Day 11- Community Service at VIERS and Kayaking

Drip…. drip….. drip…. We woke up to the sound of the rain. Some were unpleased to wake up to the sound of rain because all the clothes that where hung up to dry where bound to get wet, but most where pleased because they remembered the importance of rain to this dry habitat. Rain holds much more than a source of water, it serves a vital purpose in the daily lives of not only the islands, but the visitors of VIERS. After waking up in a panic to get our clothes out of the rain we ate nutritious breakfast burritos and native, organic fresh-cut fruit. This was the perfect start to our morning which was followed by daily yoga to provide balance to our busy island lives.

After the daily yoga session, we paid our tribute to the community of St. John USVI by helping out in the VIERS camp. We cleared a field from rocks, racked leaves, cleaned the café an roads. The bell rung for lunch. We rushed into the kitchen to get our delicious ham and cheese sandwiches. After lunch we had some free time.

Some decided to break down their wall of insecurity and go kayaking, while others relaxed on the beach. Both activities were disrupted by the love/hate rain of the Virgin Islands. As we gathered back to the campgrounds from our day excursions we found common ground in the smell of food which was waiting for us for dinner. We enjoyed delicious chicken, home-grown potatoes, and a few vegan delights. After filling our bellies with nutritious food gathered and grown for our mother—earth, we scurried to the classroom to hear an important message.

~ Nevia and Fei

Observing Marine Life- Snorkeling off the Boat

RIMG0213We went on the boat Low Key to snorkel. I wasn’t feeling I want to go into the water today but Mr. Dagostino convinced me that today is the last chance we are going to do the snorkel, maybe should take the gear with you, so you can decide when you get on the boat. So I got my snorkel gear with me and got on the boat. There was a distance covered by water between the shore and boat, so I was half wet when I got on the boat. Therefore, I decided to go into the water.

When we arrived in the middle of the sea, everyone were in the water already, but I was still struggling about going in the water or not. Then I decided to swim around the boat, and snorkel without the fins, and it was actually pretty fun.

We went to next spot; the water was so clear and the weather was so good. I did the same thing, but I got into the water at the right moment this time, I saw a sea turtle, and I follow it until it swam faraway. I felt it was worth to go into water.

— Chenhong Lu& John Liou

Ram’s Head and Salt Pond Bay, Traditional Dance and Drumming

On the 8th day of M-term, we started off with yoga at the green pavilion. Then we were sent out to pack our lunches for our day at Salt Pond Bay. Some people packed 2 sandwiches and some packed 1. Eisei and I were really hungry so we packed 2 sandwiches, 2 cookies, 3 bags of chips, and a bag of fruits. After that, we proceed to go on Hamilton’s taxi and we went to the Salt Pond Bay. On the way to Ram head, we saw two big rocky sides of the mountains and it turns out to be a fault line. A fault line is when two tectonic plates of the Earth meet. After we got there, we were in a shrubland environment. It was a really nice hike and we enjoyed it a lot.

20150303_10122820150303_104454Next, we went on another hike to Drunk Bay named after drowned sailors. At Drunk Bay, people leave coral figures and a big heart made of rope to make a mark about the memories they had in there. We tried to make a cool picture on the rocks where the waves hit them but we never had the right timing. It was a magnificent place there we have been to.

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At night, Ital came over to VIERS and taught us how to dance and sing native Virgin Islands songs with native instruments. He also showed us his arts and crafts made by plant seeds and calabash. We had so much fun today, singing and dancing all together. We danced to folk tunes and Ital’s own tunes. We danced to the beat of the drums and the traditional instruments that he had with him.

~ Michelle and Eisei

Day Seven- Waterlemon Cay, The Sugarmill Ruins and Marine Life

We started off our day with optional yoga after breakfast outside. Shortly after yoga we packed our own lunches, gathered our scuba gear, and walked past Little Lameshur Bay to check out the ruins. It seemed to be the hottest morning so far and all of us were ready to swim. Before we could snorkel we went to see the Annanberg Sugar Mill Plantation. We soaked in the sun as we walked around the historical and self-guided ruins. Most of us were so thrilled to snorkel Waterlemon Cay it was difficult to pay attention to complete the tour. After the ruins we began walking on paths along the beach to go to Waterlemon Cay. From the beach we could see Tortola, Jos Van Dyke, Mary Point, The British Virgin Islands, and even a few smaller islands; the view was absolutely phenomenal. After a half an hour or so we reached the point we intended to place our stuff and swim off of. We split up into our four groups and began snorkeling towards the island one group at a time. On the way towards the island the most memorable organisms included a trumpet fish, some really large rainbow parrotfish, massive sea urchins (in comparison to the other ones we have seen so far), and an unusually colored Nudibranch. Going towards the island was a little rough for some due to the current and minor mask malfunctions, but nobody had problems going around the island with the current working with us rather than against us. This was definitely one of the better snorkel excursions so far on this trip. Not to mention the walk along the beach was pleasant with fascinating birds that I have never seen before. When we arrived back at VIERS we quickly regrouped and most of us went back to Little Lameshur to swim, tan, and catch the sunset. We stayed for an hour and witnessed the lovely sunset until we had to return for dinner. We then got some free time to relax; it was the perfect way to end our day.

~ Evi Kaasik-Saunders

Day Six- Hiking, Kayaking & Snorkeling

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

The Marine Lab At Greater Lameshure Bay

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.

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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

An Ode to the Sea Urchan

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.

Day 10- Scuba and Snorkeling at Tektite

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.

~Shanshan He

Here at the Virgin Island Eco Resource Station (VIERS)

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