Location: Roseau, Dominica
Our day began earlier than usual (6:30). We scarfed down some delicious banana bread, made our lunches in Tupperware containers, and quickly gathered all of our gear for a day of snorkeling, hiking, and more.
I’d been snorkeling before but never experienced anything like what Marcus, Thomas, and their team showed us. We could see beautiful coral, darting fish, and even a lobster and an eel, but none of that matched the wonders of seeing bubbles coming up from the sea floor in a vent, the warm waters reflecting the island’s volcanic past and present.
It would have been fair to imagine that nothing could top that experience, but then Sam introduced us to SeaCat, the Unelected Prime Minister of Dominica. He and his daughter were our guides for the day, driving us through Dominica’s busy city streets up into the towering, lush green mountain tops. As SeaCat drove, he told us about the island’s history, its current challenges, and his family. He also introduced us to the many delicious plants covering his home country–from cinnamon to cacao. We learned that cacao, when picked fresh, has pods that taste almost like lychee (but don’t eat the seeds!). He drove us through winding roads filled with enormous plant life (we hummed a bit of the theme song of Jurassic Park, reminded of the lush wilderness of that film).
SeaCat brought us to meet with Jose Frederick, a representative of the Kalinago people and the Dominican Minister of the Environment. He expressed to us not only the challenges that his community faces but also the spirit of resiliency that guides their work. He talked with us, answering questions ranging from his efforts around Kalinago language preservation to his hopes for how young people will confront climate change and work to find real solutions.
Next, we met up with SeaCat again, and this time, we stopped not just for handfuls of lemongrass or bits of cinnamon (preserved in our Tupperware) but to meet with Ophelia and her family, who welcomed us with fresh coconuts, filled to the brim with coconut water. They treated us to the delicious things they make–cacao, breadfruit, jerk chicken, coconut–and each bite was a new adventure. Their hospitality in welcoming us and sharing food with us is something I won’t soon forget–it felt like cousins meeting rather than strangers. They opened their doors to us because of their relationship with SeaCat–who liked to tell us that he was the Unelected Prime Minister, something that the waves and chats with nearly everyone we passed proved, showing how connected he is to the communities that he introduced us to. He made our day unbelievably full and wonderful–a day like no other.