iSAW 02.12 Another Beautiful Game

If it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, blame it on one of the world’s two greatest games: cricket. The USA has recently gone soccer-mad, and the national team’s 1-0 defeat to Germany was put into perspective by Germany’s 7-1 humiliation of the hosts, Brasil, and their eventual overall win. But cricket? Yes, cricket! West Indies played New Zealand in two matches in Dominica and that was a good excuse to visit this tiny, hard-to-get-to island, found dotted between Guadeloupe and Martinique.

It’s a Commonwealth Thing

It would be nigh impossible to explain the attraction of cricket; it’s a commonwealth thing. But, the number of fans would surprise you. The ‘cricket world cup’ TV viewership comprising India, Pakistan, England, Sri Lanka, etc. is third only to the football and the Olympics; some 2.2 billion viewers. The population of Dominica is 72,000. The brand-new Chinese-built cricket stadium holds 24,000 people and was sold out. That’s a third of all Dominicans in attendance, including most of the staff of my hotel. NZ won the first match, but let the Windies win the second match so we Kiwis could see how Dominicans party. Two reggae bands helped the rum-soaked locals celebrate late into the night.

Hidden Gem

Dominica is hard to get to (in my opinion that’s a good thing), has few white sandy beaches and is very poor. It has a per capita GDP less than Haiti. What it does have are delightfully friendly locals that all speak English. It is very safe, with no crime to speak of. The island is wonderfully undeveloped, mountainous, and volcanic with hiking to waterfalls, pools and bubbling lakes. Despite the lack of touristic level beaches, there is great diving. I was fortunate to see a giant leatherback turtle lay her eggs one night, and hatchlings from another mother emerge the next day.

Domenica’s Fountain of Youth

It’s estimated that Dominica has about 22 centenarians in its 72,000 population; that’s 30 per 100k, which puts them up there with Japan, Italy, France and Spain and almost double the US (17 per 100k). Dominicans spend on average $200 per person each year on healthcare! Like other long-lived populations, they have the ‘S’s’ covered; sun, steep slopes, simple living and diet, social unity, sense of purpose, slow pace of life, and sports like cricket. (I made that last one up). It was quite an adjustment to adapt to ‘island-time,’ but that is surely the point of a true vacation.

Thar Be Pirates

If this all sounds like a tourist promo, I am unapologetic. You should visit. Many scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed there. The island is also largely Wi-Fi so I missed little of the football World Cup. It was played everywhere. I talked to the teenage daughter of a Rastafarian who was wearing a Socceroos shirt with a German scarf who was also a rabid Chelsea supporter. One of my football-mad clients wished me well for the cricket by saying, “have fun watching paint dry.” Maybe watching paint dry leads to a longer life. Anyway, what does he know? He’s an Arsenal supporter.