I took a vacation to Dominica, perhaps the least known of the Caribbean Island. That’s really all it was, I wasn’t doing anything noble by being there, but I left with some perspective that I thought I would share. Have you ever seen Pirates 2? Well parts of the film were shot on the island, they were very proud of that. I did eat at a restaurant that Johnny Depp ate at… it was hot. Dominica is not only the least known, but also the least developed Caribbean island, a somewhat third world country. It being only my second trip out of North America, and definitely my first taste of such a life, it was a place of wonder for me.

The residents there were 99% black, many of them the easy-going Rasta Mon that you would picture when you think of Jamaica. I loved it; such great, fun-loving, selfless people. They speak English, but it’s such a strange dialect that I could rarely understand them on the first listen. Sometimes they wander the streets with a machete and a wheel barrel full of coconuts, asking for a donation in exchange for some “jelly water”, as they call it.

Our dollar was worth $2.65 EC there, but they’re onto it, so I was unavoidably charged more for certain things. Sometimes they even charge the few tourists that do find out about the place in US dollars. I actually got a kick out of being the “minority” among the locals for once. Much unlike America, if you passed a local on the street, being an obvious outsider, you would need to (at the very least) say “Hello” in passing. If you didn’t, the person would be offended that you didn’t make an effort to get to know them. Can you imagine? They were a very kind people; there was almost NO crime there. Car horns are friendly sounds there, I never once heard one used aggressively. The place was not exactly perfect, I had one American friend who was viciously reprimanded for not saying Hello to one fed up local, but this is rare. Marijuana is legal to possess in Dominica, but not to smoke; as you can imagine, it’s all over the place, and they smoke it! Some won’t appreciate what I’m about to say, (I wouldn’t have appreciated it a few months ago), but their use of marijuana seemed to stand in stark contrast to it’s use in America. Here was a plant that would grow naturally right in their backyard. They would pick it, prepare it, and consume it. In the US it has such different settings, connotations and effects on us. I can’t help but picture a kid working a job, just to go to some shady street corner with the money he shouldn’t be spending to get some chemically altered, watered down, mind numbing version of the drug. He could face jail, ruined relationships, alienation at school, consuming guilt. I would never touch the stuff, it just seems different to me is all I’m saying. I asked a local, who we got to know quite well, if using marijuana makes him lazy. After all, that’s all I’ve seen of my friends back home when they smoke pot. He proceeded to show me the 5 houses he had built in the place he calls paradise (5 acres of land on a mountainside with every plant, tree, herb and fruit you could imagine), I guess his answer was NO. He said the reason we Americans are always sick and lazy is because everything we eat is chemically altered. It sounds harsh, but perhaps this could be the difference?

The oldest people in the world live there, why is that? Could it be that Ma Pampo lived to 128 years old because she wasn’t eating chemically treated food or second hand produce? Maybe it’s something in the water (or lack there of). Dominica’s pristine, largely untouched and unspoilt environment, which lies largely unpolluted, has been cited as the main reason for longevity on the Island. I get a bit frustrated when I recall the taste of the grapefruit or even the oranges that I sampled there, as they SHOULD be eaten, right from the tree. The fruit there almost didn’t even resemble the tastes and qualities we attach to fruit in America. The locals laughed each time they would see the tree that we get our chocolate from. They’d say, “There is the thing that you Americans go so crazy for, the cacao bean”. It’s a joke to them, and understandably so. When you live off of the fat of the land in such a naturally rich, tropical place, the thought of a Snickers bar kind of seems silly. Furthermore, I started to question why I put so much stock in almost ALL of the things that I thought were so important here. I started to wonder why I need so much STUFF in my life. Is it just one big distraction?

Coming back, I jumped right back into playing shows on tour with my band. Culture shock! Everyone looks so weird to me. The silly outfits, the thinly disguised ego-driven statements they make, the cheap imitations. If I see one more boy with a girls haircut and girl jeans I might get my scissors. What are we doing here? It’s all such an act. I know it’s mostly harmless, but wow is it pretentious! I guess I just had a bit of a revelation and I need to get over it. I’m sure my eyes won’t be so open wide for more than a few days. I just need to eat some fast food, that’ll get me back to normal… just kidding. I guess what I’m saying is that, for me, it helped to take a step back and look at things with fresh eyes. Anyways, these are just my thoughts… take ’em or leave ’em!

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