Unfortunately for the olfaction of the swanky tourists on Providenciales, the SFS students administered seafood consumption surveys immediately after a three-day camping trip. There is nothing like talking to a well-dressed and well-groomed couple to remind you that your clothes were washed in saltwater and your hair was last cut by a woman speaking an unidentifiable language wielding a thinning comb. (At least we got showers and a night in a hotel before touring a $3.6 million penthouse.) Surprisingly, the swanky tourists did not appear offended by our presence, and actually asked us quite a lot of questions about what exactly we’re doing here, attending school on a Caribbean island.
People on South don’t need to ask who you are – besides the fact that the island only has around 1,200 inhabitants so there aren’t too many unfamiliar faces, it’s a pretty easy assumption that if you’re white and/or around 20 years old, you must be here doing research with the School for Field Studies. It requires a bit more explanation for people on the other islands of TCI. Tell tourists you’re studying abroad on South Caicos and they laugh at you for having such a lavish life. Tell locals you’re studying abroad on South Caicos and they ask you why on earth you would choose to do that. (Turns out that South is like the West Virginia of the TCI.)
The swanky tourists have only taken over a part of Providenciales, though. I ventured outside of their sanitized area and spent my mid-semester break with an American couple who had moved to Provo two years ago. I’ve never been thanked so profusely for an hour of sightreading on a semi-broken keyboard as I was after I played the piano for our church service. And you know what? Even though I wasn’t in the scrubbed and polished tourist zone, I had a fantastic time and I was able to meet some locals and help them out. Despite my lack of sundresses, stylish floppy hats, and normal hygiene standards. Take that, materialism.