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Experience Dominica – The Nature Island: Dominica Vacations | Exotic Vacations | Honeymoon Destination

Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


deep thoughtsPhoto by Shayan (USA)

People discover our Web site (dan-ruth-tanner.com) and write saying “you’ve found Utopia” or words to that effect. That’s nonsense. There is no Utopia. People everywhere are the same; human nature is the only universal constant.

You will have to learn to do without many conveniences that you were used to. Don’t ever expect punctuality. Never, ever, pay for anything until all work is complete and to your satisfaction. Don’t buy a vehicle that had been used here – it probably won’t have been maintained properly and may have jury-rigged repairs; import your vehicle.

Expect frequent electric power and pipe water outages and have a surge suppressor on your circuit breaker box to protect your appliances. Get one at www.full-protection.com. Make sure they know that you need one for UK-style single-phase 220V. (One made for US-style split-phase 220V will not work – and will burn out right away.)

Many things that you’re used to may be impossible to find here or nearly prohibitively expensive. Many manufactured products available here are made for 3rd-world markets and while the lowest-priced are often shoddy; while 1st-quality goods tend to cost far more than in the US or Europe.

There are numerous Web sites that offer quality brand-name appliances set up to run at the 220-240VAC/50Hz UK-type electrical power available in Dominica. From personal experience, I recommend Kunst Electronics and Home Appliances. They explained why a US 220V dryer won’t work here (the US uses split-phase 110V and only the dryer’s heater is 220V; the motor is 110V and would burn out) and when a surge blew the control circuit board in our refrigerator Mr. Kunst personally phoned in response to our service-request e-mail in mere minutes, helped us locate the GE part; discounted it and expedited its delivery – what a hero!). Now we double-protect our refrigerator with an additional protector at the outlet. And we unplug it during outages and plug it in again after the returned power stabilizes.

You’ll need a transformer anyhow because many things can’t be bought in 220V versions, even here. Courts only offer 110V vacuum cleaners. LIME provided us with an 110V modem and cell-phone charger. Be aware that power (watts) simply adds up. Domlec claims that a 2000W transformer left plugged in uses over EC$100 per month, but that’s patent nonsense. We have an always-on 5000W transformer and our total bill has never reached as much as $EC90. And, a transformer also acts so as to smooth power surges. If you’re worried about power interruptions affecting your PC use, employ a laptop (which can run on 110V/60Hz or 220V/50Hz and is buffered from power failure by its battery. Or bring an UPS (uninterrupted power supply).

It can be difficult or expensive to get your US funds here and/or it can take a long time. We found a method that works well for us: You can get a free on-line FDIC insured account via the Charles Schwab web site. We use the on-line bill-pay feature of our Bank of America account to transfer money to the Schwab account. Schwab lets you withdraw funds in local currency at any ATM displaying the VISA logo, and that’s just about every ATM in Dominica. Schwab gives the full exchange rate and even refunds to your account any ATM or other charges. You don’t want to have too much of your savings here; keep them in the USA in an FDIC-insured institution.

This is the tropics, so expect more bugs. Ants are everywhere. Some species go after your food. Some are scavengers of dead insects, etc. “Wood ants” are actually termites – be on guard against them. We’ve experienced some gnat plagues of practically biblical proportions. Big yellow spiders like to hide under things in dark corners. Millipedes will crawl into your house. Centipedes, which have a dangerous bite, hide in damp dark places outside usually, but will come into houses. Large roaches also come inside.

Be on guard against mice and rats; leave nothing around that will attract them. “Regular” trash collection is anything but regular or dependable. We rinse all cans and bottles and foil, etc and keep that in a container for trash collection. We compost all vegetable matter. We burn all waste paper, plastic, wood etc. (Rinse or tie any plastic bags slated for burning to prevent drawing ants.) Waste animal matter (bones, fat, offal from cleaning fish, etc) must be disposed of promptly and properly. Otherwise you’ll have maggots, feral dogs and cats tearing up garbage bags, ants and rot odor all amazingly quickly. You can find a place to feed this stuff to scavenging dogs and/or cats. You can bury it – deep. You can toss waste from fish into the sea, where scavengers will do their job. If you’re making a fire, you can burn it and rake out the bones and ash to mix with compost.

Keep all your receipts. Even the government offices and some businesses “lose” records. We know of a number of people who have had to pay deposits and fees twice, or who can’t return items that are defective. Check the expiration date on anything you purchase. Test everything before leaving the store if possible.

Expect your plans to go awry. I was going to take regular long walks, but an arthritic hip ended that plan. I was going to help at a friend’s garden to get in better shape, but I realized that even the walk to it would be too much for me. The time, the heat of the sun, the humidity, eroding willpower all conspire against the planner.

Have a hobby. There’s only so much hiking, snorkeling, swimming and gardening you can do, and you don’t want to be fighting boredom.

You’ll need to have a US address in order to maintain a US bank account, have and renew credit cards, etc. Choose a reliable friend or relation to provide that address and to forward your mail to you – and expect forwarding to take an average of 3 weeks.

Make arrangements for your health (including dental) care and bring a supply of any prescription medications that you use. Pharmacies here can’t dispense to a foreign doctor’s prescription, and many medicines aren’t available here.

Get used to certain tropical conditions: high humidity, “blast” from the sea that corrodes nearly anything and has strange effects on many materials, huge raindrops driving in close to horizontally by squall gusts, and high clay content mud that has incredible adhesiveness and slipperiness when wet and is nearly concrete hard when dry.

But we’re not complaining – just being realistic. We love it here and wouldn’t change any of the choices we’ve made. If you decide on Dominica too, we can only hope you’re as pleased as we are.

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Photo via politicaljib.com

Editor’s note:This post was guest blogged by Dan Tanner of dan-ruth-tanner.com

In the USA, politics is only window-dressing. That is because, unlike in Europe, each political party is associated with only one economic system: capitalism. The only difference between the Republicans (the party of Greed) and Democrats (the party of Envy) is who should principally benefit from that economic system. Greed says it should be the wealthy and corporations, Envy says it should be organized labor (and lately, the middle class). Both Greed and Envy would throw a boon to the poor; Greed would call for private charity to handle it and Envy would use government largesse.

In the USA, we have a strange system that provides great governmental stability but at the price of inflexibility. Because Congressional terms are 2 years (staggered among equal thirds of the membership) in the House of Representatives and 6 years in the Senate (also staggered among the membership) and separately by electoral – not popular – vote every 4 years for President, it is impossible to turn government over entirely to one party in a single election, and nearly impossible to do so even in the span of two or more elections. Moreover, the doctrine of 3 co-equal branches of government (Legislative, Administrative, and Judicial) means that we have nothing like a no-confidence process, and the impeachment process is cumbersome and rarely used, and some argue, not correct to settle purely political questions. (Impeachment may be political in nature, but carries no criminal sanctions but only removal from office and is supposed to be used only for “high crimes and misdemeanors”.)

But stable one-party rule inevitably leads at least to excess and usually also to corruption. Under capitalism, the Greed party always rejects regulation, allowing robber-barons to get rich quickly and easily in a wild-west atmosphere. But unregulated capitalism does not work – it carries with the seeds of its own destruction through pursuit of greed.

Historically, every time the Greed party has been in power for a long time, it builds a house of cards based on speculation that nears collapse and the Envy party must come to power and – as is its wont – implement some regulation. In the process, it rescues capitalism. Franklin D. Roosevelt did that in 1932 after unregulated stock markets crashed and unregulated banks failed. We have as FDR’s legacy a Security Exchange Commission (SEC) and a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to regulate, respectively, the stock market and banks. The Greed party thinks it reviles FDR, but the communists hate him far more because he rescued capitalism from the collapse that that Karl Marx called “the dialectic”.

After the Envy party runs its course in power and looses its luster because of inevitable corruption, etc, the US electorate, fickle as ever, swings back to put Greed back into power. Under Reagan (Greed party) banks and thrift institutions (savings and loans, mutual savings banks) were lumped together and deregulated. The result was disaster that should have easily been predictable: the S&L scandal erupted because the thrifts had to compete with commercial banks, but could do so with government insured funds!

To this day, deregulated thrifts no longer offer long-term (30-year) fixed-rate mortgage loans. No commercial company in the USA does, because 30-years is far too long a term to lock in an interest rate. So, during the Regan administration, Freddy Mac and Fannie Mae were created by government to buy mortgage loans for 30-year terms. This was an historic change. When my wife and I bought our house on a 30-year fixed-term mortgage we went to the local savings bank and that is where we got our mortgage. Sixteen years later when we paid it off (we were thrifty and made accelerated payments on the principal) we went to see the same loan officer at the same desk at the same savings bank to do it. That is no longer possible. When you get a 30-year fixed-term mortgage (or, nowadays nearly any other type of mortgage) you go through a broker who places the loan with a bank or a mortgage company or God knows who, and that loan is quickly sold. It is sold as part of a “bag” of mortgage-backed securities.

This whole apparatus operates outside of any regulation. The game quickly became to issue bad loans and quickly pass them on – inside a bag that defies inspection – to the next sucker up the line.

Now history must make a turn. The Envy party – which favors regulated markets – must come to power to correct the excesses allowed during Greed’s turn.

Will this happen? Can it happen? I wonder. I fear that there is enough racism in the US to enable Greed to cling to power.

Capitalism is a lousy system, but it is probably still the best economic system that mankind can devise. And it can work if properly regulated (but even regulators can be come corrupt; we’re all only human). And democracy is a lousy system but also probably the best we can come up with. But democracy requires a fair, intelligent and informed electorate (not one that will simply favor the party whose VP candidate has a hot body – but remember that women voted for the “cute” JFK), and the US democracy has been thoroughly given over to the donor class. Anyone elected to office lets the lobbyists write legislation while he or she spends all of his or her time doing nothing but raising enough money to run for reelection. The donor class prefers it that way because it allows only them to determine the electorate’s choices, and often as not, to totally own those who gain elected office. This is true of both Envy and Greed party officeholders.

If the electorate comes to its senses and grasps what’s at stake – saving capitalism, which will surely collapse if the present Greed policies continue, it will elect Envy this time around, both for the Presidency and with enough of a majority in Congress to make governing possible. In 2006 it came to its senses (Iraq was the issue), but could only elect an Envy majority that was so slim that only stalemate between President and Congress (and due to rules, often even between the parties in Congress itself), not real governing, was possible.

The joker in the deck is the power of the Military-Industrial Complex. Usually Greed does not want to control the MIC and Envy wants to but can’t, because the MIC not only enriches the wealthy and large corporations but also provides a huge slice of employment in virtually every congressional district.

I won’t be voting. That’s because I live in Massachusetts. It is a foregone conclusion that Envy will win the electors and that the electorate will return all of the Envy incumbents (many running unopposed) to Congress.

Instead I will observe – fearfully. First that racism will cause Envy (which historically needs to win) to lose. If Greed wins, things get worse. And even if Envy should manage to win, the patient may be too sick to save.

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