Maldives Rowing Volunteer
Not much writing today but some more photos using my lovely underwater comera (Canon D10 other underwater cameras are available!), if you are about to go on a beach holiday and need a new camera I really recommend an underwater one - much fun!  Also a few more photos from swimming lessons and if you would like to get an email version of the blog (by far the easiest way to keep up with the drivel) then put your email in the box to the right and SUBSCRIBE, lastly I really appreciate any comments on the blog and any questions you may have - I have the time on my hands right now so please fill it (my tv no longer works and I have nearly finished all my books!


Swimming Lessons

Hurrah, Tash finally arrived last Monday, bringing with her shortbread and horrendous rain.  Slightly confused after a ridiculously long journey via Oman and Sri Lanka, I have given her a whistle stop tour of Male, Hulhumale and Villingilli, compared tans (photos to follow) and generally made her walk a lot, eat a lot and swim a lot.  Having just got used to having Miss Howard as my faithful companion for a week, she has been cruelly taken away from me and exported to Addu Atoll.  Actually she has yet to reach Addu, currently she is on a boat that will take two or three days depending on the weather to get there. Accompanying her on the boat are many of the swimming stars from Addu who have been up in Male competeing, all the sensible children managed to get a flight back which lasts about an hour! It makes me laugh everytime I think about it, I am not a good friend.  I have heard from Tash and everything is fine, it has not rained too much (the boat is open at the sides) and she has not finished all her books yet. As soon as Tash arrives in Addu and gets internet I am sure she will let you know all her thoughts about her arrival in the Maldives.

Since my last post there have been some major steps on in the creation of the rowing club, which is good news as although I have been, mostly, putting a brave face on things I have been getting quite down about the lack of progress and more importantly my inability to have any control over the lack of progress.  A situation that is very common here but is still incredibly frustrating nonetheless, after four months of minimal progress I had been starting to question my ability to achieve anything whilst here, phew a bit of brutal honesty on the blog! However with the imminent arrival of seven shiny new boats things have suddenly taken a major leap forward, we have the new mayor of Male, Alibe, firmly behind the project and he came with us to meet the Housing Development Corporation (the development agency for Hulhumale), and we now have a promise of land, access to the sea, all the materials for a boat house and a water tank.  All we need now is someone to build the boat house / shed, I know I am never happy, but until we get somewhere to keep the boats and access to the water our rowing club won't be doing a lot of rowing.

I am hopeful that over Ramadan we can keep some progress going but the most exciting news of the week (apart from Tash obviously) is that the boats have arrived in Male and are being expelled from the customs machine as we speak - a huge sigh of relief all round, now it is time to get my logistics head on to store all the boats for Hulhumale and transport the others down to Addu, clipboards and official face at the ready.

Lastly - yesterday was Maldivian Independence Day, celebrating 46, I think, years since the islands escaped the clutches of the British Empire, unfortunately I missed most of the parades as I had an interview to write but there was a lot of children in national dress and many, many marching bands - other than that I am not really sure what else happened, sorry!

More fish - not sure what though!
Two exciting things happened in the last twenty four hours that need to be reported.  After looking at twitter last night after getting home (following a very exciting final of the Maldives Police Inter Department Women's 6 aside football final) I found out that my old house mate Rick was going to be on National radio, with his crew mates on 5 live.  Being very over excited by this and despite the late hour I tweeted in and got a hello all the way from London, listen here at 49 (ish) minutes in
My other old house mate, Hannah, also got a mention so I feel that there cannot have been many people texted or tweeting!  

The second and far more exciting thing that happened was a phone call from the Maldives Athletic Association asking for my address to send my prize money to.  It turns out I WON the women's amateur under 40 category at the Male Broadband Race, it has only taken 4 weeks to find out how I did and I should have been told on the day but I think I was probably in a crumpled heap on the floor.  Anyhow, a good half hours run has resulted in getting a very well received boost to my bank account.  

Both events have made me very happy and alleviated some of the gloom I have been wallowing in recently but more of that later (nothing serious, just a touch of self pity), Tash has arrived and is of course cheering me up.  I will Tash post all about the fantastic experience she is having in Male with me looking after her so very very well!

We had to abruptly cancel swimming classes today due to an influx of jellyfish, floating happily along the shore in the wind.  On closer inspection and with my huge wealth of marine knowledge they turned out to be blue squidgy things officially known as Portuguese Man Of War (PMOW), very small ones though.  Remembering holidays in Scotland and being told to "just keep swimming" when surrounded by jellyfish we carried on lessons after one child was stung until more of the blighters appeared and we all made a hasty exit! If it makes me sound very callous for not abandoning lessons when one student was stung, maybe I am! However students tend to be in excruciating pain very, very often and are often stung by invisible creatures that leave no mark on the skin and do no long term damage, so all injuries are taken with a healthy dose of salt (although not jellyfish stings as that would be dangerous!).  Not being an expert at marine life, the students mother was called and I took her up to the hospital to make sure she was checked out, thankfully as it was only a small PMOW Nauma's hand is making a good recovery.  Sadly no photos of the annoying things as I didn't want to hang around in the water for too long despite the fact other people were swimming around and collecting them in bottles!

In other marine animal news; I had an excellent time snorkelling yesterday on Villingilli with the Liz, another English girl slightly bemused as to how she ended up here, where I saw my first sting rays which blew me away.  Too deep to get a really good look at, they moved so serenely along the edge of the reef,  a grace that I showed no degree of when I tried to dive deeper to have a better look! It has just made me more excited about learnign to dive, I cannot wait!!!!

Swimming update - with Ramadan fast approaching (a very witty pun if you know where to look for it) it is a great relief that Hisan, one of the youngest swimmers, managed to swim by himself today for the first time and I got a photo!
Where the boat house will hopefully appear in the not too distant future
As per usual I have been trying to post this blog for a while and due to internet frailties I have not been successful, so all this news is slightly delayed and back dates Tash's post below, sorry!
Big news blog reader (I am guessing there is probably only one of you), the boats are confirmed to be on their way to the Maldives, we have the bill of laden from the shipping company – it is massively exciting news!  Terrifying news as I have an awful lot to do to prepare for their arrival and things are moving at a pace a slug would be infuriated by! Hopefully the imminent arrival of 7 brand new boats should give me the impetus and those around me to get a move on, although I have learnt to rely on others very gingerly as talk is very cheap and over used here, actions are a rarer commodity.  At the moment as far as a boat house goes, we have a scrubby patch of land with features including a selection of odd shoes, old cement sacks and large concrete blocks hampering access to the water, so not an ideal starting point. However if I have to set too with a pickaxe and spade myself I will.  It is undeniably a challenge, however on the positive side Ramadan takes place during August, meaning that even if everything was ready to go no Muslims (the only permitted religion here) would be able to use them. If I am teaching a granny to suck eggs then excuse me but, during a fast Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours and this means they will not go in the water in case they swallow water.  With conditions on the beach challenging enough I could not safely teach after dark so there will be no swimming lessons either, this means that I will have until September to prepare for rowing to begin. I cannot deny that I am going to have a bit of a holiday during August too, hopefully even a flit over to India which is only an hour’s flight away but more of that later.

Another imminent arrival is Tash – whoop diddy whoop, am jolly excited for her arrival, although she will have two boat houses to set up down on Addu so probably a much bigger challenge awaits her.  Prior to Tash’s departure she has had some cartilage taken off her knee and is just waiting for it to heal before she comes over here.  Although we will be in the same country we will be very far apart, the flight down to Addu is about an hour and half from Male, and the boat trip far far longer it will be reassuring to have someone to share triumphs and disasters with.

Other news worthy events – it was my birthday on Tuesday  and with the grand total of one card and no alcohol it was the quietest birthday I have had in many years. My one card was mad by one of the youth offenders I teach, who all insisted on wishing me happy birthday every 10 minutes, but then spoilt it all by telling me I was old and needed to have children before I died soon!  By a happy coincidence the mother of one of the students (a grade 1 boy, not a young offender yet), brought tea and short eats down to the beach for the class, not knowing it was my birthday but because the weather was truly miserable.  So a lovely tea party on the beach before a pizza (my first since I arrived) with friends in the evening, added up to not a bad birthday at all!

Looking exceptionally red after the race with a fresher looking friend!
Last Friday was the Male Road Race which I foolishly signed up for, although only 5km and I had practiced the route before several times, I was ill prepared, however so were most of the other people running! Having not run during the day my body was wholly unprepared for 310c heat and the run was an altogether horrible experience.  I cannot tell you how I did as I could not see a clock when I finished and the results are not published, however it was not a totally fruitless experience, I now know never to attempt anything like that again!!

One minor knee op later and I've actually got a flight booked and supposedly everything sorted.... At least the incisions have closed up and I'm no longer leaking vital knee fluid everywhere so what else is there to do??? My parents have a list......

16th July is D-Day! I'm off to the Maldives via a day in Muscat Oman where I shall undergo a 40 degree acclimatisation process which should make Male feel nice and cool.... On the evening of the 15th I'll be in the Ship pub, opposite Scullers, in Chiswick for leaving food and drinks - please feel free to join.

The boats, blades, lifejackets and bikes did get put on the Hansa India ship which docked in Colombo on the 7th of July. Hopefully, our container was then off loaded and put onto the next ship bound for Male to arrive probably at the same time as I do. I'm hoping I clear customs a little faster than the container - the last lot of boats took three weeks!
I'm planning to then spend a few days with Rachel, to pick her brains and make her feel very brown in comparison to the new arrival, before heading down to Addu Atoll and whatever that may hold. 

Let the adventure begin..... x tash