by Katy Kappele
On the blond shore of rugged, lonely Speiden Island, a herd of fallow deer grazes. The spacious motor boat drifts slowly past, listing to port with the weight of people taking pictures, laughing and pointing at the deer on the hillside, their cameras in hand.
Under the brilliant blue sky, the deeper blue of Speiden Channel stretches out to wave-swept, rocky coastlines and gnarled pine and madrone trees, tan bark flaking off to reveal the pistachio color of their true bodies. California and Bonaparte gulls and Canadian geese fly overhead, filling the air with their joyous noise while bald eagles nest in the rugged pine trees of the San Juan Islands.
“I like being out and seeing a part of the area I hadn’t seen before,” says Ron Chang, a student from Los Angeles who joined the club looking for friends. “I’d heard people talk about the San Juans, and how else am I going to get out here?”
“I really want to see a whale,” says Franziska Wilhelm, a student from the south of Germany who has never actually seen one.
As the shores of Spiden Island pass and the boat ventures forward toward San Juan Island and Friday Harbor, students from around the world sit down together to eat plates of barbequed chicken with coleslaw and pasta salad, brownies and biscuits with honey butter. Two are from California, one from France, many are from Japan, Taiwan and other Asian countries, and three are from Germany.
“I love this bread,” says one student, eating her third biscuit.
“Bis-quits,” says German-born Schraml, struggling with the pronunciation. The students laugh, but no one is offended. The trip is a safe venue for everyone to work on their language skills, whether it’s English, like Eve Lee, from Taiwan, and Mai Shimizu, from Japan, or their limited French or German. “Biscuits,” Schraml corrects himself, and smiles.
Friday Harbor, so goes the legend, was named when a group of explorers entered the bay and asked a group of fishermen what bay this was. The fishermen misheard ‘day’ for ‘bay,’ and answered with the day, Friday.
The whales did not grace the club with their presence, but the Whale Museum in Friday Harbor presented an opportunity to see and hear whales on video, and to touch their bones and compare the human brain to that of an orca whale, actually the largest of the dolphins, but grouped with toothed whales.
“I only have one quarter,” says Lee. “So everything is special.”