Location: Moorea

You may have thought I had written my last blog. SIIIIIKE! Today I was the bread maker, and Matt was skipper, but Matt loves making bread (special shoutout to Sugie’s sticky buns and their namesake Sugie for teaching him). I looooove being skipper, from waking everyone up in the morning to a captive audience at dinner and squeeze to the widely extended audience of the blog! So we switched jobs, a lucrative black market that operates onboard (I think William has been bosun about 16 times now, far exceeding his prescribed 3-wheel rotations)

Day 87 began in this beautiful anchorage in Moorea, where I set an alarm to wake up and swim at sunrise (I pressed snooze because we’re all human, but tomorrow I’ll give it another go). Elise graced us with french toast breakfast but had the additional challenge (think cutthroat kitchen finale episode) of having no eggs at her disposal. I’m confident she would’ve beaten whichever fedora-donning competitor she would’ve faced on the food channel (seriously, food competition guys are always rocking a funky hat), as her french toast bread pudding was a HIT. Then the students were off on an island tour of Moorea, where a tour guide showed them rainforests and reefs, lookouts, and postcard-worthy beaches, but they most enjoyed his jokes and fun facts. After the tour concluded, students had free time, and from what I hear, many spent it relaxing on the beach and swimming around some of the lovely water and reef here. Even at the gas station dock, we’ve been doing drop-offs at, which theoretically should be a pretty dodgy area pollution-wise, there’s a resident shark that swims around! I first learned of this shark’s existence when Drew sent a video of it in the staff group chat, where he kindly forgot to mute his own reaction, which was, “Wooooooooooow so beautiful! Check out this guy woOAah! Look at him go! Weooooow this is sick man, he’s so lovely”. Skye, if you’re reading, ask him for a copy. Not only does the dock have a resident shark, but also a dock puppy, which runs down the dock anytime a boat pulls up and is the cutest thing ever – he is featured in the blog photos from a few days back.

I bet you’re on the edge of your seats, wondering what I got up to today. I spent the morning writing cards (the only tradition better than squeeze, which is high praise from me — where we each write a card to each other person on board, each staff and student, detailing everything from crazy memories and funny stories to getting the rare opportunity to let each other know what we’ve come to mean to each other over these past 90 days) and also grading Leadership final essays, which are essentially a reflection by each student of how they’ve grown and changed during their time on Vela and how they want those changes to carry over into their life at home. The overwhelming feeling from these essays is that each student has changed more than they could’ve ever hoped to at the precipice of this adventure – but they say it better than I ever could. With their permission, I want to anonymously share some quotes of how students feel this experience has changed them because it made my day to read.

“I now have a fuller understanding of the depth and complexity that each person has within them.”

“Not only do I have a deeper understanding of myself and how I want to lead my life, but I am now able to understand what sort of relationships I want to have and how transformative these bonds can be.”

“While Vela has challenged me in ways I couldn’t have imagined, I had gained an inner strength that I didn’t have – or didn’t know I had – before I stepped onto Vela.”

“I have grown in ways I cannot begin to imagine and have shared moments with people that past me would not believe to be true.”

“As we come upon the last days of this trip, I am not ready to turn this page in my life; in fact, I believe this is a page that will never be turned. My Seamester experience is far from over; the stories of friendships, adventure, and self-growth live beyond the 90 days that define this trip. As long as I cherish the memories I have made onboard Vela, my experience will only continue to grow because I will be able to reflect back on these moments in different ways and in different contexts.”

Steph, Dylan, and I had a delicious lunch at a local restaurant and then decided we’d not interacted with dirt or grass in far too long. All around us are lush mountainous (maybe more accurately volcanic) hills, taunting us to take a hike! We wandered up a random dirt road that headed up to the mountains, stopping to take photos of many a gorgeous view along the way, noting how crazy it was that this “hike” would not grace the ranks in any trip advisor catalog or online travel forum as it was just someone’s driveway — someone’s daily routine, its beauty dulled by habituation, and whether our mundane (the neon glow of a Target for example) would cause more of a stir in the driveway’s inhabitants simply due to its foreign nature. At the top of the hill, a man with a weedwhacker emerged from the bushes. You may be thinking, “Uh oh, new age Freddie Kreuger.” But this man was probably one of the cooler people I’d ever crossed paths with (the path in question being his driveway, us debatably trespassers). He was a builder, building custom frame houses in a line next to a sprawling garden that he tended to, which contained the many beehives that he kept. He spoke about how he has an incubator for chicks, using the phrase “I make my own chickens,” — but he is right in saying that — he told us that the wild chickens in Moorea don’t regularly lay eggs, but US chickens do – so he got a few US chickens but then began breeding them with Moorean chickens to see if he could have a hybrid chicken that laid decent eggs. He then spoke about how recent interest in Moorea from international visitors and corporations has changed their lifestyles considerably – citing that everything had to become faster to become more profitable, and as a result, more chemicals have been introduced to previously natural processes – to speed up pineapple growth, etc. and how this has changed the once cartoon-like bright colored coral into an ocean, he mourns as he interacts with it. He said that Polynesians in Moorea has drifted away from the ideals and idolized the lifestyles of their ancestors, wanting instead to emulate Western economic powerhouses in order to have more comfortable lifestyles. Anyway, not every day that you run into the wise man on the mountain – still unsure if he was a figment of our imagination.

We got back to the boat, and (I know you’ve been worried) I got to sunset swim with Skyler, Magdi, Gabby, Ben, and others which was a perfect end to the day. Elise made us beef stir fry – technically, Tops’ Stir Fry was the title, as after an unfortunate ear defender – headlamp combo, I nicknamed Elise triceratops on watch, which has now been shortened to Tops. Another one to add to the student nickname repertoire, where I am now sporting Troll, Hog, and Tops (all endearingly).

Good night.