There’s just something about looking out of your classroom window and seeing the ocean that makes you want to be at school. Maybe it’s a reminder of exploration time that is just hours away. Or maybe it makes you remember that your next marine ecology class you will be scuba diving. At the Island School we take full advantage of the ocean that is just a few steps away. So far, in the past twenty-three days I have not gone a day with out being in the water. Yesterday I went free diving to catch stingrays and the day before that I explored the underwater caves. Once a week all 51 students use the ocean for a morning run-swim. This morning I ran alongside a calm, crystal blue ocean as the sun rose to create a perfect pink horizon. For me the ocean is a reminder of where am I, and it helps me remember to take advantage of the opportunity I have here at the Island School.
When we first arrived in Green Castle for our first settlement day I was a little nervous. Despite having been to other settlements on the island before, I have never walked around with an Island School uniform. Wearing my blue polo shirt gives me a distinct label, and I wasn’t too sure how the local people would react. We walked around awkwardly for awhile saying hi to people here and there. On our way to the local grocery store we ran in to two guys, Phillip and Bolo. Characteristic of the Bahamas, they were the nicest people you can imagine and immediately began hitting us with questions about the Island School and ourselves. We talked for several minutes, and then walked into the air-conditioned grocery store to fill up on junk food and of course a Goombay Punch. We sat on the brick wall surrounding the community church and watched the silent streets of Green Castle, cars running by occasionally. Fast forward an hour and we are walking down the road towards the homes, hoping to see some people. We said hello to one woman and she introduced us to her son, who was just heading over to the court of the primary school to play some basketball. I was surprised when he asked us to play, but then again, I’ve never met people as nice as Bahamians. When we got to the court, we were soon followed by his friends, and a game of “21” quickly began. It was pretty clear that we (the Island School kids) were all a little nervous at first, but it was immediately replaced by pure happiness. It soon felt like I was playing basketball with my friends. There was never a dull moment and every second was filled with laughter. They’d hoot me when I was dribbling and when I missed, which was most of the time, they all chirped, “He got no form!” Christian is actually good and whenever he hit a 3 they all went nuts. I have always wanted to play with the locals, and I’m so glad that I accepted Will’s invitation to play with open arms, because if I hadn’t, I would never have been able to have this amazing experience. I feel like I have a totally new perspective of the people of Eleuthera. I was able to experience a small part of their lives first hand, and that was really special to me. Rather than watching them play from our car as we drove by, like I’ve done so many times before, I was able to a part of it. Even as short as it was, I felt like I had been accepted. I feel luckier than ever to be here, because of the amazing opportunities that have already presented themselves in my first few weeks here. Driving back to campus all sweaty and tired, telling other groups about our game, my excitement for next Saturday started to build up, and now I just can’t wait to go back and see our friends in Green Castle.
Coming to the Island School, I never truly appreciated some of the smaller things in my life. At home I had easy access to snacks, and would raid the kitchen for food anytime I became hungry. Here we have three large meals each day and gorp for a snack every now and then. The cravings start after a long day of classes, when exploration time begins. We anxiously bike to the marina store with soda, candy and chips on our minds. Chocolate has now become a luxury and every time I go to the store, chocolate is the first thing I buy. Dessert is scarce at the Island School besides an occasional cake for birthdays, so every last bite of chocolate is devoured (even if that means licking the wrapper). Not only is food something to savor here, but also because of the heat and our constant activity, water bottles are a necessity everywhere you go. Thinking back on my experience so far, I am starting to realize that I need to be grateful for the little things here at the Island School and to live in the present. It is hard to do this because of the busy schedule, but every now and then, I am able to stop and appreciate my beautiful home for the next few months.
One morning I noticed what looked like a small bug bite on my left elbow. It looked unusual but nothing too out of the ordinary. I decided to cover it with a Band-Aid and not think much about it. However, the more I ignored it, the more spots seemed to show up. After the third one appeared, I went to see Jai our medical director. I sat down, put out my arm and he looked right into my eyes and said, “this is impetigo”. I looked right back at him and said “I have no clue what that is”. I had a million questions buzzing around my head at once. How long do I have to wear long sleeves and long pants? How contagious is this really? Am I going to miss my dive today? Tom was in the room when I saw the doctor at the clinic. On our way out he asked me if I wanted to buy a cup on the way home. A little confused I said yes. I was still in shock I had a skin infection my second week at the school. On our drive back to campus we stopped at a little store with an older gentleman sitting on the porch. On the way into the store Tom asked the man if he had any cups. Still confused I followed Tom. We walked over to a freezer. Tom asked me if I like passion fruit. I nodded, he handed me a frozen plastic cup filled with passion fruit juice brown sugar and water. I started to laugh; now he was confused. I explained how I had no clue what he meant when he asked me if I wanted a cup. The cup was probably the best thing I have had while I have been here. Today is a week from when I was first told I had impetigo. I don’t miss it one bit.