Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Donkey and the Lost Cell Phone

One day while in Dominica we decided to take one of the local buses, a van, to Scott’s Head at the southern tip of the island, where the Atlantic and the Caribbean meet.  There is a striking promontory at the very point that we wanted to hike and scope out for future snorkeling. 

From Scott's Head looking north up the Dominica coast.
We rode there from the next village, Soufriere, where we were staying for the week. We were deposited in the small town center and were heading toward the point when I saw a good photo subject and, reaching for my phone, realized that it was missing.  Panic! Then ,”No I probably just left it on the table back at the apartment”. But we saw another bus driver across the street so I thought maybe he could just check with the other driver. This is a pretty small island and I figured he probably knew who that driver was. Sure enough, Donkey, as his name was lettered in large silver foil across the top of his windshield, did know who that last driver was since he had just passed him enroute.  He immediately called him but his phone ran out of time just that moment.  Because he had tried to call, the other driver, called him back. 

Meanwhile we were climbing up the rocky isthmus when a van pulled up at the base and began honking and flashing his lights at us. We ran down and there was Jean Claude, aka Donkey with my cell phone.  I was so relieved and a bit surprised since I really thought I had left it at the apartment.  So we tipped him and talked to him about driving us to Portsmouth when we  moved to our next accommodation.  We told him where we were staying and got his number and agreed to Sunday morning at 10:30.  I tried calling him using WhatsAp the Wifi phone application that so many people use internationally.  But I couldn’t reach him to confirm. So the day before departure I I got the number for another driver and made other arrangements.  But Saturday evening as we were sitting in the kitchen eating the best Potato Lentil soup I’ve ever made, Donkey pulled up beside the window and honked.  He hadn’t heard from us — turns out he doesn’t use WhatsAp, so we canceled the other driver and were all set for the next morning.

I sat in the front passenger seat next to Jean Claude because the roads here are, at times, quite winding and nausea inducing.  We had about an hour to share stories and Jean Claude was an interesting guy.  He owned his own van proudly and kept it very clean and in good order; although I noticed the tires were getting a bit thin.  He dressed sharply and wore his hair in an unusual style. It was cut short except on top where it rose straight off his head in a flat topped muffin shape.  He was forty-one and said he loved to work and had aspirations to expand the taxi business. He acquired his first van by driving for a woman who paid him based on a percent of revenue.  He tried to hire another driver to expand business but that driver stole from him and he claimed he’d never trust another person again. The woman for whom he’d driven told him that her husband had told her, “While they were in bed one night” that Donkey’s van was paid off but didn’t want to tell Donkey. So the woman told Donkey, “ Don't tell my husband I told you, but your van is paid off.” The man had to pay him back payments for which Donkey had overpaid.  Donkey also said that he had moved away from his parent’s home when he was thirteen. It sounded just like a Cinderella story without the prince and the slipper or the stepmother. He was the oldest child of six. The parents made him do so much work and didn’t allow him to play or go with them when they took the others for enjoyment.  And so he just left. I asked where he lived and he said he rented a place and worked.  He also dropped out of school at that age and never went back.  

The view from our verandah in Soufrier, Dominica
Jean Claude seemed very honest, kind and respectful, in fact he also had the word RESPECT in large silver foil printed on the he side of his van.
This world is such a sad and glorious place at the same time.  We’ve met grouchy or sullen people, drunk prostheletizers, opinionated bores, sweet innocents, forgetful lighthearted optimists, greedy or desperate vendors, proud artists and gardeners, philosophical taxi drivers, wary youngsters, warm local passengers, vain teens and openhearted travelers.
It takes all kinds! Like I’ve said in the past, “Meeting new people as we travel is one of my favorite things about this wandering lifestyle.” And I suppose if everyone was a perfect citizen of the world it’d be a Steppford-like existence, boring and unsustainable.

Pumpkin Lentil Soup
2-4 servings

2 T oil
2 cups butternut squash cut into 1/2 cubes
1/2 onion diced
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 T fresh grated ginger
1 T curry powder
2 cups vegetable broth 
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup lentils
1 T demerara sugar
1 T lime zest or to taste depending on strength
Juice of half a lime (1-2 T depending on strength —Caribbean limes are strong)
salt to taste

Heat oil in pan and sauté onions, garlic, curry, squash and ginger
Once all is browned nicely, about four minutes, pour in the broth.
Add lime zest, ginger, sugar, chicken broth, coconut milk and high simmer until lentils are cooked, about 30 minutes. Test for tenderness.
Add lime juice to taste as well as salt if needed. 

So much of this recipe seems to rest in the quality of the broth.  I never throw away perfectly good flavors. Years ago when I worked in a kitchen I saw the chef making broth incorporating even the onion and garlic skins.  Why not, and what about the nutrition in the kale stalks and the subtle tang of the lemon grass stalks.  I think I even used a bit of the bones of a split chicken breast in the broth so it wasn’t strictly a vegetable broth, but you get the point. 

Just before the cell phone was recovered.

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