Transforming Hearts and Minds to Serve the World…

Rivier seeks to transform hearts and minds to serve the world.  It is at the core of our mission statement and central to the work we all do.  Today was our last full day in camp.  Kemit, a native St. Croixan and graduate school friend of Dr. Stake joined us for an afternoon lecture.  He currently works for the Nature Conservancy and he came to talk to us about the Conservancy’s efforts both in the USVI and worlwide on reef rehabilitation.  Students were focused and attentive and the discussion really brought this week full circle for them.  It is apparent that they have begun to think globally and with the attitude of “what can I do”.

Tonight as we sat around the campfire, the students invited the staff of Viers to join them and with humor and a whole lot of sincerity, they read the poem they wrote to thank everyone at VIERS.  They went around the circle and each one talked about the high points of their week here in St. John.  There was plenty of laughter, some confessions, but most importantly transformation.  These young people this evening aren’t the same young people that arrived a week ago.  They have challenged themselves in ways they didn’t think possible.  They have made new friends.  They have begun to think about the world  in a different way.  They have stepped out of their comfort zones and found it to an interesting place to be.  It has been an immense pleasure for Dr. Stake and myself to get to know these young people and to witness their transformations.  We fly home tomorrow..a little tired, suitcases full of salty dirty clothes, but hearts and minds open to new possibilities.

Students have been slipping me small notes all day with a few carefully chosen words to sum up their experience here at VIERS.  Tonights blog will end with their words.  Please keep following the blog for a few more days as I will begin to post many of the photos that captured our trip upon my return home.

Jessica:  It is important to think about the life outside of yourself.

Ashley P:  You can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it and have great friends to support you.

Ashley C:  No matter where you go and who you are with, you can make a difference.

Cassandra:  Never forget to take life slowly and observe what is around you.  Learning about others helps you learn about yourself.

Danielle:  I will no longer sleep late, I did so much before 10 am everyday!  It was awesome!

Chelsea:  I am so much more appreciative of what I do have.  It makes me want to earn my degree and teach in areas of the world that don’t have as much.  I want to give back.

Ariel:  I never thought about energy and water conservation before this week and certainly hadn’t thought about coral reefs.  This was so important.

Mary:  This experience opened my eyes to the little ways to make a difference in the world just by protecting our reefs, conserving water and using energy responsibly.

The HIke to Reef Bay

Today we took another scenic ride in the open safari car driven by Hamilton,
this time to a heavily forested area with trees high enough to block out much of
the tropical sun.  From there we hiked down an old Dutch “road” to see the
petroglyphs, rock carvings made by the pre-Columbian natives of the island
between 400-900BC, and the ruins of the Reef Bay sugar mill.  On the way, we
stopped to learn about several native trees with interesting names, such as the
“Monkey no Climb” tree.  We also observed a variety of small creatures including
hermit crabs (again!), spiders, and anoles – small gecko-like lizards.   In
addition we passed the ruins of a house that was once a village, although it
had been so well reclaimed by the forest it was hard to see any sign of it
beyond the single mostly intact rock foundation.  The site containing the
petroglyphs looked as though it would be beautiful in the wet season, as Randy
told us that there would be a waterfall then.  Though not quite as beautiful as
it could have been, the place was still pleasant, made up of large smooth rocks
and with quite a few dragonflies and birds flying around near the two water
pools in the rock.  One bird was particularly friendly, first sitting on a
branch near one part of the group and then landing on a rock near another,
staying there longer as one of the group was feeding him pieces of bread.  The
petroglyphs themselves were amazingly well preserved and quite striking.  One
set was better preserved than the others and reflected in the water, creating a
nice mirror effect.
The Reef Bay sugar mill ruins were large and relatively
well preserved, considering that they have lain abandoned for multiple
centuries.  One of the larger buildings still had its roof and housed more
hermit crabs and, more importantly, several bats.  The bats remained hanging on
the ceiling, but our presence woke them and their sleepy shuffling about to get
comfortable again was quite adorable.  The ruins themselves were interesting as
well: looking more intact than some of the others we visited allowing us to
better imagine what the site would have looked like when it was in
use.

After the hike we ate lunch and had a short lecture about Field
Survey Techniques that represent the diversity on the reef.  There two types of
Data quantitative which is the number of each species identified and counted. 
The next is qualitative,  the presence or absence of a species. The different
types of techniques were Manta Tow Technique, which has a person being towed
behind a boat with a board to hold onto and use to write notes on as well.  The
Plots Belt Transects has a tape measure set down over a set area and a person
swims along side keeping tract of everything they find on both sides of the tape
measure with a board to take notes. The technique we did today was Quadrants. 
This technique uses a large square grid placed on the sea ground and you can
count the species inside the grid. This isn’t helpful for special relief and
different size objects, but is good for averaging the quantitative amount of a
species in a given area. We went out with 1 by 1 meter grids and laid them on
the sea floor and counted the numbers of rocks inside the grid to give an
“estimate” of the number of the fish while snorkeling in Little Lameshur Bay.

Tonight was a fun night because we had a special guest come Ital
Anthony.  He had a cultural presentation about folk medicine and different
native plants.  We learned about 30 different plants you can find around the
Virgin Islands. For example the eyebright plant is used for red and itchy eyes,
it’s boiled and cooled with hot water and used to wash out the eye for relief.
After his folk medicine and plant presentation we started learning about the
percussion instruments. He started singing different native songs for us to
dance to and we all joined in!

Shout outs:

Shout outs to Dad,
Mom, Steph, Jess, Katie, Erin, Sam and Dave miss and love you guys ! I can’t
wait to come and tell you about my amazing experience here in the Virgin Islands
! (:
-April

Mom – I’m fine and they are feeding me well.  Stop
worrying.  If you haven’t already, let poor Roxie sleep in your room.
Dad,
Shannon, and Laurel – if you guys are reading this, hi!
-Tara

hi mom,
I hope Maggie isn’t being too loud & hi dad I hope you’re enjoying the cold
weather
-Mary

Hi mom, dad, henry, dust and Charlie,
Hope your
enjoying the cold weather, while I’m getting my tan on. Can’t wait to come home.
Love you! – Ariel

Bacon Blog from the girls in cabin 3

Everyone was feeling exhausted this morning but were instantly rejuvenated at the sight of bacon for breakfast!
After another delicious breakfast, our punctual taxi driver “Hamilton” took us to the Annaberg sugar mill ruins. The ruins were an impressive sight. Most of the old wind mill is still intact as well as the rooms they distilled rum in.
From there we hiked to Watermelon Cay for a beautiful snorkel. Some of the breathtaking creatures we saw included sea turtles, a manta rays, nurse sharks and colorful fish.
After our snorkel, Hamilton took us to Cinnamon Bay for a shower that lasted longer than 3 minutes!!!! Smelling good and looking snazzy, we went to Cruz Bay to shop. Everyone split up into groups for an excursion that lasted four hours. By 5pm, everyone had stories to tell.
A character that everyone seemed to enjoy was Thomas who imparted our group with wise words and delicious coconut water straight from the coconut (which he hacked with a machete).
Tonight in camp it is quiet. Everyone is relaxing and preparing for tomorrows adventure.

Shout outs…….
Hi mom, thanks for paying for this trip, Love Ashley C
.
Hi mom and dad, I’m having a great time and love and miss you….Ashley P.
Hi mom and dad…I miss home and even Biagio a little bit. I’m having a blast though…and love you. Jessica

Thomas…

Thomas was born and raised in the USVI. He owns and operates a Smoothie stand in downtown Cruz Bay. He greets every customer with a big smile whether it’s first thing in the morning or end of day. Several of our students had the good fortune to spend some time in conversation with him today.

Thomas has a son in the Navy studying engineering and a daughter at Cornel majoring in Forensic Science. A third daughter attends a local private school and in fact came in when classes let out for the afternoon.
Thomas recognizes the value of an education and came out from behind the counter to sit with our students. A wiser man we have not met this week. He said “You can lead or you can labor”…He told a story about a litter of six puppies in a box and one puppy climbed out much to his litter mates dismay…the moral of the story according to Thomas is, it’s fine to be a puppy outside the box.