I am MJ Fernandez the Teaching Assistant for C-277. This weekend has been extremely exciting because I had the amazing opportunity to show the students and crew around one of my favorite parts of my home Island. I was born and raised in Dominican Republic and I am constantly talking about DR and how much I love it... as all the students probably discovered during our shore component.
Last Friday when we were sailing into Samana Bay I asked to be woken up during my off watch (which should really tell you how excited I was because there is nothing I love more than an after watch nap!) because I wanted to see the Cramer, my home for the past 2 weeks, sailed toward my island. Dominicans tend to be very patriotic and I am no exception. I have to admit that watching Claire raise the flag gave me chills...but they might also have been caused by the fact that as she did this we also saw a double rainbow a whale and four dolphins! Let's just say DR greeted us with a show. After we finally anchored and had field day (deep cleaning the ship) we were finally able to go on shore. Where I met with my family who had driven 3 hours from the capital city to hang out with us and help us run some boat errands.
It was such an exciting opportunity to be able to show the students and crew my culture, introduce them to our traditional foods, and explore some of the most beautiful sights in the Island with them. It was also very enlightening to see new aspects of the Island that I had never seen, like talking to the whale boat captains and the President of the fish Co-Op for Los Cacaos, which we did yesterday. Inversely it was also very exciting to show my family what I have been doing and where I have been living. I myself did an SEA program when I was in college and I have probably talked to my parents about the ship as much as I have told the students about DR. So, it was amazing to have my two homes meet and hopefully understand each other a little more.
As we were leaving Samana I thought to myself there is no way that this weekend could get any better. However, as I sat down to meet with Kevo (2nd Mate and Bosun) at the Breakfast Nook in the Dog House we heard people on deck yell "Whales on the starboard side!" and we walked outside to see a mom and her calf swimming right by the boat. As we looked around we started to realize that we were surrounded by at least four groups of humpback whales and dolphins. It was definitely the most spectacular Good-Bye DR could have given us.
- MJ Fernandez, Teaching Assistant
P.S. A huge GRACIAS to my amazing family for doing all they did for us this weekend the crew and I send our love and we are already miss you guys...and all the coconut sweets.