Like most mornings, I started off my day listening to some Shakka. I hit shuffle, and after two or three songs, my favourite began to play: “Sooner Or Later”. Incredible, phenomenal, exceptional – these words don’t quite describe Shakka’s work. Check it out:
Anyway, enough doting. The track had me thinking of my “motherland” (not so much Africa,but literally, my mother’s place of birth) – Dominica. After further research I discovered that this very song was actually written with Dominica in mind. As it turns out, this same singer, song writer and producer – like me, is Dominican. Coincidence? Perhaps. But it led me to writing this piece, dedicated to you, Dominica: my home away from home.
Now just to clarify, when I say Dominica, I speak of the Commonwealth of Dominica and not the Dominican Republic. They are two completely different countries and aren’t at all related to each other other than the fact that they’re both located within the same region (the West Indies):
Before any friends or relatives reading decide to jump the gun and correctly point out that I was not born in Dominica, here, let me…. I, Makhala Kirwan, was born to parents Matilda and Peter Kirwan [see attachment below] – sister of Kadiff Kirwan, Earlan Kirwan, Vallis Weeks and Royden Lewis…. in New York, USA. To add further confusion, I was raised here in England. With that being true, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ve always considered myself Dominican and think of Dominica as my homeland.
*Cue the cliche*
They say home is where the heart is. I agree. Though I am ‘only’ second generation Dominican, not once have I thought of myself as less-than any other ‘real’ Dominican. It’s true. Say what you want but both indirectly and directly, the country has made me who I am today. It’s in how I speak and speak to others, it’s in the culture and sound, my friendships and bonds. I was blessed to have been raised in a Dominican household with the nation’s culture and values instilled in me from a young age.I take pride in that.
I have come across so many people who know little to nothing about the country. From what I’ve gathered, unless you, your family or friends are from Dominica, you know nothing of Dominica. I guess I can see why; it’s not as commercialised as the other islands (Jamaica being one of the long standing examples) and I think it’s safe to say Dominica is one of the smallest islands in the Caribbean.
Though there is an element of truth to that, Dominica is still a place I will always love. I mean, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea – I’ll grant you that. If you’re looking for a country full of entertainment with a busy Parisian/ New York/ London nightlife – Dominica is not the place for you. If you’re looking for an island which is easily accessible with plenty of convenient modes of transport – Dominica is not the place for you. If you’re looking for a place with mass tourism and overcrowded beaches – again – Dominica is not the place for you. But what you will find, is something much more.
There certainly is a level of peace and quietness to the island, but “boring” is not a word I would personally use to describe it, it’s just at a different pace. Where I live (here in England), there is always something to do and some event to find yourself at. The bars are always open, the malls close late and there’s a cinema positioned every few miles from your local city center. Each time I visit Dominica, on the other hand, I find myself enjoying the little things which the Commonwealth has to offer:
- The ripe Julie Mangos falling gracefully through the trees
- The smell of roasted breadfruit
- The unclouded skies
- The warm, fresh air
- The clear river water
- The sandy beaches
- The aesthetically pleasing nature
- The tourist attractions (boat trips, whale watching, snorkeling)
- The sound of dominoes being slammed against the table
- The energy and rhythm in the Dominican accent
- The bouyon music playing at a disturbingly loud volume from across the street
- The awkward encounters with free roaming chickens and goats
- The humor of jokes spoken in creole
- The wisdom in my grandmother’s voice
I’ve never felt more comfortable and at peace with myself than when in Dominica. But don’t get me wrong – there is a social scene on the island – you just need to know where to look. There are festivals and parties aplenty. Carnivals and fetes galore. Take a hike and admire God’s creation – you’ll soon see why they call Dominica the Nature Island of the Caribbean.
Dominica may not be the place for you. But it’s home for me. Where’s yours?