Sunday, 31 January 2016

Exploring the Crystal Clear Waters in The Maldives

COUNTRY: Maldives
PROJECT: Teaching & Health
WRITTEN BY: Caitlin White

Wow, what an experience this trip has already been. Since arriving in Hithadhoo just a few days ago we have all been snorkelling, visited the schools and hospitals, eaten lots of yummy Maldivian food, been swimming in the stunning aqua waters, sweated (uncontrollably), sipped on coconuts and ridden around the island countless times.

Excited by the prospect of going swimming we all raced into our rooms and changed into our swimming outfits consisting of 3/4 tights, long shorts and conservative rash shirts. While I am sure many of us would have preferred to be donning bikinis and working on our tans, we were all understanding about the cultural and religious customs here in the Maldives. We all jumped on our bikes and followed Suna’s little pink car as it drove down the main road towards to ocean. As we rode we quickly realised just how hot it was as sweat started to drip from our arms, brows and necks almost immediately. After a few short minutes the crystal clear aqua waters that had drawn us to the Maldives in the first place greeted us. The coastline here is truly stunning, made up of every shade of blue imaginable and the water temperature is perfectly refreshing.

Part two of the orientation began the following morning as we all piled into the taxis and cars for a tour of the island. As most of us arrived tired and a little bit delirious in the middle of the night, we all struggled to find our bearings. Our tour guides helped us to understand more about the island of Hithadhoo, the surrounding islands in the atoll and the local language of Dhivehi. Our specific car lucked out with a driver who either loved Taylor Swift or knew that we loved Taylor Swift, which made for a spectacular partnership and an even better car karaoke set up. 

As we drove back towards the guesthouse, hugging the stunning coastline the tour guides decided to pull over on the side of the road and treat us to a fresh coconut. As half of the group tested out the make shift hammock chairs hanging from one of the trees the other half simply appreciated the view. The coconuts were young and had a natural sweetness to them, unlike any of the coconut drinks we have in Australia. As we sipped I began to wonder whether my coconut was in fact a Mary Poppins bag in disguise - no matter how much I sipped on my straw it still appeared full.

In the afternoon we all piled into the tray of a large truck and headed for a local snorkelling spot. To get to the beach the truck had to wind through narrow dirt roads, lined with tropical trees and shrubs. After dodging tree branches the truck eventually broke through into a cleared road and again we were mesmerised by the beautiful waters. The snorkelling was incredible with schools of fish swimming just off the shore. The guide even managed to find a sea cucumber the size of a big tree branch camouflaged amongst the coral.

On the way back from our snorkelling adventure we all piled into the truck again. Unfortunately though one of the team was stung on the lip by a wasp that had been sitting on one of the moving branches as we drove by. Luckily Suna came to the rescue in her little pink car and took her to the hospital straight away. Lucky for the rest of us, she had a sense of humour and we all joked about the swollen lip ‪#‎kyliejenner‬ ‪#‎lipchallenge‬ ‪#‎freebotox‬.

Our third and final day of orientation was centered around our placements in either the hospital or the local schools.

After being assigned to our individual schools we all set off early in the morning to meet our students, leading teachers and mentors. Dressed conservatively in long pants and long tops we were all extremely sweaty as well pulled up at our schools after riding for 10-15 minutes from the guesthouse. The schools varied in their size, year levels and facilities but the one thing that remained consistent was the level of excitement amongst the children. All of the children seemed overjoyed to have someone new in their classroom and as teachers we were just as excited. We all jumped straight into helping students with their work and some of us were even given the opportunity to teach whole class lessons from the outset.

The children here are inquisitive and a number of us were asked questions like ‘Why do you have that colour skin?” or “Miss, why you have blue eyes?”. While we didn't take offence to the questions being asked, the majority of us struggled to answer such complex questions. As the Maldivian weekend runs Friday to Saturday we only got two days in the classroom before the weekend so I am sure there will be more to share next week - looking forward to getting involved and teaching them all about Australia on Australia Day.

This week the nurses and health students we were placed into different parts of the local hospital on Hithadhoo. Some of these areas included the intensive care unit, operating theatres and the most exciting to date - the labour room. While the hospital was much quieter than they had anticipated all of the girls said that the hospital was much more extensive than they had originally thought.

The two nursing students were lucky enough to witness the arrival of a healthy baby girl as they were given the opportunity to sit it on a cesarean. One huge difference they noticed was that the mother to be had been placed under a general anaesthetic and was not able to witness the arrival of her daughter. The husbands are also not allowed to be a part of the birthing process due to religious restrictions. Both girls found the procedure quite confronting and were astounded when one of the nurses told them that the majority of the babies here in the Maldives are delivered via cesarean operations.

The health students are looking forward to their next week of placement and are hoping to witness more births and other exciting procedures during their time on the island.

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