In the Provo airport, 15 strangers met for the first time. Armed with piles of luggage and clad in clothes soaked from a sudden downpour, we were apprehensive of what the next month had in store for us. Perhaps we were nervous for the experience to come, but our group shared a common curiosity of what the next month would entail. How would the locals feel about strangers encroaching on their island and its surrounding waters? What would our living conditions be like? With eyes wide and excitement brewing, we stepped off the ferry onto our new island home of South Caicos.
Getting adjusted to life on “South” led to many unexpected surprises. Were the cockroaches bigger than we even thought possible? Were the moths really the size of bats? Definitely! But swatting the bugs aside, we were introduced to local treasures like tamarind, a sweet-sour pod easily plucked from trees and eaten like candy. Adorable dogs and puppies followed us in packs whenever we left the center for town.
Living in an environment with limited resources has made us extremely cognizant of how wasteful our society at home is. Do we really need to use laundry detergent or put makeup on our faces every day? We’re getting along just fine showering and washing our dishes in sea water. Why do we really need to shower twice a day in excessive amounts of fresh water at home? The local cooks that prepare our food are ingenious with repurposing leftovers into dishes even more delicious the second time. It’s hard to see how wasteful and materialistic we really are at home until we are placed in a territory with limited availability.
Talking to the locals has made us amazingly grateful for the opportunity we have to be here. A local man mentioned how he had never left the island of South Caicos in his entire life. We’re so fortunate to be able to travel around the world, and do research that will hopefully make an impact, however small, on the ecosystem, industry, and people here. It’s our responsibility as human beings to protect what we have, but so many people don’t realize the amount of damage that our actions, even ones that we don’t think twice about, can inflict on an ecosystem.