Let me share some of my stories from my 7 years in Dominica. 7 years ago, 25 November 2016, I took the next step in my life. I made a brave face and boarded the flight to Dominica via St. Martin. I thought I was well prepared. Yet, I was feeling apprehensive about what would happen once I landed.
The picture I had painted in my mind was quickly shattered to pieces the moment I landed in Dominica.
I remembered the now famous words of one of my dear friend who said, “Marieke, when you land and not all pieces of the puzzle fit, don’t throw away the entire puzzle.”
At the time, it sounded very cryptic; now, all those years later, it makes perfect sense. Nobody picked me up from the airport. I waited for 2 hours when I finally asked a taxi driver if he could drop me off with the bit of local currency I had on me.
When life gives you lemons.
The beginning of my life in Dominica was far from romantic, even though I wanted others to believe that. I cried my eyes out and felt betrayed, disappointed, and angry, mainly with myself.
Looking back, it was all worth it. If you had asked me that question back then, I don’t know what my answer would have been.
In the last 7 years, I have made a lot of lemonade of the lemons life threw at me. I found myself alone in a country I hardly knew anybody, 7.000 km from the Netherlands.
My first win was stepping out of my comfort zone and volunteering. The work with the children at the little preschool was great. However, I felt unappreciated by the owner. In fact, it was the first time I ever stormed out of a job, albeit volunteering, because I felt so offended. That’s a story for another time. For the months I was there, I made it work.
Too many stories to fit in one Blog.
I have endless stories of my 7 years in Dominica, inspirational ones and funny encounters, and I had my fair share of loss too.
In the first 12 months, I moved here, I lost both my parents and about 99% of the few possessions I had during Hurricane Maria. Losing almost all my worldly possessions taught me that it is just stuff. Materials things can easily be replaced. And although your parents passing away is part of life, I will never stop missing them.
There are the countless marriage proposals I received in those 7 years. This one guy did not even step out of his car as he proposed while driving alongside me, walking to work
Another one proposed to me at 7:30 in the morning while I was sitting in a car waiting on a coworker.
Comments on my ‘thickness,’ yes, that is a compliment here, or the curviness of my behind are all too common. Instead of feeling offended, I chose to let it boost my confidence.
Putting pen to paper.
Over time, I discovered my love for storytelling and writing. Shortly after I moved to Dominica, I started a Blog and have been writing Blogs ever since. Both my own stories as well as everything about my non-profit Breadfruit House. You can read those Blogs here.
My English was terrible in high school. What helped me a lot was corresponding with pen pals. At some point, I paid 10 US for an ad in a magazine. Our mailman noticed the large number of letters from male pen pals, that arrived as a result of the ad. Some were filled with only bible verses, others with marriage proposals or scribbled on torn-off pieces of graph paper.
My mom told me if any of them show up here, I do not know you. In the end, they never did, and eventually, the letters stopped coming. I never actually saw the ad when it was placed in the magazine. Who knows what they made of it. Fortunately, one pen pal became a great friend. His offer to correct my letters helped me a lot, and we have been friends for almost 50 years now.
My English obviously has improved. My first children’s book, published in March this year, is a testament to that. Holding my first book and adding published author to my CV felt terrific.
The book is called ‘Oliver and his big bowl of feelings,’ and all proceeds go to Breadfruit House, my non-profit for children. Click here to order your personal copy.
I am particularly proud of starting the Breadfruit House Foundation. The journey has been a challenging one. Another hurdle appears when you think you have accomplished a specific goal. However, once I recall all the smiles, hugs, and fun times with the children; I know why I am doing it.
Why it is worthwhile pushing through and being patient at the same time. Slowly but surely, we are making a name for ourselves and aim to reach all children between 6 and 12 in Dominica.
How about me?
Living here has taught me a lot about myself. For one, my life is very different from what I had in my mind when I moved here, and that is a good thing. Of course, I have had my fair share of ups and downs; they all brought me where I am now and who I am today.
I know I had to be here; my passion is setting up Breadfruit to benefit young children in Dominica. Most importantly, I am happy here; I feel at home here.
And it shows because my brother told me a few years ago you look great and happy. I now know that you made the right choice to move to Dominica. That compliment made me emotional, knowing he sees I am happy here. After all, we all want our nearest and dearest to be happy and thrive.
Over time, I have been interviewed many times both about life here and about Breadfruit House. Follow this link to all interviews, podcasts, and articles.
Comparing the picture from the day I left for Dominica to on birthday this year, I hardly recognize myself.
What lies ahead?
My writing journey continues. A second children’s book has emerged and is ready to be written. I am also, as you might remember, writing my personal story. I have stopped writing for a while for various reasons. I am back in writing mode and aim to publish my book next year.
In line with my personal book, called Unboxable, I want to inspire others with my stories as an inspirational speaker. If you, or someone you know, is looking for a speaker for your event, contact me. You can find more information here.
Since starting Breadfruit House in 2017 and working on registration as a local non-profit in Dominica, I have gained much knowledge. Why not share? I am available as a consultant for NGOs. I know from experience that having someone outside your circle is valuable as a sparring partner. Contact me, and let’s talk! Take a look here for more information
Of course, part of the future is building and growing the Breadfruit House to benefit all primary school children in Dominica for many years to come.
Final thoughts, for now, at least.
I though let me share some of my many stories from my 7 years in Dominica in a podcast. I love storytelling and am dabbling with the idea of starting a podcast.
This is yet another platform to share my life adventures and spread the word about Breadfruit House.
What would you like to hear? Let me know your thoughts.
Warm regards from the Nature Island,