19 February 2010

The Trouble With Islands

The trouble with islands is that they are completely surrounded by water. This situation presents many difficulties, particularly with respect to coming and going. Recently I've felt like I need a break from South Caicos and the School for Field Studies, but getting away just isn't that straight forward here. I'm starting to understand why all those hit TV shows (the ones where they take a group of highly volatile people and force them to live in close quarters) often take place on islands.

I shouldn't make it sound like things are as dysfunctional here as they are on those shows. I've just been frustrated lately with my situation here. There's no official role for "partners" of staff, so I don't really fit in anywhere. I understand that I can't have, nor do I think I'm entitled to, free reign over all the schools resources (boats, diving, etc). Nobody thinks this place is a resort. But I'm not just limited in how I can take part in the enjoyable aspects. I've offered to help with the more mundane things like "staff of the day," radio duty, student activities (e.g. the solar project), and sitting topside while divers are down to make sure the boat doesn't float away (!). But I'm usually told that I'm not allowed. After a while it starts to feel like I'm just being told to stay out of the way. How do they envision my role here? Am I supposed to just sit in my room and twiddle my thumbs until Sunday each week?

What really grinds my gears is that I'm dispensable. When I'm needed, I'm happily included. When the new Dive Safety Officer needed to learn his way around the dive sites, they turned to me. When the new staff showed up in January, we were asked to cut our vacation short because somebody was needed to greet them at the airport and get them settled into the Center. When they needed to know how to run the compressor or tie a particular knot or lead the important guests from HQ on dives, they turned to me. But the rest of the time, it's: "SFS policy says that we can't allow you to _________." What's worse is that nobody's upfront about it. This information is usually passed through Jessee or just not addressed at all.

I rarely write about the struggles of life on this island, so I know this blog must really paint a picture of a life in paradise. More often than not, it is (I do recognize how fortunate I am to have the opportunities I have - dolphins, whales, diving, etc). But there's also a reason nobody stays here that long. You can't expect people to live in such an isolated place and stay completely uninvolved and out of the way. I have too much self respect to whine and cry until they grudgingly treat me like I belong, but if they were smart they'd recognize what I'm willing to offer (for free!) just to have a recognized place here.

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