Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Final Reflection

Hello everyone,

William and Ian here. This being the last blog post, we would like to use this time to reflect on the main aspects of the trip.

I think it is safe to say that we all started off extremely excited for the trip but also a bit apprehensive. From the way the trip was described, it almost seemed like a boot camp with its early wake-up times and daily morning exercise. The first day definitely measured up to our expectations. We woke up at 6:10 and made our way to the ocean for a swim test. The sun had yet to come up and simply looking at the water caused shivers all around. I (William) remember thinking that this might not be the two weeks of paradise that I initially expected. Despite everything I had heard from Mr. Daly and Mrs. Becker, I had still expected the trip to be two weeks of paradise with nothing but warm beaches and relaxation. Basically, many of us thought that it would be an extension to winter break. I don’t think any of us could be happier about how wrong that expectation was. 

As you know, our days were filled to the brim with activities. We were constantly gaining new experiences and somehow everything done added to our knowledge and appreciation of the oceans. Through snorkeling we were able to see the beauty and majesty of the oceans. We saw scores of fish, rays, and coral. Through documentaries we learned of the delicate balance of marine life unnecessary destruction being done to marine environments. We learned about how fishing and pollution was devastating marine populations. Through work with the Center of Sustainable Development we learned how one can live a less harmful and more sustainable life. We lived without single-use plastics and reused materials that could otherwise harm the environment.

Life at the Island School was another concern that turned into a blessing. The initial reaction to no Wi-Fi or phones was pure horror. However, the lack of a distraction resulted in our group of teenagers doing things completely unheard of for our generation. We talked. We built friendships with people who we didn’t know beforehand. We focused on the here and now. It was amazing what taking phones away did. There were nights when all 20 of us simply went outside and watched the stars for half an hour. We played games, and yes we did sometimes talk about our feelings. We were able to totally immerse ourselves into Island School life and it was one of the most peaceful and content times we had ever experienced.

The trip really was a completely new experience that very few people get to have. We students would like to conclude this blog with a few thank yous.

First, thank you to Logan and Kim for taking time out of your busy schedule. We loved to get to know and really appreciated that you were willing to break the teacher-student gap and get to know us as friends.

Second, we would like to say thank you to everyone at the Island School. From the kitchen staff to the interns to the instructors, everyone was so kind and passionate about their work. The experience would not have been the same without them. 
Lastly, we would like to thank Galen and Casey for being the best instructors and companions anyone could ask for. You guys are so knowledgeable and passionate about your respect fields, and your cheerfulness was contagious. We appreciate all the work you guys put in for us, and you guys were the reason why leaving was the hardest part of the trip. Once again I think that Ian and I speak for everybody in saying that you changed our lives and we will truly miss you.

Signing Off,
William and Ian

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Don't Cry Because it's Over, Smile Because it Happened

With this in mind the girls’ dorm woke up to a blearing alarm at 4:30. While doing some last-minute packing and cleaning, stripping our beds and brushing our teeth, we found ourselves in disbelief that we were leaving this place we had grown so fond of. This morning we realized that, while we certainly won’t miss the bugs, we have grown attached to our cozy bunk beds and the feeling of falling asleep to the pitter patter of the fans.

After zipping our suitcases, the group met inside the Octagon, where Casey and Galen provided us with a quick cereal breakfast (we have all officially been converted to soy milk lovers after this trip). After loading our suitcases into the vans, we stumbled across a teenage phenomenon. Upon retrieving our beloved cellular devices, we agreed that (and we know this sounds strange) the thought of turning them on seemed more tedious than tempting. After some last-minute pictures of the Octagon and our rooms for memories, we loaded the vans and departed the Island School.

those aren't tears in our eyes, it's just leftover sand from the beach
The ride from the Island School to Rock Sound airport was peaceful, filled with quiet conversations and reflection. Once at the airport, we checked our luggage and approached the dreaded moment when we would have to say goodbye to our beloved leaders whom we have grown so fond of in the past few weeks. Although Casey would be joining us on the flight to the Nassau airport (yay!) we were forced to say goodbye to Galen at RockSound (boo!).

views from landing at Nassau
Upon arrival we said goodbye to Casey and Josh, (Josh would meet up with his Dad later on in the day in Nassau). Luckily these two events didn’t not involve tears, but we were able to pull through. After a long wait to recheck our luggage and get through customs, we were finally free to roam the airport in search of food. Unfortunately, the call of Starbucks proved too strong to be combated by our new sustainability aimed mindsets, but we all saved our straws! Yay! #sustainable #kinda!

The rest of the morning was spent looking through pictures of our trip and catching up on social media. The big drama of the morning was that Galen did not, in fact, follow us back on Instagram. Mood? confused. heartbroken. angry. overall: upset.

But that’s okay, we #SmiledThroughThePain

smiling through the pain
1:00 PM: reporting live. We are now on our flight from Nassau to Atlanta. Mills has calmed down the angry mob of teenage girls with the news that the Instagram ordeal was actually a technical error. Galen, if you are reading this - we are sorry we got your page flagged, and we forgive you! We are also giving you a 10-day grace period #You’reWelcome.
Now we are all exhausted from our early morning and are taking this time as an opportunity to catch up on some much-needed rest!

sleepy students all around
4:15 PM

We have been in the Atlanta airport for about two hours now, and have been trying to spend time efficiently. Our hangriness (mixture of hungry and angry) took a turn for the worst when our communal budget was spent on Asian Chow, and the group chicken was attacked by everyone at once. Let’s just say we are lucky each of us came out with all ten fingers intact. We also found some beach balls from our dear friend, David, and decided we absolutely have to pay him tribute for his kind gesture. So David- this one’s for you! Thank you!!

Thanks again, David!

next stop...Cleveland!
After a long journey, we are finally embarking to our beloved homeland of Cleveland, Ohio. Blogging and napping do not work well together so we will check in later!!

So, after a fulfilling two weeks we are finally home. This return is bittersweet. We are looking forward to our warm beds and warm showers, but will miss the Island School, Casey, and Galen! Nonetheless we will look back fondly at our time at the Island School, and remember all of our great adventures.

Tired, but Happy to be Home,
Leigh and Matt

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sea You Soon

We are so sad it’s our last day, but that did not bring down any of our enthusiasm as we JUMPED into the day.  Our living in the moment attitude was put heavily into action as we were too busy to take pictures during our adventure filled day.
We woke up to the coldest morning yet (60oF), trying to prepare our mentality for the infamous run-swim.  Still shivering from our cold night of sleep, we had virtually no idea what was ahead of us; all we knew was the dreaded connotation to the run-swim from previous students.  As we approached the boat that signaled the beginning of the exercise, our hearts pounded and some of us even cried a little.  But as we saw our fellow classmates leaping into the water off the dock, our adrenaline rush kicked in and we jumped right in.  We swam, then ran, then swam, then ran, then swam, then climbed a wall, then ran, then jumped off a cliff, then swam, then ran, then swam, then ran to the center of campus, each touching the flag pole victoriously, everyone within a second of each other.  The comradery of our group was at an all-time high as we faced something that was originally daunting.  Being a group filled with all types of athletic abilities, it is so amazing we were all able to stick together.  Our arms are sore typing this from all of the rock weight lifting and push-ups we had to do in between runs and swims. 
 After knocking one challenge off of our list, we had another one right ahead of us: scuba diving.  The excitement for this activity ranged from high to low, all of us thinking that breathing underwater was crazy.  Everyone ended up coming out of the water saying that it was incredible.  Some sightings groups had were reef sharks stretching longer than Isaiah, Eagle Rays appearing to be flying underwater, colorful fish, and some spectacular coral.  After two weeks of snorkeling and learning about marine animal identification, scuba diving was a great way to end the trip by being fully submerged into our studies.  
After a very short lunch, we raced to the boathouse to get ready to try and catch some sharks and go snorkeling.  We were eager to try our luck getting sharks because last time we went longlining, not everyone was able to participate and we caught zero sharks  This time, almost the whole group came (except for our seasick friends who helped the start of the deep clean), and we caught four sharks!  We set up the longline and then waited the necessary ninety minutes by snorkeling “The Cage” and exploring a little island.  The Cage is a huge cage in the middle of the ocean that attracts various marine life such as barracudas, sharks, rays, and fish.  We finished up by exploring an island full of ooids.  When we got to the longline, we discovered we had caught three juvenile reef sharks and one juvenile nurse shark.  Students helped to measure and tag these amazing creatures as well as had the opportunity to pet them.  After getting some bites on the longline, we were ready to have a bite at a restaurant in town. 
As our stomachs grumbled, we hopped into the vans and headed to a local Bahamian restaurant owned and operated by one of the kitchen staff members.  We ate a family style dinner that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.  We ate mac n cheese, ribs, fried chicken, rice, lion fish, and french fries.  There was no food left on the table once everyone was full.  The dinner was a great, final taste of Bahamian culture.
After dinner, we finished up the day by doing our secret snowflake gift exchange.  Everyone presented their secret snowflake with a homemade gift right from the heart.  We also ate cookies.  A lot of the gifts were made from resources found on the beaches and around The Island School.  The gifts exemplified how close we have all become over the last two weeks, and how we plan to bring our newfound friendships and love back with us.  At the end, there was a big group hug, and some people even cried realizing this was our last stop on our life changing journey. 
Yours Truly,
Jillian and Morgan

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Son of a Beach

Hey everyone at home,

We’ve heard along the grapevine that you have been experiencing some rough weather.  Don’t you fret because we have too! Today, it was a chilly 76 degrees Fahrenheit and slightly cloudy. Despite this weather, we pushed through the hardships and took a quick van ride to High Rock, the local cliff jumping spot which stands 15 feet tall with deep blue water below it. As we arrived, we soon realized that because of the wind, the ocean was far too choppy for jumping.

choppy waters indeed
It was barely 6:45 and the day was still young, so we ventured back to the local beach (situated only meters behind our dorms) to play the Hawken Marine Science Class’s favorite game: Nuke’em. While the competition was fierce, the series ended in a 3-1 win as the Cleveland Cavaliers bested the Chicago Bulls. It is safe to say that Dwayne Wade will join LeBron in The Land soon enough.  

this team really packed a punch
After the Nuke’em match and a quick yet hearty breakfast, we returned back to the Octagon to reorganize our schedule. After a short talk, we decided to switch our schedule with the next day and spend our second-to-last day at the beautiful Lighthouse Beach.  We quickly packed our backpacks, filled with snorkels, fins, water and food and ventured down Eleuthera in the vans. Before long, we arrived at the beginning of an hour long walk ahead of us. We trekked onward feeling like the expeditioner Sir Ernest Shackleton as we made our way forward. After a few falls into the mud, we arrived to a gorgeous and secluded beach. It was here where we spent the afternoon doing a variety of activities. As a group, we began snorkeling into the massive coral reef situated no more than a dozen meters of shore. In these coral reefs, we saw a variety of colorful surgeonfish, a barracuda, some parrotfish, and some smaller snapper. We dived down and got a great view of the beautiful green, blue, and red corals.

gotta be careful not to scratch up the belly!
After a while in the water, we came back ashore and took a break from the work. We all sat down on our towels and ate the sandwiches which were made for us back in the kitchen at the Island School. After a short tanning sessions groups broke out to do a bunch of different activities. Some of our classmates decided to play Ultimate Frisbee, some played soccer and some decided to take an adventurous walk to the end of the beach. 

blue skys
After a few hours of exploration and fun, we reconvened for our final activities which was a hike up to the top of the cliffs. These cliffs (pictured below) were covered on the top with fauna and what the locals like to call “Death Rock.” As intimidating as that sounds, nobody was injured in this process. At the top, we had a great view where we snapped a few pictures as a group and tried not to look down the ledge. Finally but unfortunately, we headed back towards the vans, playing music along the way just to add to the cheer. 

making our way to the top
we are family
Before we knew it, we were back at campus where we scrambled to find our wallets. We were soon back on the road at headed toward the marina where a convenience store with shelves filled with some junk food. We grabbed our snacks and enthusiastically ran toward the harbor to look for sharks. After the excitement from last time at the marina, where we saw a two meter bull shark, we were all eager to see it again. Sadly, nobody was able to spot it this time, but that was soon made up for by the fact that the sun was setting over the western facing beach. We quickly pulled the vans around and waited together, watching the sun set of the water. We soon rode back to campus where a shower and a dinner was waiting for us.  After some great bread, grits, some salad and fruit, we were back at the octagon prepping for our (hopefully) final nightly quiz. We prepped for a half hour, reviewing the major concepts of the trip including the spots we’ve been, our everyday marine science lessons and the fun activities which ended up being educational like working on the permaculture farm and aquaponics lab. We swallowed the giant horse pill of a quiz and ended the night with working on our holiday gift exchange presents for one another. 

Somewhat sun burnt,
Josh and Matt

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

We Come From a Land Down Island

"I'm king of the world!"
Awaking to a bright morning sunrise to our East and the sight of a flat blue Caribbean to our west we started our day with a nice fire to enjoy. Heartily consuming our morning breakfast of cereal and peanut butter we then transitioned into packing up camp. We were sad to see the beautiful beach go but the warming sun got us excited for the day’s adventures.

packing up camp
Loading up in the van we headed out to our first stop. We stopped along the road and were pointed in the direction of a small trail. Walking along we were informed that the place we were soon to be visiting was called the Queen’s Bath. We stepped out onto a large rock formation made out of jagged rock, known by the locals as “death rock,” which was carved by the Atlantic Ocean’s crashing waves. We climbed around much like mountain goats taking pictures of the calm tide pools and surging surf. Even in this harsh climate many of us saw lots of wildlife including crabs and small fish.

This definitely looks like a bath
striking a pose
We continued our journey back down the island until we reached an old gift store next to an ice cream shop. While many of us searched through the gift store to find souvenirs and gifts for loved ones others stopped by the ice cream shop for a nice cold treat.
For lunch we stopped by an abandoned resort and hung out on the beach. Before snacking on peanut butter, jelly and pretzel sandwiches, the boys engaged in an intense game of ultimate Frisbee until we got winded and covered in a nice caking of sand. Afterwards, some of us went in the water, explored the beach or laid out on their towels and soaked in the vitamin D. While spending a few hours on the beach we were constantly reminded to drink water and stay hydrated by Casey and Galen.

A little slice of paradise
After the beach we stopped at Ocean hole. Located in the middle of the island it is connected to the ocean by tunnels naturally carved deep under the island. It is estimated to be over six hundred feet deep with no-one having ever reached the bottom! Casey and Galen led us on a path around the side to a place where we could jump off of a small cliff. Interestingly the top six inches of water were freezing cold but below was warm and comfortable. Galen explained that this was caused by a thin film of freshwater that being less dense that saltwater remained on the surface. While the saltwater remained the same temperature as the ocean the freshwater, having freshly fallen, had not yet been warmed. After jumping many of us put on masks and snorkels to observe a group of friendly fish accustomed to human presence.

Finally returning to the Island School around 5 o’clock we began the process of unpacking. Some of us washed dishes while others put away tents or sorted trash (called “resources” at the Island School) for reuse or recycling. We ate a filling dinner of rice, chicken, and vegetables. Afterwards we ended the day with a hysterical dance competition.

Signing off,
Isaiah and Mills 

We're Going Down Down to Down Island

Hey there, long time no blog! We spent the whole day traveling, adventuring, and camping, and we are extremely excited to share all of our stories from yesterday. 

One of the greatest moments from yesterday had to be sleeping in until 7:45am. We enjoyed our last time using running water and headed to our unknown destination.

we're buckled up and ready for adventure!
After about forty-five minutes in the vans, Casey and Galen pulled over on the side of the road; we all thought something was wrong with the vans. Turns out nothing was wrong with the vans and we were actually at the first stop. We all applied an ample amount of bug spray and then followed a narrow, overgrown path to an amazing sight. A gigantic banyan tree (or trees, it might have been two) greeted us with its intertwined branches reaching out to pull our curiosity in. We learned about the history of the tree and also the creatures that inhabit the area. We even spotted Galen’s favorite spider and some wild horse poop.

land before time anyone?
Our next stop was the infamous Governors Harbor Bakery. As we stepped out of the vans, we instantly smelled the aroma of fresh pastries. Between the cream cheese and coconut danishes, our collective sweet tooth was satisfied.

going all in
After a minor sugar rush, we went to Hatchet Bay. Hatchet Bay is home to a series of caves that have been there for hundreds of years. Back in the good old days, these caves were not only used as a burial site for the Lucayans, the indigenous people of The Bahamas, but they were also used as a place for pirates to hide their booty! There was a bunch of graffiti on the walls of the caves with names and dates, and the earliest date we saw was 1882 written in charcoal. A really spooky moment was when we turned off all of the flashlights and sat in complete darkness while we listened to the drips of the growing cave.

going underground
deeper still...

all the way down
Hands down the COOLEST part of this trip was our fourth stop: the Glass Window Bridge. The Glass Window Bridge is one of the only places in the world that you can stand in one location and see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It was breathtaking to see the treacherous, dark blue water of the Atlantic contrasted with the calm, inviting, and clear water of the Caribbean. It was a glass window of opportunity for great photos!

pretty remarkable contrast
We went from one breathtaking view to another when we arrived at our campsite. It was located on a white, sandy beach. As the sun set over the water turning the clouds a bright orange, we set up tents, built a toasty fire and cooked us up some stir-fry. After eating three pots of rice, we all laid out on the beach and stared up into a sky filled with twinkling stars. Whether you were looking in the North, South, East, or West, you could find a shooting star. Not only could you occasionally see a shooting star, but the Milky Way was vibrant in the dark, night sky.

warming up around the campfire
With amazing teamwork, we were able to pull together a day we will never forget.

All smiles,
Morgan and Annie

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Turtely Awesome Day

Rising at 6:15am with the expectation of a heated game of soccer, the sound of wind and pouring rain quickly changed our minds. Instead, we settled for a relaxing morning of yoga after which many participated in a quick power nap to pass the time until breakfast.

no yoga mats? no problem.
After eating a light breakfast of cereal, we formed two groups where we gathered the necessary supplies for our camping trip Monday/Tuesday.  This included gathering and practicing setting up tents, which proved to be a difficult task.  We not only learned how to correctly set up tents after many failed attempts but also learned that mixing inexperienced campers with strong winds to blow away the tents was a recipe for disaster. We then gathered the rest of the items needed for the trip…preparation is key!

setting up tents in the wind is rather challenging 
For the hungry group, lunch was welcomed with incredible enthusiasm. We settled down to a meal of breakfast burritos (for lunchJ) and pizza. While everyone headed back to change and get ready for our excursion up the island to catch turtles, dish crew finished cleaning the dining hall and rushed to catch up. We piled into the vans and proceeded on a 45 minute car ride up to Tarpin Bay. While some people failed to stay awake, the rest of us rocked out to the soundtrack of Shrek 1 and 2, which included extensive singing and dancing.  This jam session continued until we reached our point of destination.

When we arrived to the beach, we were greeted by an excited Chelsea, Will, Sam, and the rest of their turtle crew.  They taught the group all the tricks to safely and effectively catching sea turtles.  After learning of the process, we proceeded to line up single file, with a large net in hand, to catch the turtles.  The first round was a success, as we caught two Green Sea Turtles.  A large portion of the group continued to repeat the netting process while a few others went to land to document, tag, and perform an esophageal lavage, in order to examine the feeding habits of the captured turtles during high tide. Then of course, many students were eager to snap photos with the adorable sea creatures before releasing them back into the water.  This process repeated with each of the 6 sea turtles caught until it was time to head back to campus. 

spooking our turtle friends so we can catch them, study them, and release them safely back!
CEI researcher William picks up the first turtle of the day!

trying our best to fit the whole crew into one photo!
The car ride back featured a beautiful coastal sunset enjoyed by all. W returned in the dark with only ten minutes to spare before dinner. After dinner, we headed back to the common space for a quick briefing on the upcoming camping trip given by Galen and Casey. Afterwards, many of us packed for tomorrow’s camping adventure and had the opportunity to call home.

Off to go prepare for the inTENTS camping trip tomorrow,
Mills and Julia

P.S. Since we will be camping tomorrow night there will be no blog posted until Tuesday