So it is week four of the 10th ZEP and just over 11 months since I left the UK. Amongst others of course, a big moment for me came on October 9. It was the day I had originally booked my return flight to the UK. Although I had obviously changed my flight previously, October 9 was a day where I realised my life changed!
Having graduated from ZEP 8 and interned for The Reef-World Foundation for a month collecting coral health data, I spent two weeks exploring the Philippines before knuckling down to four months of intense expedition life as a science officer in Southern Leyte. Having made a whole bunch of new friends (and even gaining a girlfriend) I returned to Zoox HQ in Mindoro with a new direction for (the foreseeable) future as Zoox Programmes Officer. October 9 came and went with, at the time, minimal celebration or recognition. Ten days later I got Dengue Fever, spending a week in hospital in Cebu, and then two rather unpleasant and frustrating months swapping between being ill and recovering while the conservation work of ZEP 9 happened around me.
Spending two weeks at home for Christmas gave me some much needed time out. Time that I needed to remind myself why I love Philippines so much after, what had been a seemingly endless string of different illnesses and hospital visits. Returning home, people look at you funny when you’re sociable on public transport, not once was I asked how my wife and family were (despite having neither), it was damn cold, and I missed the calm but busy lifestyle I had gotten used to.
On January 2, I got back on a plane to again take up my role as Zoox Programmes Officer for the 10thExperience Programme. It has brought new challenges, realisations and opportunities to my table that I could never have imagined last year. By researching and teaching the Zoox modules, I proved to myself that, actually, I have learnt so much in such a small measure of time. From working and managing volunteers, to liaising with local governments and different stakeholder groups, I always have a cocktail of fear and adventure at the back of my mind but rarely get nervous anymore. These events are now just part of my awesome job which only continues to provide more opportunities for fear, adventure and professional development. I can’t wait to see where I am this October 9!
About to teach the Volunteers ReefWatch Survey methods and Celebrating an early Christmas