29 August 2010

What I'll miss most, Part 2

Written on August 20, 2010... (just haven't had a chance to publish until now).

It's hard to believe, but my time on "the Big South" has come to an end now too. I'm back in the States visiting my family and trying to prepare for our next adventure: moving to Edinburgh! I thoroughly enjoyed my summer in the TCI, and had two great groups of students to work with. I think I was really trying to soak up everything that I loved about my job with SFS (along with some sun, which I may never experience again in such enduring abundance), since I knew that I would be moving on at the end of the summer. I also took some time to reflect on the 15 months that I spent in the TCI, and am inspired now, by one of Brett's earliest blog posts actually, to share a few of the things that I'll miss most (and least) about the living in the islands. I think I’ll start with what I won’t miss so that I can end on a positive note.

What I won't miss:

1) So many invasive species. That is, the critters that invaded my sleeping quarters and my shower and my personal space, including ants, rats, termites, mosquitoes, and hydroids, just to name a few.

Termite tracks leading up to my bathroom window

Ant bite right under my eye

This rat was nibbling away at my soap every night for weeks before I finally set a trap

2) Staff drama. I suppose it's to be expected that any group of 10 people from a wide range of backgrounds and outlooks, who have to live, eat, work, and play together will have squabbles and cliques, and will include some misfits or even the occasional unfit, but our tenuous center staff dynamics weighed heavily on me sometimes. There are, nonetheless, many individuals at SFS that I feel lucky to have met and whom I truly enjoyed working with.

3) Getting hit on. Or at least inappropriate eyed up and down nearly every time I left the center to go into town. This wasn't special treatment I received by any means, but I think I may have been one of the least flattered, and therefore least tolerant, recipients of such attention.

What I will miss most of all:

1) The weather. It's confirmed. I'm a warm weather person, and I just love sun and water. And then more sun. Even on the days when it was pushing 100 degrees and we were all complaining about the heat, a little part of me was still secretly reveling in toastiness and wishing I could stockpile some warmth and sunlight for future, chillier, grayer days.

2) The underwater world. I've become so attached to the various beautiful and fascinating creatures that I've gotten to know over the past year-- and likewise to the Humann/DeLoach field guides that help me connect names and important facts with what I'm observing. Most of all I'll miss the sharpnose puffers and the green turtles, but I truly loved seeing a range of new and intriguing species every time I went on a dive or snorkel. In a way, I feel like I have a home, and many many friends, in the tropical marine ecosystems of the Atlantic.

Huge spiny lobster spotted during my final snorkel

Well-used field guides

3) Connecting with students. I spent a good portion of the past year with intelligent, motivated, passionate, and curious young college students. Not all of the program participants I worked with fit that description, but the many who did made all of the work that my position required worth it!

4) The porch. I loved sitting in our hammock out there with a book, and just enjoying the breeze and the (relative) quiet.

5) Baking cakes. I did this for every student birthday, and for a host of other events and celebrations as well, sometimes in collaboration with other people and other times on my own. In fact, I probably spent way too many hours decorating cakes when I had a million other things I ought to have been doing instead. I wonder if I'll ever have another job that will incorporate cake decorating. I hope so! Some of the cakes got gobbled up before we could take pictures of them, but here are a few examples:

(camping trip)

(night snorkel)


(well-camouflaged peacock flounder)

(bon voyage party for our site manager)

(juvenile smooth trunkfish)

(SFS logo)

(a double birthday -- the above two cakes go side-by-side)

(mangrove ecosystem)

(she brought a stray puppy, a.k.a. "potcake", back to the States with her)

(our nightguard was from the DR)

(queen angelfish)

(for a huge Lakers fan)

(the last cake I decorated on the island... so I went all out!)

6) Saving money. There isn’t much to buy on South, nor is there much need for "stuff". I appreciated living simply, and also being able to put so much of each paycheck right into savings-- which I'm likely to promptly deplete this next year in Scotland. Ugh.

7) Sunsets. I've lived in many places that boast gorgeous sunsets, but South can compete with the best of them. (Lake Champlain might be its only rival in fact.) There's just something about a sunset over water, especially when the sea birds or night hawks are out enjoying it too. Dusk sort of provides an opportunity to reflect on time spent, lessons learned, relationships developed, and experiences accumulated, as well as to dream about and plan for what’s ahead…


  1. how didd you get rid of the ant bite? the same happend to me

  2. Hi Jessica,

    I was stationed at the old Coast Guard station in 1979-80. I guess we were lucky in that we didn't have any problems with ants or rats - the only pest we had an abundance of was those huge Palmetto bugs.

    With respect to the things your won't miss - Unwanted attention, I understand what you are saying. However, I must say much has not changed in all these years. Women were few and far between on the island when I was there. Whenever there was a woman on the island, word spread fast. Too many men and not a lot of women unfortunately causes the unwanted attention syndrome of which you speak. Ironically when I was there Jimmy Buffett's song Fins was topping the charts with the famous line "You've got fins to the left, fins to the right and you're the only bait in town" really summed up the imbalance between the number of men to women on the island.

    I do agree that the weather and the diving/snorkeling is some of the best in the world. And the solitude is truly awe inspiring - especially in a world that moves way too fast. I was way too young at the time to appreciate it and wish I were back there now in the peace and tranquility the island has to offer.

    I hope you have since recovered from all the negatives you experienced on the island and focus on all the positive ones you had.


    Mark Hudson
    Eugene, Oregon

  3. I stumbled upon your blog while doing some research on the East Bay dredging project (I'm a current SFS student!), and I just had to comment because your cakes are absolutely amazing and your blog is really fun to read! I (and all the other students here for sure) still identify with everything you wrote five years later. Thanks for the read!