Monday, September 6, 2010

Seeing is Believing

Believe. Everything. You see. I have always been skeptical of pictures advertising resorts and tropical locations, expecting them to be doctored or photoshopped. However, ladies and gentleman, my new home is every bit as spectacular as the pictures. But, let me start from the beginning:

I left L.A. as it began to get frigid again, the cold front from the ocean bearing down fast, so I was even more glad to be departing. I checked in with 2 bags weighing exactly 50 lbs, a miracle in my opinion, and was informed that my flight was already an hour late due to an attendant missing her connecting flight. 20 minutes later I was checked in and receiving a phone call from the airline telling me it was going to be late. Hmmm...

Dad finally released me from his clutches and I passed through security with smooth sailing, 4 hours ahead of my plane. I finagled a spot by an outlet, another airport miracle, and did not get to talk to the other 2 students from my program due to my overprotection of both electricity and dive equiptment in my carry on bags. An hour later I sweet talked the attendant into giving me exit row seats, was forced to check my carry on bag, flew 5 hours to Miami and caught up with my first friend, Allie at the gate to Provo. Little by litte the other students trickled in and we grew into a raucous group in the terminal. My new found friends were from all over the united states and we were quickly sharing packing nightmares, expectations and surmises.

As we boarded the flight to Providenciales, we quickly compared seat assignments like high school schedules and were roughly seated in the same area. Our eyes grew wider with each passing mile, from teacups into dinner plates, as the water slowly turned more and more turquoise. We had no idea what to expect when we landed and the anticipation was growing with each new shade of unfamiliar blue. As we stepped off the plane we were greeted by sand dunes and scrub brush, crystal blue water, and sticky, sticky heat. My jeans quickly melted to my legs as we walked through the door to many different flamingo logos, marking our arrival to the Turks and Caicos Islands. Customs was a breeze, all 3 bags made it to Provo ok, and we started finding more and more of our group, including our group guides.The small shabby, yet proud building housed us in a small cafe for another hour or so until departing for South Caicos itself. The whole airline was relaxed, as they ordered another plane for us and delayed our flight. It reminded me of North Carolina. (smirk)

Again, we boarded a small yellow plane and were quickly informed that our flight was 12 minutes long. sitting in a plane with only 2 and 1 seats to a row, we all gawked and reminded ourselves of our adventure to come. We expected the water to turn gradually blue and deeper, yet it remained a brilliant, resort hue, only furthering our excitement.

 After finally landing in South Caicos, a very very small airport that was closer to rubble than a building, we boarded a few vans to take us the 2 miles down the road to our home. Many structures on this island were damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008, not by Hurricane Earl, the most recent. They have not been able to rebuild properly due to limited access to resources. The houses are mainly concrete with shutters and grates on the windows, lots of paneling littering yards, and wild donkeys, horses, and cows (both genders have horns!) populating the yards. We quickly came up to our house, which is a series of one-story cabana bulidings.

The middle of the center is the rec area, which is open to the air and has a spectacular view of the ocean and several surrounding cays, since the center is located on a 30 ft cliff. We eat, meet, and hang out in this gorgeous viewed location, and I am so lucky to be able to enjoy it 24/7. The dormitories split off to the left and right wings, and are 4 people to a room. In the back are the kitchen, classroom, and library, and off to the front and towards the water is the dive house and boat docks for our dives. In later pictures, you will see the cay directly south of us, Long Cay, and in between the cay and the island is one of our dive sites, called Admirals. The center is white concrete walls with wooden beams, red tiled floors and bits of rubble and broken cobblestone in some parts, giving it a very hippy-researchy look to it, yet still remnant of a resort location.

My roommates and I quickly unpacked upon arrival as best as possible and then jumped in our small salt water pool, joined by every other member of our group (32 students). We then went back to the sweltering rooms to set up mosquito netting, claim our drawers and clean in general, which was nearly impossible in the heat. The rooms are almost unbearably stifling, as was the weather outside until you reached an open area with a strong breeze. After a hearty dinner, introductions, safekeeping of belongings and internet connection, we retreated to our rooms to reorganize and settle in for the night. The center closes the pool at 10 pm which is still amazing to me because it got dark at 8. I intend to utilize as many resources as possible, since they are all open late and inviting. Competitive ping pong games ensued and I retreated off to the computer lab to update all my communications channels.

The sunset and stars here are truly spectacular. The water is turquoise blue, literally. The horizon is so far away, you can see many small islands and cays. The salty air is thick and hot, but yet oddly refreshing, if your body is cool enough. It is a living postcard, no lies. The company is bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to start this experience at 7 am tomorrow morning. Paradise has arrived and I am still pinching myself to remember that it's here for 3 more months.

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