Independent Canadian book publishers working in Dominica, W.I. specializing in coffee table books of architectural treasures and lush gardens. We also promote fine artistic photography. This blog contains unofficial reports and comments from our various trips, photo sessions, and jobs – an unofficial scrapbook of our travels, explorations and photo-related work. See “about” for more.

Posts tagged ‘caribbean islands’

Giraudel Flower Show 2016

_DAG8956-smWe were fortunate this year to attend the Giraudel Flower Show in Dominica, where we live now. This special event was held in the village of Giraudel situated on the slopes of Morne Anglais, one of the tallest mountains in the south. The village of Giraudel is known as the “flower basket” of Dominica.

At the entrance to the show

At the entrance to the show

Rich volcanic soil and frequent rains make ideal conditions for growing flowers and healthy vegetables this village is famous for. The Flower Show started in 1973 and grew out of local celebrations of Achievement Day, showcasing local produce, crafts and the best gardens. Since then it was run every second or third year with a bigger break after devastating hurricane David. _DAG8903sm

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

Sybil Alfred and Desmond Augustine at the Show.

We, the Flower Grower Group, recently bought this piece of land and finally have a permanent home for the show,” explains Sybil Alfred- one of the organizers who is involved from the very beginning. “It is very much a community effort, everyone contributes in a different way and everyone is welcome – from small individual growers to commercial flower shops and gardens”.
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”We went into the small house containing flower arrangements. “This year’s general theme is ‘Flowers in a changing environment’”, says Sybil. “When you look around, you see trees being cut, too much garbage and destruction. We say- stop this and concentrate on natural beauty instead.” The display space is divided into sections with different themes and corresponding flower arrangements. Some of the themes are: “Prevent destruction”, “Protect nature’s diversity”, “Resilience”, “Bury careless damage”, “Eat local”, “Harmony with nature” and the last one: “We will bloom again.”

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The display is colourful and striking. Different varieties of Anthurium, Ginger and Costus are the most frequently used plants, together with Alstroemeria, Dahlia and Marigold. I really like a bouquet made of blue Agapanthus- these showy globes are three times bigger than what we grew in our garden in British Columbia, Canada. I truly started to be fond of these strong combination of reds, orange and yellow only when we begun to work on our book “Exotic Gardens of the Easter Caribbean”. As a gardener, I’ve always preferred pastels, whites and textural plants – but here, under tropical sun these vibrant colours really make a strong statement against the background of intensely green rainforest.

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We step outside into the sunshine and wonder around another section showing a variety of natural landscapes and different growing conditions on the island: from lush rainforest of the interior to dry Caribbean coast. This section is skilfully put together by Desmond Augustine, owner of the local plant nursery and a master florist. Here the display includes funky mannequins impersonating workers in the fields.
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But this is not everything: there is a tree house with ferns, a shade garden, a field of colourful zinnias, bromeliads… there is still so much to see! We had a wonderful time discovering all corners of the Giraudel Flower Show and ended up buying beautiful peace lily, spathiphyllum wallisii to be planted in our garden later on. I can’t imagine a more enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
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I wish you were here!
Until next time!
– Margaret.

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Thanks!

Story by Margaret Gajek
Photos: Derek Galon, Ozone Zone. Please respect copyright.

Erika – the Lady Made of Rain

When it rains - it pours...

When it rains – it pours…

Danny is coming! Tropical storm Danny transformed to Hurricane 2, and is coming. People were a bit uneasy. When it came, seriously weakened and without much umph, leaving just a bit of rain behind – people were relieved. There was in the news that anther tropical storm – Erica – is on the way. But the hurricane weakened so much encountering difficult conditions – Erica will be even less noticeable, people thought. It should pass far away – on the other side of Montserrat, heading to Virgin Islands. Too far from Dominica to be concerned.

We went to bed to be awaken by hammering sounds of rain on the roof. So loud. A heavy rain and some remote thunders. But it was only in the morning when we so how powerful this rain is. A wall of water, mixed with stormy wind gusts. A constant humm of water hitting the roof like a power wash, and hiss of wind bending old bamboo and coconut palms. The power went off, our Digicel mobile phones can’t find the network.

Our driveway looks like a stream

Our driveway looks like a stream

We found a pool of water in the kitchen and some water in other parts of the house. Roof clearly gave up a bit under constant showering. We dried things, and now – sitting in dark living room we are waiting for the storm to pass. Water is all around us. Our rainwater tank which usually takes several days of rain to fill, overflowed pouring water through bursting excess pipes. Our driveway turned to a stream, front lawn to a pool. Dogs hid under our bakers’ oven – the most secure and concealed spot in garage area. It also is wet, but not as wet as most other places. They didn’t even want to leave for their meal.

It is now after noon, thunders still rolling from time to time. With power off it is as dark as in early morning hours. Rain does not ease, and I can imagine the mess on Eggleston road. For sure there are some fallen trees and land slides – possible the reason behind no power. We are happy our stove uses gas, not electricity. At least we can have some hot tea, while waiting for the storm to pass. Erika – the Wet Lady. She clearly sent Danny as a decoy to have a more mighty entrance with an element of surprise. And – she succeeded!

Our road to village is blocked by this huge fallen tree, another fallen tree and two land slides...

Our road to village is blocked by this huge fallen tree, another fallen tree and two land slides…

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This is what I wrote in the morning of Erica’s arrival on my laptop. Battery died soon after, and no power and phone made it impossible to comprehend the scale of destruction.  Only after noon when rains eased a bit we went to the Retreat House – our neighbours – to find out about situation. And, we were told of terrible misery and damage! We had no idea! Then more and more details and stories came to life as we met with other neighbours and I started our generator, so we could use some moments of internet.

The second fallen tree. It broke our power line.

The second fallen tree. It broke our power line.

People working tirelessly to clear the road

I will not repeat all the tragic details, nor I will repost photos of destruction down on the coast which were shown by various papers and media. This is just our humble contribution to the whole image emerging slowly as the aftermath of this tragic night. We hear more and more stories about stranded tourists, people lost in mud slides, boat trips to cut-off fishing villages… It just starts to give us an idea as to the shocking size of this tragedy.
We can only say we are amazingly impressed with all people of Dominica. No hysteria, no fuss, just the sober understanding that it is up to all of us to clean this mess, and we need to get to it. If any nation can pull together and overcome this disaster – it is Dominica. Wish us luck and pray for us.

photos and text by Derek Galon. No usage without authorization.

The Battle With Chikungunya – a New Weapon?

Aedes_aegyptiIn next three weeks we are moving with Margaret from Victoria in Western Canada to Dominica in the Eastern Caribbean. From no-mosquito zone, down to the zone of Chikungunya. When photographing in Dominica this summer, we’ve seen friends affected by this nasty virus, and we are fully aware we may be next in line to get it. Not only a painful and unpleasant disease to get, Chikungunya also acts as a negative tourism factor. Canada has a travel warning in effect, and I am sure other countries have similar advices in effect, making potential visitors vary and picking other destinations instead.

I am no tourism expert at all, but I am sure it has a negative effect on the whole Caribbean tourism industry. Surely, there are some measures in effect to control population of Aedes Aegypti mosquito, same as the Asian Tiger mosquito which is also capable of spreading the virus. But – can we do anything more to protect ourselves?

Somehow I’ve got quite deeply into the subject, spent lots of time, effort, and also money to research it the best I could. I learned that Aedes Aegypti – the tiny Caribbean mosquito – has very specific habits. It is mostly a daytime mosquito, it tries to stay very close to homes, cattle barns, etc. – but it is not typically living indoors. Contrary to popular understanding, it is NOT attracted to the UV light of popular insect catchers. You know these high voltage traps with blue light? They will kill lots of innocent moths but very few mosquitoes, and practically NO Aedes Aegypti! Similarly, the Asian Tiger mosquito doesn’t get attracted to these devices.

Asian Tiger, however, has different habits and is attracted to different things than Aedes Aegypti. There are many very expensive mosquito traps on the market. Some use a propane tank to produce CO2 to imitate human presence, some employ different methods or chemicals. Unfortunately, several scientific tests proved them to be mostly effective on mosquito species which are NOT the ones responsible for Chikungunya and Dengue Fever. Aedes Aegypti – the main culprit – clearly is one of the most tricky mosquitoes to catch.

Scientists in South America performed some successful tests with a very simple device. Typically you should avoid any containers holding water and left outdoors. Yet, the method mentioned above calls for a container with some water inside.

Have it under control and change the water every week or so. Mosquitoes are lured to the water, their natural breeding spot. They will lay eggs there. But it takes over 10 days for larvae to develop, and you empty the container before there are “ready” adult mosquitoes, all mosquito larvae will be destroyed when you pour the water out. You pour back some fresh water, and here they go again. By coming to your container they won’t breed in other uncontrolled areas. You invite them to breed, but then their larvae got destroyed, cycle after cycle. But you need not to miss a cycle, or you will have a swarm of personally invited mosquitoes! This is the most basic trap which costs nothing and helps controlling the pesky and dangerous mosquitoes. Because of  Aedes Aegypti specific habits, to make it most effective you should set such water trap near the house but out of your way, in a shaded, protected from wind area (back side? in nearby bushes?).

There is, however, another, new method I am quite excited about. I invested some money in obtaining samples of a new device created recently in response to several scientific tests. That device uses several factors to lure mosquitoes, and seems to be the most successful weapon so far. The decisive factor in them is a customized lure. Each species of mosquito is attracted to different elements. Some react to CO2, some prefer faint smell of lactic acid (a chemical present in our sweat), some favour yet other substances. A specialized developer I am in contact with, produces a clever device and customized lures for all species of mosquitoes. You can combine lures attracting a few species simultaneously. I did not have a chance to test the device (no Aedes Aegypti in my part of Canada), but I saw scientific reports, and I plan to test these devices when we will move to Dominica.

If these will prove even half as effective as reported, it may be a serious weapon in reducing the threat of these disease spreading mosquitoes. While in everyday life I am a professional photographer offering my high quality services to you, I intend to follow up on this, conduct some tests and report back to you on our blog

If working well, this small electric device may be able to help protecting you and your guests against mosquitoes, create a mosquito free zones in your homes, reduce number of Chikungunya and Dengue cases, and perhaps – if endorsed by Caribbean governments – it can help easing the worries of future visitors to this region.

Please click “follow” on our blog to hear more about it. You will be updated with every post from us. I intend to report back with honest and detailed comments about this device. We need to know if there is a new effective tool, or it is once again something not so reliable. If it works – I may even bring it down here commercially! Just give me a bit of time, we are moving in 3 weeks from now, need to unpack, settle down, then we can do some tests. We actually have a few extra units which will be tested by our friends in different areas of Dominica, to gather more detailed info. Stay tuned!

(And until then – you can try the water trap. I tested it here in Canada with other species of mosquitoes, and it works really good. Cheers!)

Plymouth – the New Pompeii (Margaret’s Notes)

Plymouth – view towards volcano

Some days ago we posted our memories from visiting city destroyed by volcano – Plymouth, in Montserrat. You can see link to that post on the right side, along with link to the story about our whole Montserrat trip.
However, that previous post was quickly written by me – Derek. I am always busy taking pictures, taking care of my gerar, and looking for potential shot. Margaret, on the other hand – being a writer and researcher –  has a totally different point of view, and she notices things I don’t. Therefore – both being deeply moved by the visit to Plymouth – we decided that Margaret needs to share her notes with you. Here it is…

It’s a bright early morning, but I already feel the heat building up. No wonder, it’s summer in the Caribbean. We are standing on the platform of Montserrat Volcano Observatory, waiting for a vulcanologist who will take us to the exclusion zone lying at the foot of the active volcano. There are five of us waiting, including a French photo-journalist, Derek, myself, and two people who work for the Montserrat Government. Our guide is half an hour late. As we strike up a casual conversation, I gaze at the Soufriere Hills volcano dominating the landscape, majestic and mysterious, partially covered in clouds. Soon we will be much closer to it. We are filled with excited expectation…

Our guide finally arrives and we follow his jeep, driving through a verdant landscape towards the sea. After passing the last inhabited houses – beautiful villas shaded by scarlet blooming flamboyant trees – we arrive at the check point manned by a volunteer – a retired policeman. Since we have special permit, we are allowed to pass further – past the gate to the exclusion zone. Our guide tells us rather harshly that we have maximum two hours’ time to explore, need to keep eye and voice contact, and “you have to leave immediately when I tell you to.” I notice his hands are shaking when he opens the gate padlock. I wonder – is it because he is aware of an impending danger of which we are blissfully ignorant?

Finally, we reach the site of what once was Plymouth, the capital city of the island, to begin our exploration. We leave our jeep’s motor running.

One of school buildings

As I’m getting out of the car my feet sink in a soft, silvery-grey ash, under which I sense another surface, hard as concrete. I look around at the landscape and I’m gripped in terror: the whole huge area is grey desolation and ruin. What remains of the city is buried under incredibly thick layers of mud and ash, following the eruption in 1995 and later pyroclastic flows. Now I understand why Plymouth is named “the new Pompeii.”

We are silent: this sight is inexpressibly moving. “Look at this house, it used to be three-storey high,” says Atsumi, our Montserrat host, pointing to a building in front of us. You can barely see its destroyed roof now; the rest is covered in ash. Derek disappears inside one of the buildings which still carries a visible sign “Ambiance” painted on the wall. He utters a cry and I follow him. What I see is a scene frozen in time:

A desk with computer thickly covered with ash… a phone book with yellow pages still open…

a child’s crib with toys scattered around… On the ash-covered floor, a watch dropped and smashed. Near the window a broken lamp with a grey cap of ash, surreal-looking roll of some fabric with colour and pattern impossible to discern under its thick ashy cover, and a mannequin used as a form for dress-making. Clearly, the home of a tailor, whose family left it all behind in a wild rush…

I step outside to take a deeper breath. There is another photographer with us, that French journalist. I can see him running in my direction. “What did you see?” I ask. “A bar that looks like people just left, leaving broken glasses and newspapers on the floor.” He and Derek move quickly from building to building trying to capture photographs of as many sights as possible. Another building of interest – elementary school. Rooms are filled with mud and ash to half their height. A chalkboard full of scribbles, and table almost completely drowned in ash add to the eerie feel of the whole place.

Our guide nervously calls his office to confirm volcano conditions still permit to continue our stay. “If the volcano decides to emit pyroclastic flows now, what are our chances of survival?” I ask our guide. “We have only 2 minutes until it reaches where we stand. It’s not enough time to escape,” he answers quickly. It’s not just the spewed hot rocks and ash that pose the danger: the hot steam and pressure accompanying them are equally destructive. It’s easy to believe that, since all the time we walk there, we’re surrounded by pungent sulphur fumes. “If anyone feels sick because of sulphur gas, we need to get immediately out,” cautions our guide.

There is no colour here, except for corroded iron structures covered by reddish rust in a vast sea of grey ash. There is an overwhelming silence: no bird songs or sound of leaves rustling in the wind. It’s like a desert – no, in comparison the desert is full of life!

I find myself in front of a bakery – so the signboard reads. Glimpsing inside through the shattered windows, I’m suddenly aware of a sound of flipping paper pages at my feet. I bend down to see it closer. It’s a Montserrat passport of some widely travelled lady. Was it lost in the haste of evacuation, dropped out of an open handbag? What happened to its owner? I wonder.

Our last place to see is a church on the outskirts of town. We walk over an iron gate, almost totally buried in ash. The church is surprisingly bright inside; rays of light enter through a broken roof illuminating the nave. I notice pages of a music score – Handel’s Messiah lying on the floor. As I’m leaving the church, I think about all the people who lived in this destroyed city – close to four thousand residents, whose lives were changed forever after the eruption.

Our guide is visibly relieved when we are leaving the site. After just 5 minutes’ drive we can again hear birds singing.

Post written by Margaret Gajek, author of Tropical Homes of the Eastern Caribbean, and Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean

Photographs copyright Derek Galon, Ozone Zone.

As we both are deeply moved by the visit to Plymouth, Derek created three commemorative limited edition posters showing selection of his best photographs from there. You can see them at Gallery Vibrante, which offers Derek’s art photography for sale. Also there you can see his other best images from Plymouth (in Architecture and Travel categories).

Thank you for your visit. As always – if you like it, SHARE it with freiends, please.
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Cheers! Until next time!

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