Sheesh! I am beat. Today was non-stop until now, from 5am to about 8pm. I knew I didn’t have to meet up with Catherine from the Exuma Foundation until about 12:30 so I had all morning free to do whatever I pleased. Waking up at the butt crack of dawn sure makes the mornings last forever. But that’s what happens when you’re in bed by 8:30 or 9 I suppose. The wind wasn’t too terrible today so I thought Jolly Hall beach would be perfect as it is protected from the majority of the wind but still has a nice breeze so the bugs don’t get too bad. I packed up and left by 7:30am and walked down to the beach – about a 20-30 minute stroll. It sure seemed to take much longer this time but I guess because it wasn’t new territory.
As usual, I had the entire beach to myself. And it was perfect. Not too windy, but still breezy so you don’t get sweaty or eaten up by Exuma bugs. They have biting flies and shit do they hurt. No dog gang today either which was nice so I didn’t have to worry about walking home half naked. But I couldn’t help but keep an eye out for those Little Rascals. I was just waiting for them to come running out of the bush at any moment. I spotted a turtle within minutes of dropping my belongings. But I didn’t bring my snorkeling gear today. No biggie. I saw it already and I plan to swim with several of them next week. Fingers crossed. I immediately spotted another one in a different dark patch off the shore, but again, I knew I would soon swim with bunches of them so I was too cool now to snorkel with those. It’s totally turtle upgrading.
I chilled at the beach for three hours and strategized my lunch plans so I could still make it to the house, shower, and be ready for Catherine at 12:30. So I headed to Shirley’s again at the Fish Fry which remember is on the way home from Jolly Hall Beach. I expect you to know these things by now. The other shacks at the Fish Fry were already starting to open as well. It’s Friday and that place gets hoppin and poppin on Friday and Saturday nights apparently. I ordered her conch burger just to give it a try. The one at Chat N Chill was great and wanted to see what Shirley could come up with and of course it was amazing as well. Different than the first, but amazing.
I quickly inhaled that and headed for home. Hopped in with Catherine and headed to Stuart Manor school which is waaaaaay up at the top of the island. Probably a 30 minute drive. I’ve done a terrible job introducing the island or providing a map to you. So here’s a readers digest version: I have been referring to the Exumas as Exuma. But that is out of pure laziness and shame on me for doing that. That’s like calling my hometown Cocoa instead of Cocoa Beach. The most annoying thing EVER for Cocoa Beach residents and how most American’s refer to Cocoa Beach. Cocoa and Cocoa Beach are NOT the same people!!! I promise. Anyhow, the Exumas are a chain of islands made up of three major parts: 1. Great Exuma, 2. Little Exuma, and 3. The Exuma Cays (pronounced keys). I am staying on Great Exuma, but when I’ve kayaked around I have hit some of the Exuma Cays. The Salt Beacon was on Little Exuma. And so forth. Now you are educated. Ok back to the story.
We arrived at the school and Catherine and I entered the 6th grade classroom. Several thoughts entered my mind, but to summarize, the schools and school system here seems about 50 years behind the US. For example, the classroom looked like an old schoolhouse you would see in a historic site with a few touches of updated materials, there isn’t a single computer in the classroom, there is a wild dog sitting outside the door to the classroom, a kitten by the back door, the books look to be decades old, there is no air conditioning, the teachers have a bell (like a real bell), and they are permitted to physically discipline their students with a weapon of their choosing. As soon as we walked in, all of the students stood to attention and chant something to the effect of, “Good Afternoon Misses Booker and Misses Visitor, how are you today?” And then something else I can’t remember. And they have to stand until they are released to be seated. All students have to say yes ma’am and no ma’am. In Bahamian, that sounds like yes mom and no mom with a question mark at the end.
Catherine introduced me and started reviewing the material they learned last week about ecosystems. If you read my previous blog, which I ‘m sure you did, you would know that she is trying to instill the importance of sustainability to the kids and educate them about their ecosystem, gardening, etc. All things that their generation and future generations will need to learn to keep the Exumas and their residents thriving for centuries. The students were extremely engaged and remembered all of their vocabulary words and such from last week. I was pretty impressed. Catherine reviewed the plan for the garden and what each of the two groups would be doing. But here’s the thing….it’s Friday afternoon and the teacher has left the classroom at this point. The kids are beyond ready to go home. And shit starts to crumble. We take them outside to start weeding and gardening and the boys…oh the boys….. What a handful. Teacher is still no where in sight. Within 10 minutes, these boys are wielding two rakes, a pick axe, a shovel, and a machete and they are chasing each other and violently swinging them all over the place. I didn’t even know what to do. So I just watched. Like every woman allergic to children would do right?
Long story short, we barely got the garden finished with the 6th graders and by the end of the day only a handful of them were even still interested. I loved listening to them argue with each other over planting seeds in their cute Bahamian accents. Then we had to do it all over again with the 5th graders. However, this time, the 5th grade teacher is standing over the kids and watching every move and they were absolute angels. Like little gardening soldiers. If they even laughed too loud, misses bad ass teacher would verbally discipline them. She reminded me EXACTLY of my 4th grade teacher Ms. Stroman. Scary as hell! If we were acting up, Ms. Stroman would make us hold a dictionary in each hand but our arms had to be stretched out horizontally to the side. Ouch. I never had to do that of course because I was an angel. Yup. Oh and she even looked like Ms. Stroman. That brought back terrible memories. But, I was grateful for her discipline as her students were perfect and we finished their garden by the time the bell rang. And the bells don’t ring themselves, the bad ass teacher physically rings a bell to indicate the end of the day.
Catherine and I packed up and headed to the foundation but not before picking up some bags of seaweed stashed on the side of the road that she hired some dude to collect for her. It was like a seaweed drug deal. She just randomly pulled up along the side of the road in a completely desolate area of the island and there were about 7 trash bags piled behind a log that we loaded into the van. Onward we go. FYI – Seaweed is used as a mulch here. Remember, you have to be resourceful!!!!! We arrive at the foundation, I unloaded and dumped the seaweed in the seaweed pile, she watered her plants and we headed for home.
Rosemary and her cousin Chris were sitting on the porch and I joined them. She of course immediately offered me some freshly made rum raisin fudge. Rum raisin fudge?!?!? That sounded delightful so of course I accepted. I’m pretty sure she soaks the raisins in rum for…um…ever. I say this because I ate one and then couldn’t remember where I was. Oh. I saved the second piece for later but wow was it delicious! I’ll surely be hungover tomorrow. We chatted about all sorts of things and I took a zillion pictures of the stormy sunset that was in effect and it was just gorgeous. I am a happy camper. A sunburnt happy camper.
“You are responsible for what you say and do. You are not responsible for whether or not people freak out about it.” Jen Sincero, You are a Bad Ass.