Guanaja Student Project: Day 6 by Tee and DaveBy Tee Clarkson — I went with the students on a great hike yesterday from the German restaurant over the top of the hill and down to Savannah Bight. The initial climb kicked my butt, and I was reminded of my age as the students bounded ahead and waited for me and Edguardo to pull up the rear. Quickly realizing the futility of trying to keep up with Byron and the students, Edguardo and I kept our own pace and had an interesting conversation about the island.
Edguardo grew up in Guanaja and moved to Mexico and Guatemala for a while. In 1998, with Hurricane Mitch’s arrival in Guanaja looking imminent, he came back to get his parents off the island. He made it back to Guanaja, but there were no more flights out, so he weathered the storm with the rest of the residents, huddled together in a few houses on higher ground as the hurricane raged for three consecutive days. When they emerged, everything was gone, the trees, the houses, the boats, their entire lives. Everyone had to start over.
So Edguardo stayed. He led the efforts to replant the island’s highlands with native pines. They planted them by hand, one by one. On the walk he named each tree in Spanish and English, and I could sense his pride in the place. He has also taken a lead role in helping replant the mangroves that were destroyed in the hurricane. The mangroves are essential to the health of the reef and the fishery, providing hiding places for juvenile bonefish, permit, tarpon, and snook as well as slowing run off of sediment that can damage the reef.
What struck me most from my conversation with Edguardo was that he had hope now of returning the mangroves to what they once were after watching the boys planting the day before. What more can you bring someone than hope? I certainly hope this group of boys will come back here someday and see the mangroves they planted on this trip after they have grown big and strong.
Like almost all trips, this one has seemed to go too fast. What a trip it has been though! Living on Island time for a week has reminded me again to worry about the things I can control and not the things I can’t, and to live more in the present, which this week has meant fishing, snorkeling, hiking, ping pong, and the hammock. It is too easy to get caught looking forward to the next task on the never ending list of tasks.
If Guanaja can teach us anything, and it most certainly can, it is to live fully in the moment, whether it is casting to a tailing permit or planting a mangrove shoot. I hope this week’s group of students has learned this lesson down here. It is not something you can tell someone. They have to feel it and find it on their own.
By Dave McCoy – I have spent a good portion of my life coaching athletes about the age of the boys on this trip with exception of the past 7 years since my daughter was born and while it has been a few years, this week was a remindeder of why I loved (and miss) my former career so much.
What this week also did was quickly bring back reflections of my young life both with friends, my father and family on similar vacations and yet, looking over what we did this week, I don’t recall ever having the opportunity to participate in activities that will make a difference in other peoples lives or to better the world simply by my participation.
We watched as the boys dove with spear guns to kill lionfish, hike the jungle, reforest mangroves, pick up trash and engage with locals all while bonding as a tight knit group of friends, creating memories that will last their lifetimes…very exciting to watch but more rewarding to help facilitate and be co-pilot with them on their journey. And while we allowed them their space to engage at their pace and in what they wanted to, the stories at dinner each night felt as though we were living a bit of a modern day Tom Sawyer adventure…play hard and come home tired, some evenings they were out cold by 7:30 pm!
My hope for the boys is they take home an appreciation for what exists outside of their lives at home, how others live and what they depend on and how their time, given generously to help a cause not related to them at all, makes a difference in those lives and helps shape their own.
I agree with Tee, this week passed for more quickly than I and certianly the boys had imagined.
I entered the week thinking this was a flyfishing week with new fly anglers and instead witnessed a more meaninful experience take place. We hop on planes tomorrow to go our separate directions but with the agreement that a reunion here in Guanaja in 4-5 years is necessary not only to see where everyone is headed but also to see how some of the work done here this week has flourished and positively affected the environment and new friends lives here in Guanaja.
And yes, they all learned how to fly fish and tie their own flies…well!