I charged up the stairs, desperately trying to beat Lexi to the top, having to take three steps up the stairs for every one she took up the escalator. A small jolt of excitement hit me; after two airports, 12 hours, and three thousand miles, I was about to meet my Island School squad for the next month. I reached the top of the stairs and was instantly met with a sea of blue Island School t-shirts.
“Hi, my name is Oliver”
“Hi, I’m Will”
“My name is Lina”
“Hi, I’m Emma”
“My name is Caleb”
“And I’m Gaby”
“My name is Dylan”
“And I’m Tommy”
The flood of new names hit me like a sledge hammer. Combined with 48 hours without
sleep and not having eaten in over 10 hours, my brain was not helping me out.
In spite of my inability to remember people’s names, I continued to cruise around the
group and meet as many people as possible, despite the names becoming meaningless
blobs of sound.
After about half an hour of mingling, I was jolted back to life by the announcement on
the loudspeakers that the Bahamas Air flight to Rock Sound, Eleuthera was boarding. I jumped up and charged towards the flight attendant who was scanning boarding passes and hastily handed my boarding passes to her. I was then prompted to go down a flight of stairs and into an outdoor hallway that led to our plane. However, the second I stepped out through the large automatic sliding doors, I was greeted with a blast of heat and humidity and instantly started sweating bullets. As a California boy, I can put up with the heat, but the humidity is something that is very foreign to me.
The thick, black sweatpants that had been my sanctuary for the past 10 hours of traveling instantly became my prison. I hurried over to the airplane, hoping for air conditioning to relieve me of my suffering.
I was soon disappointed, as the plane proved to be hotter than the outside air.
I filed my way down the rows towards the flight attendant who was assigning seats to
people as they boarded. She assigned me my seat and I promptly sat down, and turned to the guy sitting next to me and asked him one more time
“I know we just talked about it but would you mind reminding me one more time of your
“I’m Dylan,” he replied.
He must’ve noticed how hungry I was, as he handed me a small bag of trail mix,
which I quickly devoured, repeatedly thanking him for giving them to me, and then was lulled by the propellers into a deep slumber.
We awoke Wednesday morning, the 25th, to the looming challenge of our first run-swim: a legendary test of speed, stamina, and mental fortitude. While such an athletic event has the capability to drive a wedge between students, both physically during the run and metaphorically by making some students feel self-conscious or inferior to others, it instead strengthened the bonds between us. During the activity we were forced to place trust in each other as we helped one another climb over a seemingly monstrous concrete wall, encouraged our buddies across vast expanses of ocean, and supported each other through grueling sets of enthusiastic calisthenics. Every time we finished a running or swimming segment, the people at the front of the pack would run in a variety of unusual geometric patterns, making sure that everyone was prepared for the next segment before we started out. When we reached the Island School campus, welcomed by jubilant cries of “we’re home,” and “we made it,” the first people to reach the flagpole formed a celebratory tunnel for the rest of the students to run through, giving everyone a final burst of energy to overcome their fatigue and finish the event strong. While the glorious run-swim was, in many ways, an individual event during which everyone pushed themselves to their personal limit, it was also a team effort which truly highlighted the support and familiarity of the Island School community.
I live on the beach. I can get in my car and drive 10 minuets to the ocean with no trouble.
For some reason, I guess I thought that because of my proximity to an ocean, my transition from
Ipswich, Massachusetts, to Cape Eleuthera would be a piece of cake. Well, what I was not expecting was how hard it would to be to drag myself out of bed at 6 a.m. every morning and how intimidating it can be to meet 51 new people at once.
I stumbled though my first few days, brimming with enthusiasm and nerves. It was an overload of new experiences and people, which I quickly learned would leave me absolutely exhausted each night.
My first few days at the Island School resembled a splash of cold water right out of my
comfort zone. The month ahead of me was a great unknown, and I had to break through the wall
before I could really tap into all that the Island School had to offer.
Back home I am very involved in sports and athletics. Concepts like the common run-swims and psycho workouts caused more excitement than stress. My first run-swim at Island school was awesome.
“Awesome” is such an overused word, yet describes perfectly the environment that the run-swim
fosters. My peers and I jogged into the run-swim, not knowing what to expect, and were greeted
with energetic leaders, picturesque views, and seeming randomly timed calisthenics. About the
same time my legs started to feel that all too familiar burn and my tongue was puffy with salt, we
reached the wall. On first sight it appeared to be the turnaround point, for no way could one
scale its unforgiving concrete ridges. To my surprise, our run-swim leaders forged a direct
projectile to the wall. As I stared up, my only thoughts were of the feeling of satisfaction that
would follow a single handed ascent of the wall; when this was in turn attempted I was only able
to left myself a few measly inches off the ground. I looked side to side to see some of my fellow
runners lifting themselves over with seeming ease. It took not one, but two people, to help push
me over the wall and onto the gravel dirt above. Two people to help me complete a task I imagined doing myself.
While the comradery was heartwarming, I wanted that feeling of accomplishment and of personal
The next day, Julia, a wonderful new friend of mine, and I decided to complete a non-mandatory
run-swim during our free time. Julia was the swimmer and I was the runner and we each
helped the other complete the workout. This meant the world to me as a girl who struggles
greatly with the whole “swimming” deal that happens in the water. As we approached the wall,
we both agreed that we would cross the channel leading up the wall and test it out. If we were
met with failure, we would simply turn back. Once we were in a closer proximity our plan of
attack consisted of Julia propping me up with her hands and once I had made completed the
landing I would pull her up. To our greatest surprise it worked! It was pure euphoria to look
down, Julia by my side, and see what we had accomplished. What I had pictured as a personal
triumph, was so much sweeter as an act of teamwork. I had broken the wall and was ready to
tackle the next month.
June 29, 2017: A delightful Thursday spent exploring the island of Eleuthera with twelve of my peers, known as “Tiger Sharks 2.” Our day began by loading food, water, and equipment (such as CDs for music) into a navy blue van with a right-sided steering wheel. From our campus, we headed out to experience the beautiful island and the unique history that this archipelago has to offer: an abandoned landing strip, a 600 feet deep blue hole, and limestone caves, littered with leaf-nosed bats, were just some of the things that we were able to experience. Lunch consisted of a delicious home-made sandwich from our Island School kitchen staff and crunchy Cassava chips. A stop for one dollar Bahamian ice cream, accompanied by a discussion of whether or not we know more about the ocean or space. Personally, I think that the highlight of participating in the South Eleuthera Road Trip was learning and living through Bahamian culture and history, including hearing the story of an evil mermaid superstition at Boiling Hole. There is so much more I wish I could write but I’m afraid that The Island School is waiting for me to peel my eyes away from this blog and immerse myself into this ocean wilderness that I now call home.
June 30, 2017, marks the first time in my life that I took a breath below the water’s surface. I never thought that I would be able to SCUBA dive but it ended up being the best thing that I’ve ever done. For students like me who love swimming in the ocean, it was a dream come true. I enjoyed being like a fish in the ocean for those moments. I felt like I was in a new world. I saw beautiful aquatic animals, namely sharks and different types of fish. Everything that I saw became bigger and closer. It was not easy to SCUBA dive because as I dived deeper I couldn’t equalize my mask, causing it to slowly crush my face. However, the more I practiced, the more confident I became and managed to reach 25 feet. I enjoyed it because I felt a new appreciation for life. It’s like I was transported to a different part of the world where peace and beauty reigned. I have always loved seeing the ocean but I have never dared to jump or do risky things. At the Island School my ability to take risks and my curiosity to learn new things have improved a lot.
Heriniaina Fenotoky Rajaoberison
Of the many breathtaking things I’ve experienced here at the Island School is the stars. At home, a mere glimpse of the Big Dipper or Orion’s Belt is a luxury but here, where the sky is so dense with stars it’s barely possible to identify a constellation, my wandering eyes resort to pure amazement. This natural energy is often met in the night sky by pulsing heat-lightning storms, brewing on the horizon, but not enough to hinder the spectacular view of the stars. As this natural phenomenon stitches the fine seam between the sky and the sea, the harmony between these natural wonders creates an unbelievable sense of belonging and passion. Rarely have I ever felt so at peace with my seeming insignificance as a human being than in this immense universe of natural energy. Energy in the form of ruthless lightning, shooting stars, rolling waves, and gentle winds. Energy that could knock me down in an instant, but instead, allows me to observe and appreciate peacefully from my humble spot on Earth. Since experiencing this immense sense of natural harmony, I have become more aware of my contribution, no matter how small, to this energy. With each breath, I can feel the strength and power of this place fill my blood, and as I exhale, I like to believe that I am giving something back. But this interaction, however empowering, can also reveal my personal insignificance in the grand scheme of things. My struggle to give back the life that this place has provided me is almost dissatisfying because I know that it can never be fully done. That said, trying to understand my place in this place has empowered me to embrace the energy it has to offer and live fully in its beauty. So, as I watch the heavenly stars become sewn to the earth with the powerful strike of electricity, I begin to establish a sense of satisfaction and peace with my place as a minor stitch in the quilt of life and energy that encompass this earth and everything in it.
The Bahamas may seem like a dream vacation, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful place, but any student at the Island School will tell you that life here is far from just fun and games. You spend a majority of the time pushing yourself physically, mentally, and everything between. Every day here at the Island School is exciting, tiring, and above all else, hot. Thus, even in Bahamas, it is necessary to establish a spot to cool down and relax. In Beach House, the boys’ dorm, we have built our own hammock cove on the porch. These hammocks quickly became a hotspot for the boys’ dorm and we have spent many hours just relaxing and joking around. It’s true what we’ve been told about the Island School, there is no sense of time: days feel like weeks, weeks feel like days, and people you’ve known for only a couple days feel like lifelong friends.