Location: West End, Tortola
After an eventful morning of poop clouds and a deepened appreciation for our wonderful Skipper, Gwen, we headed back to our home base in West End, Tortola. Here, we began our first Mangrove Monitoring activity. Here in West End where the eye of Hurricane Irma ripped through the landscape and left the worst damage in all of the BVI’s, little was there to monitor which was shocking because of the resilience and root strength of Mangroves. But, along with the monitoring of the past planted Mangroves, we planted new Propagules to begin a new generation of shore-protecting, baby-fishy-protecting Mangroves – they are a very important part of the Oceanic ecosystem, and it is actually theorized that many species of fish spend some portion of their life living in or hunting in the roots of the Mangroves. To me and my shipmate’s surprise, we were allowed Shore Time here in West End for lunch – Pusser’s Pizza was a highlight of my day. To work off all of that pizza, we headed down to Benjamin A. Romney Recreational Complex to help our other GB program, Rebuilding Island Life, begin a very big project of rebuilding and rejuvenating the park – it was a staple hang out place for many in the community and is currently completely shut down because of the overgrown, broken down state of the entire property. Neil, Gwen and I went ham on the overgrown weeds covering the ground and walls – by overgrown, I mean we were ripping up full-grown trees of invasive species and working towards making the playground approachable by foot. It was incredibly rewarding to know that we were working towards giving back a beloved landmark to the shaken community, especially after hearing about the tumultuous road in which the permits to take on the project of rebuilding the park have been dragged through because of political mumbo-jumbo. It was a race back to the boat because everyone wanted to be the first in the water after such dirty, sweaty work. Dinner was incredible mostly because Gwen so graciously cooked it, meaning us kids weren’t able to cook the hot dogs into rubber sticks, and because she made Corn Bread. I love Corn Bread so much. To conclude the night, BZ came over to lead an activity in self-reflection and shipmate connection. I loved the abstract nature of the activity as well as its ability to allow for everyone’s individualism to shine, as well as bring everyone closer as a cohesive whole. Coming to a close of the session (already!), I am looking back on this trip and reflecting on and reminiscing in the life-changing moments this program has allowed me to experience, from facing fears to indulging myself in experiences that I never believed would happen to gain an entirely new set of people that I can call my Boat Family. Everything about this trip has strengthened my ability to face my nearing adult life and has given me massive Caribbean Fever. I am beyond grateful for this experience because as GXG says, “You Are Your Experiences”.