Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CAYE CAULKER, Day 15 (The Final Day)

Sunday was the last day on the island for the majority of the team. Gina, Sherisse and Chris were the first to depart, leaving in the early hours, with a second group heading out later in the morning.

There was just enough time to reminisce about the overall experience in Caye Caulker.

"It’s hard to describe in a few words...I think one of the better parts – I think we all probably feel the same way – is just interacting with the locals. And learning a bit about their culture and learning why they do what they do with their animals," Jackie mused. "We come assuming a lot of things with our Western standards of animal care. It’s not the same here...it’s not as simple as they want to be abusive. The one little boy said to Corinne – kind of made her understand why they do what they do and why they are abusive to the cats on the island – the little boy said, 'It’s ‘cause they steal our food.' And he was from one of the poorer areas of the island. It just sort of changes your perspective of things and how you judge other people. Every trip I’ve gone on, I’ve gone home and thought, 'Wow. I have way too many things.' And yeah, you appreciate even just the small stuff, like hot water, for example."

When asked what she has learned from her experience in Caye Caulker, Isabelle said, "I’ve improved as a human being. Working as a team is important. To know how drugs work. Regarding anesthesia, it’s a very good experience – how long the drugs last and all that, that’s very interesting. It’s more like working as a team and all the difference in their personalities and character and working around that. It’s more like a human level that I think you learn the most."

Jackie agreed with Isabelle's comments: "The most you learn is on a personal level. You kind of learn a little bit more about yourself and interactions with large groups of people, outside of any veterinary stuff."

Carmen, Donna, Barb and Caitlin with Kenny (wearing his very own CAAT t-shirt)

"This is my first trip," said Anna. "It was fabulous. I had a great time. I feel like we did good things while we were here. I learned a whole bunch from all my colleagues here and yeah, it has been great!"

It was also Kim's first opportunity to work with CAAT. She enjoyed meeting a group of like-minded people with knowledge to share. "And helping the island people and animals," Kim elaborated. "It more than exceeded my expectations. I would go on another one. This is my very first one, so I got pretty lucky. This was a pretty good one."

Joked Monica, "I don’t think I’ll ever be able to come back – to another CAAT trip. This was my first one, too and it was way too fun. Now my expectations are too high."

"I liked working with a team. I enjoyed it. We all work well together," said Barb. "I especially liked trapping the feral cats that we did catch: the big males, the pregnant females. That meant the most. And the day Caitlin and I talked our way into our golf cart – to finally have that freedom to travel the island. We made that huge connection for the next time. Next time we come, we have to give Annie and Chocolate and Molly who owns Jan’s place notice...they’ll arrange a golf cart for the whole time we’re here."

Michael and Tammy Smith, the Canadian couple who loaned us their golf cart

"And the cruelty I saw – just to see how cruel people are," continued Barb. The locals here are very similar to the Inuit that we saw up north. It’s a very similar mentality. Both Caitlin and I discovered that most of the kids here did not realize that animals feel."

Lastly, Donna had a few remarks to make about the trip's successes and difficulties: "It's really hard to ensure that what the contact person has promised happens like they say it’s going to. That’s really bothering me a lot. But otherwise, absolutely everything – the team, the teamwork. I know the last few days were tough for everyone. Tired and all the bug bites – it was enough. People were getting distracted. You know, that’s unfortunate, but understandable too."

She mentioned how grateful she was that Caitlin and Barb were able to arrive on the island prior to the rest of the group, to better prepare her for the actual situation on Caye Caulker, with fewer cats than originally supposed. "It wasn’t anything, though, that we couldn’t adapt to. We were concerned that we would be standing around twiddling our thumbs, ‘cause we’ve done that in other communities, but we didn’t do that at all here, which I’m so relieved about. There’s nothing worse than bringing a big team to a place and then everyone’s not put to use."

The team sees Caye Caulker as a place they might revisit, even on a yearly basis. "I think this would be a really great place to come back to," said Donna. "Especially now – people in the community like us and they’re very open."

Charlie accompanied Anna on her flight back to Vancouver. "She’s going to freeze at first," Anna said. "She'll do very well but she has a hard road ahead of her. She’s going to have a bit of shock when she hits Canada and she also has some diseases to overcome so the next few months will be full of rehab, but she will do great." Note: Charlie's story was featured on CBC Television's evening broadcast.

Team members Donna, Jennifer, Monica, Corinne, Barb, Caitlin, DeAnna and Carmen remained on the island for a bit longer, tidying the apartment, packing medical supplies for the return home, enjoying a pancake breakfast, and swimming for the last time in warm Caribbean waters.

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