Location: Terre-de-Haut, Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe
This morning began earlier for some than others as Stephanie, Josh, Wallace, Mattile, Alex, Tommy, Mark, and myself ventured to the top of Terre-de-Haut for sunrise. The way up, fast and concrete, was only 40 mins with goats and increasing light greeting us. For the most part, we hiked together, reaching the top to perch on a smooth rock formation, no doubt worn down by many a sunrise hiker and previous Sea|mester students. This is a favorite of mine, having now done the hike three times and in all three seasons that Sea|mester vessels Argo or Ocean Star visit: Spring, Summer, Fall.
At the top is a building that continues to mystify me. It surely is colonial in style, but its thick stone structure gives it the feel of a World War bunker. To add to the mystery, the slits in the upper-level walls have a British medieval castle feel, as if we should be shooting arrows out from our defensive position. Scratchings in the walls show many recent dates, but also one from 1888 beautifully carved and only made more confusing by the modern skimmed wall and door that probably protects the entrance to the top level, where you can see modern-day communication equipment in place. Our return down the opposite side from where we came is vastly contrasting. Boulders give you a vantage point over Ocean Star at anchor, and the cry of “I can see my home from here” was no doubt inspired by the breakfast stomach rumblings. Passing more goats and hermit crabs on the way down, we returned to meet the rest of the crew and breakfast all laid out.
Pain de chocolat, croissants, and bread baked that morning was collected by Marina and Eric after dropping us off ashore for the full French breakfast experience, much to the delight of my fellow European born Josh. I shared my previously bought coffee from another French Caribbean island, St Barth, with my brew buddies Alex and Peter, and as skipper of the day and Captain of the vessel delivered a poignant reminder: 43,200 minutes; 720 hours; 30 DAYS! This is all that is left before your son, daughter, sibling, or friend will leave Ocean Star, returning to you have experienced so much. While this could be seen as a sad moment as the trip is advancing towards the end, it is also an important reminder for everyone on board to get done what you came here to achieve, Carpe Diem; Sea’s the Day! (puns always purposefully intended).
Fun diving ensued once Marine Biology class provided us with more information on coral reef formation, and with our invigorated knowledge and ever-increasing diving confidence, it is great to see these land-lubbing, non-divers at one with the underwater world. This familiarity is also helping us quickly achieve all the learning points of the PADI Rescue Diver course that continued this afternoon with search patterns and underwater approaches to panicked or unresponsive divers. This evening the Emergency First Responder class begins another PADI Rescue Diver course component but also available to everyone on board.
This may sound like a busy day because it is, there is no denying that. But when you are in a place with so much to do, with people who you may never live with again, you have to live in the present, work hard at the moment, and get it all done. It is through this shared effort and togetherness that close bonds and understandings are formed; a point I reinforced when teaching a class on Understanding Culture this afternoon. As much as agreements, policies, and role modeling has tried to shape the trip and its students, it is the real people and personalities that have drawn us closer around our sometimes very unique to us subjects.