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


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Editor’s note:I’m not a complainer. Really, I’m not. But having lived my first 68 years in the USA, I find that things being different take me some getting used to. Understand, please, I’m not asserting that “different” is wrong. It’s probably right for here; only I’m unused to it.

So, I’m sucking it up and learning to accept those different things. Still, I think it may amuse Dominicans reading this and help inform and prepare Americans, and Europeans and other “1st-worlders” wishing to settle here as well.

I’ll write about those differences – big and small – from time to time, and will preface it with this paragraph so that you know I’m not complaining.

Difference # 3: Sand at the beach.

This one is silly and trivial, and there’s certainly no right or wrong, but it’s something I’ve noticed. Americans (grown-ups anyhow) tend to avoid getting sand on their bodies at the beach. Sometimes they’ll allow their children to bury them with toy shovels, but that’s a game and also keeps the sun off one’s body. But immediately afterward the person buried will go into the water and wash the sand off. But generally Americans have an aversion to getting sand on their bodies. Perhaps it’s because most of us use a protective sun-block, which feels greasy and sticky enough, thank you, without sand on it too. But I’ve noticed that Black Americans have the same attitude towards beach sand as the Whites.

Here in Dominica I observe people of all ages rolling in the sand, even in wet clothes. It’s just a Dominican “thing”, I suppose.

Difference #4: Interacting with dogs.

I’ve had miniature schnauzers since the mid-1960s. And as a boy I always had a dog. Among other things, I love training them. I train them using reward, repetition and patience. No dog of mine has ever been hit. Ranger (the gray dog jumping the cane is 9½ years old and has performed his 18-trick repertoire for the Calibishie school twice and also for the Paix Bouche school. Lyla, the black one that is with my wife Ruth is 5½ and knows about 14 tricks.

I could say a lot, but I don’t want to offend anyone. I just want to make this point: Love works. There is no need to hit a dog or throw stones at it, etc when training it. I will give one example: Someone needed to train a small dog no to jump onto chairs, sofas and the bed. The person thought that hitting the dog when caught in the forbidden places was the way to do that. I explained that the dog would simply learn to go up when nobody is watching and would listen and jump down when it heard someone coming.

My method involves no punishment, and it works: Simply place a newspaper with a set mousetrap on the furniture. The dog will jump up once; the trap will go off and make a loud noise striking the paper (but not hurting the dog). The dog will think that there is something scary about the place it jumped to and won’t do it again.

Use love, patience, repetition and reward, never punishment, to train your dog. If you have a question, send it to me.

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Leaving Portsmouth, bear right where the road goes straight into Fort Shirley on the Cabrits and you will soon reach Douglas Bay. We first visited this spot in 1987, and then again in 1992. Back then the beach was long and broad and bottom along the entire area was sandy.

Alas, storms changes that. But there is still a sandy beach and sandy bottom area just at the beginning of the bay, on the left as you enter. The swimming beach is excellent, sandy with a very gradual slope and no waves or current to speak of.

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A nice surprise awaits the snorkeler who ventures up the beach about 30 yards out. There are rock/coral undersea islands that abound with beautiful marine fauna. Each island tends to have a dominant fish species; one has a school of sergeant majors, another mostly blue chromis, and so on. You’ll also spot the occasional Moorish idol, butterfly fish, discus, etc.

As is the case with Toucari, the sandy areas between the rocks and the beach may have sand dollars that a snorkeler can easily dive to collect. In Douglas Bay you may also find varieties of starfish, harmless white sea urchins, and even a conch.

Fort Shirley, Douglas Bay battery

From the beach at Douglas Bay you can also snorkel towards the left back towards the rear of the Cabrits. The undersea vista is of rocks and undersea life preferring a rocky habitat.

This post was guest blogged by Dan Tanner

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Sand Bay, also sometimes called Middle Bay, is an Atlantic beach in Marigot, the town just to the east of Melville Hall Airport. We only learned of it this year after coming to Dominica for the past 20 years by seeing a beautiful photo of it taken by Dominica’s leading author and historian Lennox Honychurch that appeared on the HHV Whitchurch 2007 calendar.

Sand Bay is a wonderful beach. There’s plenty of soft clean sand and areas to play and picnic. You can opt for sun or shade under coconut (watch for dropping fruit!) or almond trees. The swimming is excellent, with very gentle wave action, no current to speak of (at least not in the bay), and a fine sandy bottom. There are coral-encrusted rocks you can swim to; we snorkeled to them but did not see anything interesting. Mainly the rocks tend to mitigate the wave action, and they make the bay a pretty sight from higher vantages.

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There are paths leading from the road to this beach from near the Marigot police station, from the Marigot hospital (but you will have to wade around a rock at the end) and from the old fishery harbor. Every path has steps cut into the area’s characteristic red clay, because the bay is sheltered. That means you’ll have to go up and over and down again from the old fishery. The easiest path begins near the police station. Just park there and ask for directions.

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We’ve been told that it is not a good idea for us (we’re white Americans) to go there by ourselves because the men who have a hut on the beach “aren’t friendly”, but they seemed quite nice and friendly when we went there on a Sunday with our friend and neighbor (a woman and her three children). Perhaps they were disarmed by the tricks that our dog Ranger performed for them. Also, on Sunday the beach had other local families present, and both cricket and soccer games in progress. And the guys at the hut may have juices, soda, or even beer to sell, as well as their own CDs.

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