Callie McMahon: Going out of their way to make you confused is part of the faculties' job here at The Island School. In circle one morning Kate explained a comfort chart using rope to designate different areas of comfort as a way for us gauge our emotions. The middle represents something totally comfortable, “I do it everyday.” Then sort of comfortable, “I might do this.” Then there is the learning zone, where you can move closer to the middle through learning a new skill. The last one, of course, is the complete freak-out zone. Here at The Island School most things keep me in the learning zone. Our dorm-head Brady said on the first day, “I know it’s really tempting to cling to one person just because you met them on the plane and you’re safe with them, but it’s more important to stitch yourself out.”
Brady later taught, dare I say, my favorite history class ever. We had a big Harkness discussion and I learned from students and teachers about the history of the Americas. On the kayak trip, this same Brady came with me to spend three days without a shower to experience some beautiful underwater environments. She has helped me to stay safe and tidy in my home, helped me learn about the past of this place in my school, and helped me to be curious in fascinating surroundings. John is a fantastic math teacher, but he also gave me a tour of the campus, taught me how to monitor the cisterns, and we fed the stinky pigs together. Leigh is my advisor and checks up on me, but he’s also the human ecologies teacher and is married to my art teacher, and he does all of the morning exercises with us. The list goes on forever…
Never before in my life have I had teachers that I can interact with like this on so many levels. It blows my mind to be sweating bullets next to the same people who do the dishes with me and teach my English class. It always makes me uncomfortable when people refer to this as school. After scuba diving today, for example, Rachel told us to head back to school. Everything in my mind is telling me this is home. This the first time I’ve heard school used as a term to describe where you eat, sleep, explore, learn, and have fun.
After such a magical first day of morning exercise, I didn’t know that it could get any better than snorkeling to a wreck with some of the coolest and most exquisite people in the world. Much to my surprise however, the third morning at The Island School was even better than the first: We had a run swim. For those of you who don’t know what a run swim is, it’s one of the best full body cardio workouts. It consists of running a short distance to a waterway, which you then swim across, and then run to the next waterway. On this certain morning, the run swim was only half of the official run swim course, but it still pushed many of us to the brink of exhaustion. We started our run swim by swimming across the harbor to the opposite shore. From there, we ran soaking wet to a small inlet, which we crossed mightily. At the shore Chris Maxey put us through some of the hardest abdominal exercises I’ve ever done. Many of my mates and I assumed we had reached the pinnacle of our run swim, and that we would now head back to school – I was surprised again – much to my chagrin, we had just began. This grueling and repetitive process carried on for the next hour. To narrow it down, the next hour was run, swim, abs, run, etc… In the moment, I was miserable. I felt like my bones would break, and that I simply couldn’t do it anymore. Thinking back upon that first run swim morning, I am so happy to have experienced something so incredible. I’m sure once I go home I’ll look back on the morning run swims and wish that I could be back in the Bahamas doing intense workouts with some of the coolest people in the world. Running and swimming with the sunset at your back is one of the most incredible experiences in life.
My name is Asher Dawson, and I was asked to try to explain one of my many memorable experiences so far at The Island School. Notice how I say, “try to explain,” as the emotions and my mentality will be hard to convey. The first moment that came to mind was one of my two nights on a down-island kayak trip. The trip was set up to transport six boys, six girls, and two staff members roughly six miles down the coast of Eleuthera. We kayaked for about four hours, and to say that finding the camping spot was a ‘relief’ would be an understatement. Once we arrived, we set up boys and girls tents, ate a lunch consisting of stale crackers, watery cheese, and musty tuna, which at the time was delicious. The next day and a half were spent cooking, eating, kayaking to snorkel a blue-hole, and even a little bit of sleep. Nearing the end of our second day, after just finishing dinner and fireside s’mores, we were just about ready to crawl into our tents when we saw the sky light up for a split second. After counting thirty-two seconds, a role of thunder informed us that a storm was approaching from about six miles away. After brushing as much sand as we could off of our feet, and swatting as many possible bugs as we could inside our tent, we laid down onto a fresh memory-foam-like sand bed. The six boys were split up into two tents, and, being boys, it’s fair to say that we didn’t put the entirety of our effort into securing the tents into the sand. As we sat and talked in the darkness of our tent, flashes continued to illuminate our faces. Then the rain started and suddenly sheets of water weighed down the frame of our poorly constructed tent, to the point at which the tent was practically useless. I’m not sure how many of you reading this know how tents/rain flies work, but the basic principle behind them is that as long as the rain fly doesn’t actually touch the exterior of the tent itself, you can’t get wet. Now, with the combined power of torrential downpours and extraordinary wind, I still can’t be certain whether or not a proper tent construction would have made a difference at this point. To be honest, I would have been fine sleeping wet (unhappy, but fine). The wind was the most prominent factor in the eventual evacuation of our tent. When I finally exited the tent, the rising tide was near my feet. Only a few feet away was my friend Clem (whose blog you should read to learn another perspective of this experience) was screaming “THROW LOGS ON THE TENT!” I’m not certain how or why we did this, but there was something about being in the moment and the vicious wind and sideways rain that made this request seem legitimate. I soon realized that I was in fact the only thing holding the tent in place, and since I had evacuated, the only thing that seemed plausible to replace my weight, was a small tree. (Read Clem Titsworth’s continued entry)
The first time I camped on a beach: A long hard day had been spent kayaking at sea and salt water stuck my hair into a position of which I had no control. We set up our tent with little effort, however our work later reflected the amount of effort we put in. Alongside my new friends, Duncan and Charlie, we admired our poorly set up tent, debating whether or not to fix it. What was the worst that could happen? We decided to leave the tent the way it was…we thought wrong. The first night went fine; the second night was not quite as pleasant.
Dinner had been cooked and prepared in a five star manner; burritos pleased as we gobbled them down. Little did we know however, our night had peaked at the burritos. We made a fire, sat around, and told stories however at the first raindrop we scattered to our tents. Earlier, Duncan and I had cleverly spread our sheets on a tree to dry however in a rush to keep our persons dry and pile into the tent we forgot our sheets. I scampered out of the tent to get the sheets and the wind almost threw me off balance. Now, pulling them off the tree and slinging them onto my shoulder I felt how wet they really were, soaked. I ran back to my tent and leapt threw the door. Just as we thought it couldn’t get any worse we were proven wrong. Strong wind lifted the tent off the ground and it began to blow away. Chasing after the rolling tent with the combination of the wind, rain, and flying sand, the world around me felt like it had been thrown into a blender. Finally after catching the tent, we realized we needed something to hold it in place. We began to weigh it down with washed up logs and debris, “treeing” and “logging.” When this didn’t do the trick I somehow managed to use a tree to hold the tent in place beneath it; now our tent was held down, soaked, and in worse condition than it had previously been. Little did we know the night was still young and we had to help Asher, Dale and Colin in their tent which the wind had also broken down. We pulled the tent out of the ground and dragged it into cover, (see Asher Dawson’s story for more details.) After logging the tent, we placed ourselves in safety position amidst the storm. After waiting for what seemed like hours we went to find the tents; wet, sandy, and damaged, they were in rough shape. We set the tents up once again and had a very wet, sandy, and buggy night.
Charles E. Zachau:
Over the first week at The Island School a lot has been done, in fact I have done so many new things that it feels like I have been here for months. One thing I did for the first time that I feel is worth sharing is snorkeling. It is not my first time snorkeling, but times before consisted of looking at the rocky bottom of a lake for five minutes until I got bored, here however, it’s an entirely different story. On the second day of our three-day kayak trip we were able to snorkel over a massive hole in the ocean floor, I estimate it was at least sixty feet deep. This was a completely new and foreign experience. As I approached the drop-off with my new friends swimming around me I felt nervous, looking down in such clear water and for such a far distance was almost scary. It seemed as if I would fall, just from swimming over the edge of a large cliff. At the bottom of blue hole many aquatic species could be seen; groupers and other exotic kinds of fish, as well as a large stingray with a estimated massive six-foot wingspan. This experience of being able to look down clearly at so many different species of aquatic animals in their natural habitat was breathtakingly amazing and left me in a sense of awe of this hole in the ocean floor.
Coming to The Island School I didn’t know what to expect. I especially did not expect to go on a three-day kayak trip within the first week in. The kayak trip was definitely challenging, but also a great experience to get to know some people that I hadn’t necessarily gotten to know in the first few days. Camping on its own was a whole different experience; I have camped before in a tent, but camping on a beach was definitely a first. I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere (in a good way), secluded and at peace. At night the whole group would build a bonfire from scratch, and just sit around, chat and have a good time. We would make our own dinner, and take pride in what we just made. After bedtime we went into our respected tents and slept. Although it was extremely hot in the girls’ tent, and I slept without a sheet or a sleeping pad, it was cool to just sit in the tent with friends reminiscing about your past and getting to know everyone. Waking up to the ocean for two nights was also a first. We woke up at sunrise as the sun shone through the tent. When I walked out of the tent I just saw a beautiful sunrise and a beautiful ocean in front of me. I sat on the edge of the beach just staring at the magical ocean, taking in the smells and the view. I’ve never woken up to a more natural, more beautiful scenery in my life. The second night was a major first in my opinion. We just finished dinner, sitting around this amazing bonfire that we made. All of a sudden we heard thunder and a felt a light rain all around us so we sprinted to our tents for safety. The rain felt good on my sunburned skin, but I was rushed into the tent, scared of the thunder overhead. In the tent, four girls were squished and scared of the winds outside. The tent was blowing and rain was getting in the tent. Thinking about it now, it was kind of funny and exciting to be in a Caribbean storm. The next day was the kayak back. It started raining, like a downpour. It felt surprisingly good compared to all the sun that we were getting. Coming back onto campus was definitely one of the happier days of my life. I could shower, I could see all the people I missed, and I could start learning how to SCUBA dive. The kayak trip was an experience I will never forget because it was exciting, tiring, and surprising at the same time.
An experience I had for the first time was free diving in a blue hole. Free diving is diving down to a deep depth while holding your breath and it requires one to equalize due to pressure. The objective of free diving is to challenge yourself and attempt to beat your previous depth record; it takes a lot of practice to get to a respectable depth. Free diving is very fun and much more challenging then I had expected. Free diving into a blue hole was particularly cool because it was a massive sinkhole in the Exuma sound that stretches all around the southwest side of the island. The Exuma sound doesn’t get deeper then about ten feet, so seeing this massive sinkhole that went to a depth of around ninety feet in the middle of Exuma sound was really amazing and different. While free diving into the blue hole I saw huge southern rays, sea stars and other remarkable fish. The feeling of diving into a blue abyss with nothing but your breath is simply extraordinary and indescribable. After free diving into the blue hole it made me want to challenge and improve myself to reach a deeper dive depth.
Hi, I’m CJ from San Salvador, Bahamas. When I first arrived to Eleuthera it was one of the most intense experiences I have had because it was actually my very first time here. Thus far at The Island School I had the opportunity to embark on a three day kayak/camping trip. This was quite a challenge for me physically, but mentally I was well organized for the task at hand. Other than that aspect of camping everything is going great! The classes here are very different than what I am accustomed to, and better than regular public schools. The way in which marine biology and ecology and taught seem for reliable and understandable to me.
Being a flexible individual here at the campus with forty-eight other students is important and makes me feel even more passionate about working and the marine environment. I really hope to have a wonderful time here. Here on campus most of the resources are preserved and I am being taught about how to preserve water and energy. This allows me to view the environment from a different perspective and I will try these simple tactics at home. As the months go by swiftly, I really intend to experience new things and learn further about ways in which I can better help the environment in any way possible.
It has only been a week, but it has felt like so much longer. During this week I have engaged in many activities for the first time. SCUBA diving, kayaking, living in a dorm with twenty-three other boys, working as a part of a much larger community, and having so much fun all along the way, has all been a part of my first week at The Island School.
The most powerful of all of these experiences so far for me was the kayak expedition. Spending three days removed from modern comforts and “roughing it” on a sandy beach on the Exuma Sound changed my perspective on how I will look at many conveniences that I normally take for granted. My kayak group left campus and paddled hard for about an hour and then we stopped for lunch and a snorkel. Lunch was tuna fish with warm cheese on crackers. Although this would have typically been a meal I would have turned my nose up to, I eagerly devoured my allotted amount. After the lunch and snorkel we paddled for another half hour until we reached the campsite that we would spend the next two nights at. We set up our camp at Broad Creek, perhaps one of the more stunning landscapes I have ever seen. Broad Creek is a shallow, mangrove lined, inlet that leads out to the Exuma Sound. Our camp was positioned on a sort of sandy peninsula where the sound faced us on the front and the creek at our backs. The part of the peninsula that I most enjoyed was the feeling that we were the only people who were anywhere nearby on the peninsula (there was a road less than a mile away). Cooking meals every night over a campfire, being fully exposed to bugs, and not having a toilet all served to expose me to the reality of just how convenient the life I am accustomed to is. Before I left for the three-day excursion, I was exasperated by the bug bites I was getting in the dorm. In retrospect, those bug bites were barely noticeably in comparison to the bug bites I returned with.
Bug bites were not the only things I returned with. I returned to The Island School with a new outlook on how harsh nature can be and felt truly thankful for the accommodations on campus.
One of the biggest fears I had entering The Island School was flying alone. As I stepped into the dark Portland Jetport terminal at five in the morning, my head filled with questions. What will the new people look like? How will three months away from family and friends feel? How will the new teachers treat me? What does The Island School even look like? I gave my dad a bittersweet hug, walked through security, sat down at the gate and entered my plane, all alone. 14A was my new destination but I didn’t know what would come afterwards. I located the big blue seat, settled into it, pulled out my headphones and began playing Alt-J’s song Breezeblocks while I just thought. My eyes gently shut as I sunk into a deep daydream about The Island School. Pristine white beaches and turquoise water all laid out waiting for me to discover it. Just behind those beaches revealed new faces and new places, all ready for me to introduce myself to. The plane began to roll out of the terminal right as I gripped my seat and glued my eyes to the window revealing my new life. Now I realize that my life will never be the same.