some point but the money reminds me of Monopoly money. 
All about healthy. 
Andy really was happy here, I promise. :)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Beginning

Welcome to Dominica! Home to cinderblocks, fresh roadside fruit and fish, whining goats, amazing paint colors, perpetual wetness, mostly friendly locals, and intense Med students! And now home to us, Andy and Sarah. Just married in Virginia with two weeks of marital bliss under our belts, we hopped a few planes to our new home here on the nature island. 

I, Sarah, will be keeping the majority of this here beauty roll... because thats really what it will be. No matter what hardships, deteriorating homes, or stresses that come with med school or living in a third world country I share, the natural beauty of this place will probably distract you from all of that. 

Photo by Willa J Photography
Today is only day three and I've already gotten intense food poisoning, my visa papers haven't come through (sent months ago), and Andy's second semester of school hasn't even started yet.

But Andy and I are committed to thriving here, loving others, and supporting each other as best we can. We are on the front lines together and are not here to merely "get through." Amidst the hardships this first year will bring, we want to learn the art of contentment no matter the circumstances. We've met some sweet locals, Andy's friends are returning to school soon, and we've got an incredible community back home who's support and love are the wind at our backs. I'm going to share this experience from my artist's eye as best I can. 

Blog introductions aside, most of the following video is only worth watching because of the Paul Simon soundtrack. But the flight into Dominica is amazing... gorgeous and hard to imagine a flat piece of land will show itself.

Nashville (visiting friends) to Dallas (layover) to Puerto Rico (one night here) to Dominica... Enjoy the [3 minute video] flight!