Dominica is all mountain. The villages crouch in the dips between the hills. Everything is green and savage like the set of Jurassic Park. We arrive via ferry at the port of Roseau, the capital of Dominica. We are here because Dominica is just one island over from Martinique. My main destination for this trip was Martinique. However, the plane tickets from San Francisco to Martinique were outrageously expensive. In my research, I discover that Martinique is connected to several islands by a ferry service, L’Express des Iles. I also discover that we can fly from San Francisco to St. Lucia for half the price of a ticket to Martinique. St. Lucia is just one island from Martinique and Dominica is one island over on the other side. We are island hopping via ferry. Each ferry trip is about an hour long and cost about $75.
To the average traveler, Dominica is a stop on a cruise ship. They stay on the safe confines of the ship, only to venture onto the island with a guided tour. For us, I want a more authentic experience. I have rented a house for us through VRBO. My first mistake is that I have not reserved the rental car in advance. Clara and her husband meet us at the ferry to help us find the house. Clara looks distressed when I tell her I have not yet rented a car. It is not as easy as I thought. Clara’s husband drives me to a garage in the outskirts of Roseau to find the owner of the rental car company who then meets us at the shop in another location. An hour later, I have a car and we head to our house.
Our house Villa Etoli is on the main road halfway between Scott’s Head and Soufrière. It has a large deck that overlooks the ocean. Within a few minutes of unpacking, we hear a knock at the door. I did not lock the gate leading to the door. I am a little worried because we are in the middle of two towns with no one around us. It is a young man with a very large fish. “Would you like to buy a fish. I just caught it.” Second mistake, I say “no thank you.” I assume that I can run to town and buy fish at the market. I soon discover that it is not that easy.
Continue reading The Beauty of Dominica is Found in Its Heart
It All Started with Paris
“Make one day Day One.” I saw this phrase yesterday on an advertisement. What a great phrase. Reminds me of how this whole crazy idea of mine started; the idea of learning a language and traveling to the country where people speak that language. Make your one day Day One. Paris was always a one-day-I-would-love-to-go dream. Suddenly I was forty. My daughter, Claudia, was on the verge of high school and our one days together seemed to be numbered. I had never even been to Europe.
My infatuation with Paris and French began in the ballet classes of my childhood. French is the language of ballet. I chose French for my second language in middle school. Madame Champion taught it ineffectually by having us conjugate verbs and memorize words for spelling tests. She spent most of her time marching up and down the aisle of the classroom monitoring my conduct and calling home to complain of my impertinent mouth. I remember telling a boy that his mother wore combat boots. I remember that remark leading to a call home. What I do not remember is speaking French. Claudia, on the other hand, attended Notre Dame des Victoires where she started learning French in kindergarten. She learned poems and songs, However, by seventh grade, if anyone spoke to her in French, she turned red and grew mute. She had all of her language locked in her head. She lacked the confidence to engage in conversation.
One day, our book group read a very dreary book about a women who was diagnosed with brain cancer. Our discussion of the book centered on the thought of what if we each had only one year to live. Would we do anything differently. If we would do things differently, why weren’t we living that way now. What would we change to make the year really count. Suddenly, all of those one days seemed urgent. Why was I delaying my dreams to one day? I decided Paris was going to happen. I was going to learn French so I could help Claudia become more confident in her French. One day became Day One of Project April in Paris.
Continue reading It All Started with Paris.
Thousands of yellow butterflies float through the sky as we wind down the dirt road heading away from Monteverde. I first notice them in the morning as I stand one last time on the back porch of the Star House, the house we had rented in Santa Elena. The little yellow butterflies flutter like flower petals tossed in the wind. I watch them dart over the field behind the house, across the road and up the far hill covered with coffee plants and banana trees. They stream by as if someone has turned on a butterfly faucet. Steadily, they pour across the horizon.
This is our last day in Monteverde, the cloud forest paradise reachable only by unpaved roads and four by fours. Now we unwind the road from the clouds by slowly circling downward towards the Costa Rican coast. The yellow butterflies fill the sky. They fly over the trees, the green hills, the grazing cows, the coffee plantations, the towns, the churches, the soccer fields, the fences, and the dirt road. Every direction I look the yellow butterflies fill the air like a yellow snow storm. As I look, I think to myself “pura vida.” This magical moment can only be described as “pura vida.”
Continue reading How a Thousand Yellow Butterflies Taught Me About Pura Vida.
June 14, 2010
A wasp is fighting a losing battle with the light by the kitchen. He angrily buzzes at the light as if he is enraged by the light’s very existence. The wasp wants something from the light. It is upset by the light’s inaction. The wasp is getting tired. I wonder whether it will leave or just die of rage.
I hear the donkey in the yard behind the house walking around in the hilly enclosure, its hoofs clacking against the rocks. A crowd cheers as a team scores a goal in the World Cup. A boat hums as it passes into the harbor. Everything echoes in Hydra at night. People’s voices mix with the call of a bird. Being at Mr Henry’s house is like camping with beds inside. There’s an explosion of barking dogs. I wonder what sent them off.
Continue reading Mr.Henry’s House in Hydra, Greece
Check back later for tales from St. Lucia, coming soon…
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