Maldives Rowing Volunteer
Well Hasna fell in twice so the underwater sculling award goes to her. The first time was just near the landing stage, she was rescued (albeit at snail’s pace) and brought back to us beaming from ear to ear to announce the water was COLD but ok once you were used to it. Water here in Addu is a constant 30 degrees. The second time she fell in was up above the start in the warm up loop before her heat. Another delightful day – 20kph head wind chopping the water nicely for the 45kg rowers! Again she got rescued (her coach being a typical coach didn’t notice a thing), demanded to be put back in her single and got herself to the start line and raced her heat. Needless to say she shivered the whole way down and was still shivering when she pulled into the landing stage to announce she’d fallen in. At which point I stuck her on my back (there was an issue with shoes and boxes and translation problems which meant hers were nowhere to be found) and ran back to our tent to get her changed and onto an erg. Luckily, learning from the previous dousing I’d been carrying my scarf around as an extra head covering for her in case she fell in again. So this time she was fully dry. Hot coffee and food soon sorted her out!

Sharu-u cut his finger doing a practice start and then got mad at me when I told him to quit complaining and finish the last 4km - if he could not see the bone he was obviously not going to die. Well he set off in a huff and his stonehearted coach peddled alongside to take rates during his pieces. Sarey had gone ahead to keep an eye on Hasna as the issue with the finger meant she’d put about 1km on Sharu-u. Well i was cycling along and thought ‘ooh I haven’t looked where I’m going for a while’. Turned to look and to my horror clocked a nice marble bollard 2 inches from my front tyre. ‘Great. Here we go again.’ and up into the air I soared (clinging to the bike) and did a full somersault landing on the ground on the other side on my back with bike on top. Much to the amusement of the huge group of picnicking Koreans! Some scrapes, a few good bruises and what feels like a broken thumb were all I had but I couldn’t have cared less. All I was worried about was James’ camera which he’d leant me on pain of death and that I’d landed on top of! Luckily it is made of stronger stuff than the kindle (again broken) and is in perfect working order. Phew! My tumble as you can imagine restored Sharu-u, along with the much desired plaster, to a very good humour. Coaching is as injury plagued as rowing so it seems......

Numerous evenings were spent at coaches meetings where we sat around talking about anything other than coaching rowing. We learnt that horse is the best type of meat to eat, the Kuwait coach had single handed rescued all the rowing boats at the club during the invasion from Iraq and that the Vietnamese Australian coach runs an Angus Beef stud farm that bank rolls a school and boat club. Naturally weather came up alot and Sarey’s face was an absolute picture when the Kazakhstan coach was talking about the weather in his country currently being very mild (Sarey nodding along at this point) he then qualified the statement by telling us it was 'very nice between -2 and 3 degrees!' Sarey’s jaw hit the ground.... Obviously it would feel mild after a winter at -45!

Being a rowing camp we were based in a hotel in the middle of nowhere and saw mainly the course, bus route and hotel and surrounding grounds. A trip out to a nearby national park in the mountains to see an old temple site was organised for our day off. Really beautiful as all the cherry blossom came out while we were there so everywhere there were clouds of pink and white trees. We also had a night's entertainment involving the performance of a rowing song, musical and dance. It lived up to all the names suggest. Jess I promise to get the video of it to you asap.

We met so many people doing so many great things and just to hear how all the Asian countries are developing their rowing with the aim to become truly competitive with the more established rowing nations was really enjoyable. To give some idea of their progress in 1999 at the Qualification regatta for Sydney only 3 countries raced in the women’s single event. This year 16 countries were represented in the women’s single and 20 in the men’s single. We had 22 countries altogether.  The thing I really liked about having my ‘coaches’ hat on was that I got the opportunity to talk to everyone. As a team we made lots of new friends.

Sharu-u and Hasna did an incredible job on their first ever camp and international regatta – I was really proud of them. They learnt all about the rowing machine, improved their technique, rowed in a couple of lovely empachers without falling in and raced their first 2km race ever on the training camp and then went out and had a full four days racing at the Olympic Qualification Regatta. They came last in every race but refused to be demoralised, never grumbled or complained (loudly anyway) and always got on the water keen to race and try out the new suggestions made by their coach such as: ‘please don’t rate 20 in a race ever again’, ‘I want you to be unable to move when you cross the finish line’ (this after Sharu-u happily announced he would have been able to do another 2km race no problems at the end of his heat) and to go out as hard and fast as they could off the start to see how long they could hold onto the pack.

Each learnt alot about racing and discovered that rowing is a masochistic sport in which people delight in hurting themselves. When they came to tell me that their legs hurt after 200m what should they do? they were not expecting the answer that racing hurts the whole way down the course and is the same for everyone so make it hurt more! Their times improved each day they went out. The support and acknowledgement of their efforts they received from the other teams and coaches was a huge boost to their morale and went a long way to making their experience a positive one. 

Being in that environment also opened their eyes to what other rowers do, how much they train, how strong they are (the girls here are stronger than all the boys at home was one comment) and got their enthusiasm pumping sky high. I’m being pestered daily to get hold of rowing machines (oh the innocence they will soon wish we didn’t have them...) so we can practice on them and they now want to do weights and long outings and have promised they will not say they are tired..... It’s also done wonders for the group back in Addu who followed their progress through facebook, email and skype and all are keener than before. We are now looking to become members of the Asian Rowing Federation and so be able to take part in all the various Asian regattas as they come along.

So exciting times are coming up but for now we are back down to business and training for the interschool rowing competition on July 13-14.

X Tash

First night wearing every single one of our woolly clothes!
So after a lunch of curried fish intestine, rice, onion omelette and 3 bananas I feel ready to tackle the back log of blogging.... I have tried to upload this blog three times now and computer gods hate me so much the internet crashes each time i'm ready to hit publish.

We’re all back in Addu and what a time we had! So many firsts for Hasna, Sharu-u and Sarey – first long haul flight (the novelty waned rapidly and by the Doha – Seoul flight the ‘are we nearly there yet?’ questions began to come out – all now hate long plane journeys), first escalator – going up and down them helped pass the four hours in Qatar airport, first time being in air cold enough to see your breath (check out Sarey in his coat!!), first bus ride that lasted for three hours and we had still not reached the end of the road and of course the hills and mountains. Highest point in the Maldives being 2.3m!

Fun, food and photos in the accreditation office
Talking of firsts on the night we arrived while waiting to collect a few other countries before going to  the hotel we bought a few bits and pieces to eat from the 7 Eleven including sea weed – yes a definite Howard purchase, Mum would be proud. Everyone gamely tried some and a variety of faces were pulled and comments made. However, by the end of the trip everyone was tucking into the packets of seaweed served regularly with lunch and dinner.

A note on the food here – thankfully despite missing fresh tuna and ‘proper rice’ the food was deemed by all to be edible and even in some cases tasty (praise indeed!). Happily for the dustbin on the team, I had no problem and was glad the others would try everything once before a decision as to whether they liked it or not was made. Unfortunately, for Hasna she discovered that gummy rice dumplings with gooey unknowns in the middle were not to her taste while a bunch of sweet Korean ladies were doing all they could to entertain us in the accreditation office. She stood behind me and retched and gagged and pulled funny faces until it went down. Then as food was being plied on us grabbed a load of mentos to keep the ladies at bay!

Leisure Boats = super sonic stealth craft...
So how to describe it all? Let’s go with Training Camp first. Five FISA coaches, headed by Brian Richardson, had been put in charge of the camp and each country taking part was split between these five coaches. The first day involved me putting on my rigging hat (never my favourite occupation). I have a feeling I looked like I was just pulling numbers out of thin air doing some crazy calculations and then pronouncing we were half a centimetre out or spot on to the bemused looks of Sarey and the other two. Because we were coming from coastal boats the Korean organising committee had rented a couple of ‘leisure boats’ for our use. One stable flat bottomed, complete with stabalisers that I immediately removed, and the other nicely keeled and a good bit wobblier than what we were used to. So having rigged the boats perfectly and finally found two sets of blades that actually managed to go down to 285cm we launched onto the water staying within range of the landing stage. All went well with everyone marvelling at the lightness of our leisure craft.

That afternoon, Brian having announced to the whole camp that the weather and water conditions at Chungju were spectacular and perfect, the wind had picked up into a biting cross and the water was covered in lovely waves. So with strict instructions regarding the circulation pattern Sarey and I launched our two little athletes to go and complete their first ever 4km on a proper course. General heart attacks ensued as Sharu-u decided the dead lane was the right one to be in and convinced Hasna he was right. So Sarey and I ran round and cadged a lift with the Korean coach and Anna our lovely translator. We caught up with them and then really confused them by making them come off the course out of the way of all the others while they got the hang of the finer boats. The four km was completed with both boats being blown all over the shop – they felt better about it all when they heard all the other athletes complaining about what a horrendous outing it had been.

The hills are alive
The rest of the week was lovely flat calm and sunny and we built steadily up to 16km spread over two sessions. I decided a three session day was in order and hauled everyone into the gym after lunch one day – next day I had two very tired athletes who were barely able to speak so thought it was best to just stick to the two sessions. Instead we went for a couple of walks up in the hills behind the accommodation and played basketball on the court when anyone felt they had more energy.

Some of the ladies in yellow
The Koreans had organised a load of interpreters to help all the teams out and they were really lovely and exceptionally friendly. To Anna, Sol and Sura goes a huge thank you for sorting out telephones, washing powder, rigging equipment, basketballs and anything else 'Team Maldivou' required. By the end of our stay 'Team Maldivou' had created quite a name for ourselves for not only causing ‘minor’ issues such as having organised nothing to decorate our blades with – stickers had to be ordered in the last couple of days (doing things at the last minute – never!) but for also being very smiley, friendly and outgoing. Sharu-u was a definite hit with all in yellow jackets holding court regularly even while getting on the water for racing.....! We tease him lots, there were tears when we left....

Ok the rest of the tale I hope to put up tomorrow all things going my way!

x Tash

Do you want to be part of an amazing project where you can really make a difference to people's lives in a unique country?  This is definitely not a gap year project or pay for volunteering - this is a job and we are looking for a really special person to drive the project forwards.

If you have experience of teaching rowing (you do not need to be a good rower, we want inspiration not perspiration!), have spent time abroad, are independent and resourceful and most importantly looking for a challenge, then I would love to hear from you.  

Have a good look around this site and if you able to commit for a significant period of time (roughly six months) then please email me for more information. 

I am really sorry but we are only looking for a female coach at the moment, due to the nature of the work and the culture a male coach (at the current time) would not be possible.