This week went much more smoothly than last week. With all of the orientations and introductions out of the way, we were free to get down to business doing what our respective jobs required. For me, that meant getting down and dirty with the septic tank – and the stuff inside of it! I am working with the Center for Sustainable Development on the campus’ wastewater treatment systems, including the gardens and the biodigester. This past week we focused on the wastewater gardens, and needed to find information such as the flow rate into the septic tank, the effective volume of the tank, and the measurements around the tank to determine the room we have to work with for future developments. To find the flow rate into the tank, we asked the students living in the dorms whose bathrooms feed into that tank to record how many times they flush the toilet over a span of 8 days. We also made assumptions based on the number of people working in the 3 other buildings that feed into the tank to determine the total gallons per day flowing in. To find the effective volume of the tank, we needed the depth of the inlet pipes, since there were supposed to be check valves so that the water level did not rise past them. Dana and I dug holes around the tank to find them – it took us all day! They were located much deeper than we had expected. We also planted two banana trees in the wastewater gardens in order to improve the filtration of the liquid waste running through the gardens. A downside to our project is that since we are only here for another month, we will not be able to see the work we put in be effective. The banana plants are still small and will take months to take to the silty, gravel-ridden soil and begin to really thrive. However, we are glad that the work we are doing will be appreciated for years to come!
On a non-work related note, yesterday was by far the most amazing and fun day I have had in my life. Being someone who doesn’t travel very often and who is not generally adventurous, going on a down island trip throughout Eleuthera was a thrill and a completely new experience. We started by visiting a tree on the island that is over 300 years old and that grows so extensively and intrusively that it overtakes everything growing beneath it. The roots grow twisted and tall and (in what might be a negative way) suffocate all the other trees in it’s immediate vicinity. The branches of the tree grow crooked and towards the sun until they begin to descend back towards the ground, eventually reentering the soil and becoming more roots. It was a beautiful and shocking tree, and beneath it we found evidence that there are wild horses that roam the island and nest in the ecosystem that the tree creates.
On our way up the island, we stopped at a bakery where I bought the most delicious coconut danish I had ever eaten (which, to be fair, is not a very expansive collection of danishes). We continued northward to an abandoned resort from the 1970’s, complete with remaining tile floors and an expansive pool. Behind the resort was the most indescribable beach I have ever been to. White sand that seemed to go on forever in either direction, crystal clear turquoise blue waters that matched the beach in size and intensity, and our group was completely alone. I could have stayed forever on that beach, just watching the water crash with a calm but relentless kind of frustration and then slink back, discouraged. I hope one day to return to that very beach, as it was the most sincere and peaceful I have ever felt. After about an hour, we continued up the island to Gregory Town, where we stopped for lunch and ice cream (I got mango and it was delicious). There was a small beach store we visited as well, and I treated myself to an Eleuthera t-shirt and a shot glass to add to my collection. The group then traveled to “blue hole”, which was a large cliff that formed in a circle and had filled about halfway (25-30 feet) with water. We all took turns flinging ourselves off the rocks and screaming with delight (or fear) as we hit the water below. It took me about four minutes of pacing, as well as much encouragement from my more brave friends already in the water below to get me to finally commit to jumping. And once I did, the second or two of freefall was an experience I won’t soon forget. After swimming and floating with ease in the salty water and one more jump, the group decided to continue the tour further.
Our last stop before dinner was to Hatchet Bay Caves, a large expanse of caves with stunning rock formations and writing on the walls that dated back to 1882 (I wouldn’t believe it either if I didn’t it with my own eyes!) We waded through ice-cold, waist-deep water to a room that had red-rock mud beneath the water that we played with in a way that made me feel like a little kid. After one frightening reality-check regarding what it would be like to be lost in a cave in complete and total darkness, we emerged (mostly) unscathed and enlightened. This weekend and the week it concluded have been a completely new experience for me and I am so grateful for the chance to have been here in this amazing place. There is nowhere I would rather be as I sit reflecting on my experience thus far. I can’t wait to see what next week has in store for me! #ACESAbroad