Being a Singaporean who’s spent her whole life in the security, safety and comfort of Singapore, I’ve not spent any period more than 2 weeks away from home, especially in a developing country, grappling with cultural and lifestyle changes while still trying to learn all I can on a whole new topic of Marine Conservation while also doing my bit to contribute to whatever exciting project/s that might come my way while I’m on the Zoox Experience Programme (ZEP).
Hi! My name is Sharon, from the tropical and urban city of Singapore a regular corporate job in a marketing-related field in the tourism industry. I have had a love for the ocean since I was very young and at the first chance I could, I took my open water diving certification (12 years ago) and my diving journey has not stopped since. I am drawn to the beauty of what is under the water and it is just amazing to me that we, as humans, only live on 30% of the Earth’s surface. Doesn’t that make us sort of a minority then? It struck me that what’s in the 70% of the water, would definitely be important to life on land as well as deserve to be taken care of as well.
With a very basic understanding that coral reefs are fragile and slow-growing creatures which affect the health of marine communities, as well as observations of deterioration of some dive sites I visited in different years, I felt that if they were not looked after better, there might not be such awesome natural beauty left for our future generations. I have since been looking out for opportunities to do something about it, firstly starting with learning more about marine conservation and contribute to 70% of Earth. I chanced upon the ZEP, it seemed to tick the boxes I was looking for – learning, active contribution via projects as well as chances to interact with businesses in the industry who make the biggest difference. After some researching and chatting with Chloe and JJ, I decided that this was something worth taking time off from regular life for. Other than the learning and contributing I hope to achieve, I am also taking this time as a personal challenge, to take myself out of the comfort and conveniences of home. So far… so good. =)
Getting ready for the 8 weeks away was a challenge. But thanks to the Zoox team of Chloe, JJ and Sam, who patiently answered my many questions and helped with step by step guides and advice, as well as guides on what to expect etc. These really helped me, as it was my first time away from home for an extended period. That helped alleviate half of my worries already.
My family and friends have also been a great ‘support group’ and the encouragement back home before I set off was awesome. I had the chance to meet up with some old friends to share what I’d be doing… in a way I felt this was already somewhat an awareness building and also I guess I do hope to inspire some people to think about life and how it is beyond the daily grind of 9 to 9 (Singapore-style). There are bigger and more things to that.
My 6 fellow course mates of the Nov 2013 programme are pretty amazing and played a part in helping me feel ‘settle’ as well. All have such rich and varying life experiences and it’s been great hearing their stories.
– Fiona, the ever so encouraging teacher side of her always presents itself and gives me a warm feeling when I’m feeling down about my (not-so-high) level of knowledge and experience. She is so passionate about conservation and has been involved in quite a number of initiatives/ groups it really shines.
– Anita, an experienced diver and who brings with her a super infectious laughter wherever she goes. You (and everyone else) just gotta love her. =) She does amazing work with children as an art teacher and I hope she finds something to marry that and her passion for conservation/ marine life.
– Duncan, with a wicked sense of humour, love how you can tell a joke with a straight face. I’ve seen your doodles and some of your animation work. I think you are very creative. Have fun tying up marine biology, conservation and your expertise animation/ film.
– Stephano, a scientist through and through and backs up everything he knows with evidence, facts and figures. You are a walking knowledge bank and I’ve picked up some real treasures of information.
– Tiffany, my fellow Singaporean. It is almost like having a bit of home with me, with you here! Continue chasing your dreams and I look forward to hearing more stories of your adventures through the rest of the year!
– My roomie Gerlinde, such a pleasure to room and work with. She’s cooked up quite a few new meals with lunch left-overs and they were just delicious! Your experiences and knowledge in the field of marine biology is amazing, what you’ve volunteered for and been involved with. The next step will come real soon! =)
The locals, the people of the Aninuan Village. Always greeting us with a smile and a good morning/ afternoon/ evening. That’s really helped me feel safe which is the most important thing settling in to a new place.
After 2 weeks of intense classes, my brain felt overwhelmed with all the data, facts, figures and information but in a good way. I’ve learnt so much – major organisations behind conservation, how they work, funding bodies, laws, the scientific stuff – these have all added to my initial basic/ shallow view of conservation. There is so much more to conservation to think about!
I’ve particularly taken to the Green Fins approach to putting in place environmentally friendly snorkeling practices with Green Fins members. I think it’s largely because of the direct relevance to me. As an avid diver and also how I’ve seen such sustainable or unsustainable behaviours in the dive centres I’ve encountered. I see how measures such as garbage management, minimising discharges, encouraging role model behaviour amongst dive guides/ centres, as well as including environmental awareness briefings into dive briefings, can make a difference and contribute to keeping our coral reefs healthier for longer. I’m looking forward to sharing these and refreshing our member dive centres about Green Fins and the recommended code of conduct. It’d be great to be the go-betweener, to find out what challenges local dive centres face. It will help me understand how the industry work and this is the bit where I hope can contribute a little in helping Green Fins better understand the situation/s from the local business point of view and perhaps where I can help inspire.
So the enrichment is definitely ticked for me so far at ZEP. But the biggest and best take away so far I find, is everyone who is walking alongside me on this journey. It is just so much more fun with you guys in the picture.
12 days of 8 weeks covered… and looking forward to more action to come.