Hello former ZEP’ers, current ZEP’ers, future ZEP’ers, family, friends and anyone else reading this amazing blog! Yes, the 11thZEP has started and it couldn’t have been more intense, intimidating, wet and fun than it has already been. From getting stuck in the mud with a truck, to sitting in a class room for hours with people who have much more knowledge than me, practical work, running through the rain and eating amazing food. I have the feeling that it’s going to be an amazing 9 weeks.
This year the Zoox headquarters is based in Dumaguete after moving out of Puerto Galera – see previous blog. As Zoox is still in the process of getting settled in Dumaguete, the ZEP11 volunteers are not staying at the Zoox HQ. We’re staying at the headquarters of Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) in Zamboanguita and it’s been great so far. The MCP base is a beautiful lush green plantation, with 5 bungalows, a main gathering area – the Hex – and a kitchen. The plantation is great to have a walk around in the morning as long as you get back at 8 when breakfast starts. Speaking about the food at MCP, it is so good! Every time I think of lunch and dinner, my mouth starts watering.
Although the scenery is beautiful and we’re well looked after, we’re here to learn about marine conservation and professional development. So let me layout the schedule for you guys. After breakfast we usually start with the classroom sessions covering all kinds of sections within Marine Conservation. Until now we’ve had three practical days where we learned about the locals/Philippine culture, seagrass and coral reef monitoring and diver observation (DO)/assessments.Getting to know the philippine culture was a lot of fun as we got to experience it in Zamboanguita by doing a local orientation mission. What we found out is that everyone loves to help you and says ‘Yes’ to all of your questions – even when they don’t understand you. That’s how my team ended up walking up the road for 20 minutes in the burning sun, followed by taking a tricycle back to the same place that we started from… Eventually we found our destination, victory! Yesterday, the day arrived that we’d all been waiting for, DIVING! We learned how to assess divers and the best way to position your self when doing diver observations. I must say that my group got really into it as we looked like commanders driving our army forwards. Next time we will be a bit more flexible in positioning.
Honestly, I already feel like a more knowledgeable person when it comes to Marine Conservation and the practical work involved. Although the days are long, I’ve never had this much concentration in my entire life. For me that says a lot and I am absolutely enjoying my time here so far. I can’t believe the first week is already over and I can’t wait for the second week to start!