The 50 days leading up to our expedition rotation were remarkable and have made my Island School experience one that I will never forget. On April 27th, we packed up all of our essentials and hit the beautiful Bahamian waters. With 13 other friends and 3 amazing leaders, we started our journey at Deep Creek and paddled a respectable distance on the first afternoon. The crystal clear water heard and absorbed all of our chatter as we built stronger connections and bonded through riddles and jokes. Our first debrief around the campfire allowed everyone to share their stories and their glows and glums of the day. We also looked at finding new ways to improve for the next day so that we could become even stronger both as a whole group and individually. Everyday, we were each able to hold a leadership position which opened unique possibilities for people to grow as a prominent and important member in our community. The leaders took a step back and let us run the trip which all of us enjoyed and decided to take full advantage of.
My favorite part of the trip was our time around the fire at night after a long day on the water. We would usually finish our paddle around 4, leaving ample time to get settled and have fun at camp. Towards the end of the trip, Sam shared his love for a game called Dungeons and Dragons which has been the talk of the town. Everyone wants to play! Essentially, it is a fantasy video game (that we played with our minds and imagination) that allows you to create anyone and go on adventures and quests in a different world. Even Max (our leader) was playing, and it was extremely funny to see him so involved in our heated discussions. Night time allowed all of us to come together as a unit and reflect as one. I believe that we came into the trip with open hands, having made good friendships with some but not all. Kayak gave all 14 of us the time to balance sharing and listening to create those lasting ties that we will keep close forever. The Whiptails (our group name - after a sting ray species) are gearing up for our down island trip, jumping up and down for more time together but also for some amazing food. It has all been very fast-paced but that makes it all the better!
My favorite parts of our Down Island Trip were the Sapphire blue hole and the Hatchet Bay caves. The blue hole was bright teal and very pretty. We all had a chance to jump from the side all the way down to the beautiful, clear water. I’ve never experienced anything like it before. The Hatchet Bay caves were so cool. It was the first time in my life that I’ve had the chance to enter a cave. It was pitch black and there were stalagmites all over. It was creepy but so interesting and exhilarating to walk through. Overall, down island was so fun and so interesting to see all the different parts of the island. I ate good food, bonded closely with my group during the long car rides and around the camp fire, and had a really great time.
What a week! During expeditions, I was one of fourteen students and two faculty members that piled into a van and headed down island. The Down Island Trip is five jam-packed days with the nights spent camping on the beach. The first morning, after waking up on the beach, we had a class right there where we had camped before setting off on our day’s adventures, which included a stop at The Glass Window Bridge. This was a lot of people’s favorite part of the trip. The Glass Window Bridge is the narrowest part of the island where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean beneath a single-lane bridge. The highlight of the trip for me, however, was our stop at the Sapphire Blue Hole at the north end of the island. We even got to jump in! It was 20 feet tall and we took some awesome group go-pro videos.
On our way home, we had class together after having a chance to conduct an interview at the Ministry of Tourism, where we learned some interesting facts about tourism in the Bahamas. We spent a lot of time exploring Governor’s Harbour and bonding at Club Med Beach. We even saw a very rare wild horse during a stop on the way home! The entire trip was an amazing experience in which we all got to learn more about the island of Eleuthera, and more about each other.
I was asked on the second day at The Island School “In what experience, in the future, do you think will have felt the most outside of your comfort zone?”. The first thing that popped into my mind was solo, for sure. 48 hours alone! That scared the bejeezus out of me. I love people. I see people everyday. Suddenly, I will be put in a position in which there will be no people. The thought made me anxious. Finally, after five days of sailing, we arrived at Kemp’s Creek. I was led to my solo spot, which turned out to be a little space wooded with casuarina pines overlooking a beautiful creek. I thought to myself: well, I guess this isn’t so bad. However, the minute my teacher left, I realized that solo had begun. For an hour, I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself. Eventually, I began making a shelter out of sheer boredom. The first night and day was not a problem. It rained for most of the first day, but I thought nothing of it. That is, until sunset… At about 7:30 pm, and to my right was the most beautiful Bahamian sunset imaginable. To my left, however, were the blackest, angriest clouds I have ever seen. A bit worried, I made sure everything was under my tarp and strapped down for a storm. I hunkered down under the tarp as well and waited. As soon as night fell, it started to sprinkle, then rain, then pour. The wind began to pick up. Then the flashes began, soon followed the thunder. Early in the night, the gap between flash and thunder was about 30 seconds. Then 20 seconds, then 10, then five, then two, until every strike was flash-bang, with no time to even count. It was fine for the first half of the night. It was pouring, but my tarp was angled against the wind, so I was faring pretty well. Then the wind shifted. And when I say shifted, I mean 180° in the opposite direction. My tarp went from a shelter to a parachute in negative two seconds. One moment I was dry, then the next I found myself sitting on the forest floor in nothing but a sleeping bag and a raincoat. The tarp was ripped off its bearings and was carried what seemed like as far as the Exumas. I scrambled to save my tarp as the lightening flashed like strobe lights. The wind picked up significantly, so much so that I was forced to compromise my shelter. I sacrificed my gear, which was already soaked, and burrito-ed myself into my tarp. For the rest of he night, I lay on the ground in the fetal position, cocooned in my tarp, cold and soggy as my sleeping bag transformed into a wet sack. The wind gusted 60mph that night. It seemed like 140mph. I persevered, though. Not once did I seek help or other people. I stayed alone for the whole storm, shivering but proving to myself I could be independent. I woke up the next morning and saw the sun pierce through the clouds and began laughing. Laughing because I had made it through the night. Laughing because it was over.
The thing I really loved about expeditions was stepping out of my comfort zone. Almost everything we do here is completely new to me. I really love that I have learned to comfortably adapt to the water activities we do here. I was psyched to complete my swim test a couple of days before our 9-day sail trip, and I didn’t notice until now, but I went through the whole expedition without getting seasick. Working the foresail sheet had to be my favorite role on the boat, but during the night on anchor watch, all kinds of memories came to me. My father and I used to savor the moments of catching the moon and a handful of stars through his binoculars. During anchor watch, all I did was lie on my back, observing the millions and millions of specs above me. I will miss the nights.