This is just a brief blurb to catch up on the last few weeks. I intend to flesh out these stories and tell them to you soon!
A few major events:
I learned to scuba dive! I am now PADI Open Water Diver certified, thanks to an amazing course at Aldive in Loubiere, Dominica. My instructor said I was a natural, and I absolutely loved being under the water. Once I was able to practice the skills and feel comfortable breathing underwater through the regulator and manage my depth, diving became very meditative. I hope to do it more in the near future!
I volunteered for a few Tuesdays with the Trafalgar Primary School. I taught a creative writing lesson to the 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. After one mix-up, in which several students copied out stories from their textbooks when I asked them to write a story for homework we spent a lot of time in the lessons talking about intellectual integrity and the power of using your own words. It was such a good experience getting to know these kids from my adopted home village and engage in their creativity. Some of these young writers liked to write about their families, imagined new fairy tales and ghost stories, wrote about trips to the beach, and especially liked writing about birthday parties. We learned together about "story questions: who, what, where, when, why, how," plot, character, and audience. Above all, I tried to stress the importance of writing in their own words, and show them how important their own stories are.
I visited the Kalinago Territory and stayed a few nights with a Kalinago family. My guide, Justin, led me to a sacred site called L'escalier Tete Chien, named for the creole word for boa constrictor. Here, a snake god rose from the sea when the land was new and made imprints in the rock on his way up to the mountain. I heard a few versions of this story during my stay, but one telling of the legend says: if you bring an offering of tobacco to the snake god in his mountain cave (where he lives to this day), he may breathe the smoke and vomit lava. If you make a wish and jump in this magic lava, you instantly transport to the Orinoco river (where the Kalinago ancestors are from) and find yourself young again. I learned much from my host, Robinson, about traditional uses for garden herbs as well as some of his most pressing concerns about the future of the Kalinago people. Happily, his granddaughter, who is 12, aspires to be a Kalinago historian, and is one of the most driven and bright young women I've met lately. I will write more about this stay soon, since it made a tremendous impression on me and Kalinago affairs are such an important topic to me.
I finished up work at the Mountain Chicken Project and Roseau Library. I am so deeply grateful to the amphibian team, the library staff, and all the participants in my writer's workshops. These workshops are my proudest accomplishment of my time on the island. We compiled a booklet of some of the writers' works, and I am so so happy we got to collaborate and form our writing community. A few participants even told me they will continue the meetings without me, which makes me really excited. It's so rewarding to have met and worked with these emerging writers, and to have shared so much inspiration in one another. Thank you thank you thank you.
Lastly, I left Dominica yesterday. After a circuitous route, I arrived in Paris, where I am writing this post now. I've met up with my friend Emma, and will spend the day here tomorrow before continuing on to my next real Watson destination: Botswana. My heart is heavy leaving Dominica, for many reasons. I found much real love and beauty in that island. I want very much to go back. But, the journey leads me on, and this is right.
Pictures and more stories to come.
Many blessings and thanks,