Maldives Rowing Volunteer
Our first fundraising event is now on - 1st of May Wallingford Regatta.

Myself and a range of happy helpers will be selling Krispy Kreme doughnuts all day.

Make sure you get there before stocks run out!!

All proceeds will be going towards equipment and the setting up of the boat clubs out in the Maldives.
If you are around please come and support us!

Further updates from activity in the UK - all the blades I collected (21 sets) made it to Italy and are awaiting delivery with the boats to the Maldives. Thank you so much to all those that helped us out (see thank you page).

Also a big Thank you to everyone who attended the Alec Hodges Sculling Course at Tideway Scullers last week and very gamely parted with their pounds to avoid the washing up and take part in a truly impressive quiz! The look of shock when the quiz mistress announced she had no idea what the answer was, but hoped to glean it from the teams responses, was a top moment!

Hope to see you at Wallingford Regatta, Dorney Lake on Sunday 1st May.

Cheers Tash

Litter Pickers!!
Well the rainy season is well and truly here, thankfully the type of rain that gets you embarrassingly wet (ie see through clothes) has been mainly limited to night times, one thing I have noticed is that any type of rain coat is not used by anyone - not even the lightweight cagouls of my childhood, people just stay under shelter until it stops.  I suppose as time is a different concept here you can just wait until the rain stops to do whatever it is you were going to do, I am fairly confident there is no Divehi word for late!  Although the rain does ruin the idyllic look of bright blue skies and seas it actually makes the climate more user friendly for me.  The cloud cover allows you to explore, either on land or sea, without the feeling of you skin burning and peeling as you look at it and all those terrible skin cancer warnings flashing before my eyes.  On the subject of skin cancer - if anyone can recommend a sun block that does not run straight into your eyes and sting like a ninja as soon as you go in the sea and that is available in the Maldives I would be eternally grateful!
Currently everything is running relatively smoothly, bar securing my work permit but I have had all my fears about being deported soothed by a kindly South African teacher, and so until I find out whether I will be going south to Gahdoo in the near future, plans to expand the swimming programme are on hold.  There is still a great deal of interest and some of the children are progressing really well despite my teaching!

One of the biggest features of the Maldives in general (or what I have seen so far) and Hulhumale in particular is RUBBISH, it is everywhere, in the sea, all over the beaches, by the sides of the roads, filling every empty lot.  It gets a little depressing watching rubbish thrown into the sea and on the ground.  It is something every tourist I have spoken to has commented on and I am not sure that people realise how much it affects people coming to the island and the length of time (and more importantly the amount of money) they spend on the island.  The smell where we conduct lessons is terrible although how much of that can be blamed on the rubbish and how much on the outlet pipe nearby I do not know.  So rather than just rant on a website, we arranged a litter pick for all the students who swim.  Attendance was a little poor but many of the children did have school (school takes over a lot more of their time here in comparison to the UK, with extra lessons and events), however those that attended and their parents were fantastic and in an hour we collected a huge amount of rubbish (see photos).  The overall effect was marginal but with more collections and hopefully a tiny change in attitude we might get somewhere.  Perhaps giving out individually wrapped sweets as a reward at the end was a foolish thing to do, as most of the wrappers ended up in the sea (I did fish them out) but overall a success and we have new rules in class that any litter being dropped by anyone (instructors in particular) incurs a big telling off by everyone!

Divehi vocab - increasing (not with useful words though!)
Ability with non english names - still zero
Cuts to feet - 8
Current mossie bites - 7


Well this is the first time I've written on here or any blog for that matter - not the most computer/internet loving person - i thought it was about time I embraced the whole concept and brought you up to date on what I've been doing in the UK.

I'm sure it's not only Rachel that is looking a touch red at the moment given the last week of stunning warmth and sun we've had here. I, sadly for my tan, was doing my 'teaching beginners to swim course' over the last four days. No one drowned or had to be fished off the pool bottom so I passed! A big thank you to Trish at Swimkidz for great teaching and loads of muffins, biscuits and hot cross buns - kept everyone very happy especially me!

Guin and I are busy rounding up sculling blades and life jackets that have been kindly donated by a range of clubs and schools. A big thank you so far to Oundle Town Rowing Club, CD at Westminster and Wallingford Rowing Club for all the blades and jackets. A special mention goes to South Bromsgrove School who fundraised an amzing £500 to pay for safety equipment and life jackets. Thank you all so much!

 Saturday will be one busy day of driving round the country collecting blades and jackets and loading them onto the Filippi trailer (thank you Paul Willis). Phil Rowley is then kindly driving down to Italy and on his way to Fillippi dropping the blades off at the boat builders ready to go into the container with our seven new doubles. I'm hoping the seven doubles are ready soon because as soon as they are in the container I'll have three weeks to organise a leaving do and then I'm off to Addu Atoll, Maldives! 

I'm also planning various fundraising events in the Thames Valley details of which I will post up here so please do come along and support our project! 

Cheers Tash

So good news people the swimming programme has started, with a grand opening complete with a banner, PA system, dignitaries (of which I was one), many speeches and warm Sprite!  After an overly successful sign up period we have 80 students enrolled, give or take a few administration issues.  Thankfully I have a squadron of trainee swimming instructors from the Maldives Swimming and Lifesaving School to assist me or it could well have been a disaster.  I would say cautiously that the first few days have been a success, the biggest difficulty is the conditions – teaching in the sea poses a few more hazards than in a nice clean 25m indoor pool.  Even though the swimming area we are using has been mainly cleared of coral there are still some carefully placed rocks to trip you up when you least expect it, often when I am trying to be my brilliant self in front of the students.  Waves are also a problem, starting the programme at high tide was not advisable, although there is an artificial reef protecting the beach at high tide the waves come over it and have a tendency to swamp the students every now and then – at least they are getting over their fears right at the beginning!

It is a massive relief that we have started the programme, it feels like I have actually achieved something now rather than wandering around the place like some giant red stranger, now I am the strange giant swimming lady.  On the personal front my tan lines are coming along a treat, there is nothing I can do about it, I am slathering on the sun block but still have a lovely t-shirt mark.  Having to cover up all the time is actually not too much of a problem, wearing shorts and t-shirt to teach is probably what I would do by choice and swimming in leggings is not too bad either, maybe wearing a vest top every now and then might be nice but all in all it is a very small price to pay.  The clash of tourists and local beliefs was really highlighted during this afternoon’s lesson as a lady paraded along the beach in a bikini much the amusement of all the students, they all found it reassuringly hilarious, luckily one of the more tactful student instructors had a word with her.  Hulhumale is a slightly strange place as it is trying to encourage tourism with small hotels and dive shops but as an inhabited island (as opposed to the resort islands where anything goes) there are strict rules on dress on the beach and general standards of dress elsewhere.  The problem is that although the majority of tourists respect the rules some are either unaware or ignore them and the locals do not know how to enforce them.  The police are uncomfortable trying to enforce them for fear of giving the island a bad name; however they have to field all the complaints from locals.  I feel the hotels should take some responsibility to explain the laws to guests on arrival but in the end as a tourist somewhere you have understand something about where you are going.

On a lighter note I joined the student instructors for their big 1kilometre swim test and managed to beat them all despite getting lost on my second run (yep definitely possible) although I suffered badly for the rest of the day, I am as (un)fit as I thought I was but I am definitely not able to do much exercise in the heat.  I also went to one of the schools for their inter house sports festival, it was brilliant, but I was gutted to have missed the Under 9’s boys musical chairs and the Balloon Burst which had taken place in the morning. I did get to see the three legged races and obstacle relay which involved one of the children getting dressed in more clothes, I felt very sorry for the boy whose socks would not fit and his team came a distant last. 

 Currently I am in my room watching possibly the worst film I have seen, which is now a close run thing with all the terrible films on the only English language channels I have, anyhow “Shark Attack 2” comes highly recommended if you enjoy, giant plastic sharks that roar like a lion when they attack and terrible, terrible acting!


So I am here in the Maldives, firstly I am struggling to find internet (what I mean is I do not have wifi in my room) so I cannot update everything as much as I like, but you will be pleased to know that I am keeping a diary so I won’t forget a thing and you can relive every minute of every day with me! Actually that will bore me as much as you so I won’t too much – please do let me know if I bore you too much.  I am currently waiting for my guardian, waiting is my new favourite past time, or at least it ought to be as I spend a lot of time doing it.

Luckily the whole Hulhumale committee were there at the airport to greet me on my arrival, so my first fear was laid to rest, my accommodation was amazing, a hotel on the beach, with breakfast, air con and internet in my room.  I have now moved to my new accommodation in a less salubrious area of the island, which is mainly a building site but everything is so close it is all ok, I hope!

Back to the reason I am here – swimming (the rowing will come when the boats arrive), I have visited Lale international school and gave a presentation that was not potentially my best effort, mainly due to spending the morning praying to the porcelain god of foreign food.  However many of the children seemed really keen and excited which is always a good start.  So now I am really excited about getting going – the logistics are still being worked out but The Maldives School of Swimming and Lifesaving based in Male are lending us all the equipment we need, so I will not have to improvise too much yet!  The biggest problem is actually location which you wouldn’t think on an island surrounded by crystal clear warm water.  Hulhumale is an artificial island built to create a suburb of the over populated capital island Male, so the waterfront is artificial, the beach is protected from the waves by a shallow lagoon with a rock and coral floor – not ideal at all.  There is a swimming area cut into the coral however I don’t fancy my chance at teaching non swimmers in water over two metres deep.  I think I have found an area suitable but I will let you know!

So swimming begins next week – with children from both schools on the island, luckily one of the volunteer teachers has offered to help out as I think I may be oversubscribed!

Yesterday was a brilliant day, being a Friday everyone has the day off (starting the week on a Sunday is something I may struggle to get my head around), Umar , the Maldivian behind the whole programme, took me out on his boat with his family to a lagoon to spend the day snorkelling and fishing.  I was rubbish at fishing; I think there may be fewer things more frustrating than not catching any fish when you can see thousands of them in the sea.  The fish underwater were amazing – if I had internet I would be able to tell you all the fish I saw but I don’t so I won’t!  I did take some very poor photos of the fish though; my underwater camera skills need work.  The most exciting thing, which I did not get a picture of, was the dolphins, many, many dolphins whilst we were travelling out to the lagoon.  All in all a great day – the only downside was my burnt knees and shins!

So hopefully the next time I write this the swimming programme will have begun and I will have watched every film that is on rotation on the film channels here.


More photos here
So I am definitely on my way now! Sitting in Dubai airport feeling anything but glamorous and surrounded by the other passengers who make up a very interesting mix of loved up couples and what seems to be one very large family.  Actually on second thoughts some of the couples don’t look that happy, I hope the marriage will last the honeymoon!  Obviously I have not a lot to tell as most people have been on a long haul flight before, the only difference was that I had three seats to myself, which I think has made my week, I am sure my luck will not hold for the next leg and I will arrive in Male cramped, irritated and no doubt with someone else’s body odour all over me, in fact I am sure the person I will end up sitting next to has just walked past and I am not going to get half a seat to myself.  My flight is being called so I can let you know (if anyone cares) how it goes and what delights are in store for me!