About Me

My photo
Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Late riser

I woke up this morning earlier than usual. I had a phone appointment with the fellow who is coordinating my upcoming trip to the Dominican Republic, and since he is in London, that meant an early start for me. I am not a morning person. No matter how early I go to bed, I never naturally wake up with the sun. For someone who loves farming, and who actually managed to get herself to work almost every day for the six months that I worked full time on a farm, you would think I would have mastered the early rising by now. I like the *idea* of waking at dawn to do yoga and write in my journal, sipping tea as the sun rises. But the reality is that I work best and concentrate best late at night. So I have learned to love sunsets, the starry sky, and the moon in all its phases!

This morning however I was up -- o.k.-- not at sunrise, however I did get up at 6.30, which is still pretty early for me! After my chat with the fellow at Raleigh, I actually did yoga at a time of the day that was very definitely still morning! The house we live in has beautiful honey-hued wood floors, and huge French windows, and the morning sun was pouring through the windows in all its glory. I could actually see shafts of light, and I positioned my yoga mat right in them. There is something magical about doing yoga in the morning. I feel as though I am gently giving my body the chance to wake up slowly from the inside, successive layers of internal organs, muscles and ligaments coming to life, until I emerge at the end of the practice, alert and feeling energized for my day.

This morning I finished my practice and sat on my mat silently, listening to the sounds of the city all around me. The traffic rushing towards downtown, the birds in the trees, and the banging sound of the garbage truck collecting waste. I thought about all the things that are spinning around in my head at the moment. The community that I still call "my community," back on PEI. The choice that I made to pack up and leave the island. Thoughts about the idea of returning to the island -- even if I only were to remain for the year, house sitting while one of my best friends works in France. All the things that I have accomplished in the going on a year that I have been in northern California, even though it often feels like I have accomplished very little. The dreams I left PEI with. Wondering if going back to the island means I am giving up on those dreams -- if I am going backwards instead of forwards. I thought about the things I want to accomplish this year: Becoming self-sustaining as a freelance writer. Doing more farming, and the volunteer work on a local farm that I will be starting tomorrow, working with a group of local youth, helping them to plant and harvest food, distribute it to low income families in the area, and accompanying them as they learn how to prepare healthy meals. My hope that I will be able to travel to Portugal this summer to attend the Baha'i summer school there that I have been wanting to attend for three years now. A short visit at the beginning of March from a very close friend of mine from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, that I am really looking forward to. And of course the trip to the Dominican Republic with Green & Black's chocolate company at the end of March. There is so much going on in my head and heart at the moment.

One of the big things in my life right now is all the preparation work for my trip at the end of March to the Dominican Republic. I am really excited about this trip, and the closer I get to the departure date, and the more details I learn about what I will be doing and who I will be working with while I am down there, the more excited I get. There will be five US Ambassadors on the trip, and five UK Ambassadors. There are four women and one man coming from the US. Myself, a fellow from Escondido, California, a woman from Washington, D.C., a woman from Manchester, New Hampshire, and a woman from Greenville, North Carolina. I am not sure where everyone in the UK group is coming from, but I know that the one woman coming from the UK, and one of the men, are coming from Leeds, one of the men will be joining us from Exeter, and one from Manchester. We will also have two Green & Black's employees labouring alongside us, two local islanders, and three Raleigh International employees, who are leading the expedition. All in all, it promises to be a very good time.

I spent yesterday studying the information about the trip. In the next few weeks, I will be receiving a box filled with things like a mosquito net, a flashlight, camping mat, mug, water bottles, etc, as well as a gift certificate to go get myself some other gear at a local outdoor recreation store. Lots to prepare. In addition to getting my gear ready, I have started taking steps to get my body ready for this trip. I have stepped up my yoga practice, started running a few times a week, and am hoping that volunteering on the farm will also help get me in the kind of shape I need to be for heavy manual labour every day for the two weeks I am in the Dominican Republic.

The team of Ambassadors will be spending most of our time building a gravity-fed drinking water system for the local organic cocoa farming community. This is something that the community itself has identified as an important need. Green & Black's gets all of its cocoa from the Dominican Republic and Belize. It was the first company to receive Free Trade certification for its chocolate in the UK, and it values building long-term relationships with the farming communities that it purchases its cocoa from. The farmers working with Green & Black's get a premium for the cocoa, and this premium is used to improve the social and economic conditions in their communities. The construction of this water system is just one example of a project that has been identified as a priority by the cocoa farmers themselves. Apparently access to clean, potable drinking water in the Dominican Republic is an ongoing problem, especially in poorer communities, and in rural areas.

As far as I understand, we will be living with farmers and their families while we are building the water system. We will be cooking our meals over a fire, bathing in rivers, and learning to make do without electricity. No mobile phones. No internet connection. It will be a digital sabbatical of sorts for me, but I will be writing a number of posts about our experiences as soon as I get back to California. While i know the reality will be more challenging than I can imagine, I am really looking forward to a simpler pace of life -- even if only for a couple of weeks.

I am also hoping, and there have been hints that I should continue hoping, that we get to enjoy some Green & Black's organic chocolate at the end of a long day of work!

It is getting late. The sunny, windy day turned into a clear, start speckled night, and I have been gathering my gear for the day on the farm tomorrow. Pulling my rubber farming boots out of the back of the closet; digging my wide-brimmed farming hat out from under piles of scarves and sweaters; filling out my volunteer waiver forms, and cleaning out my water bottles. I cannot wait for tomorrow morning!


  1. That is cool your coming to Salt Spring....would be great to meet you. I know you will be busy but a few minutes would be fun.

    Your day and your plans sound lovely!!

  2. Hello Charlene! I am actually not coming to Salt Spring. Ahava is coming here for a few days after her retreat. But some day I will most definitely come to Salt Spring for a visit, and I would love to meet you when I do. :-)