So this week it has finally hit me that this semester is coming to a close kinda soon. It is so bittersweet, because I love it here so much, but I also miss freedom and my home and my friends and family. I have had the time of my life on this tiny little island, and I am so blessed to have this experience. I will never forget the memories I have made, or the amazing people I have met. I am beyond stoked to get some quality time with my family this summer in Hawaii. I have so much to look forward to right now, my life is looking pretty amazing. At the same time, there are things about life here that I am struggling with. One of the biggest problems I am having is never having alone time. This is a tiny campus, and I am around the same 35 students pretty much 24/7. I don’t have my room as an oasis because I have roommates. After I heard that my dog passed away, I just wanted some time alone to think to myself, but I couldn’t find a place without anyone. It makes me a little nervous for next semester in Africa. With a stricter curfew of like 6:00, I am definitely gonna struggle. I am kinda sick of all of the rules and I am just scared I am not going to want to comply with them. I am also very fed up with the behavior of some locals here on this island. They have been increasingly aggressive and touchy and I am not really the biggest fan of that. But they generally back off.
Despite the fact that the past few blog posts had some negativity, I still have had some incredible days. I had such an amazing dive on Saturday, there was a moment I literally cried of happiness. I have this sense of bliss when I am underwater, there are really no words that can describe the feeling. When I am submerged, my mind clears, my breathing slows, and then my worries and cares dissipate. It is incredible and the feeling is addicting. Anyways, we were hanging out underwater and the biodiversity was amazing. There were so many different kinds of corals and sponges, with huge schools of fish. Some of the fish were tiny and there schools look like tiny rivers, flowing and liquid. We saw a school of barracuda, and it wasn’t even scary, it was straight up beautiful. I just feel so small when I am down there, so insignificant, but in a good way. It puts my life and stresses into perspective. Some of my tiny worries wont matter in a few weeks or months, and will be completely unimportant weeks from now. Anyways, as I was admiring the coral and other sea creatures, a beautiful stringray swam feet away, right under me. They are such amazing animals, capable of killing, but generally harmless. Soon after, a magnificent sea turtle drifted by. He was so content and not nervous of our presence. As I was admiring its graceful movements, another turtle swam over. Now, turtle are my spirit animal and I truly believe that they came over to me to heal my mind. I couldn’t help but bawl. I just felt so at home and content, it was a moment of pure bliss and unexplainable beauty. As you can tell, this dive put me in a pretty good mood for the rest of the day. After a failed attempt at hanging out with my friendship fam, it was time for community outreach. I signed up for arts and crafts, where we made some origami. Turns out, I didn’t really stay at the station, because this tiny little child, Aleah, felt comfortable with me and then only trusted me. She was super shy, and was scared of most of the people here. So she held my hand and together we had a pretty great afternoon. She was super apprehensive about swim lessons, but I got her excited and gave her a little pep talk before sending her off to the pool. Now this child was like four years old, and so tiny. She also didn’t have a swimsuit so I brought her to the schools collection of children’s bathingsuits. None were small enough to really fit her well, but I put an adorable pink one-piece on her, and it was super adorable. Wow, this child was amazing. When she was sitting on my lap coloring, she explained to me that she didn’t want to go home. I asked her why and she responded explaining that whenever she goes home her mama and papa “beat me”. Now obviously this upset me, and I held her tight as I tried to think of a response. What do you even say to a child who tells you that they get beaten. I talked to a staff member who explained to me that it was pretty typical of life here, and many of the kids get beaten by their parents. Domestic violence is another huge issue here. This just made me heartbroken and made me realize how lucky I am to have grown up with such exceptional parents.
For directed research, I am working with lobsters. So, in the mornings I have been diving and deploying casitas (essentially lobster condos) to different sites. These casitas are made of concrete, and are huge, so they take a considerable amount of energy to move. We first get them into the water by pieces. Using ropes to lower them into the water, where there is a diver who unties the pieces, and organizes. After all the pieces are in the water, I scuba and move around the pieces on top of each other. Lifting huge concrete slabs underwater is not the easiest. And add lightening, thunder, and a strong current and it is like a navy seal practice. I was submerged and hammering away at stakes, it was truly bad ass and a lot of fun. In the afternoons I go to the lobster docks where a fishery is. I measure the lobster, it is actually pretty fun, besides the fact that the docks smell funny and its usually very hot out.
I seriously do love it here. I love that I have had the expericent to get to know my location very intimately. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to travel abroad in Europe, and sometimes I am jealous that students get to see so many different countries. But those experiences are so different than here on South. I actually love how well I have gotten to know this island. I can take a walk around town and recognize all the faces and have a conversation with any of the kind locals. I don’t think I would have that experience if I was just sight seeing.