When you think of a Caribbean island the whole idea of winter does not enter your mind. This year, for the first time in my 12 years here, I am living in the mountains and the change of the seasons seems a lot more pronounced than on the coast.
The change in temperature and humidity has always been sudden, not a slow change as it used to be in the UK. On November 1st or a day before or after every year, suddenly the wind is cooler and the humidity less. In the mountains the temperature dropped sharply from around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime to 80 degrees.
Night time temperatures dropped from the mid seventies to the mid sixties. The sun is lower in the sky, it used to wake me between 5.30 and 6.00 as it streamed through the bedroom window, but now it doesn’t even make it into the bedroom. Nights draw in quickly and it is pitch black before 6.30.Getting up is more of a challenge as it is cold, reminding of those days in my childhood when we had no central heating and I used to get dressed for school under the blankets in bed.
We went from having heavy rain and thunder most late afternoons and evenings to no rain at all and none is now expected until after Easter. This causes major problems for the plants and trees and we have to use our scarce water supplies to water the garden. The water arrives into the cistern from the town supply once a fortnight and there is great rejoicing the day it comes so that the garden can have a thorough soaking. Even though there is no rain, at this time of year it is like spring in the UK with all the tropical flowers in full bloom. The six foot tall poinsettia trees, the same as the little Christmas pot plants just much bigger, change from green to red, and apparently will turn back to green again at Easter. Hibiscus, bougainvillea, roses, orchids are all looking beautiful as well as a host of others I do not know the name of. As it is cooler I have tried planting traditional English vegetables such as peas, beans, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes in the hope that they do better than when I tried in the summer. So far they are looking good but time will tell.
Pea trees have been producing pounds and pounds of pigeon peas, just in time for Christmas Eve when rice and peas is a traditional Dominican meal and they will continue to provide peas for a few more months. Also at this time of year we have pumpkin, yuca and bananas. However, now is a fallow time for most Dominican fruit.
Avocados have finished unfortunately, but we now have bitter oranges which are used to wash meat and to make juice and grapefruit which is delicious eaten straight off the tree. Mangos will come into season just after Easter preceded by passion fruit.
The lack of rain and humidity means that the mountain views are spectacular and most days there is not a cloud in the sky. The cooler weather means no mosquitoes and no flies. Tee shirts, shorts and flip flops have been replaced by long trousers, sweaters, socks and shoes. Each week is becoming a little colder and we have no fire in the house and no carpets so in the early mornings and evenings it is decidedly chilly. Instead of a single sheet on the bed, we now have two quilts and I am seriously thinking of asking someone to bring me an electric blanket or hot water bottle!
The neighbours are all in their winter woollies and all wear knitted hats all day long – quite comical to see but I haven’t gone that far yet. They cook on their outside cooking stoves, called fogons, which is a concrete table where they burn wood on top and place the pans on top of the wood, and you can see them huddled round the fire at 6am cooking yuca and plantains for breakfast.
This is also the time of year when everyone drinks tea, and most houses here have a big pot of tea always ready on the fogon. The tea is made of ginger, lemon grass and oregano which everyone grows, with cloves and cinnamon added as well as lots of sugar. Big mugs of steaming ginger tea are handed around or brought to the gate.
The great thing about having these seasons is you are always looking forward to the next one. I can’t wait for it to be warmer, and when we are at the height of the summer I know I will be desperate for it to get cooler!
by Lindsay de Feliz.
Lindsay lives in the middle of nowhere in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, one stepson, 8 cats and 3 dogs. She was formerly Marketing Director of various financial companies in the City of London, and left the UK around 11 years ago to travel the world as a scuba diving instructor. She eventually came to the Dominican Republic on a 6 month contract, fell in love with the country and its people and stayed. Lindsay has a blog www.yoursaucepans.blogspot.com and is currently writing a book about her experiences over the last 10 years.
Lindsay de Feliz is the author of What About Your Saucepans? Published by Summertime and available on Amazon in both book and kindle versions.
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