We can’t believe it’s been almost a week since we ended our J-term semester as interns for With the Winds. After taking some time to settle in back home, we’d like to update you all on our incredible experience. While we were in the Caribbean we visited the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barts, and the US Virgin Islands. Neither of us had ever been to any of these locations, so it was a great opportunity to explore unfamiliar places. Henry and Grant quickly got us on board with all three projects of water sampling, beach clean ups, and the shark catch and release program. We loved getting to take part in all of them, but had a really hard time putting the tinfoil on the cap of the water sample! We also helped out with the filming of the documentary. By the end of the trip we had hang of everything, even the sailing – sort of. We eventually discovered on one of the last days that the line controlling the downward force on the boom is called the vang, not the bang. Oh, and not to detach from a mooring until the engine is started! Despite these minor speed bumps, we hope our efforts were found to be useful. Being a part of With the Winds gave us the unique opportunity to dedicate a chunk of time focusing on a single goal, which was a nice change of pace coming from college where our attention is always divided among numerous commitments.
Over the course of our stay with Henry and Grant, we developed an appreciation for just how much work goes into a project like this. For example, we learned that tagging sharks doesn’t mean just going out and getting one your first try, but spending night after night with rods in the water, patiently waiting to find a shark big enough to tag. In addition, we were able to see firsthand just how much trash is overtaking the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, and understand the enormity of the problem. The beach cleanups are a great way to get accurate measurement of what types of trash are where, which provides valuable insight into the severity of the problem. We admire the three projects that Henry and Grant have taken on. Their dedication and passion for environmental conservation is genuine, and it was truly inspiring to watch their goals come to fruition first hand.
In addition to helping about with Henry and Grant’s tasks, we decided to do some investigating of our own while on the islands. Both of us being Sociology/Anthropology majors, we became really interested in the “local” culture and people’s relationship to the environment surrounding them. We embarked upon an oral history project, collecting stories of various people on the islands. At first it was difficult to approach a complete stranger and make the meaningful connection necessary to discover people’s (sometimes very personal!) stories. We found that there is definitely an art to starting and holding conversation with someone you don’t know. At school and in our day-to-day lives, it is easy to mask discomfort with an iPhone and allow the screen to disseminate any feelings of awkwardness. We found that pushing outside of our comfort zones meant being persistent through the unease, and we were definitely rewarded. We heard stories of shipwrecks, adopted dogs, love, unfortunate jobs, and boat troubles. We laughed over croissants and smoothies at not being able to understand thick Turkish accents. We kept watch with a security guard on duty. We sang karaoke in a local dive bar. We ate “the best Chinese in the Caribbean”. With their consent, we took portraits our new acquaintances, which were our attempt to capture their personality and the stories they were telling. We hope to share some of the stories with their respective portraits with you in the future when we can get the photos from Grant. Good WiFi is really hard to come by in the Caribbean, which can be both a blessing and a curse!
We would like to thank everyone who made this trip possible for us, namely the Middlebury CCCS Fund. We would also like to thank Henry and Grant once again. Their patience and passion above all else made the trip an unforgettable experience.
-Lizzy and Kerry