Tag Archives: Bonaire 2017

Bonaire

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by Jedd Tam ’18

Today we went back to Washikemba to clean up more trash. It was different from the first time we went because the tropical storm altered the terrain. The dirt road we originally took was blocked. I could tell there was flooding from the storm because there was a large area of flooded dirt with a border of trash. Instead of the trash being concentrated in a dense pile on the beach like the first time, the trash was now spread out over a large area. The trash at Washikemba consists of plastic water bottles, Styrofoam, shoe soles, children’s toys, and more. A lot of the stuff that I find there was still usable at the time of disposal because they made it to the beach in okay condition. Other stuff, on the other hand, crumbled on contact. This is a testament to the long journey the trash has gone through. During that journey, the elements corroded the plastic. While our work was helpful in reducing the amount of trash in the environment, it is far from the solution. More trash will replace the trash we removed. What we need is to change our attitude with consuming resources and disposing trash. When we responsibly dispose of trash, nature can be beautiful again.

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Bonaire

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by Gia Delia ’18

Tropical Storm Bret didn’t take as strong as a toll as expected. There were some worries about how it would affect the island. Yesterday, there were strong wind gusts and spontaneous rain showers. Last night we lost power at the Lizard Inn, and we were told the streets would be flooded by this morning. Despite these concerns, I woke up to a sunny and beautiful Bonaire. The aftermath of the storm was unpredictable, but thankfully no effects were severe. Bonaire doesn’t have drain pipes in the street, unlike where we live, and the water from the storm is standing in puddles.

We had great weather all day and the group went to the donkey sanctuary, where I was able to see over seven hundred donkeys and feed them carrots. There was even a two-day old donkey. It was another element of Bonaire I was able to experience. We went to dinner at Mezze, a Mediterranean restaurant. I have tried a vast majority of new foods on this trip, and have learned a lot of Bonaire culture over the course of this trip.

We have been doing trash cleanup on the beach and the severity of the storm could have widely affected the trash and the debris left on the beach. We filled two truckloads of trash and dropped it off at Dive Friends where they will recycle it. I have learned the simplicity of the island and the ecological service that we are doing and how it is benefiting Bonaire. I am sad that in two days this trip will come to an end, but I am so grateful for all I have experienced over these past two weeks.

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Bonaire

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by Aubrey Saunders ’18

Today we started with a fish I.D. survey and then made our way over to the meeting place of the STINAPA Junior Rangers. The Junior Rangers is an environmental educational youth group, and some of the participants are even part of Jong Bonaire. The Junior Rangers usually meet once a week to discuss a plan of service to be carried out on Saturdays. They had invited us to take part in one of their meetings to inform them on the details of our service trip and take part in some simple conversation about culture and service. Everyone there was very nice and made us feel welcome. We split up into five groups to make it easier to talk about our service and get to know one another. It was interesting to hear how different Bonairian life is, compared to American life, as well as how they are helping to make an impact on the future of Bonaire.

Following this meeting, the group traveled to the same shore we visited to clean up oil last week. This time we were returning to clean up the massive amount of trash that had washed up on the beach from Bonaire’s neighbor, Venezuela. It was impossible to ignore the fact that it seemed like our efforts to clean up the oil barely made even the smallest impact. Nevertheless, we got to work cleaning up trash by trying to fill about two large bags per person. We tried to pick up things that would be most harmful to the environment. As we finished our work, all of our trash put together made it seem as though we had really made an impact. However, looking back at the shore, that was not the case. While it may seem like we are barely making a dent in the efforts to clean up the East coast shore, I realize that every effort counts no matter how small and that without it, no progress would be made. That is why it is important for groups to continue to support the preservation of Bonaire’s east coast beaches.

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Bonaire

by Ivy O’Neal-Odom ’17

Today was a great day for me to stop feeling sick! Most of the gang went on a dive on the East coast. Too exciting for me! Gia, Kathleen, and I had a late morning and then went snorkeling at Eden Beach. After lunch we all went to Jong Bonaire. I met someone (I’ll call her Julia) who I started teaching HTML 5. It was so refreshing to teach someone the same age and gender as myself! Most of the people I’ve taught at Jong Bonaire have been boys, so I was glad to see that STEM interests on Bonaire are far from limited to a single gender. Julia, like myself, recently graduated high school. She plans on going to Holland for college (a relatively common practice here) with “her girl.” She was very happy to meet another gay woman! It doesn’t seem like there are many people here who share that aspect of her identity. All in all, probably my favorite day here.

 

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Bonaire

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by Zoe Valdepenas-Mellor ’18

Today at Bachelor Beach we all hung out with the kids from Jong Bonaire as they swam for a couple of hours in the afternoon. At first, I was a little nervous that they would not interact with us and just interact amongst themselves. Nevertheless, after a couple of minutes one kid approached us and started to play Frisbee with us and it was so much fun because suddenly all of us were playing with the kid, and it was so nice to have all of us playing to together. After playing Frisbee died down a little bit, we were inspired to get on each other’s shoulders and do chicken fights with one another. One kid came over, interested in what we were doing, and then another one came over and then another and then all of a sudden we had a whole bunch of kids wanting to get on our shoulders to chicken fight each other and this lasted the rest of the time at the beach. This type of service, simply playing with the kids, made the service not feel like service because it was not manual labor, it was just enjoying the time with children from different places. I learned that even though we all come from different backgrounds and have a slight language barrier we are all able to have fun with one another.

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Bonaire

by Josie O’Neal-Odom ’19

Tonight was the first night dive for our group, and the courage I witnessed was astounding. Multiple people were nervous about diving in the dark, but they overcame their worries and really enjoyed themselves. Bonaire is a truly special place because it has a laid-back atmosphere that allows its residents to not be concerned with outward appearances. Since we have been here, I have learned to let go and not worry as much as I usually do. During our time here, people have been more open about their emotions and fears than is usually expected. This relaxed atmosphere allows us to focus more on our service, and less on superficial things. This is just one of the reasons I love Bonaire, it changes everything for the better.

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Bonaire

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We met Susan and Sabine from STINAPA (an NGO that protects the Bonaire National Marine Park) early Thursday morning to drive our trucks from Kralendijk to Washikemba, on the east side of the island.  There was an oil spill in Trinidad in April and chunks of tar have been washing up on the east side of Bonaire for a couple of weeks.  As we arrived and started to understand the scope of the situation, we reminded ourselves of the starfish story when removing the tar became overwhelming.  Not knowing what to expect before we arrived, many of us thought there would be oil on the surface of the water, beach, and rocks.  However, because the oil traveled from Trinidad it had formed into chunks of sticky tar, which we removed with scrapers.  As we cleaned up we noticed there were small creatures such as snails, hermit crabs, and crabs in and on the tar, which only made the situation more emotionally difficult.  The toxic smell of the raw, crude tar was a constant reminder of how dangerous it was for the animal and plant life around us as we cleaned up.

In the end, we scraped approximately 150 pounds of tar off the rocks Thursday morning, which is insignificant when compared with the amount there, but certainly more than we expected to remove in a morning.  Again, the starfish story was swimming in our heads.  We will return to a different beach with STINAPA for an organized cleanup Saturday morning and continue to make a difference in that small area.  All of this makes us think about the decisions we make in our lives regarding petroleum products, such as the cars we drive, products we use, and even the packaging of those products.  Being on the east side of the island, where the current pulls trash from the ocean up onto the beach was an additional reminder of the choices we make as consumers, and how to respond to those decisions.  We plan to return to Washikemba to remove debris one day next week.

We spent Thursday afternoon helping at Jong Bonaire’s after school program.  The kids were very receptive to us as volunteer visitors and encouraged us to jump in and play with them.  The after school program runs from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. and the students rotate through different scheduled activities for an hour each.  We all found different ways to contribute.  Aubrey, Jedd, Patrick, and Mike played an intense game of indoor soccer (barefoot!) while the rest of our group, leary of the intensity, cheered for everyone.  Ivy and Chris anchored a group in the computer lab, and worked with youth interested in robotics and learning HTML programming.  Alex and the boys played rousing games of table tennis, while Gia and Kathleen cooked goat stew for a group to take meals home with them.  Zoe, Josie, and Mike went with a small group freediving (they were just learning, and didn’t go too deep) for most of the afternoon.  We all found ways to contribute and participate in their program and, after our difficult morning, had an uplifting afternoon.  One thing we noticed about the students at Jong Bonaire is that they are skilled and talented at every activity available.  The program at Jong Bonaire has existed on the island for many years, but Bonaire’s 2010 change in government, to a “special municipality” of the Netherlands, brought more funding for Jong Bonaire and enabled them to expand their programs while lowering the cost of the program for participants.  The structure and scope of the Jong Bonaire program is broad, so Thursday evening we spent some time brainstorming ideas for activities future George School trips could bring to Jong Bonaire.  Friday we plan to accompany the group on their usual Friday after school swim.  Two teachers are out sick, so the extra eyes will be helpful, and we even have lifeguards in our group!

All in all, we agreed this was our best day because the service we did felt satisfying, and we gained new perspectives about our own lives and the world around us.

 

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Bonaire Day 5

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by Chris Odom

The Bonaire Service Trip is going amazingly well, and our group is comprised of a bunch of resilient, hardworking, malleable, and happy people.  The scuba-training portion of the trip concluded two days ago, and already we have conducted one reef clean-up dive, one fish identification survey dive, and two night dives (which is practically unheard of from novice divers.)  The fish ID survey benefits scientific researchers who monitor coral reef health, and our night dive tonight was to observe the rarely seen bioluminescent mating ritual of the ostracod crustaceans.  Amazing dives and amazing students!

Shortly before we arrived on Bonaire, an oil refinery in Trinidad ruptured spilling oil into the Caribbean.  The oil slick traveled over 1000 kilometers and is now washing ashore on the east coast of Bonaire.  Tomorrow our group will wake up early to travel to the eastern side of the island to help with the clean-up efforts.  It has to be early before the heat of the day makes the work unbearable and the oil too soft to handle.  After we return, we will head to Jong Bonaire, a children’s after school program for Bonairian youth, similar to the Boys and Girls Club in the US, to begin our service there.

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Bonaire Day 3

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by Alex Harris ’17

During my time here so far, I have been thinking a lot about the simplicity of life on this island. You really need so little to lead a happy life. In the United States, we are always presented with the idea of living lavish and pompous lifestyles. We are fed the idea that having a lot of “stuff” means that we are living a happy life. We are taught that this is “ultimate happiness.”  But, being here for only three short days, I am beginning to realize how little I need to be happy. Similarly, I am realizing that happiness truly comes from doing/living what you love. Wasting your time with “fake” and “extravagant” pleasures is a waste of precious time. This trip has made me realize so much about happiness and my life. I am seriously considering moving here when I grow up. ☺

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Bonaire Day 2

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by Patrick Mahoney ’18

Today we started our open water dives, the first of four we have to complete in order to become certified divers. During the dive, I finally got to see what we will be doing in the water for the next two weeks. While I was on the bottom waiting for people to finish their required skills for the certification, I looked around at the fish swimming around us, feeding off the coral, not even noticing us. When everyone completed their skills of becoming neutrally buoyant and clearing a flooded mask, Chris took us on a small tour of the massive reef that was just over the drop off of the ocean. Looking over the reef I could see the effects of pollution over the coal and other sea life, the coral looked dulled and the fish are sparse, so I hope to make an impact on the ocean. Over the next two weeks I hope to make a noticeable impact and feel accomplished in our service.

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