We leave Marine Conservation Philippines, well, kind of, they actually drove us all the way to the bus stop. But it was a sad good bye, the people there are some of the most varied yet talented, not to mention hilarious and roast pig loving, I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. It was a rapid two weeks of learning and meeting, which made it feel kind of timeless. As much as I would love to stay, or perhaps go back, it does not take away from the excitement of the journey ahead.
The typhoon did however. We arrived in Dumaguete to find a weather warning had left us stranded. Can’t really complain though because it turns out that Harold, love that guy, had a mansion. Which on another bright-side seems to be the only place the trike drivers know how to get to without my terrible attempts at saying “Harold” in as many different accents i can manage (usually maxing out at 2). We made the most of it though, in just a day and a bit we had watched the new Terminator, which apparently is an oscar winner compared to Magic Mike 2; got some beautifully yellow flip-flops to replace the now mud saturated Toms (who knew Toms and rainy seasons weren’t best buds?); and got a free breakfast of some sweet gooey stuff on toast and the biggest mug of coffee ever. Seriously, there was more mug than face.
By then we were ready, and so was the ferry, and the ‘extreme open’ seating. I was psyched. But we got moved to the arctic depth of the (I’m guessing) VIP? felt a lot like an industrial fridge with, of course, another Arnold Schwarzenegger movie playing. I had my fingers crossed for videoke, I’ve had the fresh prince theme song in my head for about a year, think I’ve really nailed the pitch so I was ready to go. But alas, we made more than do with 20 questions, which, as it turns out, I’m probably worse at than singing! Despite not guessing snoopy (sad face) I learned a lot about my team, I’m inspired by how skilled and passionately motivated yet how friendly and unassuming they are.
On the way to our new home we had a nice tour of the island, it is still very much an unoccupied land. The barangay are patched around the coast leaving a wild space for the palm trees and grasses to colonise. With an epic song in mind the van ride felt like the midpoint of a travel documentary, all that was missing was the mountain to climb at the end. Our home is in Danao, it is a can openerless perfection, because who needs a can opener when you live opposite a BBQ? Sleeping feels a lot like being cooked, especially when the fan feels more like a hairdryer, which is strange because for some reason you’re never dry. That said, for the sleeping turtle, the baby boxfish, the boat which will be my future house, the amazing day with terrible attempts at handstands, the stubbed toes (sorry, fingers), I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
This of course is about more than my experience, it is about trying to help. Trying to help the local people, the marine ecosystem and work toward a sustainable living. To that end we have had our struggles, but in just a week we have made progress. We have met people who have a great appreciation for the exact message we are trying to get out there. It’s a grounding feeling when you meet someone who wants to see changes and wants a solution, and realising that you have the information and can help them achieve their goals.
Of course not everyone shares the same opinion, but even amongst that side it is clear they don’t want to oppose the environment. Sometimes it’s a language barrier which creates confusion as to what we’re trying to achieve, it may even come across like an institutional evaluation, something I would definitely be worried about. But we speak different languages, it’s not exactly their fault, if anything I think I need to develop my skills in transcending barriers. Sometimes it is not so much language but a mistrust, not based on our shadiness (I mean we look pretty respectable, like a Green Fins religious mission wrapped in the sweatiest polo shirt in the history of the universe – polo shirts! in the centre of the sun!), but based on the fact that we are offering free things and it is voluntary. It does come across as suspiciously too good too be true. Even in these cases someone has rushed to our aid, more than twice now an employee has jumped in and become an advocate, our inside man.
The atmosphere here is good, there is so much to research for my project. I am yet again humbled by the responsibility Alan and Sam have chosen to place upon me. My project is an opportunity to create something, something that can drive changes and foster a greater sustainability and understanding. In a thought it is both daunting and exciting, there are so many opportunities and so many people offering information, and I haven’t even asked. Every time I read the mission of the project new opportunities leap forward, only bolstered by the knowledge and experience of team members.
Thats it for me I think, and just in case your thinking of not visiting Panglao because of the lack of cheese, meat, bread and cheese, consider your fears abated.