Four weeks into the current Zoox Experience Progamme and I’m finding it hard to summarise my thoughts as we have really done so much … a lot of chatting and learning, a huge amount of exploring and travelling and much laughing. As a Director of Zoox Ltd it was a little daunting on the lead up to their arrival. Would they like the Philippines? Would they be willing to work hard? Will they learn fast enough to be able to make the most out of this experience? It’s with a huge amount of confidence that I can say the answers to these questions are YES YES YES!
Falk, Lucy, Philippa and Stan have all really blown our socks off. They have approached the challenge of the ZEP with enthusiasm, professionalism and massive levels of stamina … it’s seriously hot here! On top of the training and work, they are really wanting to try out the local delicacies and traditions, sometimes in some rather strange ways …
Lucy surprised us when she peeled a calamansi and started chewing on it – these fruits are the miniature sister of the orange, lime and lemon with an extra serving of sour, usually served with a huge helping of sugar!
Luckily Falk is very at home in the fast food metropolis of the Philippines and actually laps up the terrible quality burgers (you say burger, I say anonymous meat patties full of sugar and salt). Their slogan “buy one, take one” brought enormous smiles of excitement to his face … until he learned that this means exactly what it says on the tin – you buy one and you take one.
On one of the first mornings we were sat around in the classroom, about to crack on with a Zoox Training Module and Philippa sat down with a bowl of noodle soup and a pile of chopped up tiny blow-your-head-off chillies. In the morning! Turns out this is quite normal for Phil and we got used to her creating her own mud pie of crazy spicy chillies and oil while we waited for our order to arrive in local restaurants!
A Filipino delicacy is a hard one for us strange foreigners to stomach, the Balut is a fertilised 25 day old duck embryo that is boiled alive and eaten in the shell. Having personally tried to steer clear of this over the past four years in the Philippines, Stan shocked and impressed us all when it took us approximately one minute to tempt him in to taking a bite and declaring “actually it tastes good!” Even when further dissections indicated that it was the embryo’s brain that he’d nibbled, he didn’t turn green. Pretty impressive!
While busy embracing the local delicacies, they are also enjoying the quirky moments that working in SE Asian countries brings. Lucy, Falk and I had spent a busy and sweaty week darting around the dive centres of the sleepy and beautiful diving destination of Moalboal inviting them to an event to launch Green Fins locally. On the evening of the presentation we were elated to see the hard work had paid off and over 50 individuals from the local diving industry, government, maritime police and environmental groups turned up for the presentation. There was a tense atmosphere as I began to present the project which was quickly neutralised by a local government official letting out the most enormous belch from the front row! In the Philippines burping does not carry the negative connotations as it does for us at home. Luckily I managed to avoid all eye contact with Lucy and Falk, took a deep breath and carried on without even a snigger! If we needed any further distractions, soon after this a power cut plunged us all in to darkness. Luckily Poseidon was smiling down on us and power returned after just a short pause.
Now as I sit in Green Fins Regional HQ in Puerto Galera I know that all four of them are working extremely hard and using the skills they have gained prior to and during their training with us to coordinate and project manage a fantastic marine conservation project and competently working with a hugely diverse group of stakeholders. Independently each of their strengths are blooming and each day it is feeling more like the “internship” is ending and we are now working as a real team.