Our St. John trip is passing really fast. I can’t believe that already 5 days on this beautiful island have passed. After the nice breakfast-Burrito we went to the beach and had a short but beautiful yoga session on the beach with view on the ocean. After that we directly went for a beautiful hike up a high mountain. It was very exhausting but also very fun. From time to time you got very nice views of the hiking-path onto the ocean and over the island. I thought that we would have a very nice view of the top of the mountain but the trail ended on a road, so we had to live with the view up the hiking trail. When we got back to camp the VIERS-Volunteers had a very nice lunch already prepared for us. Everybody ate a lot because we were very exhausted after this long hike. We had a long break after lunch because it was raining quite heavily, so we stayed in camp. But the rain stopped after an hour and we could get onto the beach, into the water. Some of us went out to snorkel, others went for some afternoon kayaking, like me. I enjoyed it very much to be on the water and just relax and get a little tan. But after 20 minutes on the water the sun hid behind a big cloud and the wind started to pick up again, so we had to return to the dock. We went back to camp for dinner. After dinner we talked in the classroom about what we did today, what we saw out in the water, and math; we also went over the schedule for tomorrow and it sounded very exciting. Overall it was a great day with a lot of action and walking around. The days are very exhausting and I think everybody enjoys the moment when they can go to bed and turn of the lights. I personally love it to sleep with the noise of nature around me. But sometimes one of the birds is too loud for me and I wake up during the night.
I really enjoy the stay and overall the environment and especially the warmth. I have not had time to get tan yet. I think this is a bad thing for me but it also shows how much work we are doing and how busy we are with all the opportunities and activities we are doing during the day.
~ Theophil Legat
As usual we woke up at 7AM to have a nice and delicious breakfast cooked by volunteers at VIERS. Then we had a relaxing yoga during which we learned from Mrs. D’Agostino the importance of breathing. On the meeting after yoga we were given the cards with some of the fish kinds that were very diverse. Today was the first day our group have visited the Marine lab right at the shore. We collected various types of St. John inhabitants, including the lionfish, black and red sea urchins, and fire worms! Tony, a man from VIERS talked about each creature separately; he told us that ocean species from the same group usually have something in common. For instance, we compared starfish and sea cucumber, looked for similarities between them and considered them not connected. After that Tony walked us through the laboratory, and explained how everything works there.
For lunch we came prepared for the departure to snorkel near the mangroves, year-long green trees with long roots growing in the salt water. To get there we took a safari taxi, an open van where we all could fit. Snorkeling along the mangroves was a unique opportunity; some of us have even seen barracudas. Our next stop was at the beach, where we also observed the diversity of ocean inhabitants.
For dinner we went to a restaurant, where we had burgers and homemade ice cream. As soon as we finished, we went shopping in local souvenir shops.
All in all, today we focused on the diversity of marine inhabitants and could observe this variety in person.
~Kate Tatarkina & Anna Narzibekova
Today was my first time trying snorkeling. The beach was really beautiful, and I really enjoyed snorkeling in the ocean. I still remember when I first tried to put on the mask: I felt so nervous because the pipe was too short and I was so afraid that the water was going to get into my mouth through the tube. But, after I told my team leader Jack about my worry, he told me, “Frank, trust me, it’s going to be fine.” I tried and then I failed. The seawater was so salty, and tasted so bad. After millions of tries, finally I made it. I tried to go deeper and deeper, and the view was getting better and better. I took out my lovely IP6WP (IPhone 6 with water proof case) and started to take selfies under the water with seaweed and then I saw Gianna was swimming next to me and I asked her to take an underwater selfie with me. After the water got deeper and deeper, I saw lots of Sea Urchins (My best friend). I don’t know why they’d put some weird clothes on, but I could tell that they were my best friend, Uni. I don’t know why they were trying to pretend they didn’t know me and protect themselves, and that’s why I wrote a letter to them.
Dear Sea Urchin,
I feel we are so close but so far. We are so close because I just saw you under the ocean this afternoon. We are so far because you have been protected, I can’t put you in my mouth.
The smell of French Toast at the breakfast woke us up in the morning, along with Stephanie’s birthday papaya. Today’s a big day for the scuba divers. I’ve been waiting for the scuba day since we got to St. John. However, the yoga after breakfast is still one of my favorite parts of this trip. We got to try some meditative unbelievable yoga poses like forearm stand (pincha-mirasanah) and pendulum. We spent the rest of the morning enjoying passion fruits and coconut from the trees and packing dive gears. A few of us gained some community service hours by helping VIERS.
After lunch, we hopped on the two dive boats from the dock. The boats stopped at the spot of the Tektite. In front of us was a wide-open mountain cliff. The ocean was aqua blue and crystal clear as always. The scuba divers were excited and ready to go after setting up our tanks and BCDs. It felt good to be able to breath underwater again. Also, we finally got a closer observation of the coral reef in St. John after dozen times of snorkeling. The coral reefs are growing back after the coral bleaching and disease events in 2005 and 2006. Soft corals, sponges, algae were abundant in that area. We went down to around 30ft. Some jacks, wrasses, trunkfish, squirrelfish and other kinds of fish were easily discovered. I even saw some sea walnuts (jellyfish) in the water. Our instructor pointed out a massive chain moray with its mouth open hiding in the cave. It creeped us out a little bit. There was a blue-purple anemone looks like a nudibranch drawing my attention away. The whole team got a opportunity to see the Tektite T-shape platform. We dived through a few narrow tunnels on the second dive. Scuba allows us to swim between the reefs. I personally felt like a part of the ocean. We saw a lot more gorgonians and Flamingo Tongues (mollusk). A trumpetfish about 2 feet long was wandering on the bottom. In the end, the dive instructor instructed me to do some buoyancy performances on the bottom like headstand and back flipping. The whole diving process was a pleasure and enjoyable. The snorkel group saw some squids on the surface that we couldn’t see. We also saw a sea turtle when we got back to the boat.
The night snorkel and bonfire started after dinner. The night snorkel group was able to see a baby octopus, squat lobsters, a huge stingray, and porcupine fish, even though the water was murky. The rest were enjoying the marshmallows at the bonfire. Guessing everyone was tired afterwards.
Today was the third day on Field Academy but the second day at VIERS. We woke up at 7 am and went to breakfast for pancakes. After our first breakfast in the jungle we headed over to the green pavilion to do some yoga with Mrs. D’Agostino. Having a relaxed and fresh mind after traveling the other day allowed us to be ready for today. Tony then led us around the camp. He taught us how the camp works with water and electricity. He explained how the water was purified before we were able to drink it. After that we took a hike to Yawzi point. After taking loads of pictures, we headed back to camp to have lunch and get ready for the beach. While snorkeling in Small Lameshur Bay we saw parrotfish, stingrays, squid, small colorful fish, sea urchins, and lots of different types of coral. After the long and tiring day of snorkeling and hiking, we spent two hours listening to Mr. Devine teach us about the patterns of the islands and its beaches. Overall today was a very interesting and fun day for all of us. The snorkeling and learning about the islands and took a lot out of us today and left us tired and ready for bed.
~ Tali and Mendi
Today was already the second day of the Field Academy. In the early morning, we had a flight to Saint Thomas Island and it was the most interesting landing that I’ve ever seen. We were so close to the water, and I felt that we were going to crash into the water! However at the last second the land appeared under the plane. Then we got a “safari” taxi that did not have any windows or doors; it only had a cover from the sun. By the “safari” taxi we got to the ferry station. By the ferry we went to Saint John Island. It was extremely windy! After that, we took the “safari” taxi again, but the second time was much interesting. Also, it was much funnier, because one of the students had brought the speaker and we were listening to music. We were ascending that hills over and over, and there were amazing views! Then, finally we came to VIERS and moved into our cabins. We went to the beach that was very close to our camp. It was like a paradise! The water was clear and warm. Amazing! Everybody then had free time and had dinner. During the dinner, Dr. Szczepanski found a new friend in the canteen, called Sebastian. It is a lizard. By the way, it is still here.
So, today was very interesting day. We learned something new, got closer with the other students during the trip. Also, it was amazing to swim in the sea, in the warm weather, especially coming from winter. When we had a first meeting in the school, I expected that we would be more difficult living conditions. However, now I like the place where I am. It is like a paradise!