Thursday, June 3, 2010

Time's Coming Short

Time's Coming Short
(this is what Irena’s sister Jane said when she heard we were leaving on Friday)

Eddie for the ENV students:
Today I awoke knowing I had a busy yet gratifying day ahead of me. As I opened my eyes I realized that the peaceful, meaningful, and life changing existence I am fortunate enough to experience on this magnificent island is dwindling. As I write this there are currently 36 hours until we board our plane to get back to our hectic modern lives. Today I was able to take all of my experiences in as my team and I worked hard in the tropic climate in order to accomplish our interpretive nature trail. This trail project is special to all who have lent a helpful hand because, we truly believe this awe inspiring estate can invoke deep meaningful emotions in all who wander her natural gardens. Andrew, Mandy, and myself started the day hiking the 75 acres taking waypoints in a handheld GPS in order to map the boundaries of the property. Win, Andrea, and Lara walked around the areas along our trail where the benches would be assembled and began to take panoramic photos so that an accurate description of the flora and fauna could be compiled and added to a brochure for any guest who would want to embark on our newly made nature trail. After a couple of hours of work it was time for lunch. This was not our ordinary lunch. Irene invited us all to her home where a massive Lucian buffet awaits us. With this said I would like to personally thank Patricia for the close level interactions she managed to include us in throughout the island. It hit me today that this study abroad trip was special. It can be intimidating but it could not be duplicated. This trip was life changing and has got me closer to choosing the life I want to follow. These were the thoughts running through my head at lunch. After this food indulgence the environmental students got back to the trail. We found some old palms and used the chain saw and cut the logs necessary to assemble the benches. We then used the cutlasses (island talk for machetes) to cut stakes to hold the logs in place along our trail. Lara and Andrew walked around and screwed in the lag bolts to secure the benches as the rest of us carried the bench pieces to the proper locations. This consumed the rest of our afternoon and as the sun began to set the forests around us awakened and the insects around us made their presence well known. I have grown accustomed to this life style in the short time I have inhabited St. Lucia and will have fond memories that will last a life time. I am certain I will return to this place again. Reality is setting in now and I plan to enjoy the rest of my evening on the beautiful Balenbouche grounds. As they say...“I’m there.”

Jan for the ART students:
We fired the new kiln today! Arrived up at Alicia’s and removed the arch form from the inside of the kiln and the arch stayed up ! The kiln was in wonderful shape and we all helped load her pots into the kiln and cover them with sheet metal and shards from broken pots. Before actually lighting the firing, however, we all joined hands around the kiln and Alicia offered up a prayer of thanksgiving for life, for this effort, and for family and community. It was amazing – she was so articulate, it was really moving, and we all had tears in our eyes. With the addition of a little kerosene on the kindling, the firing began and almost immediately we could see that the draught was working fine and the heat was being pulled through the kiln. When the firing was fully underway, we left Alicia and went over to Irena’s for that fabulous lunch, a demonstration next door of traditional lathe work by her husband’s uncle Blanc Alphonse, and to watch Irena start up her own wood-fired kiln. Then it was back to Alicia’s to see how the firing was working out, and when Catty joined us they had a very animated discussion in patois about whether the pots were ready. The conclusion was YES, the kiln had gotten quite hot and it was time to shut it down. So the coals were raked out and quenched with water, and the metal and shard coverings over the pots were pushed aside. The pots were done ! Success ! Finally it was back to Irena’s to shell tamarinds with her while waiting for her kiln to finish, then off to the grocery store in Vieux Fort to prep for an informal (and wonderful) indoor picnic back at Balenbouche. Another lovely day !

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fifteen Thousand Words

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so here we go. See captions below ! We’re back at Balenbouche now, and looking forward to two more days in the south to finish up service projects, continue to explore and learn, and find a way to say goodbye to all these wonderful people and places. We fly out at 7:55am on Friday, and if God spare (as they say here in St. Lucia) we shall be arriving back in Ft. Myers in the early evening.

1) Cassava bread cooking at Plas Kassav in Canaries
2) The pottery class at Castries Comprehensive Secondary School
3) Eddie with a really big frog at Catty Osman’s house in Morne Sion
4) Win supervising the environmental studies service project
5) Lindsey standing on her head at Fort Rodney
6) Heather on Reduit Beach at dusk
7) Lara and Andrea in jail at Fort Rodney
8) Heading into the rainforest in the Edmunds Forest Reserve
9) Ellen and Alexa with baby sheep at Auntie Mary’s
10) Trip mascot Ralphie enjoying a sunset cocktail at the Dasheene Restaurant
11) Mandy and Andrea with the Pitons on the way to Anse Chastenet
12) Completing the construction of Alicia’s kiln
13) Jan at the Rastafarian vegetarian restaurant in Soufriere
14) Andy riding the bull at Tequila Joe’s in Rodney Bay
15) Alexa carrying a coalpot the way the ladies do

Monday, May 31, 2010

Adventures on Land and Sea

Blog editor's note: we have been in such a whirl of St. Lucian activity that the postings have got a bit behind, and i do apologize for the lack of recent photos. After the amazing activities detailed below we took Saturday mostly off (Vieux Fort Market in morning, relaxing in afternoon, bonfire at the beach with full moon at night), then on Sunday jumped in the cars and headed back out on the road to see the island. We're up in the north just now taking in the tourist areas and teaching classes at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School, and are heading back south tomorrow afternoon. More pictures SOON !!!

Friday May 28: Adventures on Land and Sea
Our much anticipated hike through the rainforest finally arrived today. Having never been in a rainforest, En Bas Saut was quite a sight to see. We started our journey in Soufriere, where we met our drivers, Tony and Valerie. They took us up a long and bumpy road, 1700 feet to the beginning Edmond trail. The ride up to the national preserve was nearly as exciting as the rainforest itself. All along the way, our drivers provided us with information about local trees and their many uses. At one point we were even asked to identify a tree based on the smell of its leaf. After thinking it over for a minute, none of us could come up with the scent. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it was cinnamon! Going further up the road, we met our forest guide, Mitchell. He hopped on back of the Land Rover and we continued to make our way to the trail entrance.
As we arrived, we came across a sign that read, “…take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.” What an appropriate introduction to these beautifully preserved lands. As we began our hike, we were introduced to the forest plantations, which had been created for the purpose of timber production, as well as to help prevent soil erosion. The prominent tree species present included Blue Mahoe and Mahogany. Our whole rainforest experience was fascinating! And the fact that it even rained while we were there made it all the better.
The remainder of our day consisted of a boat ride off the shore of Soufriere where we learned about their marine management area. The managed area is broken up into marine reserves, fishing priority areas, recreational areas, and yacht mooring areas. It was created to help avoid conflict between those using the area and also to help protect marine resources. Not only was the tour informative, but it also gave us a chance to see the island from a different viewpoint; from the sea.
All in all our day was great! The efforts to preserve the land and sea here in St. Lucia are certainly something to be upheld and admired. It is good to know that there are those that can see the importance of protecting the future in the present. These efforts are the ultimate acknowledgement of the interconnectedness between the well-being of people and that of the environment.

- Andrea & Lindsey

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bricks and Logs

Bricks & Logs

Started the day with another wonderful breakfast at Balenbouche. On the menu was homemade granola, fresh mango, papaya, and fresh baked rolls. During breakfast had an interesting conversation with Uta, the owner of Balenbouche. She talked about how our environment can affect us personally. She felt our surroundings influence our thoughts, self esteem, and quality of life.
We got our creative juices flowing at the Almond cottage. This morning, Daphne Stephen and Ulrica Nuptial were demonstrating the art of basketry and weaving. These ladies have been working in this craft since they were young girls. They both create baskets to provide income for their families and their products are sold in their personal shops. Basketry is an organic, time consuming, and for these ladies, solo process. While solo, Daphne mentioned she enjoys watching Judge Judy, which we all found funny. All the materials are picked straight from their properties from the Khuskhus Grass to the Screw Pine leaves. The materials must be processed before they can be used. Before the leaves can be used they must be dried, baked, bleached, and stripped of sharp edges.
Following the demonstration the ladies attempted to teach us to make a simple weave, ha-ha! Soo, after some excruciating time passes and frustration developed, some of us were lucky to actually create some type of pattern…however, these bloggers had no such success. While the attempts were being made Ulrica brewed up some Cocoa Tea for us all. She used all homegrown ingredients which span from cocoa powder to whole cinnamon bark. It was SO good! We jotted down the recipe and plan to give it a try when we return home. Professor Patricia Fay made an interesting comment, “Basketry is a complex spatial puzzle”.
We enjoyed a lunch on the veranda with the ladies then split into a bricks team and a logs team. The Bricks returned to Alicia’s to continue work on the kiln. We had to make a pit stop at the lumber yard to pick up some material that would be integral to creating the arch of the kiln. Some two by fours, a large piece of masonite, and some rectangular lengths of metal were thrown in the SUV, it was tight but we managed the winding St Lucian roads. We got to Alicia’s at the same time as the afternoon thunderstorm so we had to take some shelter. The afternoon rain gave us some time to devise our plan for the arch.
When the rain stopped we trekked on down to the kiln and began working with Alicia, Catty, Irene, and Auntie Mary on the kiln. Under Fay’s guidance, the form was made for the arch and after a couple of revisions with thought we had it. Now the brick laying began. Cutting bricks with a machete, smashing them with a hammer, mixing mortar out of sand and clay it was quite an endeavor. Placement of bricks was integral to creating the arch. Hmm, another “complex spatial puzzle”?
It was hot, it was humid but with all of us working together after about 5 and half hours of hard physical work, we had an arch! It was an awesome feeling! We had worked until dark ! Now it was time to celebrate with a cold drink and a bite of Catty’s boullion! A great way to end our day! But we’re not finished yet! We’ll be back in a couple of days to remove the arch form……

The Logs Team – the environmental students - sat down with Uta and Verena to discuss organization and details of the nature trail. We experienced the same rain shower that the Bricks did and took shelter under an umbrella hut until it became a light drizzle. Soaked, we hiked the planned trails and decided where benches were appropriate. Six locations were decided on, each of which had very different, very spectacular views. We divided into our bench making groups (Professor Win Everham, Eddie, and I) and GPS locators (Andrea, Mandy, and Andrew) to start tying everything together. After a couple hours of manual labor we had a rejuvenating break with tea and cake on the Balenbouche porch. Back to work we went where we finished up the majority of our tasks. Loggers placed the base of the benches in the locations of the trail stops, found precisely by the GPS locators. Stinky, soaking, and exhausted we jumped in the car in search of Raisinettes that have been in high demand here on the estate. Even though we were beat down mentally and physically, both the logs and the bricks felt very accomplished and satisfied with the day’s success.

-Ellen Boliek & Lara Collier

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Defining a Vision and Building a Dream

The Clay People
On the technical side of things, the kiln building is coming along. We’ve finished digging the hole into the side of the hill which Win spoke about yesterday. Again, we were schooled by Irene and her amazing control and strength with a pick axe. We worked hard at making the floor of this hole level (or as level as it’s going to get!) and then it was time for lunch, which was a very yummy boullion with dumplings. During lunch, it began to rain. And so our very sandy kiln site turned to soupy, slippery mud! Tricia had to run out into the rain once in order to cut a canal for the water to drain out of our hole. Needless to say, it was difficult to work in this mud and it slowed us down but we got on just fine. We managed to build three walls of the kiln about 4 bricks high on the sides and 8 layers of bricks tall on the back wall.
It is difficult to verbalize our final vision--and, I can imagine, difficult to guess from my description—but I will try. The idea is to make the kiln partially in the ground with a barrel arch at ground level (so as to kindle a fire underneath) and a chamber above the arch for the pottery to be top loaded into. The arch will have some holes in it to allow heat through. Figuring out how to build an arch with be the greatest challenge yet. We’ll be tackling that tomorrow!
Just a quick note on our community connections in Morne Sion: Despite the fact that there is a constant string of Creole being spoken around us and despite the fact that we are the only white people for miles and draw a lot of stares—I do not feel out of place, unwanted, or unwelcome. Catty’s community is very cozy and comforting. Everyone is so friendly!!

The Tree Huggers
We started out the morning with a trek across the Balenbouche property to the small farm plot on the north side. Here we met a man named Sox, who farms this area as part of a local co-op. Sox was very excited to tell us about his plots and the types of plants being organically grown there. His produce includes lettuce, lavender, chives, pineapple, okra, mustard, eggplant, basil, cilantro, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers and yams. We were all astonished by how diverse these crops were. After this we drove into town to meet with the director of the co-op, Felix.
At this meeting we learned that the farmer’s co-op of southern Saint Lucia was formed in 1984 in for many purposes, including: to provide an economical buffer to the local subsistence farmers, to help enhance the limited or virtually nonexistent communication between farmers and the markets, and also to provide a much needed dependable form of transportation of goods to the market. We came away feeling much more attuned to the Saint Lucian’s pride for their land, as well as the co-op members’ struggle to promote local farming to current farmers, as well as the youth.
After lunch we met Uta, the director of Balenbouche about her thoughts and ideas for our nature trail project. We gained much insight on her visions for Balenbouche. The woman is a true visionary. We followed her around the property and listened to her avidly explain her visions for different areas. At a particular overlook near the beach, she pictured massage caves with amazing views of the Caribbean, at another she imagined Zen gardens. We truly desire to work our hardest to at least pave the way for such visions to become reality.
Throughout the day we catalogued a particular trail using GPS coordinates and staked out particular spots which we intend to develop into private Oases, places for guests to seek solitude and refection. Meanwhile, Win, Lara, and Eddie began construction on benches for these spots.
Overall, I feel that we have really mapped out our vision for the nature trail here at Balenbouche. Today was not only about our vision, but about the vision of the Saint Lucia co-op members as well.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

It’s Always Good When We Work Together

Today we started to move from being just tourists to being hopefully helpful members of a community. We had a demonstration of local pottery techniques and had the opportunity to participate, to the amusement of our community collaborators, at least those of us without art experience created some pretty rugged pots, but we got help. Patricia told me that when she works this clay with her hands, it feels like she has come home, I told her that to me it felt like I was writing with my left hand, but that I was OK with that. This whole experience is supposed to be about pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones, experiencing new things. How else can we learn?

We ate lunch together and saw a demonstration of a traditional bonfire for firing pottery. Then we all worked together to prepare the site for a new kiln design, that the art students will be completing as part of their service learning project. We all worked together. We took turn in the pit, using the pike, the shovel and the hoes. The students said we were ‘schooled’ by Aunty Mary’s 68 years experience with the hoe. It reminded me of how hard it is to do manual labor in this climate and how amazingly competent so many women in tropical cultures are.
Afterward, Alicia, invited us all to Catty’s Bar for a cool drink, but then the bricks arrived! Again, we worked together, in an assembly line to unload the bricks and get them as close as possible to the kiln site. It was hard work near the end of a long day, but we did it together, students, faculty, community collaborators, extra family members, and the two drivers from the company who donated the bricks, Clay Projects Limited.

In our group meeting at the end of the day, the art students talked about how they were reminded that the clay they use – usually out of a bag – came from the ground; that this experience helped reconnect them to that flow, from the earth to their art. My students talked about being reminded that where something comes from is important and often ignored, and that they deeply appreciated being behind the post card – feely like they were welcomed to the community. Irene said, near the end of the day “It is always good when we work together.” Like Mandy said two days ago – “I’m as full as the day”.
- Win Everham

Monday, May 24, 2010

The World's Greatest Hot Tub

The World’s Greatest Hot Tub
I think tonight I will simply list the day’s itinerary, and then let the rest of the group give you their own impressions. (I loved every minute of it).
1. Drive from Balenbouche to Choiseul village, see the fish market and the Arawak petroglyph.
2. Drive to Soufriere town; stop briefly to goggle at the Pitons, say hello to Daphne Stephen (the basketmaker we will learn from later this week), and see Myer’s Bridge (the location of the farmer’s cooperative we’ll visit).
3. Stop at Zaka’s wood carving shop and hear about the huge order he’s shipping to Norway; drive down to the Jalousie Resort at the base of the Petit Piton. Goggle some more.
4. Drive through Soufriere to the Diamond Botanical Gardens; see tropical foliage and the famous Diamond Falls.
5. Stop downtown for the ATM machine and some needed provisions.
6. Convince the cars to take us up the dreadfully steep first hill on the road to Anse Chastenet; goggle at the Pitons from the other side, drive down to the beach and snorkel the coral reefs for an hour and a half.
7. Travel back through Soufriere to visit the Sulphur Springs, “the world’s only drive in volcano”. Gingerly make our way into the very warm, very sulfurous shallow stream and plaster ourselves with hot black mud. Rinse off in the really hot deep pool.
8. Drive our wet, smelly, happy crew back to Balenbouche, with an all too brief stop at Choiseul potter Catty Osman’s lively roadside bar.
9. Dinner was waiting for us. We had traveled less than ten miles from Balenbouche.

Eddie: I feel I thoroughly got to experience the day as a St. Lucian – we were thrown into it today, immersed into the culture.
Andrea: I was struck to see so many people out and about – I never see people socializing outdoors in their neighborhoods.
Alexa: Today I felt the Caribbean spirit, the free-flowing, easy-going enjoyment of life. Everyone is so eager to introduce themselves, to extend their hand in friendship.
Jan: We’ve experienced the landscape in ways we don’t normally – snorkeling, mud baths…
Mandy: Rainforests, reefs, and volcanos all in one day – it was awesome. I’m as full as our day was.
Ellen: Dancing is good for the soul – we ended the day socializing in a community bar, and they were so welcoming, and very proud of their country,
Heather: I was so incredibly pleased with the extremes we encountered today – the different landscapes and ecosystems – I’ve never been in a volcano before and its only the second time I’ve snorkeled. Who can say they’ve done that in the same day ??
Lara: The silence at dinner was proof of an extremely packed day, full of gnarly experiences. That didn’t make sense, did it… is good.
Andrew: The thing I was most impressed by was how easy it is to live with the land – growing your own food, collecting rainwater – and how much that enhances your quality of life.
Lindsey: I grew up in Florida, I grew up in Naples, but I learned more about underwater today by just being there. The ocean feeds my spirit, it keeps me sane and breathing; without it I’d feel lost and alone. Snorkeling at Anse Chastenet reminded me how little we really see of this planet, and how much more there is to learn.
Win: I continue to be amazed at how much there is to experience in a small part of a small island.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Safe Landing in a Magical Landscape

Oh my - what a long, amazing day, and what a trsnsition from here to there with absolutely no problems worth worrying about. After a bit of scrambling, we got on the road at 5:30am, made our way across the swamp, dropped off the cars, shuttled to the airport, checked in, found food, boarded the plsne, and landed in beautiful St. Lucia ahead of schedule.Transporting our giant pile of luggage took a bit of maneuvering so we stopped off at the car rental office to sort things out which was really quite a wonderful place to start since it sits directly on a gorgeous windswept southern beach. Then off to Balenbouche we went, through a landscape newly lush from long awaited rains, alongside houses bright with Caribbean color, through the village of Piaye where a cricket game was in full swing, over the bridge and around the bend and down the long, bumpy,flower draped driveway of the Balenbouche Estate. The peace and beauty are palpable here, and after dropping our bags in our rooms and having tea and cake, we wandered the grounds getting our bearings and meeting the red foot tortoise who, oddly, has an extraordinary foot fetish and was quite taken with Eddie's sandals. Then down into the sugar mill ruins for a discussion of cane technology and the realities of the life of 18th c plantation slaves, afterwhich we hiked down to the coastline. The tide was high where the Atlantic rounds the island towards the Caribbean, and waves rolled into the rocky cove that gave this plantation its name.We ended the day with a sunset swim at Middle Beach, water a perfect coolness after such a hot day, three quarter moon riding overhead, and everyone feeling just marvelous. Dinner was terrific - chicken fricassee, rice, lentils, salad, and fried bananas - and after a group reflection on the experiences of the day, everyone is settling in for a much needed rest, lulled to sleep by the peeps and buzzes and trills of the Caribbean night. Magic.

Friday, May 21, 2010

And They're Off !

Greetings, and welcome to the FGCU Saint Lucia Blogsite ! We leave Ft. Myers tomorrow morning at 5:00am (gulp) for our amazing trip to St. Lucia, a destination Oprah Winfrey labeled as one of the five places you must visit in your lifetime. We have an action packed itinerary focused on the culture and the ecology of this wonderful place, and I know we'll have lots to say about. So stay tuned, and we'll check in as soon as we can !


St. Lucia Interdisciplinary Field Experience: The Human-Land Relationship
May 22 – June 4, 2010
Faculty contacts in St. Lucia:
Patricia Fay, 1-758-284-7665,
Win Everham, 1-758-284-4805,
Balenbouche Estate, 1-758-455-1244,

Student Participants: Andrea Aguayo, Andrew Applegate, Ellen Boliek, Edward Challinor, Lindsey Clark, Lara Collier, Jan Erickson, Alexa Garcia, Mandy Hunt, Heather Shanahan

This summer, FGCU faculty members from the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and from the Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences will lead students from both areas on an interdisciplinary, international field experience to St. Lucia, an independent, English-speaking country in the Eastern Caribbean. Throughout the Spring 2010 semester, students have met together for language training, fundraising projects to offset trip costs, and cohort community building. Beginning in May, the course experiences have included two weeks of disciplinary training related to intended service projects, and shared interdisciplinary experiences to deepen and expand the cultural context. From May 22 – June 4, students and faculty travel to St. Lucia to explore the human-land relationship through the study of traditional craft practices and tropical island ecology. While on the trip, FGCU students will participate in community-based service-learning projects, including kiln building, classroom teaching, and establishment of interpretive nature trails. Returning to FGCU, students will document and share their experiences with the regional and FGCU communities at a public presentation on Thursday June 17 at 1:00 in the Ceramics Studio at the FGCU Arts Complex. We'll see you there !