This is the final blog! I could not express how much this trip has been the perfect opportunity to see a different nation, their issues with a non-communicable disease, the health care system, a culture and how these things interact to make the Bahamas what they are. Nassau was a culture shock both times that we were there, in different ways, but mostly related to the sense of over population, the sell out for tourism, and how they directly and indirectly affected health care and diabetes. I was astonished at the openness of the clinics and hospitals, at how they took us right in and showed everything, even what we consider private to the public and in some ways against our own health codes. It was also saddening to see how many people in those settings were visiting on terms related to diabetes. The dialysis center was a prime example. It was fun to take part in the busy nightlife and experience a tourism angle, but I learned that extended times in Nassau would be difficult to handle, personally. Atlantis was an exploration that almost excludes itself from that previous statement in that it feels like a world all to itself; you almost forget you are in Nassau. I will admit that I was caught up in the wonder of it all, but at the same time, and after spending so much time on the family island, I really came to understand that those who travel to the Bahamas for Atlantis are missing a much better experience.
I think that some of my favorite parts of the trip were the times that we conversed directly with the community members and community leaders. Nick and I had an awesome, interesting learning experience during our home stay, where I would argue that we learned the most about the deepest secrets of Bahamian culture and the interaction between the small settlements, their people, and the community affiliations. The Rotaract/ Rotary/ Fundraising / wellness roundtable were other opportunities that after the stress of presenting was over, was a great time to meet the community leaders, philanthropist, nurses, etc. In a similar way, going into the schools was very intimidating at first. You could probably imagine having strangers of another nation come into your classroom and suggest an alternative lifestyle, while on our side the complication of teaching primary students the basic physiology of diabetes was quite intimidating at first. Overall, it was the experience of getting out of a comfort zone and managing that stress to put on a better presentation each time, learning from each other’s mistakes and successes.
The wellness fairs were a fun experience for me, as Nick and I were responsible for taking blood pressure. I have taken BP before but everyone at Linfield is relatively active with normal readings. It was crazy to see how consistently high the BP’s were, which leads me to one other thing that I realized. I have never seen a stereotype so well played by the community that it had been labeled. Most people were a little fluffy (or a lot fluffy), had hypertension, didn’t like to exercise, ate a ton of starch, and the list goes on, which is why it was so easy to see that diabetes was a recurring issue for them, especially on the family islands where resources are limited and diabetes awareness/education is not to its full potential.
Our exploration experiences were incredible. I am glad that we had the ability to snorkel the reefs and get as much swimming in as we did, it would have been cool to have explored more, but I loved to see the tropical fish and be surrounded by so much marine life! My favorite beach by far was Light House, where the sand was silky smooth and had the pink grains that gave it a rich pink look. We had so much fun at that beach just messing around, and the fact that it had a current and waves gave us so much more to do! Body surfing! The kayak trip was definitely a blessing in disguise, as it was a lot of work, but we really saw some cool things as a result and bonded as group while preparing meals in the sand, sleeping under the stars and battling the wind, waves and current.
Lastly, I really enjoyed and appreciated living at the Island School. We could have stayed other places that were more comfortable, but the experience of living on a sustainable campus and learning how to get along with the resources that they had was actually a good time. I personally enjoyed the food and had a great time meeting the Island School staff, such as Laura, Alex, Scotty, Ron, Karen and even the founder Chris. What I have taken from this trip is a new understanding and a reassurance that trips like these are much more worth it when making the effort to travel. We took away much more knowledge than we offered and it was prime for learning in a new cultural setting that is similar, yet at the same time very different from our own. I like being able to make comparisons between the Bahamas and the U.S., to where we are not so different in behavioral downfalls such as bad eating habits and a lack of physical fitness, and it shows in the rise of communicable diseases. For prospective students looking at gaining the same knowledge, definitely check it out, I will always recommend the trip; however, knowing the Bahamas, you never really know what you are going to encounter while you are there.