Maldives Rowing Volunteer
I’ve had one crazy last week and a bit. As Rachel said, I flew back to the UK for Alan and Jules' wedding (Friday 9th) which was brilliant fun and thanks to Carla's wardrobe I actually had something decent to wear! Despite my fears the couple of days in the UK were quite warm so I didn't freeze and was back in balmy Addu on the Sunday night. I knew I’d arrived in the correct place, despite my sleep deprived state, when I was greeted by the first person I saw in Addu with the question - How old are you? followed by 'You look fat! Did you eat alot in England?' Straight to the point as always. I muttered something about drinking lots of champagne and retired to bed.

Since Monday morning we have had 8 of the 9 schools down for either one or two sessions – doesn’t sound too impressive until you work out the numbers – 80 students on the half days and I20 on the full days! We have also been given an engine and boat to match for safety and coaching from (any suggestions for names very welcome) and I’ve managed to make at least four students cry by not selecting them! The shelter, trailer and banning of cars from the rowing beach are all moving closer to completion.

I’d just like to say a word about the boats here – they are amazing! Why anyone would ever want to learn to row in a fine scull is beyond me. These beauties are as far as I can tell untippable and this is coming from the queen of the capsize! If there is a way to turn turtle I will find it no worries. This combined with the students complete lack of fear of being on the water means that on a whim they will swap seats out in the middle of the sea – something I spotted with horror yesterday. At any opportunity they will also happily leap overboard. I have to keep remembering to expressly forbid it – not something I’ve ever had a British student do! Definitely makes teaching novices much more enjoyable and we may even achieve our target of getting them all to a standard where they can race in November for the SAARC summit!

The other amazing thing about the boats is that you can hold onto the back and be towed by your novice rowers through the water thus overcoming all the problems of launches, four totally novice boats and keeping all the coaches occupied. So each session you will see four boats wiggling about the bay with the coach hanging off the back. As I gently trod water yesterday evening watching two of my novice girls row away practising the art of steering while moving (another of my many talents I wish to pass on) I thought how far I was from being wrapped up like a mummy in a launch in the driving rain and grey cold of the tideway. So i did a somersault to celebrate and was picked up by my crew on their way back and towed back into shore! This mode of coaching does mean you end up submerged for eight hours of the day – turns you into one big prune and if you haven’t had the benfit of getting fat on in a four day trip to the UK you get quite cold according to a shivering Musaffa.

The coaches (there are six of them and myself) still seem very keen and continue to turn up to crowd control, coach and receive their daily salt water submersion! Friday was our first full day – four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon. Prayers take place at 11 on Friday so all activity has to be finished by 10. So 6am start for all. As i pedalled up the link road with the sun just coming up on my right I hoped we’d all survive the day! Assistants all appeared by 6 and the first lot of students arrived from Feydhoo school. By the end of the day we were all totally exhausted (none of us had had much sleep the night before – me because i’d been to a rock concert and the others because they never go to bed before 2am anyway) but all had gone just fine. Getting up for 6 on Saturday felt terrible and I had big fears that i would be the only one. As i sat waiting for the students to arrive I got a phone call from Roba who sounded as bad as i felt – ‘is anyone else there?’’ No’. Silence for a bit as his hopes of staying in bed were dashed. ’OK, I’m coming’. And down went the phone. So by the end of an hour everyone was back on site and we had another full but very enjoyable day messing about on and in the sea with the boats.

The enthusiasm of everyone is overwhelming. I’ve had to limit the number to 16 girls and 16 boys from each school as we only have four doubles.  Still everyone asks if they can come down for more sessions or add more people to the group. Regularly I’ll count the group and discover 16 has become 19/20 and have to tell them to please go – hence the tears. My Divehi vocab now includes such useful  phrases as straight arms, flat legs, come forward, go and harder! I finished yesterday off by taking Nawee (my little friend from the Male swim competition who adopted my camera for hours at a time) for a spin in the boat. He is somewhere around six – eight years old and tiny. The handles when at backstops came up to his forehead but that didn’t stop him. He’d sat for two hours watching everyone rowing and had worked out the basics of what needed to be done all i had to do was make sure his blades stayed square and convince him he didn’t need to pull the blades over his head each time and away we went. Great end to a good week.

X Tash  

Diana Sargent
09/18/2011 15:48

great stuff!!


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