Friday, 6 February 2015

The vibrant colours, people and life of the Maldives

COUNTRY: Maldives
PROJECT: Nursing, Teaching & Swimming Coaching
WRITTEN BY: Tom Squires

After a long couple of flights we finally arrived at Male airport, the capital of the Maldives. Our first challenge was explaining to the Maldivian customs officials why we were here, we were then greeted by a nice man who helped us check in for our internal flight to Gan Airport on Addu Atoll (our home for the next 4 weeks). The plane from Male to Gan was a small 34 seat propeller plane with us being the only Australians on it- this was the first realisation that we were a long way from home. After our 70 minute flight we touched down in Gan and were greeted by our in-country partner Suna; she was very happy to see us even when it was 1:30am. We arrived at the guesthouse and flopped into bed with anticipation of what we would see when daylight appears.

After only a few hours sleep we were woken up by the ‘call to pray’ at 5am, which is sung from different towers placed around the city. It's so great to be living within the village as we get to experience significant cultural events such as this. It was great to meet the other volunteers as we were all excited as each other about being here, about our placements in the hospital and school, and the exploring that will be done in our free time.

After breakfast we all set off on our bicycles to explore the streets, which was an experience in itself. Little cars and motorbikes were dashing out from side streets and swerving in and out of each other on the main road, very different to back home. The vibrant colours of the buildings were incredible. The locals seemed to be so fascinated in what we were up to; they don't see many foreigners here as it's not the most touristy of areas.

After lunch Suna arranged a truck to come pick us all up and take us to one of the coral reefs in the north part of the atoll. We all piled into the back and set off, and after being let through this big gate we continued through the jungle, having to duck for cover a few times. When the trees disappeared it opened up to a snorkelling oasis with crystal clear blue water. We couldn’t wait to get out there! One of the locals gave us a guided tour of the reef; the abundance of coral and fish was amazing, just like the photos we saw before coming here. After only being in the country for less than a day I could tell that this was going to be the most incredible trip.

After we all rested up it was time to visit where we will be volunteering for the next month. For me it was the hospital, where we were welcomed by the director and given a tour of the building. The way things are run is very different to back home, the resources available have to be utilised much more efficiently. It was quite overwhelming at first but as we settled in I knew this was going to be a once in a lifetime experience and seeing how this system differs from home was exciting. The teaching students also set off for their first day of placement, with everyone being put into a different year group and teaching level. Everybody’s first day had the culture shock and overwhelming feel that we expected, but as the days go on and we become more familiar with the staff, patients and students I think we will be able to fit right in and make the most out of it.

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