Wednesday, May 21, 2014

5 Things You THOUGHT You Knew About Living in Dominica

Sooo...I am still working on my countdown blog.  So sorry!  This week has so far been INSANE and I'm still working on the finishing touches with the final post.  So to tide you over (until maybe Sunday), I thought I'd write this post that's been floating around in my head for a while.  Hope you enjoy!

1) Dominicans are sneaky and they are thieves.  You will get solicited for marijuana, mugged, and/or burgled at least once while you live there.

First of all, lumping ALL Dominicans into this category is like saying that everyone in Texas is a cowboy.  Since I'm a Texan and FAR from a get the picture... ;)  But seriously, Dominicans are some of the sweetest people I've ever met.  They are generous and kind and they never forget a face or a name.  Yes, there are those select few delinquents that cause trouble.  But honestly, I've been amazed at how these Dominicans really look out for us here at Ross.  Not just the security guards!  I've had a Dominican woman buy me a whole weeks worth of groceries and show me how to cook all of them, another Dominican woman give me one of her prized coconut tarts just so I could try a bite, another Dominican man took it upon himself to search out our long lost vehicle (which one of those above mentioned delinquents *did* jack) and wouldn't rest until he'd located it.  The list could go on and on.  So no, Dominicans are not sneaky thieves.  They will teach you more about selfless giving and generosity than you could learn in a whole lifetime of living in the states...

2) I bet you go lay out on the beach all day every day, don't you?

Ha!  This one makes me laugh.  I mean, I won't lie.  I have done my fair share of laying out on the beach or by the pool.  But I stay busier than a one armed paper hanger here in Dominica, and I'm pretty sure most if not all of the other spouses would say the same thing.  Living here presents challenges that at first seem insurmountable.  But in the long run those things become part of daily life and you just roll with it.  MacGuyver'd dinners, walks to and from the grocery store in the blazing heat and 100% humidity, living without real cow's milk for months, hand washing your clothes and hoping they don't blow off your porch while drying, etc. etc.  This is our life here and it's become the norm.  So much so that the idea of living in the states and having everything pretty much handed to us on a silver platter (living here will make air conditioned cars and hot showers look like things of luxury) is a little daunting.  I'm determined to maintain at least some of the simplicity of living we've found here in Dominica...

3) All the students and families must just function like one big happy family right?

Well folks, this isn't true either.  As is true in ALL social situations, you won't get along with everyone.  And if you try, you will make yourself crazy!  You will connect with people you never thought you would.  You will form friendships that will most certainly last a lifetime.  But you will most certainly NOT love every person you encounter.  It's a family, yes.  Albeit a VERY dysfunctional one.  You will have your nerds, your sorority chicks, your annoying meat heads, your basket cases, your crazy folk, the best people you'll ever meet, and also the worst (catch that Mean Girls reference??  That wasn't by accident...).  My best advice there is to cling SUPER tight to the people who make you happy.  The ones who will say "Yeah girl, slipping down the hill in the mud in your cute sundress sucks.  Sometimes it's hard living here.  Let's get a glass of wine and forget about it...".  The ones who you can call in the middle of the night when your cat gets poisoned and you have no idea what to do about it.  The ones who will laugh like crazy at your story about your resident roof rat and STILL want to come over for dinner.  Living here is hard.  All.  The.  Time.  Don't let anyone fool you into thinking it's rainbows and daisies.  Don't get it twisted.  It's TOUGH.  But the hard edges of life in Dominica are softened by familiar faces who become like family to you over time.  You just gotta know how to pick 'em...

4) Gosh living on an island must mean you eat TONS of seafood!

Booooooo!!!  This was a misconception I had that was a REAL bummer to find out was not true.  Now, you CAN always get fresh tuna or marlin or these little teeny needle fish looking things that I can never remember the name of.  That stuff is always around.  We can hear them blowing the conch shell saying it's ready for butchering all the way up here in Picard.  But the way *I* like seafood, how *I* like it cooked, and the kinds of "sea things" *I* like to eat are not really present here in Dominica.  The shrimp here are nothing compared to a big fat Gulf shrimp, there is no such thing as real salmon, and finding good shellfish is like hitting the lottery.  The lobster here is cheeper and arguably better than what you might find in the states, but I can't (or maybe shouldn't) really weigh in there.  Since me and lobster have a love/hate relationship.  As in *I* LOVE lobster and it HATES me.  I am looking forward to better and more available seafood when we get back to the states.  NEVER thought I'd be saying THAT after moving back from the Caribbean...

5) You'll get so much more studying done because there are less distractions.

Now in some ways this is true.  But there are distractions here in Dominica that are things you would never see coming.  Your own bowels to name one.  Listen y'all...the Shack Attacks are a real thing.  And they can put you in a bad way REAL quick.  Also, just life in general is not as easy going.  It's hot, you have to walk...A LOT, you can and will likely get sicker here than you've ever been (chikungunya, E.Coli, various and sundry digestive issues, heat exhaustion, etc.).  The difference is that you have to CHOOSE to make your studying a priority.  And it's not only a choice but a constant battle as there are ALWAYS things vying for your time, attention, and energy here.  Usually totally left field things too.  The wheat is definitely separated from the chaff down here in the tropics.  The strong survive...and they also stumble.  But I am a firm believer that when we have come out on the other side of this trial by island fire, we will be better for it.  Jonathan's GPA and his eventual USMLE score will be the testaments to that!

There ya have it!  If you're a newbie...get ready for the ride of your life.  A former Ross spouse put it this way and I couldn't agree more:

 This island has been my home for the past 18 months. I have never been more homesick, or seen more beauty. I have never had more relaxation or more trials. I have never been so healthy, or been more sick. I am so greatful for the friends, the 
experience, the memories...and I have never been more excited to go home!!! 

I don't like to say I'm saying hello. Hello to understanding the impact a person can have in a second, a minute, a day.

Take it all in and learn a few things while you're here.  This experience will change your get to pick how!

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