Jenna Wiegand, a senior in the University Honors College majoring in both Finance and Sustainability, spent fall term in the Turks and Caicos Islands studying marine ecology and environmental policy through The School for Field Studies. During her time studying in the South Caicos Islands, she wrote this entry about her new, and sometimes out of the ordinary life abroad.
Those that know me know that I sometimes have “a day for change” where I try something new. While this is usually food because I am a terribly picky eater, these last two months in South Caicos have witnessed me trying too many new things to remember—things that are now so commonplace, but posed such discomfort only two months ago. I’ve made a list of a few of those new experiences that are now a part of my daily life:
- My ears are always salty from the constant snorkels and research dives. Every afternoon we have a field exercise or activity in the water, so there is hardly a day where I go more than six hours without being in saltwater (either the ocean or our saltwater showers). There is no fix to this.
- My bed is always sandy. There is no fix to this either, unless I put a rinse bin at the base of my bunk since our dorm floor is perpetually sandy. Oh well. Consider it nightly exfoliation?
- I have a serious bootie tan line. This is from my diving booties and this winter it will look like I am wearing permanent leggings.
- I am now a vegetarian. This was mostly because we eat enough rice and beans anyway and the meat options are not that appealing; plus the black bean veggie burgers are much tastier.
- All of us here at the field center count the days until the food boat comes in, and a pan of brownies calls for a stampede.
- I tried tofu. (Shock of shocks) It was good.
- Showering every 2 days or longer (once a week?) is perfectly acceptable here. Snorkeling and diving are seen as “pretty much showering” so there is no need for more. Yes, this is kind of nice but it is weird to think that what is completely normal here would never be fine in the U.S.
- I am a pro at back-rolling off boats to go diving. And I’m getting a little bit more arm muscle from hauling around my gear, weights, and tank (what… 40, 50 pounds?? It’s ridiculous).
- The best compliment you can receive here is “You look clean” or “Your hair looks clean”.
- Special occasions (or just evening cravings) call for a trip to town to buy a pint of ice cream.
- I can identify around 110 marine organisms… algae, corals, fish, sharks, rays.
- I have held a couple of sharks and have tried to catch a turtle (yes, “turtling” is a real thing).
- I have now spent 5.5 hours of my life underwater, and have dove to 73 ft!
- I will never underappreciate a washing machine again. I now do laundry the “easy” route which means forfeiting my fresh water shower and using it to fill up a tote bin so I can hand scrub my clothes. And let me tell you, to decrease shower use more, the shower has a chain pull that you must hold down the entire time to continue the flow of water. So there is no way you will lose track of time and take a 20 minute shower.
- Four pm snack might possibly be the best time of the day.
- I don’t even know what a sweatshirt is anymore.
But clearly all is not bad in this place because I am loving it for the most part. Snorkeling and diving are indescribable, as are the sunsets. After dinner, the weather cools off and there is usually a breeze through the hammock area– then it is absolutely wonderful to be out. It is so nice to be a bit disconnected from technology and phones; a lot of the materialism and outward vanity of the U.S. is gone as well– you don’t have much, but it is so easy to be happy with what you have.
So at the end of the day this place is pretty awesome, even with the cockroaches and the salt.