In spite of going to bed (or at least finishing this post) in a foul mood last night, I was able to wake up on a brighter side of the bed this morning. I was still full of apprehension, but also excitement, and a renewed belief that I could handle this adventure, and that it would only last for three months (which was both a good and a bad thing). We all have chores while we’re here, so two of the other girls and I had to report early this morning for dish duty (oh joy – because I really love to wash dishes). Breakfast was delicious, as I’m beginning to believe all the meals will be, and gave me a great start to the morning.
As soon as we finished with the dishes, we raced to change into our bathing suits, slap on some sunscreen, and receive a life jacket – why? Because today was our swim test. Knowing that we would be spending quite a bit of time in the water over the course of the semester, we were required to swim 200 meters in the 60 degree ocean, without our wetsuits. We took three boats to a secluded area, stripped, and plunged in. As someone who has swum a decent amount in her life, I know that if the water is cold, the best thing to do is MOVE. However, the water was so cold that moving only made me worry that I would hyperventilate, panic, and have an asthma attack (uncommon, but always due to stressful situations) in open water. I treaded water for a handful of seconds, pulled myself together, and then got moving. As soon as I was under control, the water was more manageable, and I was able to complete the swim without any problem.
The boat ride both to and from the swim site was amazing. The ocean right in front of our site is polluted, and so we aren’t allowed to swim there. The fish cannery down the road from us has a sewage treatment problem, and as a result, we end up with a fair amount of pollution in the sea near us. The good news is that it’s localized. The bad news? Well, that we can’t go for a dip right outside the center. The boats however, allowed us to see the three islands in the bay itself, and allowed us to get some wonderful, salty fresh air. This inspired both a rendition of “I’m on a Boat” and many impersonations of the seagulls in “Finding Nemo”, as there are both seagulls and pelicans in the area (in addition to a number of other birds…).
The afternoon was spent seeing San Carlos, the town we live in/near. Never having been to another city in Mexico, particularly a large one (like Mexico City), I have no basis of comparison on which to judge the town. It is small – probably no more than a mile in most directions, and while most parts of it seem well kept, they are also in many ways what we would consider “rudimentary”. Signs in the US are almost always made of plastic, or light up, or stick out from buildings, and are almost always in a fancy script. The buildings here are all painted with their signs, and the script is much more plain – in many ways, stereotypically “Mexican”. There is one grocery store here, a bar, a club, and a handful of places to eat. There are several places where Americans can rent boats/services to whale-watch or deep-sea fish, and these are considered the fancy places in town. Admittedly, they are much nicer than most other places. The irony is that our staff talks about how “gringos” go there, without realizing that most of the students are gringos…I’m unsure how to respond to a comment like this.
Finally, we talked about our whale expedition tomorrow. Whales are the primary reason I chose this program. I had a fascination with them as a child that was renewed when I was reading an article in “Outside” about whales used in venues like SeaWorld. When I abruptly had to change my study abroad program, this one appealed to me because of the chance to study whales. Tomorrow, we will be going out to monitor the whales – to count them, look at behavior, and generally, I think we will all squee over them. I am looking forward to using my telephoto lens to take some pictures – hopefully by tomorrow, I will have some to start adding to my posts!