Sea Cat’s Excellent Advice
A boat boy from Dominica helps cruisers leave a good impression with the people of his country. "Sailor Profile" from our July 2012 issue.
One day a Newtown Primary student, about 8 years old, brought me to a halt on the street in front of the fishermen’s cooperative. “Where is your wife?” the little boy demanded, a fresh baguette under his arm and a book bag on his back. He was still in his school uniform, but his pants were after-school rumpled, one shoe was untied, and his shirt was untucked.
“I’m, uh, not quite sure where she is,” I said, looking around for Harriet.
We’d been walking together, but suddenly she was gone. Had she crossed the street to talk to one of the teachers? I had no idea.
“I think she went thataway,” I said, pointing astern.
“O.K., den,” the boy said.
I got it. On Dominica, the web of community is strong, and it’s not long before your business become’s everybody’s business. It felt nice to be included—as long as I could find my wife again. The longer we stayed on Dominica, the more we understood how things worked.
Island life can be puzzling. Why so many crumbling buildings and homes? Why the ever-present group of people who don’t seem to work? Why is the pace of life so slow that the days are long and lazy, yet slip away with surprising speed?
Stay awhile and you realize that lack of funds means you make do with what you have, and an unemployment rate of more than 30 percent means that a lot of people don’t have work to do. As for the slow pace, it does seem to keep everything in perspective. There’s less agonizing about making money, and there’s more time spent chilling with family and friends. But that doesn’t mean island life is free of stress.
Sea Cat, for example, a seemingly laid-back island guide, puts in long days and works six days a week. His wife works full-time, too, and every weekday morning at 0700 their three young daughters are marched out the front door in school uniforms, starched and spotless.
And we noticed that people on Dominica fall in and out of love, get married and divorced, shop for Christmas presents, give their kids Sweet 16 parties, get in car accidents and go to church, catch colds and come down with the flu, run perpetually late, and make the same New Year’s resolutions every year. It’s all a lot like back home.
Eventually—following Carnival, a dinner at a resident professor’s home, and a locally written, produced, and acted play at the downtown theater (including school principal Jerry Coipel playing against type as “Rock,” a bad guy)—we moved on from Dominica. On our last island tour/trek with Sea Cat, during the 30-minute drive across the island to the trailhead, Sea Cat waved, honked at, smiled at, fist bumped, or shouted “Yah, mon!” or “O.K.!!” to practically every single person along the way. Each time, he received a grin, a wave, a shout.
Flabbergasted, I said to him, “Sea Cat, do you know everyone on Dominica?”
He grinned. Harriet and I had made some progress, but we were still catching on to how things work in the West Indies. “No, mon. Sea Cat don’ know everybody. But everybody know Sea Cat.”
And now you know him, too.
Tom and Harriet Linskey spend their winters in the eastern Caribbean assisting local schools. Since 2007 their non-profit organization, Hands Across the Sea, has shipped over 102,000 books to 178 schools, libraries, reading programs, and youth centers.
For More Dominica Info
Discover Dominica: The Nature Island: www.dominica.dm
Hands Across the Sea Inc.: www.handsacrossthesea.net
Nature Island Destinations: www.natureisland.com
Sea Cat’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Virtual Dominica: www.avirtualdominica.com