Last Monday was a very important day: initiation. Fifty-two of us gathered at 6:30 in the morning to immerse ourselves in the Bahamian community, both figuratively and literally. The most important part of the Island School Journey is the beginning. The High Rock run/jump is the foundation of the leap that the students are taking. As the sun starts to rise, we take off on our two mile run around the loop. Upon arrival, we can barely hold ourselves up; we are in an unfamiliar place, but all around us are familiar faces. We gather into our routine circle and begin the process of finding our place and establishing an Island School community. After a moment of silence and appreciation for our surroundings, we line up for the jump of our lives. As we tip-toe around the rocks, Pat guides us to the launching pad. The ocean below us marks the beginning of the rest of our lives. Standing on the edge, we face a twenty foot fall and our stomachs churn with anticipation and excitement. One by one, we leap into the fresh Caribbean Sea and wait for our friends to join us on our journey. Smiles surround the rock from both above and below, and shrieks of encouragement boom through the cool morning air. Soon after, we all celebrate, as our journey has officially begun. This unique experience came to a close as our family of fifty-two came together, once more, to make the run home.
Will Cooper and Tina Taylor
On the night of July 3rd, 2017, we all gathered on the beach for a bonfire. The air was cool and a breeze whipped our hair around our faces; the dimming sky a mural of pinks, oranges, purples, and fluffy white clouds. After the sun went down, we all gathered around the glowing fire, its light illuminating our smiling faces. Everyone was chatting, happy and at home, surrounded by our new friends. We sang a rousing version of the Bahamian national anthem, our voices filling the night air, and then played limbo. We toasted marshmallows and made s’mores. Following the core Island School principles of finding our sense of place and building an intentional community, I think that our bonfire helped develop an appreciation of the camaraderie, unity and fun of this one-of-a-kind place.
How to choose one moment to write about? There have been many amazing instances that have truly shown me the beauty of the place that I am in and the people that I am with. One of these moments happened last week on my down island trip. The down island trip is a four-day trip to North Eleuthera where we explore caves, interview locals, and camp with our fellow students. It had been an amazing, tiring day for all of us, and I was walking down to the ocean after putting our tent up on the beach. I saw a group people standing knee-deep in the ocean, so I waded in. I looked over, and a feeling of pure awe washed over me. A dolphin swam no more than five feet away, weaving in and out of sight and eventually sliding gracefully over the waves, its smooth body gliding effortlessly. This moment truly made me realize how blessed I am to be here, in such a wonderful place where I get to experience life so fully. The best part of this moment, however, was that I got to experience it with such amazing people who have become my life-long friends.
Javier and I relaxing on our hammocks after a hard day’s work as Caciques. We had a great time leading the community for the day. We look forward to watching fellow classmates lead the community in the near future.
We begin to load our boats under the hot, midday sun. The SCUBA gear, water bottles, lifejackets, and, finally, students and teachers, are all aboard and ready to drive over to our dive site. The wind quickly cools me down and the waves bounce around us as we get ready to go in the water. We get our BCD’s, weights, mask, fins, and snorkel ready and do one final buddy check before rolling into the water. We signal “OK” to our teachers and begin our descent.
Our task is to find examples of symbiotic relationships in a marine environment. We had spent all morning learning about the different types and how to identify them in nature. My buddy and I swim over to our patch reef and get to work.
We see how every bit of life interacts with each other. The coral protects the smaller fish, while the herbivorous fish cleans the algae off the coral. The groupers eat the smaller fish, and everyone is competing for resources like space and food. As I observe this underwater community, I am taken aback by its beauty. How the sun’s rays penetrate below the surface, and how everything relies on one other to thrive.
SCUBA Diving has taught me to appreciate the natural beauty of the world around us, especially the ocean. It motivates me to conserve our oceans and preserve this surreal world beneath our feet.
Student Nicole Jehl shares her experience with the shark research team at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. During their day in the field, students conducted scientific longline research and measured and tagged the sharks they encountered. The group also discovered an abandoned seine net in which a juvenile Lemon shark had been entangled and died. The research team performed a dissection and taught the students about the anatomy of a shark.
Once a week, every Island School student gets an hour and a half to go anywhere within our exploratory boundaries and take some time for ourselves. We call this “Querencia,” and it’s usually a time to relax and regroup. However, yesterday’s Querencia was nothing of the sort. I chose to go to a cut called No Name, a scenic cove about 15 minutes away from Island School’s main campus. Since it’s so beautiful, there were also some other students spending their Querencia there, including my friend Will Cooper.
As we were sitting under the trees, rain started to fall from the sky. At first, it was a light sprinkle, and no one was too concerned. However, it quickly turned into a downpour, soaking everything that wasn’t covered. Everybody rushed to their bikes, and began the long journey back to campus. Halfway there, Will’s bike chain chose this remarkably inconvenient moment to fall off. We pulled over to the side of the road, where we managed to fix it after five minutes of struggling. As soon as as we hopped back onto our bikes, the chain fell off again! By this point we were desperate, so we gave up on trying to fix his bike. Instead, he grabbed the back of my bike and I towed him all the way back to the Island School. It worked out surprisingly well, and in the end we were left with soaking wet clothes, muddy feet, and an unforgettable Querencia.