Today was the first full day at the Island School, and it was a blast! After our group woke up early for a quick jog and ab workout, we got a tour of the whole place, and it is crazy to me how everything here has been reused or will be reused in some way. Glass bottles are built into some buildings for lighting, rubber tires and cement are used as the foundation for other buildings. Peanuts, potatoes and tomatoes are grown on the roof of one of the buildings. The waste from the tilapia fish from the research tanks at the Cape Eleuthera Institute wet labs help to nourish vegetables as their water is cycled through one to the other. A new living space was being worked on, and there was a ventilation system set up that takes in the breeze from the ocean in a certain way and cycles through the building so that air conditioning is not necessary. A beautiful bridge area with a gazebo is made from a product called “rumber” which is made from rubber, plastic and lumber. There is much more that I was impressed by, but overall, I was so amazed by their ability to take everything and use it in some way, even with things like plastic and rubber that don’t break down.
We spent much of the day in the water today, and I was able to experience my first real snorkel experience in the ocean! I am used to rivers and lakes, but this was very new to me! I have to say that fresh water is more my style, (rivers are my number one) and I have a slight fear of the ocean but I was surprised with how much I liked swimming around in the ocean! I had two slight panicked moments through the day, and the first happened during the initial swim test. A few people wore their masks, but I was not one of them, and Travis happened to see what he thought was a sting ray land underneath me at the bottom of the ocean. All I heard was him say “Sting ray under you!” and I started trying to swim to shore faster until someone on the dock told me it was just sitting at the bottom of the ocean. He was amused, to say the least. Then we were all able to snorkel around the reef nearby, and I fell into my own zone and wandered away from the group quite a few times. Part of the reason was because my mask fogged up and I didn’t know where I was most of the time…I didn’t realize that spitting in them beforehand helps with that.
After we snorkeled around the reef near the school, we had lunch and then returned back to the water to take a boat to a different spot on another part of the island called Tunnel Rock. The people who were certified in SCUBA diving were able to do that, and us snorkelers watched from the top. This time, I remembered the fog prevention method, so staying with the group wasn’t an issue. It was very cool seeing all the fish around the reef, and the SCUBA divers ended up seeing a hammerhead shark! This location is where I experienced my second scare, where I was having a grand time looking at fish when I saw a little clear orb. Immediately, I assumed jellyfish, but it didn’t scare me because it was fairly far away. As I looked around, I realized that I was surrounded by them, so instead of enjoying my snorkeling, I spent the rest of the time in the water dodging little jellyfish. After we finished and went out to dinner, I asked Ron, who works at the Island school and is very experienced in the water, if the little jellyfish hurt and he said no. I also noticed that they were slightly rainbow-y around the outsides, so I asked about that too, and he said that if we go night snorkeling, you can see the jellyfish light up because they are bioluminescent! I may have to put aside my fear of the ocean and dark water to see this because I got giddy when I heard about this.
Also at dinner, we went out to a local place called Coco Plums. It was such a great experience because the food was GREAT…I ordered grilled fish. In the Bahamas, the entire fish is grilled so I had to be careful with the little bones and the whole fish head (I left that piece on the plate) but aside from the work picking through, it was extremely tasty. The whole family was there, with Avion, the man who owned the restaurant, his wife, and his three daughters. They were very friendly, and Kesley started dancing with the two youngest girls, and a few other girls, myself included, started learning some of the moves they do for their Junior Junkanoo competition, which will happen on January 28th. I wish we could stay longer to see this, but we are hoping to possibly catch a rehearsal of theirs! After dinner, the two girls were very much attached to Rosemarie and asked her to come back. Avion took some time to explain the Junkanoo, which was named after a man named John Canoe (similar sound). It is a parade and competition where different groups around the Bahamas come together and play music with choreographed dance routines and wear themed costumes. In his words, “It’s what it is to be a Bahamian.” I was blown away by his passion for the Junkanoo, and he said that eve his wife makes fun of him because when it comes time to get ready for the Junkanoo, he gets a natural high off it. I could relate to him because I feel the same way about the summer camp that I work at in New York called Camp Mark 7 for Kids of Deaf Adult/s (children with Deaf parent/s). The emotion that he was giving off when he spoke about the Junkanoo, sometimes not being able to find the right word to say about how important that event is, is the way that I feel about the camp. Then, his daughter wore the costume she made two days before the show, which was beautiful. So intricate, and he made her model it for us, and she was just as embarrassed as any other person would be when their parents put them on the spot. Then the two younger girls started joining in and doing the dance. Then Avion brought out some cowbells and gave us an example of how that keeps the beat, and his daughter played the goombay goatskin drum, so it felt like we were getting our own private show and I couldn’t help but ear up because you could see the genuine enjoyment of each person involved. I felt like they could have gone on for hours, and it seems like a rare thing to find in the states for someone to reach that mental state of flow, where time isn’t a concern.
There was one point in the night that stuck with me more than the rest. I’m not sure what it was about it, but it resonated with me a great deal. It was during a casual conversation that Avion had with someone sitting near me, where he brought out a type of hot sauce that him and his brother made 17 years ago. He said something along the lines of “You’re probably wondering how I do so many things. I’m a multi-tasker.” The next thing he said was the part that made me think the most, and I wrote it down on immediately so I wouldn’t forget on the only piece of paper that I could find, which was a postcard given to us by the family at the restaurant. He said, “Whatever Im blessed with, I do.” This really hit home for me, and I think this is something that everyone should think about because it is a perfect example of someone who recognized his love for food, music and the arts, and was able to set up a restaurant with his family, release a line of hot sauces with his brother, and spend every year dedicating his talents and creativity to the Junkanoo because he acknowledged his blessings and put them to use. Every person has their blessings, and I think we can all take a page out of Avion’s book with this one.