Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Our UniBreak In The Maldives: ‘An Eye-Opening Experience’

COUNTRY: Maldives
PROJECT: Teaching and Sports Coaching
WRITTEN BY: Katy Brown

After a month of making memories and building friendships that will last a lifetime, our time in the Maldives has finally come to an end. Whilst we are all excited to see our families again, we all feel devastated to be saying goodbye to this place we have called home and these people we have called family for the last month.

With a once in a lifetime trip like this, you have to be open to a few hiccups along the way. From a touch of sickness, to a couple of communication errors, we had our fair share of tiny dramas. But there was no way these were going to effect us in a negative way.

In total, we managed to sneak away for a snorkelling trip on an uninhabited island about twice a week. These were highlights for the group as it was time we could get away and relax and just enjoy each other’s company, not to mention the company of our island dad Momo. Between our snorkelling and fishing trips, as a group we were lucky enough to see 4 turtles, about a dozen dolphins, a manta-ray, a stingray, a handful of sharks and hundreds and hundreds of fish. Not to mention the amazing coral reefs.

In the afternoons when school time came around, we were all eager to see our students and expectant for a crazy afternoon. The kids were always so excited coming to class which just made us even more excited. When sport came around, the boys would all rock up in their soccer gear ready to show off their tricks, and the girls would come ready to learn some new netball skills off the Aussie experts.

Our favourite weekends were, of course, the two we spent at Robinson’s resort. We feel so privileged to have been able to see this magical place. It was truly breathtaking, and not to mention the many friends we made who work there. I think we were all most excited about the buffet at every meal, not that we didn’t love Sid (our cafe chef)'s cooking, it was just nice to have so many options! We have all promised that we will return one day!

Our last week at Kolamaafushi was, without a doubt, crazy and one of the best! We decided that rather than stress too much about each days activities, we would spend our time enjoying the company of the kids and the locals. We enjoyed having our final lessons with our classes, which meant a mass water bomb fight for the older kids and a crazy party with the little ones. They absolutely loved it and it was a perfect way to end our time with them. In the afternoons for our last week, we enjoyed hanging out at the sports park, playing soccer with the boys and netball with the girls. Then we headed to sunset point and saw the most incredible sunset with our students.

Our final week on Kolamaafushi also meant our final week together as a group. We spent one afternoon/night at an uninhabited island watching the sunset on the beach and having a bonfire and BBQ fish and potatoes. After dinner we had a dance party on the beach, being laughed at by our Maldivian guides, but it was well worth it. This was a personal favourite night for a few of us.

By Wednesday, half the group had left Kolamaafushi and it was just 3 of us remaining for the last couple of nights. We made the most of it, going for an adventure (we attempted to walk to a nearby island but were scared away by leopard eels). We also enjoyed some time jumping off the jetty with some of the local boys and girls. On our last day Momo took us to an island to have one final snorkelling trip and to spend some time with him and his two little girls who were adorable!

Saying goodbye to everyone on Kolamaafushi was extremely difficult. The teachers, students, parents and island people in general welcomed us with open arms and treated us so well. We will definitely miss them all, especially Momo, who really was like a father to us. As we headed off, we had a group of students at the jetty to wave goodbye, which made it really sink in that we were leaving.

We finished our trip with a night in Thinadoo – we were all a bit shocked by how big it was after being on such a tiny island- then saying our final goodbyes to each other at Singapore airport as we headed off in our separate directions.

Without a doubt, this month has been one of the best of my life, and I'm sure most of the group could say the same thing. Spending a month on such a small island meant that we certainly stuck out, and it will be hard to get used to going home and not having every person on the street saying hello to us. We have all learnt so much about ourselves and about the Maldivian culture; it was an eye-opening experience as to how different their world truly is.

Together, we have made lifelong friendships, already with plans to catch up again later on this year, and maybe even another Antips trip together in the future! I am so greatful to Antips for providing us with such an amazing opportunity: it truly is something I would recommend to anyone.

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