You cannot forget the first time you look up from the ocean floor and see your bubbles rising quickly to meet the surface. Even though waves and currents affect the surface seen from land, from below, it is a humongous mass of water, which is unhindered by anything but its own ebb and flow. It is surely frightening to be so far removed from the air you are accustomed to breathing, but after a few deep breaths through your tank, you can calm down and start to realize how incredible it is that you are thirty feet underwater.
Today was the first day that we really focused on developing our sense of place here on Eleuthera. One of the “three pillars” here at the Island School is sense of place, and this week during orientation we are focusing on establishing that. Students were divided into K1, K2, K3, and K4 groups that would determine their schedules during orientation week, and throughout the whole week the final goal was to establish sense of place through land, sea surface, and under water. Each day, each group embarks on a different journey in hopes that they will familiarize themselves with the land and the people.
K1 and K2 would spend the next two days focusing solely on scuba diving certification, which aimed to familiarize the students with the ocean and the different species we will study in the coming weeks. To those who have never dived before, it is an incredible experience to view an entirely different world, to forget what land feels like, and to be able to stay underwater longer than you can hold your breath. All of the students, from those who have been already been certified, to those who have spend little time in water, let alone under it, have taken the challenges in stride and have had a great time getting to explore an unfamiliar place.
K3 embarked on their first down-island trip to visit different spots on South Eleuthera, stopping at different settlements to learn about each one along the way. On their journey, they visited a beach in Deep Creek where they snorkeled and saw a lot of fish and even a few sting rays, they walked through caves that were the home to hundreds of bats, they shopped at a local market, they jumped into “Ocean Hole” in Rock Sound, and they finished off their journey with a local favorite “Papaya cups” that was a delicious popsicle like treat made from fresh local papayas.
K4 set out on a journey to get to know the water from the surface, on a kayaking trip. They went all around Eleuthera, stopping at different beaches, and practicing new skills they would need for their longer kayaking trips in the future. One of the guides, Nick, helped the students build a fire on the beach and rumor has it some students managed to make quesadillas with the fire. All of the students are looking forward to the days to come during orientation.
Your caciques of the day,
Kate Grossman and Will Ryan