Days go by quicker than you can keep track of. I have been with MCP for 2,5 months now and it feels like I arrived just yesterday. But this place feels like home.
Your first mornings/nights you will be introduced to all the amazing sounds of nature including your hut Gecko’s. In my hut, shared with 5 others, that will be Bob and Jolene. After some weeks here, you will experience great joy in just watching them hunt for hours. Often this means watching them move one or if you’re lucky two feet while eventually their pray makes a graceful exit. Haven’t seen Bob in a while, but luckily there is Jolene who feels great joy in waking us up in the morning. Fun fact (with great thanks to Serena): these guys apparently lick their eyeballs to clean them. Isn’t that interesting?
So woken up by Jolene, some of us ignore it and go back to sleep, others do their daily workout in the self designed, very creative gym or go for a run up the so called killer hill. As appealing as it may sound, my first run up this hill was also my last one here in the Philippines. Coming from a cold and completely flat environment to a humid, hot and curvy land, this little workout didn’t leave me to feel very satisfied. Great respect though for all the very motivated and sporty volunteers here.
After the early morning fun, at 7 am, breakfast starts. In the first weeks you will figure out the morning persons among us and they who will not be spoken to. We get a quick dive briefing, pick up our gear, put it in one of the trucks, wake up some more, brush our teeth, collect some stones (to be explained), have a laugh and at 8 am we leave to go to one of the assigned dive sites.
We all have our favourite dive sites depending on ones crazy love for invertebrates, frogfishes, corals, the length of surface swims, access to food, a shower, a toilet or just the simple free life of the bushes to be our toilet and the sea to be our shower. In the end though, when you start your descend and find yourself again in these serene waters surrounded by amazing corals, invertebrates, fish and the sound of chewing marine life, there’s nothing else to feel but blessed.
Before I came here, I had just one dive when I was 13 years old. I remember it to be such a crazy experience. These first breaths under water and then realizing all the life down there not to be seen from land. I remember diving with my dad and at one point seeing him lose his regulator in a moment of panic. It left me a little bit anxious, but now 10 years later, within 10 weeks time I am close to reaching my 100th dive and all I want is to explore this world we have down there. The things you see make you question everything you ever learned before.
I came to MCP for an internship. I wanted to have more knowledge and experience in marine life and want to work for an organisation that aims to sustain our environment. I still have 2 months left here. From day one, every day has been an adventure, no dull moments. As an intern you are given responsibility on different activities. These activities vary from my own research to teaching kids to organizing events et cetra. My own research is on sedimentation and nutrient pollution. After the typhoon in 2011 it seems that some of the dive sites have developed slower than others, this could be due to forms of pollution. To find out if this is the case I try to measure the amount of sedimentation at different dive sites and measure the amount of nutrients in the water.
To come back to the collecting stones in the morning. To measure sedimentation at the different dive sites, I am putting down sediment traps made out of basic materials that are available here in the Philippines. To weigh them down I need stones. So yes, I am that crazy person walking around the MCP field in search for the perfect sized stones. But luckily here at MCP, they embrace these little defaults.
Every Wednesday we organize a kids club for the kids in Lutoban, as at the moment the kids have summer holidays from school for 6 weeks. It is one of the activities that is done here. In my country that would mean going on a trip somewhere outside of our country. Here that is a very luxurious option. But then again, whenever we are in their town, it is so wonderful to see them running around, playing games with the simplest of things. It makes you realize every time that you need so little to feel this joy! Whenever I am with these kids, it takes me back 15 years and I feel like a kid again. That is one of the best feelings together with just seeing them smile and having fun.
The most amazing thing of this country is the beautiful environment and mostly the people, the kids. Every time you travel and meet the local culture, you get more perspective on things. You realize the things you have and appreciate certain things and moments more. For example just yesterday we had a kids club organized for all the kids in Lutoban, two of our neighbours let us use their pools. So the kids where treated with a real pool party, ice cream included of course! They were picked up by our trucks and only that made them so excited. For some of them it was the first time ever to be in a car. After their arrival, as always when kids club starts, it just a bunch of chaos happening so you just have to go with the flow and start organizing as much as possible. In the end we managed to split the kids up into two groups. One of the groups stayed on land for games and the other group had their first ever dip in the pool. We had some real swimmers among us and some very confident and relaxed floaters.
After two hours of excitement, the cars were filled up again with very happy and satisfied kids. The plan for next week kids club: Movie afternoon with popcorn!
All together I am very happy to have this time here, meeting the local people and meeting so many people here at MCP all of different countries. This Monday unfortunately we have to say goodbye to a lot of volunteers. This definitely doesn’t get easier, because every single time you get attached to these crazy characters, but in the end I am very grateful for the chance to meet them!
Rita Naus, intern at Marine Conservation Philippines