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Check out our pictures, videos, and journal entries of everything we encounter.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Well, finals have begun and the last time you heard from us (on the blog) was the beginning of the semester. We are still getting along just fine as you can see!

Hard to believe another one has gone by, but Kater has been doing really well again and surely will get through it without a scratch!

We've had a lot of fun this semester and Kater has even gotten a few chances to get away from campus and snorkel with me. We got a new underwater camera, thanks to Liz and Sam's wedding gift! It's only been out once so far but the pictures were great:
... As you can see!

I've also been doing quite a bit of hiking. We have 1500' hill across the street from us with a radio tower at the top. There is an access road we use to hike to the top. It's a definite leg burner but a short hike; takes about 45 mins to an hour to reach the top. Great views.

I've hiked D'os Dane Pond (pronounced doe daan, at least according to our guide), which is a small pond high in the mountains, probably close to 3000'.

I've also hiked to the bat caves in the hills near the famous 'Bloody Point'. This was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful hikes so far. We essentially follow the bottom of a huge gorge (here, called ghauts), winding back and forth eventually to the bat cave, and ultimately to a nice waterfall.
Next weekend myself and some VIP friends will be hiking to the crater of Mt. Liamuiga! Finally!! We're really excited.
Our Kittitian friend Wayne is also a hiking enthusiast. He has taken us up each time to share the mountains with us. He is a great guy, charismatic and energetic Rasta man- perfect for a leader of long hard hikes. He knows the area incredibly well.
This a photo after one of our hikes with our guide Wayne (tall dark guy on left) and his friend Bertrum (on right) who often comes along as well.

So, obviously from the looks of it I've been having way more fun than Kater- but don't worry, I'm making sure to take very good care of her every day. I've been keeping up with the cooking, cleaning and laundry, as well as many many other every day tasks.
The up-side however, is that next semester Kater will have much much more free time to use how she likes, and reward herself with fun things. She will definitely be going for hikes and snorkels with me. She has even been talking about possibly getting scuba certified!

On the down side of things, we (Jules' owner Paula) and I had to put Jules down a few weeks ago. Her cancer had gotten to be too much for her, and although she still seemed to be happy and having a few good days between bad ones- it was clear that she was in a constant state of pain and discomfort. She was not able to get comfortable for more than a few minutes in most positions, and had little energy. We made the decision that her quality of life was not what it should be, and it was time. We put her down in on a beautiful property, owned by a friend of Paula's. The doctor came on location to administer the euthanasia. It was incredibly sad and hard, but we have had a lot of fun times together and she will always be remembered. We all miss her very much. She has a beautiful grave site now, that I visit from time to time. It is covered with beach stones, coral, and large conch shells. It is very pretty and since she loved the beach so much, we figure she would really appreciate being a little closer to it all the time.
One more picture for old times sake.

What else can I tell you? I've been working on a design project for a startup business on the island called Pondego. Pondego is a creole expression for 'on the go'; "upon the go, up on the go..." You get it. It will be a delivery grocery service for anyone who wants to order their groceries online and have them brought to their house. I think it will be a very successful venture for these guys. I'll post images when I'm finished. My responsibility is to design a logo, banner, and a mascot for the company. I'm almost done. It's been a pretty fun project, and it feels good to be working on art again.
We finally just started the turtle tagging again. Last week was our first outing and we caught two hawksbills who were already tagged. It is important to still catch them and update their information for our systems. We saw a green sea turtle but were not able to catch it.
That's about it for now. Catch you next time!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hi. Well I guess it has been a good solid month since our last blog update. We have had a lot going on. Shortly after our last post, we returned home to the U.S. to visit Kater's family in South Carolina for a wedding. We had a great week and some good quality time with Kater's family. Now that we are back on the island, We have moved to an off campus apartment in West Farm, which is just two roads past school. This makes it easy to walk back and forth in about 10 minutes. We were really excited for this because we didn't want to have to rely on a vehicle everyday... so many things go wrong with cars here. I've attached some photos of our little place below. Take a look around!
(Our front porch, we are in the first door.)
(The 'country' as it is called here, from the porch.)
Don't be alarmed by the burglar bars on the doors and windows. Ross requires all apartments housing their students to provide this extra safety features.
(Ocean from the roof.) This neighbor has a small nursery.
(The ocean, also from our porch- facing the opposite direction.)
It's great to be able to look out and see the mountains and the ocean everyday. We also have a regular herd of goats that forage all along our street daily. They are a riot to watch. There always seems to be one young one left behind, bleating like crazy trying to catch up to the rest of the herd.
(Small side yard/grass alley along our apartment.)
I've hung up a small clothes line to help dry our laundry, as our dryer is pretty lousy. It works, it just only allows 10 lbs at a time and takes over an hour to two hour to dry anything.
(This is our main yard, taken from the roof.)
As with most buildings here, they didn't finish constructing the upstairs, so it is open to go up. There's not much to see besides a lot of cinderblocks and rebar.
(This is a side patio area. Here we have access to the laundry room and garbage.) Our neighbor here has a really nice dog named Riley. He's a big Weimaraner and a goof ball. I like to visit him when I do laundry.
(This is our car, "Dina" short for Toyota Caldina. We've split the car with our friend John and it's been pretty good to us so far- we really like it.)
(Now to the inside, nothing special but it works well for us. This is the view from our door. The kitchen, living/dining room, all are one space. In the back are the bedroom and bathroom. We have a gas stove so when we lose power we can still cook food. This is a nice feature because power outages are very common on the island.
(This is another view of the living area. The apartment came with a T.V. and basic cable package- which is a good number of channels. The couch and chairs aren't the most comfortable we've ever sat in but they do just fine.
(Lastly here is the kitchen. )
I like the way it is spread out, we have a lot more room to work on cooking. Last week I made baked chicken which I breaded with crushed corn flakes. We also had rice and green beans. It's so nice to have an oven again.

That's it for the pictures. The bedroom is a bedroom and the bath a bath... no need for photos.

So what else is new? Other than where we're living... Kater continues to work with the sea turtle monitoring project, walking the beaches at night. I went once with her and saw a leather back! There is a lot of support from the military and special police forces there so it makes us all feel very comfortable. I'll be coordinating the in-water tagging branch this semester, and we are currently working on organizing that right now. We should be starting up in a few weeks. I just got news from the Bermuda sea turtle project that I won't be accepted this year. Dr. Stewart is trying to get me into one in Barbados... We'll see what happens.
I'm also still taking Jules out three times a week. Her cancer has returned so her mom wants her to have as much fun as possible with the time she has left. We have a lot of fun together and I will miss her a lot when her time comes to go.
(Here's a picture of us I took after a day at the beach. We were both pooped!)
I have also joined a Judo club. A friend of mine has been teaching for over eight years and he started a club through Ross. We practice twice a week and it has been a lot of fun so far.
I'm still trying to be an artist, although business is slow. I've done a few more t-shirt projects for different semesters as well as one for the VIPs. I'm also working with second semester on developing a yearbook as a fundraiser. Work with the children's book is non-existant at this point. The writer asked me to begin on another story, as the Sam and Jam one was not interesting to publishers. I sent her an illustration and just haven't heard anything back. I'll be checking on it, but honestly I'm pretty close to bailing on it. It stands to be a great opportunity but I can't control things on her end, and nothing is happening.

Well, this has been a long enough post for now. Hopefully I/we can post updates more than once a month. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hello everyone.
It's the end of the semester! Kater has taken one of her five finals and is studying hard for the others now. It's been a weird and rainy week. As I sit now it's pouring again. We (John and I) went through all the car business and we now officially have a car! Its a '94 Toyota Caldina... never heard of it? Well, neither have we. I believe it's basically a Corolla build, just named different for a different country. Most cars here are from Europe or Asia, not the US. Anyway we haven't driven it much, I'll probably take it out for a spin tomorrow just for kicks and to get out of the dorm. We have one more week before we move into our West Farm apartment, so that is exciting, except we'll have to pack everything up soon- which means I'll have to pack everything up so Kater can study. Good thing our car is a station wagon with a lot of space in the back... That will come in handy.
I took Kater out to Majors Bay with Jules to relax after her first test. We had fun, Jules was awesome and had a really good time. This pic is a great one, showing off how happy Jules was.
She swam with both of us, and every time she got out of the water she would roll around in the sand and get covered, what a goof ball.
We got back and had a nice taco dinner with our friends, probably the last time I'll see any of them for more than a few hours all week. Everyone will be so stressed about the tests and worried about making it into next semester... Lots of anxiety.

This morning I went out to take the garbage and recycling out, and stumbled upon this centipede:
This, is a small one, so I'm told. It is very common on the island for these things to get well over eight inches longs, and I've hear up to a foot. You can see by my hand that this is about five to six inches... These guys can really pack a punch if they bite. For someone with a bee sting allergy there is a significant risk if bitten. For anyone else, several days of discomfort with a very sore, stinging bite site. I'll keep my distance.

Thats going to be it for tonight. Look forward to some pictures of both of us once we make it through finals week- we will have a whole week to play before going to the states for a week.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hi everyone.

Been a while yet again. Seems like each time I post, it's been a little longer since the last one. One of the biggest hang ups has been lack of photos. Seems the blog has less appeal without some nice pictures to accompany the words... This time there are a few.

Firstly, as of last post, my family was down to visit. We had a great week. I showed them all our (Kater and me) favorite spots to eat and swim and everything else.
A photo above of TJ, Sarah, and me, at Majors Bay just before a snorkel.
Like I said the week went really well, but went by fast as they always do.

In the past few weeks I've gotten the 'job' of looking after Jules, a 4 year old boxer several times a week for "adventure day." The owner asks that I take her out for activity for a few hours twice a week. I take Jules to the beach, and sometimes we go for long walks or runs. I've had a lot of fun with her and have grown rather attached already! It's a great way to spend part of my week.
Last week Kater and I spend at Jules' house, house sitting while the owner was off island to see family. She has a beautiful home in Half Moon Bay, and we took a few pictures to share!
This picture here, is of me and Jules in the owner's pool on the deck. We had just gotten back from a walk in the hot sun and wanted a dip.
Happy dog!
Time to dry off!
She's a beautiful girl, and incredibly well behaved. Just about all the time she can be an off leash dog. When I take her to the beach she stays right with me and we can run and swim and she just loves it. I really have a lot of fun with her.

More recently, I have applied for a scholarship to the Bermuda Turtle Project, an international in-water course for the biology and conservation of marine turtles. That's a mouthful. If I'm accepted I will spend August 1st-13th in Bermuda learning about in-water capture, tagging, and data collection, and more on sea turtles. This will benefit the St. Kitts sea turtle project, as I will take these skills and apply them to our in-water tagging and data collection efforts. I have been chosen (and volunteered) to take over lead on the current in-water efforts, as the leaders will be leaving the island at the end of this semester. They have been involved during their stay here and it's time for someone new to take over.
They (Steve, and Troye) have been teaching me what they do to collect the information on our turtles. I have been on several dives, as I have written about many times. Newly, however I have been taking lead on the capture, meaning that I am first to attempt the capture and then swim it out of the water for tagging. I caught my first hawksbill last week, and another today!
Last week, I was given the responsibility of swimming in the first turtle caught by Steve, and clipping the tags onto the turtles fins. I caught the next one for practice, as it had previously been tagged sometime before. It was fun all the same! Today we swam in Ballast Bay, and I caught the first, and swam it in. It also had been tagged a long time ago, but it's good to take down the numbers so we know where it was caught last and what its measurements were at that time. Today, Steve taught me how to do a blood draw on the turtle. I made my attempt but was unable to attain any blood. Troye tried next but she also didn't have any luck.
We try to reduce the amount of time the turtle is out of the water, and at this point we had it out for almost ten minutes and decided that was long enough, so I returned him to the water.

Right now, Kater is off walking the beaches with the beach team. They walk beaches at night to look for the nesting leatherback turtles. She just texted me a message saying that they have found their first one!
This is a good picture of one (not ours) digging a nest. This species can grow over 1000 lbs... imagine walking up on that on the beach! Go Kater!!!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hi everyone, sorry once again about the time lapse between posts.

Kater has finished her second round of tests, and done well! We are relieved and she even has a little bit of time for fun.
This week my mom, sister, and her boyfriend TJ arrived to spend a week with us. I've spent the week showing them around the island, and taking them to our favorite places for food and fun.
We have snorkeled at Timothy Beach and saw the biggest stingray any of us had ever seen. It measured about three feet across and about five feet long! It was incredible. We swam and snorkeled at Shipwreck, Reggae, and Majors Bay too. We've enjoyed foods at Ciao's, The Sunset Cafe, Shiggity Shack, Shipwreck, Reggae, and the Marriott to name a few. A sample of the local cuisine you might say!
We spent the day today checking out sugar mill ruins, and Romney manor, as well as Brimstone Hill Fortress.
They saw the monkeys, pigs, goats, and donkeys that we've written about too... all that's missing is some sea turtles... there is still time and our hopes are high.
Stay tuned for some photos which will come soon.
The family has one more full day on the island and we plan to make the best of it!

Thanks for checking in!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hey all!

So finally I have some new pictures to share. As I mentioned a few days back, I had the incredible opportunity to go snorkeling with Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, from Animal Planet's 'Emergency Vets' out of the Alameda East clinic, in Boulder CO. It was so great to meet him, and he was very excited to get in the water with us. Not long into the swim, we spotted our first turtle.
It was a small Hawksbill sea turtle, and we saw that it had not yet been tagged... so the chase began.
(Our group leader Steve, coming up with the turtle.)
Catching them requires the group to coral the turtle and try to get it to settle on the bottom. The person catching swims down directly above it, in hopes of staying in the turtle's blind spot. We then get hold of it by grabbing one hand on the carapace (top shell) behind the head, and one by the tail. We then slowly bring it to the surface and swim it in, at a 45 degree angle, which helps it breathe properly.
(Dr. Fitz was given the turtle to swim in)
When we got to shore, we took measurements, took a blood sample, and tagged the pectoral fins (front flippers).
(Dr. Fitz holds the turtle before the measurements take place.)
(We took several photos from different angles to keep file of each turtle we tag, so if we catch it again later we can compare. Here Troye holds the little guy.)
(The carapace (top of shell) above, and plastron (bottom of shell) below).
(This turtle appeared to be in very healthy shape, but we won't know for sure until we get results back from the blood sample. The vets here look for any kinds of illnesses or diseases etc.)
(Here is what the tag looks like once it's clipped onto the pectoral fin. These are scales without any blood vessels, so the tag can be securely attached without hurting the turtle or causing infection. The numbers on it allow us to keep track of who is who.)
(Our guest of honor releases the turtle back into the water, where it swam away just fine.)
(The proud turtle team group picture.)

Following the turtle dive, Dr. Fitz gave several more lectures through the week, as well as a stand up comedy routine and slide show for the students. It was a ton of fun, he is hilarious and obviously has a great sense of humor and adventure. Both Kater and I really admire this guy, and we're both still beaming from the experience.
To thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule to come out with us, I illustrated a caricature of him with a small note:
He really liked it, we had a good laugh, and he told me that the turtle dive was the best day he's had in the last 15 years! Imagine that. I was pretty nervous to give this to him, but I'm glad I did. He said he was going to frame it and invited Kater and I to visit him in Colorado! Hopefully one day we will get the chance to take him up on it.

Other than that exciting bit of news, everything else has been pretty much business as usual. Kater began her second round of exams this week. She did well on the test Wednesday, and is getting ready for the next one on Monday. I (and all VIPs) now have access to the school's fitness facility, which is really nice. I've been going this week and I feel great. It's nice to be able to exercise in air conditioning... it's just too hot here to do anything during the day, and I like to go in the morning.
I'm still going to the glass studio, making beads for the sea turtle project. I set a schedule of Tuesdays and Thursdays to go in for a few hours. That has been a lot of fun too.

So, that will do it for now I think, thanks for reading the blog, even though the posts have been fewer lately. I enjoy writing it, but sometimes I wait to have a few good pictures to add- I think it makes it more interesting.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hey all,

Just a quick update since it's been about a week.
What's new? Well... Kater begins her second round of exams tomorrow, wish her luck. I went for my official first day at the glass studio to make beads for the turtle project. I made about 8 five sided beads from bombay blue sapphire gin bottles, what a beautiful color.
If any of you have ever watched 'Emergency Vets' on Animal Planet, one of the main people from the show is here visiting Ross. His name is Dr. Fitzgerald, you would recognize him by his glasses, white mop of hair and mustache. Tomorrow I will have the amazing opportunity of going snorkeling with him on one of our turtle research dives. I hope to have some photos. It will definitely be a great one of a kind experience.
I'm continuing to work on Sam and Jam, although progress at this point is slow. We are still waiting to hear back from publishers about "the next step".
That's all for now, not much time for a great update but one is coming this week I promise!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Continued from previous post (even though it appears first...)

This is a short video of me working on a piece of green bottle glass, in our glass working class.
Hi all.

This past week was fun. The kids didn't have any tests so we were able to go out a little bit here and there. There were a few birthdays of people in our orientation group, so we celebrated those at a place called Ciao's, an Italian restaurant. The food was great, they make their own pasta there.
I went swimming a few times, but no major snorkeling. Tuesday Chris, myself and some other VIPs went to a place on the strip called Elvis's Love Shack, owned by Elvis himself- a great guy. Elvis is a Kittitian and one who is very focused on customer service (which is rare here) and really enjoys the company of VIPs and students. He has lots of specials for us, and really tries to take good care of us. There, we placed beach volleyball, and took him up on some specials. While swimming here I stepped on my first urchin- ouch! It hurt for a little while but I was able to walk without pain very quickly. I had several little black holes in my heel, but they have either dissolved or worked themselves out by now, because I can't feel them or see them anymore.
Earlier in the week I went to the library and borrowed 'The Shining' by Steven King. I've seen the movie several times but never read the book. I'm enjoying it very much.
Friday evening was Ciao's like I mentioned, and Saturday we all went into Port. The students really haven't had a chance at all to explore so we spent a few hours walking around town, and checking out some shops. I offered directional assistance when necessary but let everyone find there way themselves... It was nice out, but hot. We had plans to go to Chris's in the afternoon for a little cookout.
At Chris's, in Bird Rock, we grilled some burgers and dogs, had some punch and relaxed, it was a nice afternoon. We briefly played a home-made variation of horse shoes, using coconuts and buckets... still a work in progress but it was fun. Afterwards we walked down to the grocery store to find it closed... so we called our taxi driver 'Showtime' for a ride to another one.
On Sunday morning, Kater and I went downtown for a glass bead making class. The small group got together and we learned how to melt and manipulate glass into colorful beads. It was so much fun. The people teaching the class, are a part of the sea turtle conservation effort here on the island. They teach fishermen how to make glass art and sell it as an alternative to catching turtles and taking their eggs.
There are certainly people making their livings at this, including our teacher, and that makes it seem hopeful that the fishermen can too. It will be a long process, but in educating the locals and helping the community develop in other ways, they wont need to fish turtles any longer and will understand why.
Here are some pictures from our class:
This is Kater working a rod of Italian glass around a 'mandrel'. We would cover a metal rod in a clay-like substance, which would hold the glass in place. Then, by slowly melting the glass and twisting the rod we would create beads.
This next one here is a close up shot of the hot glass being manipulated into a bead. You can see Kater's left hand holding the mandrel, and above it on the other side of the flame is the glass rod.
Here's another one, Kater shows off her cool shades! We had to wear these special glasses to reduce the glare from the flame. It is very bright as you could imagine and bad for your eyes. Isn't she just adorable!!?!

Here Kater is adding accent glass, to the bead. This is how you incorporate stripes, or dots into the piece. This is how advanced artist create texture and or actual little critters crawling on the beads etc...
So this here is me taking my first turn at it. This shot shows pretty well the glass dripping on to the rod, as I twist.
Here I am, after adding enough glass where I was happy with what size the bead would be. Once it has enough glass, you then heat it evenly and allow gravity to help you flatten it out and even out any uneven areas. You can also use a flat surface, like the slate below my hand, to flatten or smooth the glass.
Here you can see Kater setting her bead into a white fluffy material. It's some type of heavy material (like the rope that goes around the wood stove door) that is flame retardant and heavily heat tolerant. We place the beads in this 'bed' to slowly cool. If they cool to fast they will crack and you will lose your piece.
Now we start with bottle glass! Any old bottle will do. Kater here is using glass from an Arbor Mist wine bottle I think the teacher said. We melt it onto the mandrel in the same way as we did the glass rods.
Pretty cool!!! This type of glass was much more stubborn, taking more head and more time to be molded into the desired shapes. It also doesn't come in even shapes so it takes more manipulation to get it to cooperate. I really preferred this type of glass.
Here I am starting a piece of green glass from an old Heineken bottle. You can see that I am using tweezers to help move the glass into the right position to melt over the mandrel.
Close up of the glass beginning to melt! It was really cool to see this right before your eyes.
This is my once green Heineken glass being shaped into a pentagonal shape. Our teacher explained to us that in the years of the early slave trade here in the caribbean, glass beads of this shape were used as currency. They made green and blue, and if found today are worth nearly $100 each at the least. She makes reproductions, and I decided to make a few also.
You can see it beginning to take shape.
The final inspection before it goes to cool off.

Now, even thought these glasses are very cool, they were incredibly uncomfortable to wear... they were heavy and kept sliding down our noses... Making need for constant adjustments.

Here's a short clip of Kater working some accent glass into one of her beads.

That will do it for now. Another week begins, the last before Kater's next round of tests!