The Below is a guest post from a good friend of mine, Brian Longin, who is currently a Peace Corps Volunteer in the small island nation of Dominica….
The island of Dominica is rich in many ways. Fresh water is ubiquitous and you can find creeks and streams winding through almost every village. Many locals tend their own gardens which yield sweet potatoes, citrus, plantains, and avocados, as well as seasonings like bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg. Citizens of Dominica are also proud to celebrate their vibrant Creole heritage. Today, Dominican children are still raised speaking the patois language, learning and practicing traditional dances, and listening to hip-shaking calypso music that rin tin tins through old bus radios. The landscape is mesmerizing; the culture and people are what makes the island truly magnificent.
It seems like just yesterday that I had just arrived on this island of Dominica with the Jurassic Park theme song playing in my head. It seems like just yesterday that I got dropped off at my homestay and was sitting on my bed with my head in my hands asking myself “what the hell am I doing?” It seems like just yesterday that I sat down for dinner to a plate of salt fish and turned it away. While it does all seem like it was yesterday, in other ways, I don’t even recognize the young naive college grad who had signed up for an adventure that he could not have even begun to comprehend. That fearful and solitary kid doesn’t exist anymore.
A local yelled, “Ya’ irie?,” and I responded “Yea man I cool”. The Dominican man chuckled as he looked at the white guy, me, in the river, by himself, laughing. Nevertheless, having just been clocked by a mango while popping my head out of the warm river, can I really be blamed for laughing? I stepped out of the river and took a large bite out of the mango and smiled. The man happily grinned back. We shared this experience together.
My time in Dominica is marked by these shared experiences and punctuated by the people I share them with. My life as a Peace Corps Volunteer is defined by the relationships I have made. Whether I am working with my counterparts at the Village Council Office, the Primary School or the Health Center, playing sports with the children, talking with other villagers or learning the local Creole culture; every day presents new and meaningful exchanges.
Life in the Peace Corps is different for each of us volunteers and affects us in significant but individual ways. For me, adapting and then integrating into my community has been the most important part of my life as a volunteer. Acceptance is what I have found to be the most rewarding part of life here in Dominica. It is this acceptance that has made being a Peace Corps Volunteer so special. I feel more part of a community, here in my village, than I have ever felt anywhere in my entire life.
Now, the things that concerned me upon my arrival do not bother me at all. In fact, I have come to love most things that once seemed odd. I don’t notice the idiosyncrasies about my life in Dominica-goats and chickens passing me in the street, bare foot children playing soccer on dirt fields, the hour and a half van ride that it takes to get anywhere on the island. These are the norm and I am no longer a foreigner in Dominica. I have found a second home, many adopted families, and scores of new friends. My life in the Peace Corps has in many ways come full circle- I was plucked from the comfort of my home, and dropped into a foreign land only to discover that this is where I belonged the whole time.
If you’d like to support a local NGO I helped create to promote literacy in southeast Dominica, read more here www.OpenBooksDominica.com