Maldives Rowing Volunteer
On Saturday 1st of April selections were held in Addu for the chance for one boy and one girl to represent the Maldives at the Asian 2012 Olympic Qualification Regatta in Chungju, South Korea. The regatta will be held on 26th-30th of April and prior to that there is a training camp from the 15th of April to which the Maldives had also been invited. All flights, food, accomodation and travel expenses are being covered by FISA (the international rowing federation). As you can imagine everyone was incredibly keen to take part in the selections. So the single was dusted down and everyone given a chance to practice in it before the big day. Only two fell in which was very impressive given everyone's hatred of holding onto their blades at all times!

We had 20 students come down for selection starting at 830 on Saturday morning. Naturally we had a few glitches to keep us all on our toes and ensure that everything took just that little bit longer...... The motor boat engine developed a cancerous illness the night before and now only functioned in first gear - unable to keep up with a single it was so slow! The two stop watches we were using for the timing jointly refused to go past 35minutes so every 30 minutes racing would be paused as i ground slowly up and down the course resetting watches! Fishing boats appeared at inopportune moments during races and there was the general fun and frolics caused by steering into banks etc. With me for a coach it's going to be inevitable there will be steering fun and games.

Roba and Salmy were our erstwhile timers and had the unenviable task of standing on the shore in the sun for four hours taking times. By the end Roba had built himself a little 'house' - roof made of a sack draped over a bush, leaves for his feet and a nice piece of cardboard to sit on. Once we'd dropped off his cigarettes he seemed very content! Luckily, after 4 hours we had two winners!!! Fathimath Hasna Hassan from Addu High School and Ibrahim Sharu-u from Feydhoo School. Both won by 4s over second place and in the mens group we had 4 people joint second. The two selected were ecstatic and the others went away with a mixture of long faces, pleas to be allowed to race again and promises that they would never speak to me again!!
So selections done all that was left to do was obtain a passports, three visas, book flights, accommodation and try to find winter clothing in a tropical paradise where the mercury never drops below 26 degrees! All in the space of 11 days – how hard could it be.......???

Well it turned out that we needed two passports to be issued and although you may be able to apply for them in Addu you can only collect them in Male – problem number one. Problem number two there is no Korean embassy in the Maldives the closest one is in Sri Lanka and if you apply for visas here it takes 14 days. So I was now going to have to fly to Sri Lanka (with all passports) on the 8th to apply on the 9th collect on the 11th and be back ready to fly to south korea from Male on the 13th. Oh and you also needed a visa support letter from South Korea with the names of the travellers on it before applying. That is all very well if you know the names of the four people going! The last place was to be filled by a coach from the Maldives and after four false starts we finally confirmed the fourth person, Sarey, at 1300 on Thursday. A manic rush then ensued to get all paperwork re- printed and signed by the relevant people before they left for the weekend at 1500.

Hithadhoo from the air
Sarey was packed off to Male to get his passport on Saturday.  Sharu-u and I followed on Sunday to pick Sharu-u’s up so that I could fly to Colombo weighed down with paperwork, photos, letters, signatures and documents from all over the place! It was Sharu-u’s first flight ever and first trip to Male which like everyone he found very crowded and built up compared to Addu. Also a day spent sitting around in passport offices was not what he had imagined his first trip to the capital would involve....

Colombo Rowing Club
Sharu-u returned to Addu Sunday evening, Sarey stayed in Male and I went to Colombo. Hasna having been to India once had her own passport already so no headaches there. After handing  the wadge of paper over to the Korean embassy I made my way to the Colombo rowing club enjoyed a 2km scull in a fine boat (lovely and light after all the coastal boats) and then settled down to a sundowner with the club captain and ex captain and a chat about the craziness of this year’s Oxford Cambridge boat race. Further excitement was added by the Indonesian earthquake which we felt in Sri Lanka and the Maldives and the subsequent Tsunami warning that was issued just before I was due to fly. My taxi driver was convinced we would be swept to our deaths by a wall of water at 1620 while I was more certain that I would die imminently as a product of his and the other road users crazy driving. Luckily we were both wrong and survived the journey to the airport.

Winter clothes...
So amazingly now we’re just waiting to go - we have got tickets, passports, visas, insurance and amazingly located two fleeces, one enormous trenchcoat and fur lined gloves from a friend of Sharu-u’s brother to keep us all warm. It was one degree last week and has warmed up to 10 degrees this week so not too bad! The go down at the National Olympic Committee was trawled yesterday for tracksuits that would fit – lots of XXXXXL’s and not alot of mediums left – towels, socks and pins.

So next news will be from Korea where cold temperatures, different food (Hasna’s mum has loaded us down with Maldivian staples and forbidden her to eat frogs and insects!) and skinny racing boats await.......

If you want to check out where we're going it's Chungju South Korea and the website address is: 

It comes complete with funky music!

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