St Eustatius: Part 1

If you are currently sat in wet and windy Scotland, with nights that are drawing in and exams approaching it may be best if you stop reading now. Our first week in the Caribbean is over and it’s been filled with fun and festivities, oh and of course some learning squeezed in.

1. Travel

We all met at Schipol airport at 6 am on the morning of 12th November.

We were flying with KLM and soon discovered the range of in flight entertainment included Wonder Woman, Spider-man and roughly 10 screaming children. This was made up for by the surprisingly yummy airplane food, and we were soon won over by a few particularly adorable children making their ways up and down the aisles smiling and waving.

This was the first flight being run to the island since the devastating effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria so we were very aware how important this flight was for many of those on board which was handled with great sensitivity by the airline staff. The diligence and resilience of the staff was particularly felt once we arrived at St. Martin, whose airport has been destroyed by the recent storms. We arrived to makeshift security and baggage reclaim under gazebos, but all went very smoothly and they even had dominoes available whilst we waited for our connection.

The connection from St. Martin was where the journey got interesting. As we were waiting we were watching the types of planes that were around us and it slowly dawned that this was going to be a very.. personal flight. The plane sat just 12 of us and the pilot and we even had to have a few ‘test runs’ before actually setting off. But it did the job and we arrived safely in St. Eustatius ready to enjoy our trip.

We settled in to CNSI where we would be staying, got our rooms and after a few tries- some more than others- got our finger prints put in to the door so that we could get in to the building. We also went to the local shop

2. Learning

Over this past week we have had various lectures and mini excursions to teach us about the workings of the island and how life here works. This has so far included:

  • A presentation from the director of CNSI, the scientific institute where we are staying.
  • Meeting with Charles Lindo, the tourism foundation officer on the island
  • A historic tour of the island
  • A presentation from Anthony Reid about the economy and infrastructure on the island
  • A presentation from STENAPA, the islands nature conservation organisation

Each of these activities has given us a broader understanding of life on such a tiny island which depends so much on importation to sustain itself. Within this we have also been working on group projects which have involved interviewing stakeholders and individual research.

3. Statia Day!

The whole of our first week of being here has meant us getting involved in the Statia day celebrations. This is a national holiday, celebrating Statia being the first country to acknowledge Americas independence. This means we got the spend the week enjoying a proper Caribbean party with Zumba, local bands and the most amazing people. Every night there was a party in the square, with the official celebrations taking place on Thursday morning with flag raising and a gun salute.

Everybody on the island has welcomed us with open arms; whether that is teenage girls dancing with us in the crowds- and laughing at us whilst we attempt to meet their standards but fail miserably or strangers stopping to ask if we need directions or even a lift, nothing is too much trouble.

So amongst learning and dancing, we have also squeezed in many a beach trip, snorkeling, exploring, a bbq and karaoke. We have seen lizards, geckos, hummingbirds, frigate birds, tropic birds, coral reefs…. Oh and did I mention it is 30 degrees?  And the week coming is set to involved diving, bird surveys and hiking the volcano, so no rest yet!

I did warn you not to read this if you were sat in the cold dark windy rain didn’t I?

Hopefully see you with another post next week updating you on more of our adventures.

Ivy and Danielle

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