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It’s been almost a week since we’ve been home and I realize I have another blog post left to upload.
But what to say? I mean the trip is sadly over and we’re back to the ordinary.
I’d say most importantly, our trip showed me how the other half live, and I’m not talking about the peaceful island life. Choosing commerce over science was a decision I made in grade 12, and I’ve always wondered what my life would be like had I continued post-secondary studies in a science field.
Turns out there aren’t many differences between the fields albeit the differences in technical knowledge. They stress about med school applications and us, our resumes. Research opportunities versus third year internships.
Do I regret choosing accounting over chemistry?
This week, above all, has shown me regardless of the field you choose to enhance your skills, you can do anything and be content in any field you choose.
Who says an economics and accounting student can’t conduct a research project? Or a science student; a lover of business case competitions and networking events?
Don’t limit yourself, keep an open mind, and explore the world. Take opportunities as they arise and have no regrets. Where you are now is exactly where you’re meant to be.
Thank you San Salvador and my UTM290 team for an extra-ordinary week.
Sarah
The Middle

The Middle

Reflecting back on the week… it was lit.
I arrived at home in Mississauga at around 1 am, with my luggage, coral/fish species data, suntan and memories I’ll never forget. This week was intellectually stimulating; we swam with Bahamian fish and collected our coral data. This week was exciting; not everyone can say they’ve dived into Monument Bay and saved a hat (ahem Johnathan) and (nearly) beat Thomas in chess.
I’m most thankful for this opportunity because it gave me friends for a lifetime.
Living with strangers (initially), talking to them and spending the week together gave me insight as to what their passions, and dreams were. I touched on this point on my previous blog, but going from living and seeing your friends almost every second of every day to barely seeing each other all week was an adjustment. I find myself constantly reminiscing about the good times we had and all the experiences we shared together, like seeing a school of fish swim past us and a dark purple sting ray.
I guess you can take the girl out of the Bahamas, but you can’t take the Bahamas out of her.
Sarah
The Beginning

The Beginning

The title may seem a bit misleading but I’ll be taking a different perspective with these blogs.
The beginning of the trip didn’t start when we flew into the gorgeous San Salvador island for me. Instead, it started when our UTM290 group became a family.
The change was gradual, we began by playing card games in the hotel and later all over the island. We realized that Shaishav was a ruthless mafia player and Thomas had a witty sense of humour. Mercy has a heart of gold, Agatha cares about everyone unconditionally and Johnny became the older brother I’ve always wanted. And my girls, Mishika, Ayesha and Hibah are three of the most resilient women I’ve ever met and I’m proud to call them my team mates.
Tanya and the professors were always with us for support and a few mini adventures. Paul played a game of volleyball with us and Tanya, a few rounds of mafia in the back of the blue truck I called our second home for the week. Marc showed me a few patch reef sites were I collected seashells and our team collected our first round of data.
Before the trip we were barely talking to each other in class, now we’re talking about combining tables so everyone can sit together. Now it seems like class can’t come fast enough- something I don’t believe I’m typing right now; who knew?
Sarah

Adios, San Sal!

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As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

No matter how stressed I got over our data, I’m so glad that I could be a part of this journey with these incredible people, and I have come back with some great moments and memories that I will cherish for life.

I have learned so much from these people – more than what any textbook could teach me and beyond what my syllabus requires. I was fascinated by Team 1’s diligence in the field and spirited presence off the field. Mercy and Agatha inspired me with their hard-work and sincerity. Before this trip, members of Team Finding Nemo were simply my classmates, but now I admire them more than ever. I was amazed by Sarah’s strength and grit, as she swam tirelessly to get data for our project. I was motivated by Hibah’s unflinching determination, as she overcame her fear of water and was swimming like a champion by the end of the trip. And I truly appreciate Ayesha’s ability to remain calm and composed while the other members of our team freaked out in the field.

Over the course of this week, we shared not only some crazy jokes, but also our struggle in the field. Even though Shaishav constantly teased me about my height, he supported me when I had to pop my head out of the water to clean my mask (because I’m too tiny to rest my feet on the reef!). It is amazing how we could go from having an intense debate about which was the best “drank” (purple, orange, or red) to having some “real talks” under the stars. We have eaten together at the real Wendy’s, and also at Wendy’s Snack Bar in San Sal. We have shared our love for 80’s music, but also admitted that High School Musical is our guilty pleasure.  We know each other so well now, that even when Mercy hummed the Mission Impossible theme instead of the James Bond theme, Sarah miraculously got it right. We have been through it all together.

The games that we played were probably my favourite part of the trip. I have never laughed so much during a game of Cards Against Humanity before. Members of Team Forams put their analytical skills to use even when they were not in the field, while trying to figure out each person’s sense of humour. I clearly don’t have a type because almost everything made me laugh. And might I add, Thomas’ reaction to the cards was better than the joke itself! Agatha, Jonathan and I formed the Cranium dream-team, as we gracefully won the game, jumping from one purple brain to the next. The 7-hour wait at the Nassau airport seemed like the shortest layover ever, as we played charades and a card game called Market. I am very proud of myself for successfully acting out “purple drank”.

We concluded our field trip with a game of volleyball, which was my first volleyball game ever (and which I clearly sucked at). Ayesha braided my hair and we also laughed one last time about Hibah’s “hi” video. Mercy, Agatha and I had a Taylor Swift jam session, and hopped on to our blue truck as we bid farewell to the Gerace Research Centre.

This trip will definitely be one of the most memorable and enriching experiences of my university life.

-Mishika

p.s. can’t wait for our bimonthly karaoke nights

It’s better in … Mississauga

Just kidding! It’s currently the morning after we got back to Canada late the night before. I slept for ten hours straight after taking a hot shower and washing the ocean salt from my hair (which never failed to style it fabulously). Getting up at noon feels like a shock without my Bahamas fam right next to me, without the fear of missing breakfast strictly served at 7:30am, or without Hibah shooting up from her bed to tell us frantically “Guys, it’s 7:14!” after none of our alarms managed to wake any of us up.

Our Facebook group chat is pretty lit now though, while before the trip I hadn’t even been added to it and the only person who really talked in it was Sarah. We plan to meet often for karaoke which everyone is hella pumped for (I said monthly or even bimonthly after the “pre-med” guys avoided eye contact with me given their commitment to their grades, but I’ll take what I can get.)

The last time we were all together was at baggage claim, and then Mish had to leave, so we all hugged her and I was sad to see my Baeshika leave me 😦 Then Shaishav gave each person a slip of paper as a memento from our daily games of Mafia on the island and my heart sank. I teased him about his latest sappy blog post since I didn’t believe he was this sentimental but now I finally believed it. (Btw I got townsperson again……… or did I? We’ll see when we all meet for lunch on Tuesday 😉 )

On the plane I sat with Hibah and Ayesha with Johnny, Mercy and Mishika in the row behind us, and somehow we had agreed to play UNO on the plane ride in this awkward arrangement. But before we knew it, we all fell into a post-Bahamian coma and didn’t wake up until we started to land. Thankfully, this nap prevented us from experiencing the killer ear-popping sensation, so bless!

I nearly cried at baggage claim, and I almost took Thomas with me to Cry Town. It would’ve been a mess so I pulled myself together. I had already cried enough the previous night when we went out to the beach and took a night swim in the ocean. I was so happy that we’d done that as a group as our last hurrah. It was scary not being able to see anything in the pitch-black water but the adrenaline rush was so worth it. Some mystery bugs were eating us under the water, which Johnny said were leeches so I freaked out but then Shaishav said that leeches don’t live in the ocean so… then I was more freaked out because what the hell were they then???

We then spent our last night in the computer lab, with each of us staying until our eyes could barely stay open, and I could ask for nothing more and nothing less from all of these people. I don’t think I’m mistaken when I say that we all feel extremely attached to one another. Johnny said that I looked depressed when I was looking out the plane window at Nassau as we lifted off, and he was right. Nothing in my life will match this week we spent in San Salvador. I hope to never let go of these new friendships that I’ve made. Now I’m going to take Johnny’s approach and write to each person personally:

Marc: Thank you so much for your belief in us and your constant support. You treated us like adults while also expecting us to act like adults, which caused us to step it up big time. I learned and grew up a lot as a person over this short week thanks to your hands-0ff (but with overseeing eyes) approach. You’re the master of fieldwork in my eyes, and your commitment to giving budding scientists real experiences of it is truly inspiring. I hope the organization of this course goes your way in the future, and you continue to garner great success in shaping young lives as you have ours.

Paul: No offence, but after this week, I never want to hear the word Ingamell’s again! But no hard feelings, since my group (Team 2 “Fresh” Lake) has a lot to thank you for. Thank you for guiding us in the right direction. Thank you for your interesting insights into the chemistry behind our busted equipment and the foam on the lake shores and the methods of chemical analysis that we’ll still have to do back at school. You really put us at ease after the first few stressful days. I hope you continue to find success in this course so that you can make it as accessible to students as you can. It truly means a lot to us knowing that you have our backs.

Tanya: Our trip-mom! Thank you for bandaging our war wounds and sticking up for us when we needed you out in the field and back at the Center. You were our relay between the cushy seats in the cab of the truck and the hard wooden benches in the back where occasionally we’d get whipped in the face by the flora of San Salvador, or by the towel of Agatha (I’m once again very sorry for that!!!) Thank you for keeping us sane in times of stress by taking us out to the beach to look at the stars, and by making us take time off to go play cards in the games room. Your approach made us calm down more and more each day and we grew closer in a large part thanks to you.

Team Coral/Finding Nemo:

Hibah: Hibae!!! I’m so proud of you, conquering all your fears and pushing yourself to every limit on this trip. You stepped it up on every level and you made your team and everyone who watched you very proud. You learned how to freaking swim in barely two days!!! Who does that!!! This trip was full of firsts for you and you went through all of them with a smile on your face and open arms. I think we all learned a lot from you, and you learned a lot about yourself as well. You also took the most fire pics, bae. I’m waiting on all of them to be uploaded to the Dropbox, even the ugly ones. We all know this trip was ugly but it was gloriously so. That cockroach on the shower ceiling died a mysterious death and we need to honour that.

Ayesha: Baesha!!! You’re an enigma, gracious and poised against all obstacles, even when the Purple coolers fell over on the truck and Shaishav let out a high-pitched scream. Here is the evidence I caught:2015-01-01-20-03-14 Look at that level of chill! Rip. You braved the ocean waters and worked some late nights identifying algae and corals and fish and you did all that while being the chillest roommate ever along with Hibah. Neither of you cared when I’d come in at crazy hours of the night and unzipped my obnoxious bed net while you guys were fast asleep. You are also such a wild card in Mafia that everyone is scared of you, especially when we play the rounds with a Jester. Do we kill you or do we avoid killing you??? We always seemed to pick the wrong option anyway. Please keep being you, you’re such a sweet person, so poetic, so smart, and so interesting.

Mishika: Baeshika!!! Mish, the Indian Agatha. I love you girl. You’re so huggable that it’s crazy. You also always have something insightful to say; I love talking to you. You have such a rich background and a bright future ahead of you as well. You work so hard and you deserve all the good things in life, and you should never feel alone. When Taylor Swift starts touring again, we’ll go see her in concert together! In addition to monthly (or bimonthly) karaoke 😉 You tried so hard to help your group despite your short stature, I really admired that. I’m glad that the flippers helped you in the end and I hope you’re not mentally scarred from swimming now lol. You have gorgeous hair as well and I lowkey enjoyed the pain of it whipping my face on the back of the truck. Keep it up, bae. You’re amazing.

Sarah: Baera!!! Sarah bae. You’re so special. You never backed down from a challenge. The field took everything out of you, and yet you still came back again every day, ready to do it again, and each time it went even smoother. Even when your ankle wound wasn’t healing, you went back into the water again and again, getting sand in it and making it even worse, until your group had all the data they needed. And then you stayed up late at night either to work on your project in the computer lab or to spend time with everyone as a group. When you finally crashed early on the last night, I don’t think anyone could blame you. You deserve every minute of sleep you can get after this trip. Rip you. I’m so glad to have met you and gotten to know you as I have. You’re committed to everything you do, and I know you’ll be committed to keeping these friendships that we’ve made on this island. You make and will continue to make the group chat very very lit.

Team Forams (feat. Violins?):

Thomas: Thombae!!! You pushed yourself out of your comfort zone on this trip and even though it really took a toll on you, I think everyone admires you for it. Whether it was getting drowned by your team (or me and Hibah) while coring and sampling forams on seagrass, trying to swim out to the corals despite “just panicking a little”, or opening up in our games like Cards Against Humanity or Mafia and showing your hilarious comedian side. You even played volleyball (and basketball probably but I didn’t watch that one) and you killed it! While I just stood there 🙂 I need to learn from you tbh. But I think you can learn from us a bit as well 😀 at karaoke 😀 monthly (or bimonthly) 😀 despite your busy pre-med life 😀 see you there, okay? 😀

Shaishav: Baeshav!!! I knew you before the trip but oh man did I get to know you better over the week. When you’re not stressed about school, you’re hella fun to be around. You were the rock of our group, whether you realized it or not. You put eye drops in Mercy’s eyes for her, you went to ask the convenience store clerk for a bathroom for me and then at the airport you went to solve my baggage issue without anyone even asking you to. You just take the initiative and that is so admirable. You were the main man of Mafia. You even played Mafia subconsciously throughout the rest of the day. You were obsessed with getting to know everyone’s sense of humour for Cards Against Humanity (especially Ayesha) and all of their tells for Mafia. You got everyone together to play volleyball and basketball and you kept telling us to get off our phones and spend time together. You’re one of the biggest reasons that we all got so close. Thank you for everything you did just by being yourself.

Johnathan: Johnbaethan!!! You are unfathomably selfless. You helped every. single. team. in their sampling. Every single one! You even got stuck in the poopy mud of “Fresh” Lake for my team. You helped us sample every lake, you helped the Coral team samples several sites, and you of course helped your own group. You volunteered yourself and you never thought anything of it, but trust me when I say that everyone else thinks the world of you. You never judged anybody, you always listened to everyone whether they were venting, raging or gossiping, and you never changed your heart-on-your-sleeve attitude. You were always up for anything… never mind that, but you were also always up! Go to sleep, dude. I don’t know how you do it. I want to be like you when I grow up, Big Brother (even though you’re younger than me 😀 ). I’m very confident that life will reward you for everything that you’ve done in your life for everyone around you.

I also hope the forams work out for y’all lol, you’re welcome for the two that I picked out 😉

Team Water Pollution/Anchor Management/”Fresh” Lake:

Mercy: Mercbae!!! Last but definitely not least, my bae of all baes, my partner in crime. We’ve been through so much sh*t together (literally, rip). The realest of real talks only happen when you’re crouched over, picking shells out of mud that smells like poo— I mean, egg salad. With black food colouring. You’re honestly such a sweetheart, and I feel like we’re practically sisters now. Your backstory is so colourful that I could listen to you talk about it for hours, as I have. You’re also the best listener, because not only do you listen, but you also give advice as well as tidbits of your own experiences. People like you are treasures, and people who don’t see that in you really don’t deserve your time. You work so hard as well, and I hope you realize all of your dreams because you more than deserve it. But please don’t stress so much about things like schoolwork 😦 I hate seeing you so quiet when the real Mercy is so bubbly and happy. Also, singing with you made me sound better somehow…? And you’re so observant that your impressions of all of us were so on point. Mercbae, you’re awesome.

photo-2017-02-23-9-36-59-pmFigure 1. Taken by Melissa the Snack Bar girl. She opens it at 9pm and closes it at 10pm. This is 7/9 of the squad + No Name/Dempster/Fish/Rover in the Snack Bar because who knows where Hibah and Mish were at the time ?

And that’s about it, although I could write for pages more, but I’m already at 2382 words as I type this. Rip. Thanks for the greatest experience of my life, everyone. I’ll tell my future kids and grandkids about y’all.

Love,

Agatha

FORAMS! PURPLE! CORAL! POLLUTION!

Hi everyone,

Here are some midweek updates –

We’ve all been working hard on our respective projects, while also helping each other out in the field. As members of Team 1 “drown” each other to collect their data, our team swims out to the reefs with our underwater slates (which I find extremely cool for some reason) and quadrats. After struggling to swim against the intense waves for two days, I finally admitted to myself that I needed to use fins – and boy, they were a blessing! After lunch, we usually head out to some polluted (and smelly) lakes to collect water and sediment samples for Team 2.

Now, some non-work updates: “FORAMS” is our war cry, everyone has become fluent in Sarah’s lingo, and we are all addicted to a game called Mafia.

You know you’re having a good time when your sandy clothes don’t bother you anymore, when the food that supposedly only “keeps your heart pumping” starts tasting delicious, and when the sugary PURPLE DRANK becomes your favourite beverage! 🙂

-Baeshika (the name given to me by Baegatha)

Back to Canada (Day 7)

We all woke up on Saturday knowing what was coming… it was time to say goodbye to San Salvador and go back to chilly Canada. We had one last breakfast at our designated table (which we are very protective of), and headed back to our rooms to finish packing up. It was weird seeing our dorm rooms completely empty, it was especially sad seeing Agatha put her amazing bug net away, it will be missed dearly. Once more, we jumped onto the blue truck one last time and drove to the airport, while reminiscing about our favourite parts of the trip. We arrived slightly early, so we had time to finally go to San Sal’s very own ‘Wendy’s’ and have ice cream- yum!

 

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Following our short flight to Nassau, we had quite the layover, but the thought of a long, tiring wait was quickly forgotten when we spotted an actual Wendy’s at the airport. Burgers, fries, nuggets, and soda never tasted so good. The next couple of hours were spent playing a super fun, yet challenging game of charades… but seriously, how does one act out the words foraminifera, agile method and purple drank?! Good thing we could all basically read each others minds at this point. Later, Mishika introduced us to a quick-thinking card game called Market, which got very loud very quickly. On the other side of the table, a chess game was going on, what a scholarly way to pass time!
Eventually, it was finally time to board our flight and officially say goodbye to the Bahamas.

What a trip this has been, definitely one of the highlights of my university life, and one that I will not forget.

-Ayesha