Little Calamity – Big Success

Friday of last week was an extremely exciting day, from the time I woke up I couldn’t wait to get going to Roseau, which is funny because I am usually filled with a bit of exhausted dread when I even think about a trip to Roseau. But Friday would be the day we finally sign the paperwork for our acre of land in Toucari, Dominica, so of course I threw out all my usual worries, we both got dressed appropriately for doing business got in our car, which Richard had just got registered in our name, and started the hour long journey. Well, it’s supposed to be an hour long journey. If you follow us on Instagram you probably saw our ‘little calamity’, Richard and our car on the side of the road with the hood up, which is usually not a good sign.
That photo was taken in Colihaut, with the beach on one side of the road and a quarry on the other, probably one of the best places we could have had a little breakdown. So, before I go on, let me tell you about what happened. Maybe 15 minutes or so into our drive Rich noticed the temperature gauge starting to rise in the car, the engine was overheating, not quite past the point of no return, but it’s never good when you see that little needle ticking up. He used his awesome skills to keep driving and keep the temp down, but after coasting down the hill by the water we needed to pull over, it was clear this problem wasn’t going to resolve itself. So Rich pulls over to the shady, quarry side of the road where we get to work. He lifts the hood and checks the radiator, there is a crack about 6 inches long running across the top of the radiator (plastic of course). Our ‘transport’ as they call SUV’s here is 14 years old, low milage, but still 14 years old so of course there are going to be some problems that arise that the service department couldn’t have predicted when they did their servicing and checks before we bought the used vehicle. It’s not like they have factory certified pre-owned cars here, we bought ours from a local where the dealership just acted as the previous owner’s liaison. Once Rich notices the crack, he thinks everything is over, that we need to get the car on a tow truck, get on a bus (basically a passanger van open to anyone who needs a ride for a few EC) to Roseau and somehow figure out a way to spend as little money as possible while getting all of this done. But this is Dominica, where everyone has had vehicle problems, everyone’s got a fix, and more often than not at least one person you meet each day has extensive experience working on cars or is a mechanic. I started by calling our dealership’s service department, to figure out what to do, see if they could come get us and our car, or just our car, and how long it would take. I informed them we were trying desperately to make our appointment on time and the car was almost secondary on our timeline. Then I called the lawyer’s office to let them know we may or may not be late due to car troubles, thankfully they understood. Just as Rich was about to give up one of the workers from the quarry came walking over to our vehicle to offer assistance, his name was Hamlet. Turns out he lives right by us in Portsmouth, and has a mechanic business on the side (everyone here has more than one job or trade). He had seen this problem many times before, and without a quick fix like epoxy he had just the remedy for us. He told us to leave the radiator cap off, fill up the radiator with water (all our fluid had sprayed out of the crack while we were driving) and drive with the cap off topping off with water whenever possible or whenever the temperature gauge started rising again. He gave us a business card for his mechanic business, offered us the quarry water spigot to fill our gallon jug of water, after we had emptied the entire thing into our radiator, and while Rich was tending to the radiator Hamlet and I spoke on the idea that not only does everything happen for a reason, but that it might have saved us from some other or worse calamity down the road. I told him I was grateful for these practices in patience, resilience and problem solving, not to mention these opportunities to meet people and have meaningful interactions with them. Rich topped off our water jug for the next leg of our trip, then Hamlet watched as we started the engine, make sure that the water wasn’t boiling / bubbling out and keeping the engine cool, before sending us off and wishing us luck.
We stopped a few more times on our way to Roseau to top off the radiator with water, and refill our jug. Somehow we made it to Roseau and even got a parking spot right in front of the lawyer’s building, which is just about the best parking luck you can have in Roseau where parking is scarce, streets are packed with people & vehicles and everyone who isn’t parked seems to be looking for a spot. By the time we stumbled into the lawyers frigid office we were sweaty and off kilter, definitely not as presentable as we had been when we had left our house in the morning. Lucky for us this is an island, where our lawyer wears flip flops with her suit, and being that she’s also been without a car recently after some mechanical issues, she like everyone else, understood our current plight. We sat down to view the surveyors notes, the agreement paperwork and the fee schedule.


As foreigners we are allowed to buy land here, an acre per person, or up to 3 acres as a company, we started out with 1acre. On this purchase we must pay a 10% alien land holding fee which is a one time fee on the purchase price of the land that all foreigners must pay. Along with that all land purchases have a additional government fee of 7.5%, solicitor (lawyer) fee of 3% and of course tax on the lawyer’s fee of 1.5% . At this point we finally got to see the actual map of our land! This was thrilling, it almost brought tears to my eyes. Of course at this point Richard and I had both walked the boundaries of our land but being that there is some 2nd growth forest on the land you can’t totally see or understand the layout until you see it outlined on a map our awkwardly shaped but much loved 1.005 acres of land!


After the ink was dry we received our copies of the initial documents and payment information so we could finish our end of the deal by actually paying! We asked how long the paperwork would take and when we could take possession of the land, and all the particulars to which she replied that as soon as our money went through, the land was ours to do what we wanted and that they would send us the paperwork as it came back to them. Let’s just say the government here moves slowly, the lawyer said it could be 6 months before we receive our actual title and went through all the steps and departments it has to go through before we get it, but that the land is ours as soon as the financial end has been met so not to worry about the paperwork. Not sure how this works in the US, or anywhere else in the world for that matter, but I’m not worried, since now we live here, and sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. She did say that she would be able to provide all legal documentation for proof of land ownership for our residence permit, or proof of address before we actually have any utilities running to the land.After signing the papers we knew we needed to get back in our car and take it to the service department of the dealer to get work sorted out. Rich dutifully filled up our jug and we even went across the streetย  to the IGA supermarket to pick up more water, juice for us, and litter for our cats, who have been using a sand / baking soda mixture for a few days, not a bad option, but it’s been raining too much to get good dry sand, or let it dry out enough before they want to use it, so it gets a little messy. While in line for check out which were crazy that day, Fridays in Roseau are pretty much the busiest, the store’s computer system went down, all the current check outs were frozen but the store was still bustling. Luckily we were next in line so once the computers were up and running again we checked out quickly and made a beeline for our car. Topping it off with water before we made the short drive out of Roseau proper to the dealer on the edge of town.

We dropped our car off, waited 2 hours for a rental car to be prepared for us (it was undergoing service as well) had a light lunch at the snackette across from the dealership, and finally it was time for us to go home. It had been a thoroughly exhausting day and if we hadn’t been so exhausted we could have celebrated more but instead we chilled and I made our wire transfer knowing what a huge accomplishment this truly was! And for all the delays, and slow moving cogs, and ‘island time’ it was all just another practice of patience which makes the outcome all that more sweet, well deserved and definitely amps us up for the next steps. We can now start working on our land, which means Rich’s next purchase is a machete / cutlass, so he can clear some brush, create stakes for us to mark building areas garden areas and basically lay out the land. I’ve got 2 more weeks of teaching teens at Cabrits National Park, then I hope to be fully immersed in our land, our building, our herb and veggie gardens and of course starting my own dive operation!


Thank you guys for sticking with me through this long blog, but so much happened in just one day! Photo above is of Richard and me on our land overlooking the caribbean sea!

Stay SALTy

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