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There and Back Again

January 22, 2013

On Monday we journeyed back stateside from our beautiful island home.  A few of us took one last run up the hill of doom and swam one last time in Little Lameshur as the sky turned from gray to pink.  Hard to believe it was our last sunrise!  With bags packed with stinky damp clothes, each having gained 3-4 pounds of water weight we loaded up the truck and took one last group picture at VIERS.

Group Parting Shot

Our group picture includes everyone: our 8 Hollins students on the trip for the first time (Dani, Mary Ellen,  Maddie,  Molly, Amber, Mya, Regan, Tori), our 3 returning Hollins students (Sarah, Kristie, Kristin), Hannah (Kristi’s younger sister), Caleb (on his 4th trip), instructors/drivers/pencil sharpeners (Renee, Morgan, Joe), Asya (student last year – now VIERS volunteer), and Lindsey (our VIERS California researcher who joined us hiking and found many hidden treasures for us on our snorkels and became an integral part of our group)!  What an amazing group to work with – they pushed their boundaries, embraced new and challenging experiences, embedded energy and laughter into our days, and stayed within the “Turtle” – our full value contract.

Volunteers say goodby

The Viers staff sang “Happy Trails” to us as we loaded up in our Jeeps.  I do believe that many of our students do hope to “meet them again next year.”  Our returning trio have all said they learned more their 2nd time on island than on their first – it is a place where the ecosystem, the biodiversity, and the human story and connections offer instruction for a lifetime!

Jamming with band in Cruz Bay

We had a few hours in Cruz Bay before we caught the ferry for St. Thomas.  Many of the students shopped for souvenirs while a few of us jammed with a small group of musicians that were playing in the square in celebration of MLK day.  We were happy our experience in Cruz Bay was limited.

Roads in St. Thomas

Back on St. Thomas we taxied back to the airport – taking in the our last ride on the “wrong side” of the road – seeing the beautiful wall art and the vastness of the 3 cruise ships that were in port.  The experience of those on the cruise ships is so vastly different from our own – perhaps the only commonality is the blue of the ocean.  Everyone was so glad to recognize the value of our experiences and hopes that they will travel in the future with knowledge of the history and biology of the landscapes and countries they visit.

Cruise ships in St. Thomas

Once at the airport we went through customs, which seems strange as we technically never left the United States.  Several other flights were leaving at the same time so it was a bit of a mob scene and took us quite a bit of time to get through.  In fact as the last of our group left customs and the dreaded scanners, they were calling us to board the plane!  No time for lunch which was hard for those of us that were used to eating 2 or 3 lunches a day!

Sunset from plane

Though not the same as setting on the ocean, we did see yet one more beautiful sunset as we began our descent into Charlotte.

sad faces in airport

We had time for dinner in the Charlotte airport and then waited with tired and sad faces for the plane to take us back to Greensboro and the final leg of travel back to Roanoke in the turtle van driven by Jon Guy Owens.  A fitting conclusion to this long long day of travel as we were in the “Turtle” both literally and figuratively.  The 20 degree air was a shock to our sandaled feet and sun-drenched brains….everyone longed for those blue seas, the sound of coqui frogs, and Bruce the deer munching on mangoes outside our cabins.

Today everyone will hopefully catch up on sleep and wash away the damp saltiness from our well worn clothes.  But the memories of our many experiences (we packed 3 weeks into 10 days) will last a lifetime!

wash

We will meet again on Wednesday to begin to digest our data and develop our research posters.  For those of you still reading this blog please visit us again and we will let  you know what we learned from our studies!

Until then…..

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