Monday, 9 February 2015

Week Two In Our Tropical Maldivian Paradise

COUNTRY: Maldives
PROJECT: Nursing, Teaching & Swimming Coaching
WRITTEN BY: Clare Sibthorpe

We began our second week of tropical paradise feeling refreshed, relaxed and revived from our overnight stay at an island resort. As we zoomed through the crystal-clear waters on our speedboat to and from the resort, we sat in disbelief at how blue the ocean was.

It happened to be Maldivian night at the resort, so we were lucky enough to experience the locals’ fabulous traditional dance and music. As a part of their tribal dance, the men bang on drums made from hollowed coconut wood. As the rhythm picks up throughout the song, women dance and spectators clap along.

Despite our enjoyable weekend, we arrived back at the guesthouse on Saturday afternoon glad to be back at our home away from home. We finished the night off with our first dinner outing as a whole group, eating at the local Italian restaurant. We were reminded that Hithadhoo is quite a bit smaller than many of our home cities, when our table took up the whole inside of the restaurant and the waiter was also the chef!

We are getting used to Hithadhoo life and slowly overcoming the culture shock of living in such a foreign environment. As we adjust to hearing Islamic prayer 5 times a day, some of us are even able to sleep through the 5am wake-up call! We’re becoming accustomed to bats flying past our balcony during sheer daylight, multiple people standing on the back of trucks as they drive by, and parents on motorbikes taking their children to school as early as 6.30am.

I’d like to say the locals are also becoming more accustomed to us Westerners as the days pass, but judging by the stares we all still get, I doubt this is the case. Finally, it’s safe to say we love the milo here! It comes in many forms – from cans, to poppers, to ice cream, to being ‘iced’ and served at restaurants. With such a vast variety, plus the fact that they are so cheap, and the corner store being just two doors down, milo-buying is becoming a daily habit for most of us.

The girls working at the school have had a great week getting to know their students better. The younger kids are learning about weather, seasons, and differences between living and non-living things. They have been giving the volunteers notes almost daily about how happy they are to have Australians with them. The older students are learning about opinion writing and debating. With the school’s anniversary this week, there was ‘plant a tree’, ‘decorate your classroom’ and ‘bring your pet to school’ day. Students from all grades wrote their targets and goals for the year, which were beautiful to read.

The nursing students also had a very eventful and exciting week, observing a total of three births – two natural and one caesarean. One student even assisted with the delivery of a natural birth! Several other procedures were observed, including a hernia repair. Students have also been attending different clinics to assist in health promotion and health assessment of the locals. Some of this week’s topics have included cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

For the kids at swimming lessons, eagerness is growing and skills are improving each lesson. Some beginners who at first refused to go above waist-height now accept and overcome new challenges without hesitation. The pride in their faces when they notice their own achievement is priceless. While it can be a mission to get them out of the water at the end of the lesson, we know it’s a good sign that they are no longer afraid to be in their beautiful ocean.

As Monday was Australia Day, our homesickness was soon overcome by the joy the kids felt when they spent the afternoon with us at the park. We had many activities, including face-painting, tattoo-applying, soccer, Australian beach balls, skipping ropes and boomerangs. Nothing demonstrates enjoying the small things in life more than the gigantic grin on a child’s face when they are told they can keep a gift we have brought.

We finished off our incredible week with some snorkelling trips. We were taken on a boat far into the ocean, away from any land! It was amazing to see breathtaking reefs and colourful fish. Some of us even touched a sea turtle! Our next chapter in our adventure is a trip to an uninhabited island this weekend… We can’t wait, as we’re eager to explore more of this picturesque utopia called the Maldives.

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