the hardest goodbyes

I am currently in an airplane, headed back to reality. It is so scary leaving this life I have become accustomed to this last semester. The people I have met are remarkable, and I have made memories that will stay with me for life. I was not prepared for the goodbyes at the airport, and it didn’t sink until I was taking off, soaking in the last sights of the turquoise waters I have come to love. Reading letters from fellow students, it was clear to me that I have formed some of the closest relationships than I have with friends that I grew up with. In these three short months, I have opened my mind and soul to new opportunities, and got to be a person that I am proud to be. I had fun on weekends, having a blast with my new friends, as well as keeping my drive in academics. A perfect mixture of priorities. Community outreach also impacted me, and really revealed a passion I have for kids. I loved the local children, from their honest smiles to their compassion. I definitely would not be opposed to working with kids someday, as they brighten my day (for the most part…).

I think that going home is going to be a little bit of a shock to me. I am going to miss South Caicos so much. At the same time I am also so ready to get off that island. I guess that just means this was a perfect time for me to leave. I am relieved that I will not be in Maine all winter, because I really don’t think I can deal with the cold. The past few days have been in the mid-70s, and I have been wearing long pants and sleeves, and still freezing. I am such an island girl, I thrive in the heat. I honestly hope that someday I will get to live on an island, in a little hut next to the sea. I can only dream to live a life of simplicity, escaping the bustle of cities and chaos that is found in highly developed places.

Looking back on my experiences this summer, I am going to go ahead and reverberate some highlights. The first of which sounds silly, but some of my favorite nights were spent on the dock, playing drinking games and getting to know my best soulmates.. Luda and Kirby. Our friendship quickly blossomed, and we served as a little family away from home. Supporting each other through thick and thin, and not afraid to be honest and call each other out when we are being weird. From laughing until we cried, to breaking down on the floor in sobs, we have been there for each other, and I am so grateful for these beautiful people to make their way into my life. Another memory I hold dear was the evening after DR, that I went down to the fishermen dock for a little get together. The spirits were high, I was with my friends, enjoying some amazing local food to upbeat island music, and enjoying the companies of the locals. All of this in such a beautiful setting, with the sun going down, glistening on the calm ocean. It was truly picture perfect. My favorite underwater memory was most definitely my final dive. It was me, Luda, Kirby, Lucy, Liz, and Erin. Such an amazing and hilarious group of girls. We had a blast together, not to mention it was at my favorite dive site, the Grotto. I still have not thought up an adequate collection of words to describe the beauty of this place. It is very much out of the world. The swaying sea fans, the rivers of blue chromis (bright blue beautiful fish) on the reef, just such a pristine scene. I was delighted to not only spot a sea turtle, but have a moment gliding in the water next to one of these stunning creatures. I got so close, and I swear I looked it right in the eye, and was taken back by its beauty. Some may ask how a turtle could be considered beautiful, but I promise you, this animal was the most perfect creation. Just at ease, drifting with the currents, I am not afraid to admit that I shed a few tears underwater, it was an unforgettable moment. We also got to enjoy the company of a reef shark, that followed us on our dive. I got so close, just feet away, it was such a thrill. We saw tons of stingray, and the most beautiful wall of coral, 200 foot drop, of massive sponges, and just a huge diversity of life. It is not even overwhelming to me that there is so much to see, it calms my mind. It makes me feel small, but in a good way. I think diving puts my life into perspective, leaving me questioning if my worries really matter, in the big scheme of things. It is soothing, and I feel serenity knowing that life is just so big, and I am so small. One tiny human on one tiny planet in a much bigger world. That sh*t is crazy to me.

Moving on, I also have had tons of great times taking breaks to enjoy Marvas, the $1 ice cream right down the road from the center. I have had some great conservations walking to this little shop, and I will miss Marva, and these excursions, so much when I get home. I am also going to miss jumping off the dock. Not a day went by that I was not amazed about how blue the ocean was. I was known to just stare for minutes, and just saying “it is just so blue”. Not only is the sea an imaginable shade of blue, it is crystal clear. I had some amazing times jumping off the dock, and opening my eyes to see a bunch of little fish scatter beneath me. It felt like I was in an aquarium everytime I was submerged. Another moment that I hold dear was one night when I was turtling. The water was calm, the night was dark, but the sky was crystal clear. The stars were shining brilliantly, and the moon was just a dim red crescent on the horizon. It was so beautiful. I was snorkeling, and just had no fear at all. I was completely at peace with the night. I encountered an eagle ray, soaring magnificently into the night. It was beautiful. The best part of this night had to be the bioluminescence. My snorkel buddy and I swam to where we couldn’t see the lights of other students, turned off our flashlights, and let our eyes adjust to the darkness. As soon as my eyes got used to the dark, I was treated to a brilliant show of blue lights. It is hard to explain, but with a small stir of the water with my hands, there were flashes of light, resembling the stars above. I was awestruck, and I didn’t shut up about it for the whole night. We might not have caught any turtles, but hey…did you see that crazy underwater light show? I was honestly stoked for days after that. Another memory I hold dear was my adventure with Shayna, Kristen, Kirby and Luda, out to fish cay. It was just such a spur of the moment decisions, and I am so glad we made the journey to adventure out on this tiny island made of coral rock. My favorite place I visited was most definitely Mudjin Harbor, on Middle (or was it North?) Caicos. The harsh cliffs against the sea, it was a sight made up in dreams. The praying hand facing the cliffs, it was just all perfect. I felt it was spiritual, and I was praising the sea and all of its beauty. God, I hope I can visit it again someday, I think it is my favorite beach I have ever been on…and there have been quite a few.

Most of my favorite memories, I am realizing, are pretty current. And I think it is because I have really gotten to know the people here. And spending time with people you have come to admire, care for, and love, makes any experience that much better. I can seriously say this has been a life changing experience for me. I feel like I have learned so much about myself, even if I can’t grasp what exactly that is. I am so glad I decided to study abroad. I loved the culture, the people, the ocean, and even the classes. I have learned more then I imagined possible. It helps that I was passionate about the material taught in class (marine bio) so I enjoyed studying. I found classes intriguing, and enjoyed that all the students and faculty I was spending my time with shared a passion for the ocean.

I am now a little more nervous for traveling abroad to Africa,. How can any experience surmount this past semester. How could the people be any better? Will I be able to make friends like the one’s here, I feel like that isn’t possible. But… I know it will be different, and hopefully that will make it hard to compare the programs. For now I prepare myself with an open mind and attitude, and I am setting my expectations low. My life has such a bright future, and as much as I love to think about what life has before me, I know that it is so much more important to live in the presence. So for now, I am going to live in the moment and enjoy what life has to offer

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