Farewell to the United Nations

Farewell to the United Nations

When I moved in with Lifeline on December 11th, I never expected I would share the house with so many different people in just 4 months. To give you an idea of the layout of the house. Upstairs there are 3 spacious bedrooms, a master with a private bathroom, the 2 other rooms share a bathroom. There is also a spacious kitchen and living room, as well as a large balcony. The family lives downstairs.

On the day I arrived, a Canadian guy, working for Digicel one of the telephone providers, already lived here. He was the one who turned on the air-conditioning one night and blew all the fuses. To date, we have electricity through a very long extension cord from downstairs. I was not amused because even I understood that you can’t run air conditioning on it, but apparently, he had forgotten that.

The Canadian moved shortly thereafter to the neighbours’ house and was succeeded by a nurse from England. She also moved fairly quickly to her own place. Meanwhile, a lady from Uganda had moved in. She works for UNFPA and stayed until last Saturday, March 14th.

After the nurse, another Brit came, from All Hands & Hearts. He only stayed 1,5 weeks as he was asked to go to Mexico to help after the major earthquake that happened last year. So, the room was empty again.

However not for long as a young man from Kenya made his way to 3 Munro Street. He works for CDAC, an organization that deals with communication after a (natural) disaster. He ended up staying till last Thursday, April 12th.

In the end, I shared the house for over 3 months with neighbours from Uganda and Kenya. We called ourselves a mini version of the United Nations as a joke.

Change

A lot has changed in those months. When I arrived, the broken windows had not been replaced, tarpaulins were still on the roof. There was no internet and no Wi-Fi and only cold water for showering.

Because it rained for weeks in a row, it meant mopping, strategically placing buckets and sometimes laying down towels because we did not have enough buckets. And every morning again, mopping, emptying buckets and wringing out towels. And all the while the new roof was downstairs in the living room, waiting for the rain to stop.

Somewhere at the end of January, the rain stopped and the roofers started. Which resulted in new challenges. Because the tarpaulins were not always well-repositioned, the wind and rain created new leaks. Every so often I would wake up at night feeling water dripping on my face or my toes. That meant moving the bed in order to avoid leaks on my bed.  During very strong winds it sometimes felt as if all the tarpaulins would be ripped off the roof. On one Sunday morning, the whole living room was literally flooded. And I spent over 1.5 hours mopping.

Hurricane-like experience

It feels as if I have experienced a tiny bit of how it must have felt during and immediately after the hurricane. Even though it is not really comparable, all my clothes, shoes etc. have all disappeared in the storm. And even if I was not here in Dominica, I have lost almost all of my possessions.

Together with my 2 African housemates, I have experienced a special time. Laughter, in-depth conversations and even a Friday night tradition was introduced. Only a 5-minute walk away BBQ chicken is sold every Friday night, in a little place alongside the road, it is called Popeye. Really delicious, and soon it became our Friday night joined meal. We became regular customers and very often got more pieces of chicken then what we had ordered.

We all seemed to love cake and once we had discovered Jammy’s Cheesecake Delights, well, I think you can guess for yourself ……

My Ugandan housemate was expecting and gave birth to a healthy baby girl on 14 March. All of a sudden, we had a very tiny person in the house. That was quite a bit of getting used to, and not always easy. After all, I do not have any children myself and suddenly I was confronted with it. At the same time, it was impossible not to love this beautiful little girl. So innocent, so sweet. And also nice to see all those mini clothes on the clothesline.

Living in shelters

Together we have experienced that the windows being put back in, the roof moving from the living room to where it belongs. For Christmas we got internet/Wi-Fi, that was a very nice gift. And since last week we finally have hot water through a solar water heater on the roof. What a luxury after 4 months to finally have hot water to shower. I could have easily stayed there for an hour. It is so wonderful, unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. Sadly, people still live in shelters or in tents, and many houses do not have a real roof, only tarpaulins. I, therefore, feel blessed.

Working at Lifeline

In the meantime, I have been here for more than 4 months, and have worked hard almost from day 1. First at International Medical Corps and now as a volunteer at Lifeline.

And …. finally, one of the boxes with stuffed animals has arrived in Dominica. Sent on November 26th but held by PostNL. Re-sent on 23rd February and finally picked up at the post office here in Roseau. Where box no. 2 is, nobody really knows at the moment. It is still ‘in transit’, whatever that means. Soon I start giving out the stuffed toys, at the moment I am not sure where exactly.

It is not always easy to live with so many different people in one house for months

Living with different people in one house all those months is not always easy. Besides your own bedroom, every space is shared, up to and including the bathroom, in my case. This requires a certain degree of adjustment from everyone to keep it liveable. At the same time, it also creates a bond, it is nice to be able to discuss things. Especially because it was a new experience for me to work for an international organization.

Eating together and also complaining about the fact that the Wi-Fi was once again slow, or that people back home had forgotten about the time difference. And how slow the processes sometimes go here.

The next phase: from ideas to a plan

Last week it was time to say goodbye, to people who started as strangers and have become friends. With the promise to keep in touch, and even to return as a volunteer to help in the Breadfruit House.

At the moment the house is a lot quieter and that feels strange. I myself am also looking for my own place. A next phase, for me as well. In terms of work I have put things in motion, so I can hopefully start working with temporary or part-time projects again.

And I still gather have ideas for the Breadfruit House. Step by step that becomes a plan, a place, a creative centre for children.

For now, I say ‘see you again’ at my next blog.

Love, Marieke

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