July 31, 2013

Sea Turtles at Rosalie Bay

We have been lucky enough to experience so many different things on our now year long adventure of living abroad. We've seen beautiful beaches, a plethora of tropical wildlife, whales in their natural habitat, swam with sea turtles and more. But this past weekend's experience of seeing baby leatherback sea turtles hatch is one of the most amazing things I've ever done.

Rosalie Bay is on the Atlantic side of Dominica. It's about an hour and a half drive from here in Picard. The beach at Rosalie Bay is home to a turtle sanctuary. Three different types of turtles come to nest on the beach every year - the leatherback, hawksbill and green turtles. The leatherback turtles are the first to arrive and start off turtle season in late spring.

Apparently turtle eggs are a real luxury and have come victim to poaching. So the good people at Rosalie have established the sanctuary to protect the turtles, and give them a better chance at survival. They document every turtle that comes to nest, and then help to excavate the nests when ready, allowing for a higher percentage of sea turtles to survive. They even spend the night on the beach during turtle season from April - October.

We booked a night's stay at Rosalie Bay Resort with the Websters hoping we would be lucky enough with our timing to see some hatchlings or an adult turtle come to shore. To see the turtles, you don't have to stay at the resort, but it can be late as the turtles are most active at night. Plus, Rosalie is just gorgeous, so it's always nice to stay and enjoy a quiet getaway.

Sure enough, we had excellent timing! The excavation of a nest started at about 6 p.m. This nest had started hatching a couple nights prior, so what was left were the weaker of the babies. The first thing we noticed was the awful, awful smell. I guess rotten eggs are called that for a reason.

The nest that was excavated. 
The group of turtles had about 7-9 little ones. Since they were later to hatch, they were the ones with the disabilities and/or deformations. That aside, they were still the cutest things.

They were pretty active. Their instinct to make their way to the ocean was incredible to witness.

It's hard to believe these babies can eventually get up to 1,000 pounds in size! Leatherback sea turtles can get very large, and live to over 100 years old. This particular nest was laid back in May. 

There isn't a high percentage of a survival rate. This is one reason why the mother lays so many eggs. For example, this nest had about 75 eggs.

After we all got our fair share of holding time and photos, it was time to put the babies back for a bit so they could get reoriented. After a few minutes, he took them out the beach and set them free. It was incredible watching them race toward the water, knowing where to go by following the light of the moon. They were adamant that we weren't allowed to use flash photography as not to lead the turtles in the wrong path.

Trying to capture the turtle.
Eventually the turtles get swept into the ocean to start their journey. In the years to come, they will come back to this same beach to lay their own eggs.

Such an amazing thing!

Since we stayed the night, we gave the hotel permission to call our room at any time of night in case more turtles arrived. So at about 12:30 a.m. we got the call!

We made our way down to the beach. This was a new nest that started hatching. There were 28 baby leatherback sea turtles!

This second experience was far better than the one earlier in the evening. It was just us four out on the beach with a bright moon and those who worked with resort. These babies were also much stronger than the first ones we saw. 

After taking plenty of pictures with what we could manage in the dim light, we set them free. It was incredible to see how much quicker and stronger they were in making their way to the water than the first group was.

One baby even crawled over my foot with no problem when making its way to the water.

Furthermore, it's incredible that these minutes old turtles can survive the rough, crashing waters of the Atlantic. 

After all the turtles made their way to the ocean, we settled back in our rooms. We spent the next morning lounging in the beautiful pool of Rosalie Bay, then made the long drive back to Picard.

Our wonderful driver took us along two different routes when going to Rosalie and coming back, so we could see different parts of the island. The long drive was a great reminder of how beautiful this country is.

July 29, 2013

Roseau Shopping Trip

At home, Sunday afternoons were spent roaming the glorious aisles of Target. Maybe stopping by the mall. Or even a Home Goods. Just anything to get out of the house and relax. There wasn't ever really anything in particular we were looking for besides an excuse to explore a bit.

Well, here in Picard, the shopping is a bit limited. James Store is the closet thing to a Target. But I still really wouldn't put them in same category.

Roseau, the capitol, has quite a bit more shopping opportunities. On Saturdays, Ross offers a free shuttle for the hour drive, so you can spend the morning shopping for groceries, doing some sightseeing or more. A couple weeks ago, Chelsea and I decided take advantage and head down to Roseau.

Going to Roseau is always an experience. As the capitol of Dominica, it is more heavily populated than here in Picard. But it's not what most Americans vision a city to be.

The streets are narrow. There aren't street lights or interstates. Nothing of the like. Just crowded roadways with people making their way.

And of course. Roseau is home to the glorious Pizza Hut. Now, back at home, Pizza Hut is definitely not my first choice. But being here, it's a taste of home. And therefore extra delicious.

But, we went to Roseau for more than just Pizza Hut. Even though we did bring a couple of pizza's home to share with the guys for lunch!

We made our way through the little craft stores and souvenir shops. We even found a super cute clothing boutique - air conditioning and all. Fancy!

Then, we found the shoe guy. This guy makes real leather shoes. Custom made. And they are beautiful. He's been in the business for over 20 years.

They are gorgeous! 

He had a selection of shoes hanging on the wall. But unfortunately the ones I wanted weren't in my size. So, he's going to make them for me, and give me a call the next time he is in Picard. I've never had custom made shoes before. And I can't wait to get mine. Besides, what shopping trip is complete without a pair of shoes?! 

After the shoe shop, we made our way to the market. I have been eyeing these beautiful baskets for some time, and was all ready to buy them out. These baskets are the most unique I've seen on the island. They are just gorgeous.

I have my eye on a few more. So you can bet I'll be back there.

So it may not be Target, but it will do. We're wracking up the souvenirs to bring home in just a short nine months!

July 27, 2013

Island Birthday

I'm getting a little behind in my blogging, so I'm going to try and get caught up here in the next few days. Let the blogging blitz commence.

Let's go back to one of the most important days of the year. July 17. This beautiful day is my birthday! Woo.

I'm used to spending my birthday at home celebrating with close friends and family. So to be honest, I was dreading this birthday a bit. After it was all said and done though, it was one of the best birthdays I've had.

The Saturday before my birthday, I spent the day with Ann and Chelsea at Pagua Bay. Pagua Bay Resort is a beautiful resort on the Atlantic side. They have the most delicious food. And a lovely pool that has an area where you can lay your chairs in the pool and really soak up the sun.

The drive to Pagua is a just over an hour as it is beyond the airport a bit. For whatever reason, the ride didn't hit particularly well with my stomach, so we made a stop at the airport to get some fresh air. And some great photos. The airport road is lined with painted advertisements.

Melville Hall Airport Runway

The girls surprised me with balloons, muffins and of course, a party hat. The weather was perfect, and the food did not disappoint. A perfect way to relax with the girls and enjoy the day.

After spending the day in the sun, we headed back to Picard. Matt told me Chelsea needed to come to the apartment to get a book for Cole, so the girls and I all came upstairs to grab that. But when I walked in, I opened the door to see so many of our friends singing happy birthday, Matt holding a birthday cake lit with candles and the apartment decorated with streamers and balloons. I was completely shocked!

Matt then put the cake down on the counter, and told me I need to come over there to blow them out. Then he showed me all of the photos of our friends and family who sent pictures of themselves to help me blow out my candles. It was such an overwhelming moment to see so many photos of you all. Such a great idea.

We spent the evening enjoying the delicious cake and the food everyone brought to share. I can't thank my island family, and my friends and family and home, and most of all my wonderful husband for making this birthday so special. I couldn't have asked for anything more. 

On my actual birthday, I told Matt all I wanted was to sleep in, watch movies and enjoy the A/C. We don't use the A/C during the day because the electricity is so expensive. So it was a perfect birthday treat! I soaked it up by sleeping late and watching Netflix in the cool air all day. Oh the things you become grateful for.

All in all, it was definitely one of the best birthdays I've had to date. I still got to celebrate with friends and family, and had a bit of an island spin on it. 

July 10, 2013

Tropical Storm Chantal

Well, we survived our first Dominican tropical storm of the season. Chantal came through yesterday, and after much hype, ended up being a rather boring storm. But don't get me wrong, I much prefer boring when it comes to storms.

Chantal rolled in Tuesday morning where we were prepped for 60 mph winds and 4-6" of rain. Back home, this may not seem like much, but keep in mind the infrastructure in Dominica. We are especially prone to flooding, landslides, rock falls, etc. To make things more interesting, we got quite a rain storm Monday morning, so there was already some serious flooding.

Ross actually closed campus on Tuesday. That made me think that maybe this storm was going to be a good one. This Indiana girl gets a little edgy during hurricane season. The only one I've experienced before is hurricane Sandy in Freeport. I conveniently skipped out on Isaac that season as well as I was back home when he hit.

Seeing this come on the radar was a little intimidating. Nothing like a huge storm to remind you how tiny of an island we are living on.

But alas, Chantal just brought in some pretty good wind and some rain. Nothing too terrible. The center of the storm passed about 60 miles south of the southern tip of Dominica, and since we are in the north west (not to be confused with Kim and Kanye's baby) corner, we had some good separation between us and the storm. Also, we are on the other side of the mountain, so the storm clouds lighten up a bit once they break over the peaks. The majority of the time anyway.

There were times where it was raining and blowing so hard, we couldn't see too far off in the distance. At times when we could see the ocean, we could see how rough the waters were.

Yea, you can't really tell in the photo. It was worth a try.
We never lost power, which I had been banking on the using generator to charge all of our electronics since that doesn't go toward our electric usage, but I was glad we didn't end up losing it. We did lose internet, though. Apparently our internet provider had a damaged fiber or something, so we were out for the majority of the day. Nothing too terrible, especially since we were anticipating that, we could plan accordingly.

Matt used his hurricane day to study, and I worked. We broke out a puzzle just before dinner and had a fun time working on that. Guess who's half is much more complete than the other's?

By evening, Chantal had passed and we got the all clear. There wasn't so much as a slight breeze in the air. We had our standard Tuesday family dinner, which was good as we were ready to get out a bit.

All in all, Chantal was a bit boring, but I'd be fine if the rest of hurricane season went just like that.

July 7, 2013

American Independence Day Dominican Style

Holidays in Dominica are typically a bit harder to celebrate. For starters, Ross doesn't always observe the US holidays like we are used to. The students will typically get breaks on Dominican holidays, but not always American. Independence Day is one of the them.

I feel like I should mention, it seems weird saying Fourth of July here as a holiday, because it's still the fourth here, but not a holiday. That's why I keep using Independence Day. 

So, that being said, Matt still had class. It's the same on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, etc. But that didn't stop us from celebrating America. Because you don't always have the same amenities here, you typically have to get a little creative in your celebration ideas.

Living in another country has heightened my sense of patriotism and appreciation for being American, so when Independence Day rolled around, it was definitely time to celebrate.

And what's more American than a BBQ and bonfire?

The Websters hosted a perfect American BBQ complete with all things American, including red, white and blue streamers, hamburgers, hot dogs, mac 'n cheese, coca cola, fresh fruit, sweet tea, water balloons and delicious desserts, all while being serenaded by such tunes as, yes, God Bless America and the Star Spangled Banner. Plus, everyone adhered to the red, white and blue dress code.

Chelsea even treated us with red, white and blue drinks!

I did a terrible job of documenting with photos, so I didn't capture the mounds of food we had and perfect decorations that created the wonderful ambiance of an American Independence Day celebration in Dominica.

We were able to relax and enjoy the afternoon with friends. It was a beautiful day with a great breeze, plus there was no rain! The boys played yard golf games which I think made Matt's whole week. 

We ended the night with a bonfire on the beach roasting s'mores and sparklers. It doesn't get much more American. 

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