Small Lessons from Everyday Living

Benjamin's Park: the multisport fields in Portsmouth

Here are a few lessons I've learned about day-to-day life in Dominica:

  • Never underestimate the power of good manners. A simple "Good afternoon!" when walking into a roomful of people makes a world of difference in the way they respond to you. This is especially true in Dominica.
  • Don't take offense when a passing vehicle honks at you. In fact, it's usually meant to be a friendly greeting. If you've been on island long enough, chances are, the driver is probably someone you know.
  • Buy local! A week's worth of fruits, vegetables, herbs & spices, and eggs cost no more than $18 USD. Going to the market at 6:00am on Saturday is worth getting the freshest produce.
  • In politics and business, what really matters is your reputation and knowing the right people. Here, you cannot afford to be overly polite. Good manners must be balanced by equal parts assertiveness and standing your ground.
  • Drinking water is a privilege, not a right. When it rains, the rivers become very muddy and thus contaminate the water supply. Drinking from the faucet will make you very sick.

Next week, July 23, was slated to be the start date of my athletics/track & field camp with the youth in Portsmouth, Dominica. I have been trying throughout the month of July to formulate a curriculum and schedule for each 2.5 hour day. Without consistent access to a computer, organizing a plan has been a challenge. Coaching the high jumpers for the Windward Island Games, putting on a track meet, attending meetings to decide the teams of youth rto represent Dominica in Grenada, and facilitating the awards and induction ceremony for the Youth Role Model Program have also taken priority throughout the month of July. Along the way, I have been distracted by questions and concerns about who my audience is going to be. The Sports Director for the North has been assuring me for weeks that he would take care of the advertising. I always knew recruiting participants would be the most serious challenge for me in hosting a youth clinic. The kids are not currently in school, and I do not know of a central place to reach all of them. However, I put my trust in the Sports Director as he had confidently assured me that was taken care of.

Unfortunately, a conversation with the Sports Director (SD) this morning confirmed some of my uncertainties about the proposed clinic. As it turns out, he has been so busy with the youth athletes preparing for the Windward Island Games that we still face the same issue of not having recruited participants for my proposed track clinic. As a result, we cannot possibly start a clinic on Monday. Wednesday will be the earliest possible day, but it will more likely be pushed back a week. This change is less than ideal as I only have about 2.5 weeks left on the island, but I'm not surprised. Dominica has taught me to be able to change plans quickly and make the best of any situation. The SD told me that it was his hope to be able to do something more sustainable than a simple week-long clinic for the kids. I would love to be able to help set this up, so we are meeting tomorrow to discuss options for making the track clinic a way to attract young athletes who might continue to do track once a week with the Aspirers Athletics Club throughout the year. I see my role as helping to get the kids motivated and inspired to keep working on a long-term basis, which is one of the hardest things to do for youth in Dominica. All of my experiences here have helped me understand and address this challenge.

I realize that I must now focus on doing what I need to in order to make my original vision a reality. Despite the fact that relying on others to help me has delayed my work here at times, I won't fall into the common trap of sacrificing my goals due to a simple lack of planning. Tomorrow, we will develop a vision for a youth track camp that will inspire young Dominicans to see why sports are worth doing long after I'm gone, even when surrounded by a culture and education system that might not support it.

In a future post, I will touch on precisely why the education system in Dominica does not support youth sports and actually discourages youth from play. Understanding the relationship between sports and education on the island has been a goal of mine since the initial stages of this project last summer, so I am excited to be able to bring my discoveries together and provide some answers. Stay tuned!