Sunday, October 27, 2013

When We Fell in Love With Dominica...

This has been an eventful week.  Friday was Creole Day in Dominica.  It's the day that the locals commemorate their heritage by dressing up in Creole attire, speaking Patois, and singing and dancing to traditional Creole music.  It's quite the celebration.  Creole attire consists of brightly colored plaids called madras, head wraps, white duster skirts, waistcoats (what we would call a vest), and red sashes.  I even sported a madras myself!  Here's a picture of me with my favorite red head here on the island:


Doesn't he look so precious?!  All the kids at the school were dressed up in their madras and a local school came to do a program for us.  It was just so great to see all the Dominicans just loving their culture.  They all love showing off their heritage and helping other people appreciate their history too.  They really commit man!  

Then Jonathan and I decided to take a weekend away.  Next weekend is my birthday, but unfortunately there won't be much of a celebration.  It's the weekend before Jonathan's mini 2 and the actual day of my birthday is the spouses banquet.  So he wanted to have a nice weekend away just the two of us since next weekend is going to be a little crazy.  So we stayed at a place called Jungle Bay.  They gave us a special rate because Jonathan is a student and I'm a Ross employee.  So off we went to the southeastern side of the island.  A place we had never driven before...

We stupidly started our trek around 5:30.  What we failed to take into account was the fact that the sun goes down around here around 6:45.  And once the sun is down, it's PITCH black.  There's no ambient light.  And we had really no idea where we were going.  We drove for 2 hours.  Up SUPER steep hills, on unpaved roads.  Along the ocean where there was no guard rails.  Through villages we'd never been through.  We drove straight down until there was no more island.  Literally.  We drove right out onto the gravel jetty that separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea.  I had a flashback of a trip Sarah Schwarz, Courtney Lawrence and I took to Waco way back in the day.  Except this time it actually WAS an ocean we were driving into!  Here's a little perspective for you:

On the right is the Caribbean Sea and on the left is the Atlantic Ocean

Here's a birds eye view of what we drove up to:





So needless to say, we had to turn back and find the right jungle road to turn on.  We were finally on our way.  And I feel like we literally just drove straight up until we couldn't go any higher.  And then we stumbled upon this sign in the middle of the jungle:


Hallelujah!  We found it!  We had been scared to death on the drive up.  We both literally thought we were gonna have to spend the night in The Juice (which for those that don't know...that's what we lovingly refer to our Dominican car as...) while taking turns keeping watch.  We were among the peaks of Dominica in a literal rainforest.  We drive in to the resort and we are so warmly welcomed by a friendly staff and escorted to a restaurant straight out of Swiss Family Robinson.  We had amazing food and then were whisked away to our Jungle Cottage.  Here's what welcomed us:







Now mind you, it's pitch black outside.  This little cottage was warm and inviting and we could hear the waves crashing, but we couldn't see anything outside of our bungalow.  When the light of day came, here's what we saw:












I woke up around 8:00 and got in the hammock and snoozed to the sounds of birds and the ocean.  It was pretty perfect.  Then enjoyed a nice hot outdoor rain shower, a beautiful Caribbean breakfast, and the most spectacular Sunday drive in history.  Just see for yourself:















Dominicans headed in to church






See...I told you!  It was a nice Sunday drive with the hubs.  Made us remember that we're living on a pretty spectacular little island in the Atlantic.  It's got waterfalls, mountains, rivers, ocean.  It's simply lovely and untouched.  With the windows down we could smell freshly cut lemongrass, plantains roasting on open pits, fish smoking in hand built smokehouses.  We could hear birds chirping, waves crashing, rivers gurgling, waterfalls rushing.  It was beautiful.  Today we fell in love with Dominica...




PS-Next post will be my 30 Before 30 list!



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bananaquits, Albert, and Jaybirds

Ok, so after much coercion by several people, I've decided to post this story.  It happened way back in April but I didn't want to post it.  I'll explain more later about that.  For now, enjoy the saga of our friend Albert...

One day, while I was home at the treehouse and Jonathan was down on campus, I decided to surprise him with some freshly fried plantains.  Yummy!  We had been living in our new apartment for a few weeks now and I had designated a large basket on my kitchen counter as our fruit and dry veggie basket.  So I bebop over to the basket to pull a few plantains from the bunch.  I had just purchased these plantains at the local market and was so pumped to use them!  As I peer down into the basket, this is what I see...


Scratching your head yet?  Oh it gets better!  So I examined the ONE plantain that had been...well...munched.  And I think, "Hmm...if it were a rodent, I should see pooplets around right?  No pooplets.  And it's so precisely munched...maybe something was inside and ate its way out..."  Because there was not another fruit or veggie in that giant basket that had been touched.  Nonetheless, I threw out everything that was in there.  I didn't want to risk it.  And then I did a little looking around the house to see if I could find some clues as to who our plantain muncher might be...

At the time, we were leaving our windows open to get some good crosse breezes.  The windows have screens and bars on them, so it's no big deal.  But I look at one of the windows in the living room and I see this...


Now the picture is a close up, so you can't really tell.  But this hole is no more than an inch tall and less than 2 inches wide.  So I immediately rule out any rodent because 1) If it's a Dominica style rodent it's WAY too big to fit through that teeny little hole, and 2) There is still not a single poop nugget anywhere to be found.  But now I'm confused.  What in the world has munched my plantain??  And then I have it!  It's GOT to be a bird.  We have these little guys flitting ALL around our treehouse...


They're called bananaquits and they have a really pretty little song.  I've seen them clinging to our screens upside down and hopping in and out of the bars of the windows.  I've also seen them do a number on an overripe mango on the tree outside, so at this point I'm convinced that's what it is.  Some cute little chubby bananaquit pecked into my screen, hopped into my basket, had a little snack, and then left the way he came.  Since Jonathan's office is in the back of the house and literally "among the trees", I decide to go back there to see if the little birdy pecked through any of the screens back there.  All the screens were clear, but his desk was not.  Here's a little glimpse of what I saw there...



Ok so now it is absolutely a bird right??  HERE was the poop I had been searching for this whole time.  And it was definitely NOT a pooplet.  Not a rat raisin.  This just HAD to be bananaquit poop.  So I decided to close all the windows in the house and wait to tell Jonathan about my sleuthing skills when he came home.  So he comes in the house several hours later, gives me a kiss, and promptly says "Hey come back to my office, I want to show you something..."  And he drags me back to the office and stands there puzzled while pointing at the poop smear on his desk.  Apparently I was NOT the first to discover that little gift from our treehouse visitor.  He says, "You know I studied back here last night and this was definitely NOT here when I came to bed.  And then this morning when I was packing up my stuff, I looked down and saw this crap stain on my desk.  What the heck??"  And I just die laughing because I'm picturing him standing there scratching his head trying to figure out how his perfectly clean desk could turn up with doo-doo on it the next morning and nothing else is touched.

So we decide to walk down and grab a new bunch of plantains to fry up tomorrow night and get some dinner while we are down the hill.  We come back up, I put the plantains in the basket, and I go to bed.  The next day, I decide to fry up my plantains again.  I go to the basket and I find...another freakin' plantain is munched in exactly the same way!!  Ugh!!!  So now I'm irritated.  So I go back to sleuthing. And I notice it and want to smack myself.  I missed a window.  Yep, left it open.  And this is what I saw...

This time there's a MUCH bigger hole.  So in my mind I think, "Yep.  That little bird told all his birdy friends about our delicious plantains, rallied the troops, and planned a sneak attack overnight all Home Alone style...".  I was just picturing this little army of yellow birds hopping around my kitchen, munching my plantains, and leaving the way they came while me and Jonathan slept in the other room unaware.  Because again, there were not toots anywhere to be found.  What to do, what to do.  This little jerk ripped me off of TWO whole bunches of plantains!  So me and Jonathan decided to MacGyver the situation.  We laid out flour and kernels of corn (birds LOVE corn right?) in a pathway from the pecked window to the basket.  And we went to bed with the window open.  The next morning we both sprang out of bed to see what had transpired.  To our GREAT dismay...this is what we found on our countertop...

\

Ok, so this time I was REALLY confused.  It was definitely not a cute little bananaquit or even a bananaquit army.  But this was bigger than a mouse or a rat.  Those footprints are each about an inch to an inch and a half long.  And they have thumbs for Pete's sake!  So we start researching footprints and poop patterns to see if we can match something up.  I'm convinced it's some sort of ferret or mink or baby opossum.  None of which I want in my kitchen.  We finally zeroed in on this bad boy...



Yep.  My worst nightmare.  This revolting creature is what we call a Caribbean Roof Rat.  You have to use the Caribbean part because a normal roof rat is about 6-10 ounces in weight.  Caribbean roof rats are about 12-17 ounces in weight.  Observe the stinkin' thumbs on that bad boy.  Gross with a GIANT capital G!  Right then and there we shut those windows tight, vowed to leave them shut forever, and we promptly call the landlord for some d-CON action.  We hung out in the house all day.  Jonathan studied, I caught up on blogging and what not.  We decided to watch a movie in bed around 8:00...

Once the movie was over, Jonathan leapt out of bed to use the bathroom.  He shuts the bedroom door behind him, flips on the living room light, and I hear "OOOHHHH!!  It's a rat!".  Now there are two things I must mention here.  1) Because we have watched the movie Ratatouille about a million times, Jonathan's 'It's a rat!' was totally in a French accent, and 2) Because we live in the Caribbean and it's 90 degrees on a cool day, we were both scantily clad.  Ok, ok fine.  We were neked (yes I spelled it right) as jaybirds.  Out of morbid curiosity, I leap out of bed too just to see this thing.  Which was a giant mistake...

This rat is the size of a baby opossum.  Maybe bigger.  He's got a huge badonkadonk (ahem...butt) and a tail that is easily 6 or 7 inches long.  He is scurrying around trying to find the way out.  And Jonathan I are screaming like babies.  Jumping from chair to chair with brooms in our hands all sorts of naked.  This sucker is FAST!  And what is more disturbing is that HE KNOWS WHERE BOTH OUR DOORS ARE!  He has clearly visited more times than we care to know.  He is trying desperately to escape.  At some point he leaps literally up the wall and I've had it.  I run screaming into the bathroom and shut the door.  I hear Jonathan yelping and saying "Stay in there babe!" and he's sweeping and scuffling and yelping.  Finally I hear the door open and shut and a sigh of relief from Jonathan...

So then we are confused.  Thoroughly.  ALL the windows are shut and have been since this morning.  Wait...oh no...that means this little turd has been in our house ALL DAY! Noooooo!!!!!  And we clearly find evidence of him having tried to escape.  There are chew marks under each of our doors and wood shavings all around.  

For a teeny moment I feel sorry for Albert.  Yes, I named him Albert.  It's better than rat bastard.  He has been coming in and out of our house eating what, to him, seem like perfectly picked plantains left especially for him.  He is tidy.  Only once did he have that unfortunate mishap in the office with a poo-poo accident.  And he leaves the same way he came.  Now these hospitable new tenants are chasing him around naked while screaming and trying to shoo him out the door!  It must have been a sad day for Albert.  Annnnd...scene.  I am no longer sympathetic.  I want him dead.  REALLY dead.  I want him dead NOW!  So we call the landlord and he plans to come d-CON during the week next week...

Flash forward a few nights later.  We hear this munching sound.  Persistent.  We think "You have GOT to be kidding me...".  We sneak out into the living room and realize the munching is coming from under our back door.  Jonathan goes and looks and there are tiny little rat paws trying to dig their way into our door!  And periodically a scaly rat tale comes swooping under the door.  So Jonathan snatches up his machete and proceeds to try and amputate this tail.  After a few unsuccessful swipes, he just jams the machete under the door.  No luck.  But darned if we didn't find a whole hoard of wood shavings under BOTH our doors from the outside, and LOTS of chewed up window screens from Albert.  Not nice man.  

The happily ever after here is that after Albert's date with d-CON, we have never seen or heard from him since.  No more rodents.  Not bananaquits.  Just two happy little naked jaybirds livin' in a treehouse!  


PS-I chose not to write this for some time because I didn't want my Caribbean friends to never want to come to my house again.  I swear, y'all, there are NO MORE ROOF RATS AT THE TREEHOUSE!

PSS-No, I did not get a picture of Albert himself.  Are you kidding???  We were naked.  And screaming.  With brooms...

PSSS-I apologize to any of my neighbors who may have confusedly peered into the treehouse to find two pasty white naked people screaming with brooms.  We're usually very quiet and appropriately dressed neighbors...





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