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Context: This is an entry from my travel blog last Spring semester when I studied abroad with Semester at Sea.

Dominica If youre reading this and you are not in a location that you could randomly start talking to your computer, promise me you will do this later. I want you to just simply say the name of the most amazing island in the Caribbean out loud. Dominica. Dom- inNEE- ca. Not Duh- min- uh- ca as I have been calling it since I first looked at the itinerary for this voyage. The sound of the name itself is just a taste of the beauty that Dominica possesses. It is such a beautiful name for such a beautiful place. In just two days, I have already formed attachments. I have never received such energy from a place. Every glance off the deck at the mountains or trek into the little village of Roseau resulted in a sort of charge that coursed through every fiber of my being. It may sound dorky but it is so entirely true. I am dreading the moment Dominica slowly fades beneath the horizon as we once again hit the open ocean. Seriously though. I have never felt this way about any other location. It is just breathtaking. The mountains are covered base-topeak in the lushest, most green vegetation I have every laid eyes on and their summits are perpetually shrouded in thin, wispy clouds. There are tiny villages built right into the greenery, playing peek-a-boo through the thick palms and jungle as the salty sea breeze rustles the carpeted mountainsides. Both of the days that we have been here have begun with a light shower giving way to double rainbows that start in the mountains and end in the ocean. Yesterday, the morning showers were all the precipitation that we saw until later that evening. Today was another story. Rain or no rain its hard to put a damper on any time spent in Dominica. The first day involved some stressful searching for my already misplaced camera (which happened to be tucked in a pocket of my backpack that I didnt even know existed!), canyoning through the jungle (basically repelling down waterfalls and jumping off of cliffs), wandering the rustic streets of Dominica, and sampling the nightlife that opened just for us (due to it being Sunday and no places usually being open). Canyoning was one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Apparently, canyoning in Dominica is on National Geographics top 20 things to do in the world and I think I may understand why. We did it through a company called Extreme Dominica (definitely recommend them if my entry is enough to convince you to book a trip to Dominica). The tour began at the companys treehouse-like dwelling called Cocoa Cottage that sits at the top of a web of winding roads with spectacular views. Its called cocoa for a reason. They make their very own chocolate. I spent 10 whole dollars for a tiny bag of chocolate with sprinkled coconut shavings With just one bite I knew it was worth every dollar. It was literally the richest, creamiest, most flavorful chocolate I have ever tasted. I wish I could have brought some back to the ship with me but it melted in the Caribbean sun almost instantly.

The cottage was storybook, built right into the mountain. The entire back wall of the house just simply didnt exist, completely open to nature. There was a little walkway just outside the open side of the house and beyond was a pretty good-sized drop to the next landing in the mountain. To ease my anxious mind, I convinced myself that the dense jungle would ease the fall if I happened to overstep the rail-less ledge. Our training session for a bunch of first-time canyoners consisted of repelling down an 8-foot ledge next to the cottage. Once. Hardly a qualifying distance for what we were about to repel. When we were all deemed trained, we loaded ourselves back into the vans that had taken us up the mountainside to a spot 2000 meters above sea level to begin the repel. The first repel was a good 30 feet tall, complete with a gushing waterfall. It was amazing being completely surrounded by moss-covered canyon walls with the sky peeking through the trees way up above us. The key to canyoning is to trust the ropes and the guys at both ends of the ropes. I was in good hands. You literally approach the cliff backwards, grip the rope and then throw all of your weight into the little diaper-like thing that holds the caribiner that is attached to the rope. The proper position for the descent is reminiscent of sitting in a chair except the legs of chair are attached to a vertical cliff face and straight ahead is nothing but sky and treetops. One minute you are standing vertical, the next minute you are horizontal in chair position as water rushes down on all sides. We were able to repel at six different sites until we had finally descended the entire stretch of canyons. Then, to all of our surprise (it shouldnt have been, but it was) we had to hike back up the mountain. What an unanticipated workout! Along the way we plucked a grapefruit off of a tree and passed it along, each of us taking a wedge. We also tasted some coffee berries. They sort of look like cherries but inside there are two coffee beans that youre supposed covered in utter sweetness. FYI, Dominica is known for its coffee. To make sure the reputation was accurate, I bought a caf mocha at one of the downtown cafes. Delicious! Back at cocoa cottage, there were hummus and cucumber sandwiches and fresh papaya juice waiting for us. Im not really a fan of hummus but the ingredients were so fresh that I actually enjoyed it. What a welcome change from the processed junk they serve on the ship. We were also able to taste a fresh cocoa bean. It pretty much tasted like the darkest chocolate you can possibly imagine. Im starting to lose track of the days of the week given the bouts of endless days at sea but I do know that this day was Sunday. When we were dropped back off at sea level, the town was dead. Channel the movie 2012 now. Absolutely no one was out. The only sign of life all day had been the melodic murmurings of the church choir as we waited for the vans to cocoa cottage. Now were 600 college kids who have been itching for a night out on the town since our departure from Nassau. I am proud to say my little group of 20 canyoning buddies are the reason the little town of Roseau, Dominica opened up one Sunday night. One of our canyoning guides had a brother who owned one of the bars in town. He made a call and the rest is history. That even started a chain reaction. A few

other bars decided to open up shop as well. The most memorable moment of the night happened on the dance floor at a bar named RJs. I look up and realize theres no roof. Then I notice the crystal clear smattering of stars and moon. Next thing I know I am drenched from a sudden downpour. These are the memories I will never forget. The second day began with a snorkeling trip to Champagne Reef and Souffriere Preserve. Ive only been snorkeling a few times and havent been a huge fan of it but now I get it. I get why snorkeling has such a following. The variety of fish and coral that I saw was innumerable. My favorite was the spotlight parrot fish. It literally glowed a beautiful, omniscient blue in the water. The craziest thing was, this snorkeling trip was a field trip for one of my classes. At one point, as I was slipping on my flipper, I had to pause and ask the girl next to me, Am I really at school right now? That is one question that has already been asked many, many times in the five days that weve been out to sea and in port. Its just so incredibly unbelievable. Thank God, out of all of the many activities I could have signed up for on this day, I had chosen snorkeling. This was an activity that worked rain or shine and this day had been blessed with copious amounts of rain coming in waves of intense downpours. At one point, I had to question whether rain or sleet was falling on me. We could see the next band of rain off in the distance as the once-clearly visible mountains became hazy and then 5 minutes later we would be drenched. The first snorkeling site was called Champagne because little pockets of hot water flowed out of the ocean floor and bubbled to the surface. It looked like I was swimming in a glass of champagne. The second site, Souffriere, was even better. The diversity of the fish and the coral improved and we were right near the location where the Pirates of the Caribbean films were shot. If it hadnt of rained, we would have missed out on the multiple double rainbows that kept popping up all day long. I have about 50 pictures of rainbows beginning in the misty mountains and ending in the open ocean. Trust me, it never got old. I could write a book on my two days in Dominica. I cant even imagine how I am going to capture the week-long port stays in one entry. Moral of the story: Go canyoning, have a city open up their closed shops just for you, taste a freshly picked grapefruit, snorkel through a coral reef that bubbles like a glass of champagne, wander through the streets of the friendliest town on earth, and experience multiple double rainbows in one day. In other words, go to Dominica. Or if moneys an issue, just wait until I move here someday and Ill let you crash in my tree house. And I will move here one day. Ive fallen in love with the place.

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