The last few days, as half of the new fall semester was out exploring south Eleuthera on their 3-Day Kayak Trips, the other half of students remained on campus to become SCUBA certified, a big Island School first. Last night, students were asked to reflect on the many first experiences they have already had in their one short, but seemingly unending first week at Island School. In the coming days, enjoy a series of student-written reflections on the many new things they are learning and doing in this very new place. Alliea Campbell: WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO? Sixty-second showers, run-swims and waking up at six A.M are not what I was looking forward to. So far this week has been ridiculously hard, not to mention that I have never in my life done this much exercise…ever. Looking like I just swallowed a whole grape and panting like crazy, meanwhile the others are hooping around and screaming “yeah!” the whole time during exercise. The only thing on my mind at that point is how do I get away from these crazy people? I am definitely out of my element but I then think about how hard I worked to get where I am, so I suck it up and move forward with the team. But I guess it was all worth the struggle since I am now a certified diver! Scuba diving threw a few challenges my way but after getting the hang of things I came to really enjoy the exercise, and on my third dive, I was in awe that I was actually exploring the beauty of our waters firsthand. Every day is a new challenge waiting for a soldier to take over. Well I’ve surely been that soldier all week, have you?
Will Sherwin: Today was the first time I have ever seen an Eagle Ray in the wild. It was an amazing experience to be down on the bottom of the sea floor doing scuba skills and gazing over to see this great creature, paying no attention to us, merely gliding along as though it was out for a morning stroll. I watched it until it disappeared into the vast blue ocean as we returned to our scuba skills. The whole rest of the day I couldn’t get that amazing image out of my head, it was so big and beautiful and I wish I could know where it was going. It wasn’t just the Ray that made my jaw drop with awe; everything in the sea, no matter how big or small just fascinated me. Not having to come up for air was an amazing feeling. Sadly however, all great things must come to an end.
Ali Greenberg: A horn alarm at six in the morning is not the most pleasant sound to wake up to. Also, it was only the third morning and I was a bit disoriented waking up in a room with thirteen other girls. I had to be down at circle in thirty minutes ready for a “run-swim.” I didn’t know what a “run-swim” really was, and being in a new place, I was preparing myself for this morning exercise to expect the unexpected. None of the staff told us how long this exercise would be, where we were going, or the level of difficulty... man, I was nervous. This “run-swim” was my first, ever. Once we arrived down at the circle, we were told that we needed a “run-swim” buddy; that instantly made me feel more relaxed. Before I knew it I was swimming in the current cut right next to my buddy, Maya. Throughout the entirety of morning exercise the group made sure that everyone was there and going at a pace at which everyone could keep up. This “run-swim” was not as difficult as I prepared myself for it to be. Finishing this exercise all before seven thirty in the morning put me in a state of awe. Trying this “run-swim” for the first time reminded me why I was here, at The Island School. It reminded me that I will be trying new things every day while I am here and I need to go into each new experience with an open mind.
Eliza Keene I’m sure that there have been times in school, at home, and everywhere else that I have been told to watch my surroundings. My mom tells me almost every day that I need to “look around” and “be aware.” I guess when you are seeing the same things everyday it doesn’t really force one to take the time to soak in everything around them. In New England, I don’t spend my days walking and “looking around” at how one pine tree differs from another, maybe the needles of one are browning at the tips while the trunk of another is ridden with holes from a hidden woodpecker. These details are easy to ignore when you see the generalized objects every day of your life. My first time scuba diving this week, I learned how looking around and being aware can really change the things and way you observe. When my instructor took my group down no more than four feet in the clear, wave-less ocean water, I saw the sand settled on the bottom and felt the yellow rocks rough under my knees. Looking around at the tense faces of my classmates, inhaling and exhaling their long breaths through our foreign regulators, I was bored with the slow instructions we were receiving and ready to plummet to the reefs below. I was not prepared to see what I saw when my instructor, Ron gently lifted up one of the rough rocks that lined the sand. When I “looked around” my eyes caught on the spot beneath the rock where a baby sea urchin hid from the peering faces surrounding him, where the fingernail sized, spiral shells spun up in the water with the movement of the rock being lifted away. In my first ten minutes of scuba diving, I experienced a completely different surrounding than the calm, seemingly lifeless ocean I thought I was sitting in. I guess that’s what looking around and being aware can do for you.
Matt O’Connor The smell of poo lingered throughout the room. The stench stung your nostrils with each deep breath you took. It was only day three out of one hundred, yet already we had managed to encounter serious issues with the bathroom. “If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down,” were our given guidelines, but at this point not only yellow was at mellow. We had managed to clog all three of our toilets at one time. No one dared to take a step into the bathroom and face the horrors waiting behind the closed door. Everyone wanted the bathrooms to be clean, but no one wanted to be that one courageous soul to take one for the team and go in there. It was not until Peter “Dad” Zdrojewski, our dorm head, took charge. He led all twenty- three of us into the bathroom. We jammed into the showers and all available space in order to squeeze everyone in. We stared at the toilets with disgust and a little admiration, realizing the feat that had been accomplished. It was the first time that all of the boys bonded over one thing. Even though this magical moment consisted of dirty toilets, it will be one thing that we will never forget. It made us all realize that we are all in the same boat. And throughout our journey at The Island School we will all share similar experiences, whether spotting a nurse shark thirty feet under water for the first time, or being crammed into a small bathroom filled with three clogged toilets. It is moments like these that bring a group together and create the footholds of friendships that will never be forgotten.
Brooke Endzel There’s a first time for everything, especially here at The Island School. Throughout these past two days I’ve been learning how to scuba dive. But not only have I been diving, I’ve also been discovering more confidence in myself. The initial dive consisted of excitement, fear, trust, sandy water, and jellyfish stings (hence my scuba team name “Scuba Sting”.) Taking that first breath underwater was amazing and exhilarating past the point of description. It truly is a whole other world in the ocean. Even though scuba diving can be fun, there are safety precautions one has to practice multiple times according to Maxey, our instructor. One specific precaution included fully removing my mask and then putting it back on. This was what I had the most trouble with. As you may already know, when you’re scuba diving you can only breath through your mouth, not nose. When you have your mask on and regulator in, you feel a sense of safety and security. After I took the mask off for the first time I felt disoriented, confused and scared. So, my first reaction automatically was to take a deep breath through my nose and snort what felt like half the ocean up my nose. Totally forgetting I had a regulator, I could breathe through easily, I gave Maxey the “ascend” signal and we went up to the surface. The second try wasn’t so successful either. Finally, the third time was the charm. I realized that by just relaxing and focusing on what I needed to do rather than distracting myself with unnecessary thoughts is a much more efficient way to execute something. After I overcame the fear of taking my mask off and breathing, I found myself able to swim around with my mask off without any problems. It hasn’t even been a week here at The Island School and I have already boosted my self-confidence in a major way. There are many more challenges to come and many more adventures to experience. In the beginning I felt trapped by the ocean and thought there was no way to escape it, now I happily embrace the deep unknown, but soon to be explored, blue sea.
Summer Wrobel “Run-swim.” The name didn’t sound nearly as intimidating the first time I heard it, but as I tied my shoes at 6:25 in the morning, I started to get a nervous feeling. As we began our jog, something I felt comfortable with, I continued to eye the water. I tried to think of the last time I had swum athletically. I raked my brain for memories of the breaststroke or doggy paddling a long distance, and that was when it hit me: I had none. This would be my first time really swimming, not relaxing in the water or floating. I began to doubt my ability to do this, but there was no time for such thoughts because before I could hesitate we were at the edge of the sand and my buddy was giving me the nod that it was time to jump in. So I did what the moment called me to do, I plunged in. I don’t think I remembered to open my eyes until I was half-way across the water cut, but once I did, I was overwhelmed in the best way possible by the blueness of the water and the thick sunrise lit clouds that were waiting for us when we resurfaced. In that moment, I didn’t focus on my nerves but rather on the beauty of my setting. If I had to be anywhere at 6:45 A.M. doing a run swim, I realized I would want it to be here. I began to fall into a rhythm, telling myself, that yes, I could do this, and no, my arms weren’t really going to fall off, and not to worry about the jellyfish I had just swam through. I began to think that maybe I could climb the giant wall at the end of the water, that I could swim without stopping. I didn’t realize it until right now, but I think that first run swim taught me about far more then just my physical capabilities; it taught me how to better motivate myself and that maybe inspiration can be found in your surroundings.
Lyndsey Silverstein The first swim: I put my feet in the water and thought, “oh this will be easy.” As I dove under the waves, I began making hard strides with my hands and legs, trying to get to the other side. With a group of kids in front of me, I got kicked in the arms, chest and face, making it difficult to actually swim. Feeling confident in my goggles, I made it across to find that it wasn’t the finish line. Students were swimming farther and father ahead, and I comfortably joined in. I kicked my legs back and fourth, continuing my stroke. Not even halfway through, each breath became an inhale of panic. As I began to fall behind the rest of the crowd, I used all my energy to try to catch up and felt as though it would be impossible to continue. Switching to breaststroke, I caught my breath and regained some speed, although I was still the caboose of the long train of swimmers. In that moment, realizing I was the least experienced swimmer here was devastating and at the least, embarrassing. Almost to the finish area I flipped onto my back for another deep breath and heard teachers from above cheering me on which gave me some more confidence. I headed for the shallow waters before me. Standing and breathing heavily, I had finished the first morning exercise swim. I soon found out we had only swam a third of a mile, nothing in comparison to the 4.0 miles we would swim at the end of the semester. But hey, you have to start somewhere right?
Harrison Rohrer: My First Dive: Taking a deep breath of cool, dry air from the regulator, I smiled and kicked down to the bottom of the shallow marina waters with the thought that I had just taken my first breath underwater. Ever. I joined the group of eight others kneeling on the sand. (Max, Chris, Carly, Nora, Brooke, and Lexi, along with instructors Maxey and Liz.) The chaos that ensued will not leave me for a long time. As we all settled in a circle to celebrate this first step in diving, the bottom sand was lifted into the water around us. While this small decrease in visibility wasn’t burdensome to any of us as we looked around in awe, the stinging nematocysts of the bottom-dwelling Cassiopeia jellyfish that we had unknowingly knelt upon were definitely disturbed. As the group proceeded through drills such as retrieving a lost regulator and clearing water out of a mask, the stinging persisted. The final skills test, in which one had to completely remove, put on, and clear their mask, mixed with the discomfort of the stings, proved too much for a few of the people in the group. Despite this discomfort, as the rest of our group surfaced to check on our buddies and speak for the first time about our experience, I saw smiles all around me. Somehow, through this mess of stinging jellyfish, we had all loved our first taste of diving. We’ve had three more dives since the first, each more exiting and filled with wonder than the last, and everyone in my group (aptly named SCUBA Sting,) has become far more comfortable breathing, diving, and exploring underwater than as compared to our first day in the jellyfish beds.
Nora Teter It’s been less than a week and I’ve already snorkeled, scuba’d, and struggled. My life has never been as challenging and difficult as it is right now; I’ve never worked this hard in my life. I’m not going to write this and pretend that I’m having the time of my life, because I’m not... yet. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, even when I’m trying to the best of my ability I’m afraid I won’t be good enough, and that’s the honest truth. I’ve never felt more doubtful of my ability to take on such insane challenges, but simultaneously, I’ve never wanted to succeed in anything more than I do now. It’s almost as though the difficulty of the things I am supposed to do is what’s motivating me. I’ve never been more tired than I am at 9 A.M. every day after morning exercise, chores, and personal space... all before breakfast. Then I have to tolerate the hot Bahamian sun beating on my neck all day, or burning the backs of my legs while I dive. My feet hurt from standing all day and stepping on rocks, my legs constantly hurt from diving, my arms always hurt from pushups, and my eyes and throat burn from the salt water. No-see-ums, mosquitoes, jellyfish, sunburn, and salt have tormented my skin. Everyday I fall into bed and sleep like a baby. I hope this gets easier. Kayak trip is next. Wish me luck.
It was the first night at The Island School, and I went to get in line for dinner. I noticed a very good smell coming from the table with the food laid on it, and then I could see it. A lot of people piled it onto their plate, so I did the same thing. It looked like some kind of beef and we all ate it happily. I thought it tasted great, as did everyone else. The next morning at breakfast we were sitting at a long table talking. Out of the blue someone says “You know we ate goat last night, right?” Jaws dropped and there was horror on some people’s faces concerning the news they had just heard. Some people could not believe that they had actually eaten goat, and suddenly there were a few more vegetarians at the table, but I thought it was good.