Last day! I can’t believe this week went by so quickly! After breakfast, the Bahamas Mamas, aka Kelsey, Bonnie, Joanne and I went down to the beach until we needed to get ready. We loaded up at 9:30 making sure to get on the NOT- singing truck. It was a pretty short ride to Rocky Point, our first snorkel of the day. I’m finally getting good at putting all the equipment on quickly, and the trip is over! It was a pretty good snorkel, except for being a little murky. We saw some pretty angelfishes and a lot of sea eggs. We turned in a little earlier than normal to hunt for sand dollars near the shore, and then headed to Grotto Beach.
The waves at Grotto were HUGE –it was so awesome. Everyone was playing in the waves – either jumping over them, floating over them, or body surfing. It was such a fun day. We even had a little picnic lunch of sandwiches on the beach and played ultimate Frisbee. Eventually it was time for the trip back to the field station. We sang “na-na-na-na, na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, goodbye as we passed Fernandez Bay for the last time. There was a typical mad dash for the showers as we got back to the field station, and they we took care of last-minute laundry.
After dinner we headed over to the library. Currently I am writing in one of the comfy little chairs in the library while Kelsey appeals to the spirits of computers and satellites for Internet connection. We’re headed to the lab next to finish up our organism sheets and do a little extra studying for the final exam tonight. After that, hopefully we will have a fun last night in paradise.
On the way back from our first dive this morning I had an interesting conversation with Mrs. Fonash, Nico, and Laura that I’ll probably remember for a long time.
Mrs. F. was telling us that she was aprehensive about swimming out so far, and that her goal was to swim out far enough to reach Snapshot Reef, which has by far been the most beautiful dive location yet. She also commented that she was sure if she had been our age when she learned to snorkel that she probably would be less fearful. That’s when it completely sunk in; how many PEOPLE, let alone high school students, get a chance to come here and experience what we’ve experienced?
I always “knew” that we, the students of AOS, were extremely fortunate, but thus us on a completely different scale. Sure we’ve been introduced to a new field of science, but that isn’t the half of it. At age 14,15, and 16 we’ve just spent six days learning how to manage our time, how to live with 37 other people, and just overall how to adjust to new circumstances and new surroundings.
For me personally it is the combination of three things: the introduction to marine biology, the life lessons I have learned, and the friends that I’ve made and enjoyed that make this one of the most important weeks of my life.
This morning I woke at 6:00 for an early run with Amanda, Robbie, Luke, Jonathan and Omar to North Point for the sunrise. I’ve never witnessed a Caribbean sunrise but it is something I’ll never forget. The colors were unforgettable as cliché as that seems. After our run we went through the normal breakfast routine and headed off to Lindsay’s Reef. We snorkeled just off shore and immediately Omar and I noticed mountains of coral almost breaking the surface. There were sea fans everywhere, with fish darting in and out. At one point I was stuck between mountains of coral and I was nervous that I would accidentally damage the coral. Luckily I found a low overhang that I could swim under without destroying the coral foundation.
We returned to BFS for lunch and then headed out with the intention of snorkeling at French Bay on the southern tip of the island. Owing to the rough sea today, we postponed the French Bay snorkel to tomorrow and spent the rest of the afternoon at Grotto Beach body surfing in the waves. Thanksgiving dinner was delicious – turkey, stuffing, green beans and pumpkin pie. I left for the lab to finish some of my organism charts and hear this evening’s speaker. It was another great day in the Bahamas full of improvisation.
For those of us in the education business, it is a rare treat to see our labors bear fruit in a short amount of time. It is that much more of a pleasure, therefore, when in a few short days we can watch our students grow both academically and emotionally.
These are very different “kids” than landed on San Salvador 6 days ago. When they got here they were wide-eyed, excited, and inexperienced. They each knew a handful of their fellow students, knew little biology and had little experience of traveling and collaborating as not just a group of individuals, but as a team. What a difference a week makes!
We have watched them learning each others names, helping each other in the water, working together on assignments, reminding each other of the rules, laughing at each other and themselves, and learning what it means to put the needs of a team before their individual needs. We listen to them come out of the water and pore through their fish books as they talk about the yellow tailed damsel fish, the hawksbill turtle, the school of squid. We hear the excitement in their voices after each activity, knowing that with each experience, they are growing as people as well as scientists.
We watched them last night as they sat listening to a coral reef researcher for almost an hour and then they peppered him with questions for 45 minutes. And, what questions! They grilled him on everything from the validity of his research in a project that uses “volunteers,” to the conclusions he can arrive at since there is little previous data and no control group. They asked him about the importance of writing papers and his theories on coral bleaching. They even understood when he described linear regressions and cheered when he brought up the statistics (well, maybe it wasn’t exactly a cheerJ). When he was done, he commented to Mr. Wolfe that most college groups he presents to neither understand, nor ask, questions at this level.
Today most everyone, including myself, woke up to the sound of Omar roaring. Wednesday was our land day. After some island exploring this morning at the lighthouse we headed off to the caves where everyone had a blast exploring but I don’t think anyone saw the cave pig. Most of us saw a number of bats before exiting the caves. We headed to town for lunch and shopping. There were three stores in town to go to: the straw market, the convenience store and a small gift shop. Most of us bought tons of food, touristy t-shirts, baseball caps, and straw purses. When we got back to the research center the people with the most purses were the boys! Taylor, Heather and I bought bright blue beanie caps that say “BAHAMAS” and formed the “Bahama Beanies” group. Look for pictures!