Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Steps to Little Cayman

My trip is winding down, so I thought I would take this time to think about all the things that have happened on this trip and what’s important.

One. Always put on sunscreen, and reapply, even if you’ve already done it 4 times.

I was out for my research project for the 5th time one day and was constantly faced down snorkeling in the water. I finally get out and one of my professor’s daughters sees me and asks, “Do you need aloe? That looks like it hurts.” I went upstairs and looked in the mirror. My back was incredibly red, AND even worse I decided to wear a one piece that day. I’m still trying to get rid of the terrible tan lines.

Two. Always put on bug spray. Get over the nasty sticky feeling, the gross smell, the stinging on previous bug bites.

And always apply on your ankles...Even though some nights aren’t bad, they still find a way. Some mosquitoes are large and obvious, others small and annoying. I currently have open wounds all over my legs….

Three: Your hair never looks good and your feet always have sand on them.
You’re on a beach, get over it?

Four: Think about your project. I’ve been working on my project, alone, and to complete it in only about the week time we have left of the course, it’s somewhat overwhelming.

Five: You’re going to have to open up some fish, get used to the smell. Lionfish to be exact. The invasive species. Here on Little Cayman, CCMI goes on a spear fishing day every week to spear them. As one of our classes we got to dissect them, take out their stomachs, and see what they ate. It was pretty entertaining.

Six: Don’t ask about the sea urchins.

One of my project sites is in a huge patch where sea urchins love to chill. They are bio eroders, which means they erode the sediment around them and stay there during the day and come out during the night to feed. I have to walk over all of these caverns and I’m terrified of stepping on one (even in think soled booties).

So I asked my professor, “What do I do if I step on a sea urchin?” His response was “You don’t”…helpful right? gets better
I asked one of the other students, Ally (also a blogger) and she replied “I think you have to sit and wait until the spines dissolve”.
I ask my one professors daughter and she says “you get sent to the nurse”. (there is no dr. on Little Cayman).

I still had no idea of what to do if I stepped on one, so I goggled it. :D
My professor was right, you just don’t step on one…haha

Seven: Stay in touch with reality. After a few days here, it starts to feel like a month. You get used to the heat, the sunburn, the bug bites, the lack of air condition, etc so on. But you start to go crazy. This isn’t something you can be prepared for, it just kind of happens. Nor can I explain it.

Eight: Fight your fears. During our dives I usually never end up seeing much until someone points it out to me. On our 5th or so dive I was looking out to the large ocean, while I was supposed to be doing a point fish count (oops), and see a shark. Instead of being freaked out, I got excited.

A few days later, I was out in the shallow area behind CCMI (the research center I’m staying at) alone, and started to panic that I was going to be attacked by a shark. I suggest you don’t panic, and just get over it. Fear is annoying like that.

Nine: Be ready for anything. Literally. On the town, in the water, during research. I almost lost my entire project due to the excessive waviness of the ocean (it hadn’t been wavy previous days). Quick thinking and calmness is essential.

Ten: Realize everything is a lot smaller than you. This island is so small, and although I knew it was only 150so residents, it’s smaller than I thought. The resorts don’t even look like resorts, and there are only like 2 houses per few miles. Although it’s gorgeous and different, I don’t know how long I could stay here for. The plane is also very claustrophobic. Haha.

Eleven: Don’t play with fire.

One of the grad students that had been here for a few months was going home, and there was a party thrown for her. The party was very low key although the whole island was literally invited. At about 10 or 11 someone just walks out to an opening outside and lights these batons on fire and starts to twirl them around like crazy. It was awesome and I wasn’t expecting it. He wasn’t burned, but he did drop it a few times.

Twelve: The best form of transportation is probably bike. Although we have a van for all ten students, sometimes it sounds like it’s not going to start, and there is no air conditioning. When riding in the back of a truck for a shore dive, you get wacked in the head with a big tree branch. When riding bikes you get to save hermit crabs crossing the road, stop wherever you want, drive on the right side of the road, (even though here the proper side is the left), and exercise.

Thirteen: Diving is amazing. Although the water is amazing from the top, with all the different color blues, and the water spraying your face, the dive is even better. It’s where you get to see those blues come to life. Pictures can’t even describe how small and insignificant you feel when you are already 50 ft down, but the coral reef wall just plummets beneath you. It’s a completely different world; it’s scary sometimes, but well worth it.

Fourteen: You can party hard

Fifteen: but not too hard.

I just turned 21, and although the drinking age is 18 here, it is still awesome to drink legally. But by the end of a long week and a long night sometimes you’re just exhausted. I’ve had more fun here than in NJ and the best part is the culture and what they expect and how the people here treat you. Its fun, exciting, not quite new, but different.
And at the end of the day, we can’t forget all the work we have to do.

And well….Sixteen: It is gorgeous here, and even though every day is simple (I looked at a TV the other day and was so confused), the simplicity is what makes this trip special. Well, we are always busy, always wait for the lunch and dinner bell, and get excited to go to bed, but for the most part life is simple here. Just crazy. I am learning more than I thought I would and I’ll probably take more out of this 2 and half week course than I would from a whole semester sitting in a classroom.

Piecein’ out, its time for some project powerpoint work.

Well…I do have 6 more days….maybe it can wait? You’ll never know.

ps. i had pictures...but internet in little cayman is apparently not to excited about this endevour. Apologies. I'll update it another time!

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