Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Octopus sighting!!

On Saturday we went diving off of a boat. We motored out to Klein Bonaire, a small island that is marine sanctuary and is completly protected by the marine park. This was a very new experience for many of us; we had to get all of our gear on during the ride and once we got there we grabbed a mooring and did the backwards roll technique into the water-this consits of sitting on the edge ad pretty much falling backwards. It was pretty windy and fairly choppy so it was pretty difficult to swim on the surface but once we we underwater it was perfect. The visibility wasn't so good at the beginning but in improved as the dive went on (everyone says that the rainy season does that to the water so it should improve all around over the next few weeks). At Klein I got to see a lot of new things that we haven't seen at our other site we've been going to. We also went deeper than we have before! We were at 54 feet for 55 minutes, but the time goes by so fast. I saw a lot of new fish and tons of new kinds of coral. The purpose of going to this particular site off the island was to learn about diseases and algae and we definitely found a lot of that. Its kind of sad to see the bad shape that some of the reefs are in. There was a lot of dead coral and even some bleaching which is caused by stress from climate changes.Although it was sad to see it was definitely a learning experience!

Sunday was our first day off! It was so nice to be able to relax and sleep in. We all took a trip to the grocery store to buy breakfast food and snacks. Then we spent the rest of the day swimming and snorkeling, laying in the sun, and doing a little homework once it was past tanning time. I saw an octopus for the first time!! It was just a little guy but still really cool. He was all curled up on the bottom and looked like a rock until he swam and all his legs were out, it was really neat!

Monday-back to class. We started our morning off by walking into town to join a group of nature activists in a silent protest/march. The government here is trying to put in 5 new piers to allow for more shipping. A lot of large boats stop here for fuel and to get loaded up with goods from around this area (not only Bonaire) before they head over seas. The problem with the piers is that they're going to go right on top of coral reefs- not only is this terrible of the animals but also tourism is the largest industry here so depleting the wildlife will eventually decrease their tourism economy. These are both things the government is apparently overlooking. So anyway we joined a group of about 50 people, surprisingly most of them were over 40. Some were tourists but mostly residents. There were very few young people besides us students and there were few local Bonairians which I also found surprising. I enjoyed learning about some current events going on here and being part of something important like that.

This week we're finishing up some rescue courses and emergency first response courses. By the end we'll be CPR certified and be able to rescue divers from the bottom and the surface. We're also starting to talk about our independent research projects-more to come on that!

Off to the water and the sun!! :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

5 Dives Deep

So we've been here 5 days and we all have 5 dives under our belts; on Wednesday we did 3 dives alone. For our class we have a list of about 40 fish we need to be able to identify. We all got a laminated sheets that we can bring underwater with us. I started learning the fish on Monday and by Wednesday's first dive I was able to recognize almost every fish I saw! The interns that live with us, who are also teaching assistants for our classes, help us come up with fun ways to remember the fish names. For example, a juvenile Princess Parrot fish is brown with white stripes, it looks exactly like a juvenile Stripped Parrotfish but 'Princesses don't have snotty noses', the striped ones have a little bit of yellow on its nose. Or, there is a fish called a Rock Hind, it is yellow with 'a black rock on its hiney!'. During the last dive yesterday we had an underwater quiz. Our instructor pointed to a fish and we had to write down what kind it was. We use "underwater slates" which is a piece of white plastic and we write with special pencils. I think that was the best quiz I've ever taken!

Throughout the week we are slowly being introduced to all of our classes and going over sylubus' and expectations. I will be taking:
-Advanced Scuba
-Marine Ecology Field Research Methods
-Coral Reef Ecology
-Tropical Marine Ecology Conservation
-Culture and History of Bonaire
-Independent Research
Its kind of overwhelming to hear about all the classes but they all sound very interesting so far so hopefully that will be motivation enough to keep me excited! Also, each one has field trips involved almost every week, new dive sites, trips to different locations around the island and interesting labs involved. In our culture class we are learning Papiamento, that is the main language here along with Dutch and English. Its a lot like Spanish.

I haven't taken too many picturesyet because its been rainy. Hopefully that will be ending this week and I'll get some up here soon!

Here is one from the CIEE Bonaire Facebook page of me after a dive this week!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

24 Hours Later..

Friday I woke up in Maine, Saturday I woke up in Atlanta and today I woke up in Bonaire.
I arrived around 5pm yesterday. 7 of the other students had already arrived in the early morning. They had a day of exploring and swimming. The other 6 had delayed and even cancelled flights.
I was able to unpack and just hangout until dinner..which was deliciously catered by our cook. After dinner we played trivia and then we walked into town to a very cool bar on a dock. We were all exhausted from traveling so we all only got one drink...we call them baby beers because they're 9 ounces and very cute, they only cost $3.
Today we're still waiting for some kids to get here, I think we'll go snorkeling and spend some time in the sun (don't worry mom I'll wear sunscreen).

Here are a few pictures of my new home for the next 104 days!

My house

My room


Our 10ft wall with barbbed wire and glass bottles on top. My room is throught that archway.

Our kitchen/living room

And another sitting area

Off to the beach :)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why Go Abroad?

I'm sitting here in Kennebunk Maine, 25 degrees and snowing, the night before I begin my adventure, thinking about why I did decide to spend three and a half months in a county I know nothing about, with people I have never met, for an extended amount of time, learning about things I'm not 100% sure I'm interested--I feel like a crazy person! My answer truly is, why not?

Throughout my early college years it was never really a question of should I study abroad? But more of, where should I go? According to pretty much everyone who has spent a semester away, studying somewhere, anywhere, is a fantastic experience (a short version of many longwhinded explanations). So, I figured it is something I should take advantage of. I do not think that I will ever again in my life have this much time to spend in another country without any major responsibilities. I am already paying a normal semester of college tuition, I may as well do something different while I am given the chance.

So, why am I going to Kralendjick Bonaire?? This was the hardest decision I've made in a long time. I thought long and hard about what type of abroad experience I wanted to have. My main reasoning for choosing and work intensive marine biology program is because of my interests and desired career path. I have aways been into biology, hence my major, with a particular interest in the ocean. I love animals and being around the water. I knew "the world was my oyster" and I could literally choose to go anywhere in the world but I figured I should try and get the most out of the next three months. I am hoping that this experience will help me decide if marine biology is really the field I want to go into. I love studying biology at St. Mike's in Vermont, but I wanted to go farther and really explore something I think I could get involved in for the rest of my life.

So, why not go abroad, why not completely jump into (literally) my biggest interest?

Here goes nothing!

I thought I'd spare some of you the Google search asking where Bonaire is. 3-7 miles wide, 24 miles long