It has been 25 days, 15 hours and approximately 5 minutes since I first set foot on Filipino soil and what a whirlwind of an experience it has been so far!
The thought of getting stuck into a grass roots project such as Green Fins provided ample motivation for the long summer months spent locked away in the library up in Leeds completing my dissertation in order to gain an MSc in Sustainability. Being from a non-marine biologist/conservation background, I was rather apprehensive that I did not possess the skill set required to take part in a project such as this but these worries were quickly put to rest within the first few days of Zoox training with Chloe, JJ and the gang.
Upon arrival in Aninuan, Pueto Galera, following one taxi, one bus, one boat and one hair raising tricycle ride I was warmly welcomed into the fold with a cold beer, BBQ and a thoroughly entertaining local basketball match which helped me settle into this new way of life nicely.
The next couple of weeks consisted of a combination of diving, Green Fins and general marine conservation training, good food and an overall sweet time with the newly formed team. While there is a lot of fresh information to process on a daily basis, the days were structured so that we received the right balance of classroom and fieldwork to aid the learning process as best as possible, again thanks to the very patient and tireless work of Chloe, JJ and Sam. I found that my academic background in Geography and Sustainability did, actually, have a lot more uses than first thought when training to be a Green Fins Assessor, such as presentation skills, understanding international policies and agreements, and be able to write professional and succinct reports- skills which I have further developed within a real life, meaningful project!
On the morning of the 7th of December we were ready and somewhat prepared to leave our base in Aninuan and travel together to Cebu where we would separate into our 2 teams of assessors, one team heading to the Island of Malapascua and my team heading to the popular diving destination of Moalboal. The picture below was taken on the morning of departure down at the ferry port in Pueto Galera, you may notice the large female contingent making up the team with me (the bloke in the blue t-shirt) being the only male in this round of Zoox volunteers. While I have missed not being able to talk about the weekends football results with a fellow man, my Moalboal buddies (consisting of Wai, Rachael and Michel) have been great companions on this Filipino escapade!
Chloe was here to support us during our first week in Moalboal, organising initial meetings with a few of the dive shops as well as a formal meeting with the Mayor who made us very welcome by offering his full support in what we are trying to accomplish over the next few weeks.
I minor set back this last week or so has been that I have been stricken with a combination of food poisoning and a virus which resulted in 24 hours in a local hospital on a drip. It was a lot less scary than it sounds and I was taken care of extremely well, although a lot of the nurses giggled around me because I think it is pretty rare that they treat white people there. As a foreigner in a tropical land you have to expect to be unwell at some point and I have been told that Moalboal is a haven for these types of things so I can’t say I’m surprised. Let’s just hope the next few weeks can be much more productive and I can divulge my new experiences and achievements in my next blog, none of which I hope will involve me being ill!