Benz Falls

DCIM101GOPROFriday morning the group woke up early, hoped on a bus and headed out to adventure. The bus drooped us off at the village of Benz and we proceed to walk up the mountains in search of the falls. Magaline, one of the girls we befriended from the area had been there before and guided us to the right place. After a 40 minute walk/hike we reached the river and follow it up until we found the falls. For those reading this that have gone to rock hoping in brecksville, this is that on steroids. The view was breathtaking no matter which way you looked. The fall created a perfect jumping pool, where we spent hours swimming and jumping into.
Enjoy the picture, hope you can tell how much fun we had there :)
Peace and love,
Mariana

20 Minutes at the Garden

It is more than unusual for me to post more than once a week, even more post two days in a row, however yesterdays events captured the details i love most about Dominica and could not be neglected on this Blog. You see, the title holds no truth about the day.

I woke up at 7 am per usual, read and decided to do my laundry. As i was coming back up to the apartment, Ivore was heading out to his “garden” and asked if i wanted to join him. I naturally asked how long it would be, knowing he spends an entire day there most of the times. He responded 20 minutes tops, that all he had to do is “change his goats”. Now if you stop reading the post here, the title makes sense. However you should all know that a “garden” means farm. A very large plot of land where they grow all the fruits and vegetables in the world, and keep their goats and chicken. It is very different from our concept of farm, being that the entire plot is composed of hills, sitting towards the middle of the island where it is nothing but mountains. However there is nothing “garden” about it either. Most people in the rural side of the island (where we live) own some farm land.

So there i go, changing into clothe i don’t mind dirtying up and heading out. At this point he asks me if i mind walking, because it is not that far(I should have known better, having been to other peoples farms by car). “Of course not” i love walking… right?

We walk up 4 miles (one of which was entirely composed of tall grass), crossing 2 rivers and climbing 2 threes for mango’s to finally reach his goats. “Not that far huh?” i say. he laughs.

We change his goats, but of course the “20 minutes at the garden” is no where near over. We walk to his house, up in the mountains, hidden away by grass and papaya threes. We sit with his brother talking about the beauty of the island. I attempt to climb an orange coconut three (they are shorter) but fail miserably. He climbs it, obtaining us 2 coconuts each. Drinking them we proceed in walking to the neighboring farms, (i am still unsure why) and head back to the goats. On a normal scenario, 4 hours of walking/ hiking / climbing in the hot sun would have left me hungry, dehydrated and tired. This is not a normal scenario. I begin to think i’m hungry and a passion fruit hits me in the face. If I want some water, the river is 10 seconds away. I tripped over at least 3 pineapples and the coconut water and meat re-energized me like no energy drink ever will.

So we head back down, clean from washing at the river and filled with natures freshest fruits. We stop to talk to nearly every person that passes us, taking as long to walk down as it did up. I rest my mango-full bag in the kitchen, and head down to the beach.

Best. Morning. Ever.

Mariana

Salsa Time

About a week ago Gabo was approached and asked to teach salsa dancing to the secondary school’s dance club. Yesterday we made our way to the school to find out they had set up a “field trip” just for the occasion! School is out of session, but the dance teacher Miss Pear made permission slips and gave it out to the girls so they could come to school during the summer and learn to dance salsa. We did a demo, and began to teach them the basics to the dance. Most of the girls picked up on the rythm and steps right away, making our job that much easier! They were able to learn basic spins, turns and how to improvise. They were having a lot of fun, and of course so were we. We ended up teaching them merengue as well although a lot more time was spent on Salsa. At the end, we asked if they wanted to do it again sometime and they all were exited about it! We are waiting form the teacher to let us know when we will be returning! The girls also taught me some steps from one of their cultural dances, so i will have to practice them for next time we meet!

Project related for those interested: about a week ago the group helped out in building a church that they opened this past Sunday. Monday we will begin building on to the cassava bread oven at the kalinago territory. Work is being done on the website for the VCO as well as on advertizing for the casava bread. And we are now making vinegar out of coconut water for a possible byproduct down the line.

Its Not the World Cup…..Its CRICKET!!!

DCIM101GOPRO

Today, for first time the crew went into town and experienced Cricket. The match was between West Indies and New Zealand. We soon found out that the West Indies squad included players from Dominica and the surrounding islands which was really interesting. The sport of Cricket is very competitive specially in the Middle east, Europe, and Asia and in order to compete with the larger countries the Caribbean Islands combine their best of the best into one squad. The match was held in the Winsor Park Sports Stadium which held 22,000 people and every single seat in the stadium was filled! The atmosphere was live and the vibes in the place was amazing. What a great way to experience the sport of Cricket for the first time!!!

 

-Zak

Bee Hive 101

After a long day of work, Zak, Bert, Ivore and I decided to go Bee Hiving. I had never done this before and it was an amazing experience. We where definitely not wearing the right protection needed for this sort of thing but we did it. Enjoy the video and i’ll keep making more as soon as possible.

Gabo.

Net Ball

It has definitely been a while since the last post, but the daily life in Dominica continues to feel like paradise. I guess as the new becomes ordinary, blogging takes a backseat. The almost daily trip to the beach became a mandatory every day, if not more, trip. I also bought snorkel gear and have been exploring the nearby reefs. The walk to the ocean always involves a couple stops at the guava trees. I can’t put words to how much i love the diversity and quantity of available free fruit and edible plants. Today i got to enjoy my first sugar cane! took me back to how we did that in Zambia. As i was walking to Ulanda’s (a girl we work with) home, she taught me about the benefits of each plant we passed. it feels like every plant can be either eaten or made into some oil or tea.

Our group has become very efficient when it come to the projects. We quantify everything before any implementation or change. We spent a night at the kalinago territory. They start the process at 11 pm and we wanted to be there for a full set, so we were there and awake from 11 to 4. Now we have an idea of how exactly things work and there is so much that we work with and it will definitely be a project for future groups. Im including a picture of what my make shift lab looked like in its early stages with all kitchen appliances!

A point that I forgot to blog about: the bus system here is very similar to the Zambia bus system. A bunch of minivans, that drive up and down the 2 streets that go through the country. If you want to catch a bus, you walk down to the street and wait for one to pass. They fit as many people into it as they can, its cheap and very uncomfortable! Like mentioned before, it is a very small country, and there are very few drives, which means we are getting familiar with them, as well as the system itself.

Today i went to my first Net ball practice! For those who don’t know (and i didn’t until today) Net ball is a similar game to basketball, but you can’t dribble. There are other specific rules to it, look it up online, a lot of countries play it. The village next door has a team, and I was invited to come play. the court is on top of a hill, having an ocean view and some beautiful mountains on the other side. we play as the sun is setting, very hard to concentrate on the game when you have all that nature around you! At the end of the day it was a successful first practice! ill be back there on Wednesday! When i got back we extracted honey out of the hives! I should have enough to last me the summer!

Until next time!

Mariana

Mango Time

Another normal day of going into the farm after work and picking mango’s before the season is over. Picking Mango’s is fun plus they taste amazing. In this video my friends Bert and Shawn “Bump” help me pick some mango’s out for ourselves and for the compound where we reside. It involes some type of climbing, so they always know to call me before they go Mango Picking.

Screws Spa

On Saturday the crew headed down to the emerald pool. We got the  chance to get in the very cold water formed by a beautiful waterfall. It was unfortunate that the water level was low, because we weren’t able to jump in like expected. Still, it is insane how pure the water is all around the island. On Sunday, I woke up to go to church, which was being held on the beach due to Pentecost sunday. The 5 neighboring villages came to the Woodford Hill beach to celebrate this together. We had to stand up for the entire ceremony, which would have been fine, except that the mass took 4 hours plus. Right after church they cooked food for everyone and held games. I played a little bit of soccer and hung out in the ocean for most of the time. It was more or less a better version of a church picnic.

Monday was a holiday. Wheat day I believe. A couple of people we met were going on a trip around the island and invited us to come with. Me and Gabo ended up going. We left around 1 pm, not knowing exactly what the trip entailed, but knowing we should bring something to swim in. 7 people packed in the back of a pickup we took off. The day consisted of literally driving around and stopping every few miles to hang out. At around 8 we pulled into SCREWS SPA. I had heard of this place from Candida, and had been waiting to visit it for over 4 months now. Ill try to describe it best I can. Wen you walk in all you a bunch of pools of sulfur water. The hottest pool, around 100F receives its water from the boiling lake, as you go down, the pools feed into each other, mixing the waters and making a total of 7 pools all with different temperatures.  All the water in there comes directly from itself and is constantly flowing.   It is essentially a waterpark and spa mixed in one.  The picture was taken one of the mid temperature pools. We will definitely be going back there again soon with Zak and Tommy.Image

Mariana  

Update

Hello followers and new-comers!

Today, we had the opportunity to travel to a Dominican high school today where they were holding a career fair day. We were able to talk to the students about business and engineering as well as hear about what kinds of plans they had for the future. When we asked them how many of them wanted to go to college after high school, it was surprising to see almost every single hand raised. Although not many children said they were interested in engineering, I hope that we were able to encourage more of them to consider engineering. What is really cool is they have an entrepreneurship program in which the students come up with a product, raise funding and then sell the product. The products we saw today included: coconut oil, massage oils, body moisturizers, perfumes and sauces used for cooking. To see the products these 15 and 16 year old children were producing and selling was amazing. I really wish they had a program like that when I was in high school. I think the children of Dominica have a lot of goals and a bright future will definitely be in store.

Zak and I grabbed some local pizza in Portsmouth with Bert, the manager of the virgin coconut oil production. It was super good! The best part of the experience was eating the pizza on the beach. We also had the pleasure of traveling around Portsmouth and site seeing with Bert. Gabo and Mariana headed down to Roseau to meet up with someone about another cool project opportunity. While in Roseau, Gabo bought a huge Dominican flag and it looks amazing. In addition, they both got to enjoy some good American style KFC. Very jealous! Tonight we are all going to get some BBQ chicken from a local shop and hang out at a restaurant.

It is already going on week #3 here and I have to say that time is going by pretty fast. The weather has been amazing and it has been a blast getting to know the local villagers. I can only imagine what the rest of our time here will have in store. As far as work goes, we have a ton of ideas and we are making some great progress improving the production of the virgin coconut oil.

Until next time,
Tommy

Two weeks in

It has been over two weeks that we left Ohio, and we are reaching our 2 week point here in Dominica. This past weekend we hiked up the highest mountain in the island, but Gabo talked about that so ill let it be. After we got down we hitched hiked to the nearest town (Portsmouth) in which we spent the day at the beach and exploring the town! A few things that I am definitely getting used to is eating mangos every single day (many times straight from the tree) and riding in the back of a pick up, which seems like our only type of transportation lately!! Cant complain :) Once again I will comment on the beauty of the island which seems to get greater everyday, or at least I am appreciating it more.

Today it was environmental day so we attended a conference about the importance of preserving the environment. We then went to an animal farm where they bread different farm animals to sell. I have been going down to the beach a lot more often and it definitely brings me a sense of peace, I will never get tired of hearing the waves crash in!

Tomorrow we will be going to the Portsmouth secondary (high) school. They are having a Career fair, so we will be speaking about our specific majors, as well as meeting with the teachers. I am personally very exited about it since I think the school system is such an important part of culture.

A little about the work: For the coconut Oil  we have seen some great results in the small scale ratio tests and have started a larger scale testing. We are quantifying everything since it makes it for easier analysis. As I mentioned before, we are not allowed to mention any detail since this is a new process and they want to keep it within the island. Progress has already been made and things are looking very good. We will start work on the filtration process soon.

Keep us in your prayers, lots of love

Mariana