Gap Year

The beginnings: dead trees, visible goods, and conch shells.

This might be the most tiring weekend I’ve ever experienced.

Saturday morning started at 6 AM in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. By 7, I was on a tiny charter plane a few thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Then we arrived on the island of Great Abaco, Bahamas.

Boarding the charter plane.

I think I was in a bit of shock from once we landed all the way until yesterday around dinnertime. Up in the air, we could see the ground below us. One generally expects trees and foliage to cover the ground as you approach land. In Abaco, salt water had killed almost every standing tree, leaving a withered blackened stick in its place.

View of Great Abaco from the plane.

Upon landing, we were immediately hit with a wave of humid air. By noon, I was sweating. We drove through the streets of Abaco island. I didn’t even think to take pictures because of how much of a shock it was to see the damage done by Hurricane Dorian. There was a house on top of a boat. And then a boat on top of a house. There isn’t much wildlife to speak of here, but I caught a glimpse of a few “hurricane dogs” roaming the streets. And then we reached our base, our home and sole refuge for the next two months.

Today, Lynn compared it to a concentration camp. It isn’t really much to speak of, only the bare essentials. There are a few indoor areas for kitchen/wifi, port-a-potty bathrooms, and sleeping areas in small shelters called “VGs,” short for Visible Goods. Our main “lounge” area is in the rec room of a Christian church. There’s an outdoor hand washing station near the port-a-potties. We’re fenced in from all sides with the exception of a “forest” of blackened trees and other brush which we are forbidden to enter.

However, after a wonderful dinner of meat and corn cooked by two local Bahamian cooks, I did sleep reasonably well. Who knew that small pieces of foam could help me (a light sleeper) get through a night with not one, not two, but THREE snorers?

My day today was a little less shocking. We went to a nearby beach. The drive was still shocking, but perhaps less so. The beach wasn’t covered in debris per-se, but there was a lot of broken glass near the rocks. We found dish ware that was still completely intact, even a year and a half after the disaster. Next to the huge pink conch shells, I saw parts from two separate (former) toilets in the water.

It’s nearing 9PM, which is when the lights and power go out here in the lounge. Tomorrow, I’m getting a SIM card and undergoing tool training, after which I’ll start constructing things for our base (such as shelves and shelter from the sun and such). I’m a bit more uncomfortable than I was in Florida, and definitely much more tired. And yet, here I am—no way out but through.

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    1. I’m here on a volunteering project with All Hands And Hearts to rebuild a school and several homes. I’ll write more about it soon

    1. I don’t know if we’re going back there! I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a part of a former house, maybe some sort of plumbing?

  1. Hi Mei, Jazzy’ cousin-Zoe will go to Bahamas as volunteers in this summer, not sure which group. She goes to college this year too. Would you mind I share your blog to her? Take care. Jessica

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