Cheers to CIinCI

It is our last night in Aitutaki before our plane takes off to Rarotonga and then back to LAX.  Emotions are running high as almost everyone seemed to have cried during and/or after our final salute on the beach before coming to the airport.  With the sun setting at the ocean’s horizon, our group stood in a circle and shared what we thought was the most interesting thing or what we were amazed by over these past two weeks followed by what we thought we would miss the most upon leaving.  As some probably knew I would say, I said that one of my favorite things was the beach clean-ups that we did.  Honestly, I was blown away by the amounts of trash that we picked up off of these beaches, and it saddens me to think that I cannot be there everyday to collect the present and future marine debris that washes up onto the shores of the Cooks Islands anymore… In regards to what I would miss, I said the island life.  I am going to miss the quiet (along with the random and frequent rooster calls), the beautiful views that I could never get sick of seeing, the absolutely amazing people that we met out there, and the opportunity to do research in service of the community.  This trip was life-changing; I built new friendships, strengthened previous relationships, learned a lot about data collection and recording, and I feel less naïve about cultures that differ from mine.  I promised myself prior to our last tribute to CIinCI 2015 that I would not cry.  I got through the whole thing without shedding a tear, gave hugs to those who I most likely will never see again, and patted myself on the back for not crying.  However, once I get to Tasha, a lovely woman who (along with her husband Shane) took care of us daily throughout our trip, the tears start pouring down my face because the reality of leaving these wonderful people and inspiring place finally hit me.  Their hospitality and genuine care is something I am always going to remember and yearn for in the future.  Thank you guys again for everything; I’ll miss you all…


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