http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=o01WD8fUUKE When I asked around the copious newcomers that arrived at Cape Eleuthera Institute in the past week or so, if they could describe their experience so far, they responded ultimately with; surreal, funky fresh, refreshing, really salty, filled with lots of lettuce, and extremely informative. Personally, I would not object to any of those, but due to lack of time, as I am a gap year student here at The Cape Eleuthera Institute, and have to finish my prerequisites for SCUBA training, I am only going to focus on the week being "surreal, informative, and refreshing."

Along with four other gappers (for the sake of an easier flow to this blog post, and a more real description of our time here, I am going to refer to a gap year student as a "gapper", what everyone else has come to call us), we arrived to the sunny south side of the island Eleuthera, and it immediately seemed as if the luminous sun hovering the enticing, crystal, teal waters sucked out the oxygen from the moment, where we were all amazed at how perfect a place can really be. It was only the beginning to the infinite exploration we will endure here. Later on in the week we were fortunate to witness a beautiful sunset over the water in Plum Creek, spend an afternoon snorkeling around the sandbar (one of the most unique places I personally have ever been too), climb a Banyan tree, swim in an ocean cave, and many more. I do not think there will ever be a night where we are not amazed by the abundance of stars and bright moon that covers the "rumber" (lumber and rubber, made out of used tires) bridge through the mangroves, coming back from dinner to the dorms.  It is nothing but surreal.  

On our second day here, we were given a "tour" which ended up containing enough information for it to be more of a lecture on sustainability, disguised as a tour.  Scott, the director of the gappers, showed us all of the many ways Cape Eleuthera Institute and Island School makes sustainability an attribute. This lesson continued further with exposure to more lessons brought to us in all different varieties by the community here. We were fortunate enough to have Ian and Joseph introduce us to the permaculture here. We were not only able to see and understand the purpose of permaculture, but also got to work in the farm as well, leaving very excited to see our kale, swiss chard, and arugula thrive! Later in the week we got to help Claire conduct a survey along the shoreline on conch. After learning about the significance of conch's presence in culture, and biodiversity, we left that lesson in a funk, where we only had found three live conch out of around three hundred surveyed. The more unfortunate aspect of that, not regarding the preposterous ratio, was that most of the conch found had been proven to be harvested, particularly the juvenile.

But not all hope was lost. We even got to learn from within us gappers! Two of us paired up and presented the others with information on banyan trees, ocean holes, and ocean caves. I personally thought taking a gap year was going to be a break from school, but I have never learned and enjoyed so much within a week here than I ever did in school itself!

One thing all of us gappers have in common is the interest in the mystery of the world and culture we live in. Joining the community here was relieving to see a great amount of people who had the same intentions. All of the programs running here at Cape Eleuthera Institute introduced us to their projects, inspiring us to further our interest into one of these projects, and plan to eventually get the chance to work on them. Rachel Carson said it best, “Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.” It's refreshing to have all of these amazing opportunities brought to us, all coinciding with our enthusiasm for sustainability and conservation.

I spent my last three months backpacking, seeing a whole different world of conservation, and in the eyes of a tourist I should really say the lack of conservation in a world. I found myself in a position where I was in fact doing the complete opposite. Returning home, I again witnessed another world of conservation, but here ignorance was present. It's extremely refreshing to join a community that is working hard and thriving to set an example for others. There is no better place to be welcomed than a place that is filled with your personal passion. It's been of the utmost informative, surreal, and refreshing time so far.