12 January 2012
From Caitlin and Cassidy:
Today started off in the dark…the DARK dark. We all woke up at 3:30am and John ( a wonderful volunteer here at VIERS) had gotten up at 3:00am (2:00am est) and made us all a “kick-ass” breakfast. We had cereal, bagels, yogurt, and ham and cheese English muffins. As you can tell, we have been treated very well down here. Then, at 4am, we sleepily shuffled into the cars and headed out of camp. We drove up to Salt Pond (about a five minute drive from VIERS) and parked. Then, in total silence, we hiked 2 miles to the top of Ram’s Head, guided only by moonlight. Ram’s Head ends with a cliff face that drops sharply off and into the ocean below. There we each sat, at 4:45 in the morning, and listened to the waves crashing and the wind blowing and, in the case of some, our iPods. We sat in silence and enjoyed nature’s beauty (and a short nap). The moon was beautiful and the stars were shining brightly. We could see for miles and miles on end. At about 6:30 the sun rise began. It started off with a gorgeous shade of pink. It the transformed into a rich orange intermixed with pink and blue. As the sun started to break the horizon, the whole landscape was bathed in rich,warm light and we could actually see the sun moving higher into the sky. The entire experience was one filled with beauty and silent awe…and, as can be seen by the picture below, the view wasn’t bad either.
After the mystifying experience on top of Ram’s Head, we hiked over to Drunk Bay, a tourist favorite. Drunk Bay is a rock beach full of coral rubble and smooth stones. The water is very choppy, however, so it isn’t really a place to snorkel, but it IS a place where you can let your artistic juices flow. The beach is covered in figures made from coral rubble that others before us had left behind…potentially while intoxicated, from the look of some of the statues. We left our own touches on the beach and then went and looked at the location where HOLLINS had been written with coral last year…and, to our amazement and surprise, it was still there! After visiting “HOLLINS”, we went back to building our figures. Caleb built a huge tower, which he builds every year, Caitlin constructed a horse our of coral, and Morgan built a dinosaur skeleton. For anyone who knows Morgan, you know that it was anatomically correct. Jessie used pieces of coconut shell and a large limb to make it look like she was walking over shark infested waters. We then constructed a new “HOLLINS” to show how much fun we had setting aside are scientific side, except for Morgan, and letting our artistic side shine a little bit.
After our fun on Drunk Bay, we piled back into the cars and drove over to a little place called Donkey Diner, which has won multiple awards for having the best breakfast food on any of the U.S. Virgin Islands. We now understand why. The food we ate at the Donkey Diner was superb (most of us ordered chocolate chip pancakes…) and we left the little restaurant feeling like we were going to implode from the amount of food we consumed.
We then headed back to VIERS. Once we had rested up from our long (and I mean LONG) morning, we went and collected trash along the beaches of both Little Lameshur and Great Lameshur. The total amount of trash we collected will be in the next post…we have one more trash collection, but the amount of trash thus far has been a bit staggering. After our collection, some of us headed out to snorkel in Great Lameshur. Great Lameshur is a good-sized reef with gorgeous views and thousands upon thousands of fish. Plus, it is just a short walk from VIERS which makes it a great place to head for an afternoon snorkel. While there, we saw TONS of amazing creatures, including a handsome Spotted Moray eel. Below is a picture that Renee took when it came out to see who was outside it’s door. We also saw a HUGE Great Barracuda having a late lunch on a huge feast of fish.
Later that evening, we joined up with the group from CUNY and filed into the VIERS pavilion for a presentation from the amazingly talented and native-born Ital Anthony. He greeted us warmly, introducing himself, and then began his talk. He first familiarized us with some of the plants of St. John and how the locals (as well as their ancestors) used them for a broad range of activities, from tea-making to healing urinary tract infections. He then passed out samples of a locally made cultural drink produced by the combining of several different plants and spices. It was DELICIOUS.
The second part of his lecture focused on the cultural arts and crafts that are hand-made on St. John as well as the dying culture of the island itself. He showed us many different objects he had made himself, from lively music sticks (a big hit with the crowd) to little wooden purses to beautiful paintings done on the seed pods of the Shak-Shak tree. He spoke of how the rich culture of St. John is being buried under the tourist trade and how the traditional art of basket-weaving is being quickly forgotten. The more he spoke, the higher the interest level among us rose.
Then came the “audience involvement” portion. Ital pulled out several music sticks and tambourines and passed them out among us before sitting down at his own drum. He began to beat the drum and sing and the more he played the more we all got involved, shaking our instruments, jumping up and dancing, laughing with each other, and volunteering for everything that he requested student (or professor) help for. The energy in the room was so positive and so uplifting, we could not help but dance! Ital even put us through confidence-building activities, such as making us sing “Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar” and making us yell in response when accused. By the end of the presentation, the whole room was alive with music and singing and dancing. Both groups had become one as we enjoyed each other’s company and celebrated life. We can easily say that it was the most fun we have had thus far on this trip…and that’s saying something. The presentation ended with a group-wide singing of “Lean On Me”, during which we all joined hands and sang as loud as we could muster. We all broke out into peals of applause and laughter as Ital stood up and thanked us, smiling from ear to ear. We then all made a point to purchase something of his to help support him and his quest to reestablish the culture of St. John. Needless to say, the night was full of fun, laughs, and bonding. We all enjoyed ourselves immensely. Thank you, Ital. You have brought us so much closer.
Well, that wraps up our day, and I would say it has been the best day we have had on St. John so far. We can’t wait for tomorrow and the adventures we have in store for us! So, until then, Hollins out.