Today I woke up tired.  Yesterday I had to move my tent out from under the bamboo because the mold had built up so much in my sleeping bag that I was coughing at night.  I found a new spot, higher up the hill so now I have a nice view of the ocean that I’ve been coveting since I got here.  I moved it in a bit of a rush yesterday, so I could get it up in time to head down into Fredricksted for the market where we sell the veggies we grow here.

Pictures from the last days of our permaculture course:

I didn’t want my stuff to get wet (I can always count on it raining when I leave stuff out even if it looks sunny with a clear sky here), and it was boiling hot in the sun, so I just threw the tent up on top of the waist high Guinea grass.  The ants were swarming over my feet biting my cuts from the sharp grass, so I wasn’t too concerned with clearing out the area, I just wanted to get down to the beach to take a swim and have a drink.

Not the best idea, I did get rid of the moldy cough situation, but I was tossing and turning all night trying to get comfortable on top of a million sticks and the bunch grass was pushing my tent up all funny.  Of course it started raining by morning and I started getting pretty wet.  The December winds have started too, so I was worried all night that a branch from the big tree was going to fall on me.  It didn’t make it any better that we’d gotten home from the market/beach after dinner, so I had a weird before bed snack of some wicked salty broth left over from lunch, a giant avocado and a banana.  The moon was full too, so sleep just wasn’t happening.

Today after I organized the students in their chores, I hiked back up the hill and got to work clearing out all the grass and sticks and tried to fix my broken tent stake with some duct tape and wire.  I think it will be a bit better tonight.  I was sweating up a storm though.  The sun is so hot when the sky is clear.  I came back down the hill to do some computer work and then took a nice shower.  In the afternoon I wrote up this press release (still a draft) while the Gaia University students met in groups discussing their project ideas.  My office is a slab of wood table located on the front porch in the hot sun, the classroom is right behind me which is all open air, so there were 27 voices chattering away behind me most of the day.  I was also trying to get a new computer password cracked so we can get started on some GIS design projects.  That took a million years longer than normal due in part due to the unusual work conditions and all the interruptions.   It is an amazing group of students that are here right now.  I mean like once in a life time opportunity to hear their stories amazing, so I am happy to be here even though my shoulders are really tight after sitting on this hard chair stooped over my computer for the last two days. Hopefully I’ll get a hike down to the beach tomorrow.  I’ve also been working on a design for a 2 acre market garden with one of the other local students from the PDC.  That is going well.  We are working on starting a new farm product based business as well, which is pretty exciting.

Gaia University Opens Its Doors at Virgin Islands Sustainable Farming Institute

Monday, December 1, 2009

Gaia University opened a new Regional Center at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farming Institute this week. 27 Bachelor’s and Master’s degree students converged on the center coming from St. Croix and around the globe.  Cruzian youth including Bale … came to the Farm’s Community Center to hear more about Gaia University’s unique approach to learning from it’s founders Lenora and Andrew.  Instead of attending classes, Gaia students create real life action learning projects that prepare them for leadership roles in eco-social regeneration and progressive change.

Gaia University’s action learning Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs are now open to Virgin Island residents through the Gaia U Regional Center located at VISFI, a demonstration permaculture farm.  VISFI incorporates things like solar energy, composting, organic gardening and agroforestry into it’s programs that empower and reconnect local people with their cultural heritage and traditional knowledge.  Permaculture uses lessons from the natural world for designing homes, farms, businesses and communities in more functional and sustainable ways an also includes tools like local currencies and alternative banking strategies.  Permaculture designers have been working since the nineteen sixties to help communities produce healthy farm fresh foods to increase local food security, utilize naturally abundant renewable energy sources, harvest rainwater and rehabilitate soils and the environment through forest gardens. The permaculture design system is a foundation of the Gaia University degree program and offers a starting point for students to engage in meaningful learning opportunities that will simultaneously help humans all over the planet adapt to the climate chaos that is starting to occur due to rapid changes in the earth’s atmosphere and address a myriad of other eco-social challenges.

Wayo, 51, an Australian aboriginal elder, is a storyteller, and a community water facilitator who has come to St. Croix for the two week long orientation to begin her action learning degree through Gaia University.  She plans to create a documentary film to document the traditional knowledge about the river in her community passed on to her by her grandmother.  Important skills that she hopes will help future generations protect the water resources that provide critical life support to their desert region.  She along with a wide array of other students will gain support from professional experts and mentors paid for through the unique Gaia University action learning degree program.

“All you have to do is put the hot coals and rocks in the crocodile’s belly and bury it with more rocks and hot coals for about an hour and a half or so, then it’s well cooked and everyone gathers around and takes a piece of the meat on a folded up piece of leaf or something.” Wayo gestures with her hands to show how cooking bush meat is done in her community.  The students have gather for a lunch of fresh picked greens and home made bread on this their second day of orientation at VISFI.  “It’s a big party, really.”  Her bright smile is contagious as her listeners nod in approval.”  Wayo is clearly a living human treasure.  The student’s eyes open wide, a look of anticipation showing on their faces, and everyone is eager to hear more. Already some extra special learning is going on here through Gaia University’s unique approach to higher education, where cultural mentoring is just one aspect of the Universities innovative learning design.  Learn more at www.

VISFI Programs engage tourists and provide skill training for local farmers, home gardeners, and craft makers of all ages. VI.locallygrown.net sells local farm and artisan products to encourage sustainable business development. Farm training programs help islanders grow careers in green living and healthy fresh natural food for the residents of the Virgin Islands. VISFI offers programs ranging from youth field trips, to adult workshops, and now accredited college degrees through Gaia University. Recently our programs were honored by the National Geographic Society as one of the top 10 innovative programs in the world. VISFI is “Seeding beneficial relationships to inspire abundance, creativity, and joy.” VISFI also hosts many college and adult programs open to the public, including sustainable skills workshops, permaculture certificate courses, and farmer training programs, and offers college credit. For more information about VISFI programs visit www.visfi.org.

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