Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saturday Morning in Dominica

First Trip Ashore in Dominica

It was a drizzly Saturday in Portsmouth, Dominica. We heard that there was a neat farmer's market in town and we needed fresh produce! We docked our dinghy at the local fishermen’s dock near town and headed in to check out the market.

There were many local fishermen at the dock.  Some were cleaning fish, others mending nets, and milling around and visiting with each other.

Showing off the day's catch

An open-sided building housed the farmer’s market. Vendor stalls and tables spilled out onto the nearby street, around the corner and down the next street.  

We enjoyed checking out all the locals.  They were jostling each other to get a good position at the stall (including elbowing me out of the way since I was just looking and not buying anything yet!). People were walking around eating. Vendors were shouting out to each other as buyers asked for things they didn’t have in their stalls.

The vendor “stalls” are simply tables with all their produce on display. No one is remotely interested in “merchandising” as everything is piled up on the table… bagged, bunched, or loosely scattered about.  There is usually a scale of questionable accuracy which to weigh produce, particularly tomatoes, pineapples, and mangoes.

You have to ask the price of everything.  Boy, were we confused!  This was the first island in which the EC (Eastern Caribbean) currency was used.  We only had American dollars and converting it to buy stuff was just too hard early on a Saturday morning! Long story short, a local vendor helped us out and converted some of our dollars to EC.  10EC is equal to approximately $3.70 USA, “helpfully” rounded off to $4 by the locals.  

There was produce of every variety… avocados, onions, tomatoes, pineapples, plantains, bananas, herbs, greens, carrots, potatoes, cute little bundles of herbs tied with string, starfruit, papaya and  a lot of things I couldn’t identify.  I asked about some of them and got answers such as “callaloo”, “christophene”, “breadfruit”.  When I asked how to cook them, I got the same answer for everything… "boiling".  Looks like there is going to be some boiling in my future!

Some of the vendors were not very friendly at first.  Sometimes they pretended we were not there and would sit with their bodies turned away from us, lazily chatting with a vendor at the next stall.  Being newcomers to the island, we didn’t want to appear rude or pushy.  We finally realized we just needed to be patient and persistent.  I think they are used to tourists that come just to look and not buy.  

Eventually, we would get noticed and transact business.  

We spent about 30EC (about $11 US) on lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, onions, green onions, cucumbers, and pineapples.  

LA spent some time in the farmer’s market shed getting to know some vendors.  They introduced him to a local delicacy… salt fish salad (think… tuna salad) stuffed between grilled plantains.  

I didn’t try it.. fish for breakfast?? Uh, I don’t think so!  They watched him carefully for his reaction as he tasted it and he pronounced it “delicious”.  Now, was it actually delicious?? I think ‘unusual’ might be a better word to describe it.

We also checked out the fish market.  The fish is sold straight out of the fishermen’s boats when they arrive so it is very fresh. They sold mahi mahi, snapper, tuna and wahoo.

We meandered down the street checking out the sights.  There were children playing among the vendors, families hanging out together, people visiting in the streets, dogs walking around looking for scraps, roosters crowing, and chickens everywhere. 

As we got further away from the farmer’s market building, vendors became more aggressive as we walked by with people shouting  
“Buy this", "Check this out", "Come over to see me!”. Very different than the laid-back vendors near the open air building. 

These enterprising young men had a growing concern with coconuts and sugar cane. They hacked off the tops of green coconuts and served them with a straw for drinking. Children enjoyed chewing the sweet sugar cane. 

A light rain began to fall and we ducked under the eaves of a local nightclub.  One thing we’ve noticed about rain here… it comes and goes quickly. It can be pouring one minute and five minutes later, the sun comes out.  Nobody worries with raincoats or umbrellas. They just duck into a doorway and let the rain come and go.

We walked down the street and checked out the local sights.  We walked all the way down to the Indian River to see where a local guide would take us the following day into the mangrove rain forest.  It was a fun way to spend the day!

Local man using his head to transport grain
A local "convenience" store
Home along a side street.  
Interesting warning sign: Interpretation... "Bad Dogs. Knock before you enter". 
Someone got really creative with conch shells :)
Goats were staked out all along the roadways. Natural lawnmowers!
One of the nicer homes along the street.
Sailing skiffs for kids
Children learning to swim in the surf near a local recreation center.
Standing on the bridge over the Indian River.
Children playing at the entrance to the river.
Indian River Tour Boats
Excited to be on the beautiful island of Dominica!

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