Home Sweet Home

The “real” final day of our trip was a whirlwind one. We woke up around 6 a.m. to make sure that we hadn’t forgotten anything. After one last look around our room and from our balcony, we gathered our bags and went down to breakfast. Most students left behind a pair of tennis shoes that had been used to climb the rocky shores, the mangrove swamps and Dunn’s River Falls. The shoes were pretty beat up, but the staff at the Marine Lab would give them to people that needed shoes. The french toast we had for breakfast was delicious, but I think I’ll miss the guava juice and fresh pineapple. After devotion, and the surprise news that two of the people on the trip got engaged during sunrise, (their names are omitted because they’ll have more fun telling you all about it when we’re home, plus, it’s not my news to tell), we loaded up the vans and headed for Montego Bay.

There we went to Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club (a beach) for one last time to tan and swim. The water was crystal clear, but had a high salinity. There were shells on the beach and floating trampolines. I think every girl got thrown off/pushed off the trampolines at least twice. Thanks Dave for that “friendly” bonding. We were able to get our hands stamped and leave the beach to go get lunch. I hate to admit it, but Scott, Amanda and I went to a Burger King – I know, I know, but there was fish and festival bread on the menu. We ate our Jamaican version of American fast food as we watched the activity in the bay. Then the news went around that the yacht that we were looking at belonged to Bill Gates! How cool is that?

From there we loaded up the vans one last time to head to the MoBay airport. We unloaded all of our bags and jumped in a very long line to check in. That took so long that we had to be taken from the end of another VERY LONG line and rushed to the front of the security checks and emmigration so we wouldn’t miss our flight. Most students did manage to do one last speedy shopping trip through the airport before running to Gate 5. We said good-bye to Jamaica and landed in Memphis where we had to get in another long line for customs and security where we were told to just drop our bags and run to Gate 4. Dr. Klockziem got held up a bit because he wanted to try to bring back one of our coffee bean snails, but the customs guy stopped him. The customs officer said that if he could get a hold of a vet and get clearance for the coffee bean snail, he would mail it to Dr. K! The customs officer used to be a scientist and empathized with the coffee bean snail situation.

Once we were on our final flight, we were listing all the things we were going to miss and what we wanted to do when we got back. Most of us listed different things we were going to miss – I’ll miss the fresh fruit, the sunshine, snorkeling all the time, Starla the Sea Star and George the Squid, and getting to know all the students on the trip so well. Yes, Starla the Librarian we have pictures for you. However, we all seemed to want the same thing when we got home: to see our families/friends, a hot shower, a glass of milk, and pizza. I guess there are somethings that home can always offer that being away just can’t compete with. So now that I’m home, unpacked (all the souveniers made it in one peice), have had a hot shower and am going to be eating pizza shortly with my family, I can honestly say, it’s good to be home. Then again, I did wake up at 5:30 this morning… darn internal clock!

I completely recommend this trip to any and all students. I think that no matter what major or grade you are, you’ll find that the Marine Ecology trip is a one of a kind experience. My roommates and I are now really good friends, I made some more new ones, I’ve definitely gone outside of my comfort zone (boats, ahem), and I’ve eaten a lot of new foods (although I couldn’t quite make myself eat ox tail – yeah for fish). Even if you share germs and get a cold and pink eye with your roommates, lose your glasses in a waterfall, land in a puddle of mud in your last clean outfit, and have to sprint to make your flights – it’s all worth it. It just makes for better stories when you get home. Jamaica is a land of interesting people and creatures (you know God has to have an amazing sense of humor to create sea cucumbers), beautiful colors and scenery, and experiences that will last a lifetime. Then again, home is home and that doesn’t change.

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Last day

Today we got our grades back and the professors said how much they enjoyed correcting such good tests – whoo hoo!

We went to the Fern Gully today where we drove through this really winding stretch of road that used to be a river bed, but because of the last earthquake, the river was diverted underground. We stopped by this little market to get out and take pictures. Then when we piled back in the vans (18 people in our van) we drove about 6 feet before Dr. Olson hit a curb and we got a flat tire. We piled out of the van again – it was probably like watching a clown car unload. We didn’t have a jack so the guys actually got together and lifted the van! The girls were on the sidelines cheering. Dr. Klockziem said that it wasn’t a trip to Jamaica without at least one flat tire.

We made it to the top of the gully where Marissa and I went to use the facilities, which, of course, had no running water. Yeah, for hand sanitizer! Then, just as we were about to go and take some more scenic pictures, I slipped and landed in a huge puddle of mud. Marissa just looked at me with the most surprised face and didn’t know whether or not to laugh. She decided on the laugh and then told me “Gees Jen, we just can’t take you any where!” This trip has definately had its ups and then fall downs… ha ha ha

Then we went to Shaw Park Gardens, which used to be a hotel, but is now open to the public to tour the grounds. Our guide, Ronald, was a very nice guy who showed us all the “best picture spots” and he was right. We saw so many wonderful flowers, a banyan tree and took some great pictures (check the flickr photos). We ate lunch at Mother’s, which is like a Jamaican version of McDonalds, but the main food is patties instead of burgers. The patties are like calzones, but with hamburger insides and the crust is flaky. Very tasty.

Then it was off to the “higglers” market. I was ready to shop. We weren’t sure if we wanted to go and try to bargain or not, so we checked out a regular shop first. I got some postcards and then we decided that we were ready for the market. It was a bit hard at first because it was like everything was different, but then once you started walking through, everyone had the same things. I actually found one of the vendors that was named Jennifer and once I told her that my name was Jennifer too, she and I had a lot of fun bargaining. I ended up buying a necklace for someone. I actually found a CD there amongst the hand carvings and key chains that my brother told me to look for. I couldn’t believe it. I was worried that it wouldn’t work/play, because it wasn’t in the original wrapping, but when I got it back to the room and put it in the laptop, it works! We had fun for the most part, but you can only be in there so long before it gets too loud and you’ve said “no thank you” too many times to count! I think I got some good deals too!

Later on after our bumpy day, we came home and packed and then had a barbeque on the docks with a local band for entertainment. They are three guys that look to be about 65 years old who played lots of calypso and reggae music. It was lots of fun and we had jerk chicken and potato salad – yum! Now we are all just figuring out how to pack all of our souvenirs and warm clothes in our carry on bags. See you soon!

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Don’t wear your glasses while climbing Dunn’s River Falls

I didn’t fall down Dunn’s River Falls at all. Well, I slipped a couple of times, but that is to be expected. It was a beautiful 600 some foot climb through clear water. There were people of all ages climbing it. I had a unique experience today though. As I was going up this one steep part, I felt my glasses slipping – yes I realize that I should have left them in the van – and I lost them. Then there was this Jamaican guy who was like “hey there, I’ll dive for them for you, what you pay me?” I had no money on me, obviously because where was I going to keep it? Swimsuits don’t have pockets! I was bummed and blind. The guy wouldn’t let me pass and kept trying to get me to pay him to find my glasses. I had to just walk around him and be really firm and polite as possible. Later on, the guys that had stopped me before had actually found my glasses. I thought that they were goners – you would have too if you had seen where I was trying to climb. I still didn’t have any money and neither did any of the people I was with. I was too far away from the profs to ask them either. I had to tell them that I had no money. They didn’t want to give me my glasses! So Josh stepped in and was like “hey, you should just be nice and give her her glasses” They said that they wanted something yet, and Josh said that all he had to give them was his gratitude and the love of Jesus, to which they replied “everybody has Jesus’ love, what else?” So I was still without glasses. Then when I got to the top, and everyone was like “where are your glasses?” I had to explain the whole story again and then a friend (I’m assuming) of the guy who retrieved my glasses (this is the third guy in this whole debacle) came up to me and handed me my glasses. He said “Here you go. You should learn to be nice to people.” I was shocked! I had tried to be nice and explain, but apparently I wasn’t nice enough. But I have my glasses – intact too – without scratches! Who would have thought?

I ended up climbing the Falls again, but this time John Wilke held my glasses on dry land. Tim (MLC) climbed 6 times for the day’s record while most people climbed it 2-3 times. Note to future Marine Ecology students: Don’t go with a guide, don’t hold hands, and don’t wear glasses – it is easier and free (except for the entrance fee into the park, but that is part of the class)!

The test wasn’t so bad. I actually felt pretty ok when I got in and could answer the first question – always a good sign. We were all sitting at breakfast this morning (oatmeal, muffins, and grapefruit) mumbling phylums and facts and Marissa and I were coughing and we probably looked like we were in a psych ward all mumbling to ourselves. Then randomly someone would shout a question like “do all echinoideas release gametes into the water?” And half of the class would blanch and the other half would answer. It was funny. The professors had set up stations so each student stood by a station and then we would answer 2-3 questions per station. Then we took a break and wrote 2 essays. They weren’t too bad. I think I did pretty decent. Me and the mangroves are real close now… all those aerial roots are easy to write about. It was a bit sad however to let all of our creatures go. Especially the squid (George) and starfish (Starla).

Tomorrow we’re going to the Fern Gully, a nature preserve and Ocho Rios. Then we’ll be relaxing one more night (instead of studying) before heading home.

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Another fun day!

Today was the final test day!! Yaya, its done. The afternoon was much more fun. We went to Dunn’s River Falls. This is a giant, drawn out waterfall and we climbed up it. It was full of tourists but we muddled through, most of us several times. It was by far an amazing experience. Tomorrow is our big shopping day in Ocho Rios. Can’t wait!

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What do you mean “Don’t study too hard”?

Today we went snorkeling in shallow water and saw a sunken ship. I, along with my cold, got an eye infection from one of our fellow students so I couldn’t wear my contacts. It was lucky that we were in such shallow water because I could see most things. Jamaica really does have one surprise after another. It was amazing to be so close to the creatures and swim amongst the rocks and a carpet of green colonial sea anemones. Carissa can swim much closer to things than I can. I’m afraid of a dip in the waves and smushing an anemone or something. Carissa laughs at me, but hey, she can get way closer than I can and that’s ok.

After checking out that snorkel site (which Dr. Anderson says was the clearest he’s ever seen it), we went to the Green Grotto Caves where slaves and the Spanish once ran to hide from the British and slave owners. There was a wishing well, an underground lake (like glass), and an actual bottomless pit. Weird.

Tonight we are all cramming our heads full of facts and scientific information like how a Bluehead wrasse can change from being a female fish to a male fish. Or how a sea cucumber works like a squirt gun – no joke. We have a few creatures that we’ve gotten particularly close to such as our reticulated sea star which we have named after our beloved librarian, Starla. We have also named our Caribbean Reef Squid George – he changes colors. We also have a Web Burrfish (looks like a mini balloon fish) which we have yet to name… perhaps we’ll call him “Bub” which is Jamaican for Bob.

Wish us luck on our test! Tomorrow we’ll be taking the test, liberating the creatures from the watertables, and then heading to Ocho Rios to climb Dunn’s River Falls. Good night!

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The elusive Coffee Bean Snail and other things

Good morning! We were studying so hard last night that I didn’t get a chance to write about what we did yesterday, January 2. I now know, however, the names of every creature in our water table. Now we just need to know their life histories (habitat, eating and diet behaviors, reproduction, protective measures, etc.) Wish us luck.

Yesterday, after a lecture from Dr. Quinn about the road construction’s effect on the crab fisheries, we traveled to where Columbus had landed in 1494 (I believe). We saw the remains of the castle the Spanish had built as well as a few wall peices and a storage facility. Then we went around identifying the different types of mangroves. This is where Carissa finally found a Coffee Bean Snail. Dr. Anderson said that no one had ever found one on these trips before. Ha ha! We found it! Actually, we found three!

Then we went to Priory Beach to eat lunch and take a nice (and needed) break. We swam in the ocean and played some games with the local guys. All of the little kids were so funny when they would see us. At first it was a bit hard being a curiosity, but now when all the kids just stop and stare, we just smile and wave. Then we have new best friends; the kids want to know all about you and will talk your ear off! Just like American kids.

After a delicious dinner of Coat of Arms (rice and beans), fried chicken and coleslaw, we had a lecture on the culture of Jamaica. Then it was time to finalize our list for the test. Once we had figured out our 6 sea cucumbers, we settled down to study hard.

Today we are going to the Green Grotto Caves, snorkeling by a sunken boat, and then studying, studying, studying for tommorow’s test.

Laters — Jen

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Discovery Bay FUN!!!!

Hi from Discovery Bay, Jamaica. I am just writing to tell everyone what a great time this trip has been so far. There are so many things to write about it is hard to pick out just a few of them. Snorkeling in the coral reef has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and even if you are not the most abel person in the water it is so very easy and tons of fun. Snorkeling here is amazing because the water is so clear. You can see straight to the bottom of the ocean in depths of at least 60 feet. Night snorkeling is fun too and you get to see a whole new group of creatures. Jamaica is the most photogenic place I have ever been. If you look out to the sea there is a photo opportunity and if you turn around there are tremendous green mountains. The hike through the botanical garden we did was spectacular especially considering it ended with us getting to swing from a cliff on rope vines into a fresh water pool. Interviewing the locals was interesting and New Years was great. I would suggest that anyone that likes temperatures that range from 75-85 every day take this class despite the lectures, just kidding. Having a blast here glad I decided to do it.

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Good Morning!

Another sunny and beautiful day in Jamaica! I’ve been having tons of fun so far. We have done so much already its hard to believe that we haven’t been here that long. Our New Year’s Bash at the “Ultimate Jerk Center” was a lot of fun, as well as interesting to see how New Year’s is done here. There was no T.V. watching or waiting for the ball to drop. Here the music kept on playing until about 15 seconds before, then the D.J. started the count down. After it struck midnight they shot off fireworks and there was more dancing.
Today we are headed towards the Mangrove Swamp. I don’t really know what to expect except that it will be muddy and its easy to loose your shoes. Then lunch at a beautiful beach and a few hours of swimming there. Well, almost time for lecture. I hope everyone is doing well back in Wisconsin!

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Ethnographic Interviews

We got to sleep in today. All the way to 8:30 am! Last night was a lot of fun. Our New Year’s celebration at the Ultimate Jerk Center was remarkable. When the professors said that the place would be packed, I had no idea. I was thinking, ok, so there’d be a bunch of people, but I was thinking more along the lines of a crowded restaurant. This was like all the people in the Wisconsin State Fair Central Mall times 20. That’s a lot of people for all you who haven’t been to the Fair. The food was amazing too. Jerk chicken may be my new favorite food. The local people were really excited to see us there. Five ladies (about 50 years old) tried to teach us a few dance moves to the 60’s Jamaican music. If you learned one, you were set for the night. They loved hanging out with us.

Today we did ethnographic interviews. We were dropped off by van to different parts of Discovery Bay in groups of 3. My group was Carissa and Matt (MLC). We interviewed two younger men, Harold and Gary, who were “steel fixers” working on the resort that is being built near where we were snorkeling in Pear Tree Bottoms. They were very nice and wanted us to come back to Jamaica later on and to make sure that we said good-bye before we left this time. They were very friendly and were open to all of our questions. They were more concerned about getting their next job at the bauxite plant and providing a better future for their kids than for the environment. Harold really liked us and he even gave me a flower. Everyone wished each other a Happy New Year before we had to move on.

The next man, Mr. Henry, was 50 years old and claimed he was a “handyman of all sorts, but master of none.” He was “born and growed” in Discovery Bay and said that “there is always a future in Jamaica” when talking about the outlook for the future. His main environmental concern was about water availability after major storms.

The last person we interviewed was an interesting woman. Nancy, who owned a bar, chose us to interview her instead of the other way around. There was another group talking to the people at her bar that we said hi to as we passed. Nancy yelled after us that that was no way to say hello to friends in Jamaica. We weren’t supposed to worry about interrupting or taking too much time to say hello. We never got to ask her any questions. She just told us about how much she didn’t like our president and how her twin grandsons were being raised as “Yankee wild boys” there in America. Even though the van came to pick us up, she didn’t really want us to leave. And I mean REALLY!

We spent the rest of the day sharing our interview interactions and we studied since it rained on and off all day. The main themes that we found across the board were that people were mostly concerned with getting a job, the school system and providing for immediate needs. The people weren’t worried about the lack of healthy corals; they were worried how they were going to get money to send their kids to school and what they had to eat. There is no long term outlook for these people because they don’t have the time, education, or need to think about the conditions of their environment beyond what affects them immediately. This, I think, isn’t very different from the US. There are people here that are more concerned with their everyday life needs rather than what is going on in their local river unless it has an immediate impact on them.

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