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Louisa Cowling diary extract April - June 2011

Louisa Cowling diary extract April - June 2011

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Published by: GVI on Jun 28, 2011
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GVI Volunteer Diary Extract
Name: Louisa CowlingAge: 31Gender: FemaleCountry of Residence: BritainStart Date:01/04/2011Volunteer Program: Mexico marine conservation and divemaster internshipI wake in the morning at ten to six. If there's no breeze, I can sometimes hear thethud of someone taking a run along the North road. The base is quiet, apart fromthe squawk of Grackles and the rustle in the leaves outside, made by someunidentified creature. The sun is beginning to rise earlier now, and as I get out of bed I can see thebeach, lit by the first light of pre-dawn. At 6.15 I grab a rake from the generatorroom and head down to my favourite spot on the beach, where the boats aremoored and the trees provide a perfect frame for the sea and sky. My iPod setsthe rhythm and I turn the sand, smoothing it over for the new day and exposingany sand fly eggs to cook in the sun. The beach is calm and fresh; everyone isstill in the process of waking up, and those not in the kitchen help to rake theentire beach as the sun comes up.As breakfast is underway (my turn to cook will come in a day or two) I help to getthe base ready for the day. One group of us sweeps and cleans the palapa, ourcommunal space - where we eat, learn and (on occasion) dance. Another groupsweeps and cleans the dive shop and the boats, setting up the boat boxes andmaking sure everything is in the right place. Our group is smaller than themaximum the base can hold, but we work well together and as a team, sogenerally get things done efficiently.When our duties are done, someone blows the conch shell to signal thatbreakfast is ready, and everybody piles into the palapa, hungry for coffee andporridge. We sit in the morning sun and have a few moments to relax, havingworked for our breakfast. Before we are finished, someone takes their turn toshare the day's announcements - an opportunity to discuss things as a group. It'soften pretty basic group dynamic stuff (please replace the toilet roll… etc!) butmore often than not I'm surprised by the ownership people take with the tasksthey've been set, and how we always have an achievement to celebrate.After breakfast we wash our dishes and head over to the kit up area to squeezeinto our wetsuits and do our buddy checks, before carrying our gear down to theboats. One of the staff captains reels through the list of info they need from us -what equipment we've borrowed, the air in our tanks, and then we're walking theboats out into waist-deep water, ready for our first dive of the day. We take itslowly through the pass - the deeper area it's safe to travel through out of thelagoon, and speed up once in open ocean toward the site. When we get there,
 
it's buddy checks again and then we're in the water, sinking into the azure of theWestern Caribbean.I sink faster than I would normally, holding the extra weight on my tape measure,looking down over the corals encrusting the reef. Sharpnose puffer fish abound,and if I'm lucky I might see a Southern ray dug into the sand, or a loggerheadturtle making its way over the reef wall. Once we're on the reef, I begin to lay theline, signalling with my buddy that we're both OK, and then swimming the 30min the direction I've chosen along the wall. Once the measuring tape is weighteddown, we begin to record our transect, writing down everything I see under each25cm mark: corals, algae, tunicates, and - if I'm lucky - a corallimorph or ananemone. It's a new world down there for more, something I'd never looked atclosely before - tiny neon polyps, blood-red coralline algae, minuscule fish thatpop out of holes and watch you as you hover. We finish our transect and head upto our safety stop, carrying our data preciously. Once back on the boat, I watchthe land speed by, everything lit by the bright sun; and then we're back on base,walking dripping with all our gear towards someone who will kindly help us off with it! The weather has been kind to us in our phase; the wind has kept the worst of theinsects away and we've had more dive than non-dive days. If we're lucky, we getthree waves of diving in - sometimes before lunch. When I've finished my divesfor the day, I'm back on base, helping to fill tanks at the compressor, ormonitoring the radio if a boat is out. If I haven't got an assignment to work on,it's time to read a book or review all the photos I've taken.Once everyone is back on base we help each other to de-kit the boats and put allthe equipment is put away, before sitting in the waning sun with a beer while thetalented kitchen crew get to work on dinner. More announcements are madewhile we stuff down vegetable curry and handmade flatbread, and the plan isreviewed for the next day's board - as well as diving, we might have a whaleshark lecture, or be going into town to teach English. We talk about the diveboard and who is assigned to do what, and after washing our dishes we disperseto talk to our mentors, or write up data taken earlier in the day. Sometimes we'llplay cards or watch a movie on the projector, with the hum of the generator inthe background and the sound of slapping skin as we try to kill the fliesattempting to feed on us. Or sometimes we just sit and chat, remembering onlyto turn the lights on when it gets too dark to see.And when the yawning starts, I take my head torch and walk barefoot in the darksand back to my hut, pausing for a while to look up at the blanket of stars,crystalline in the sky above. I swing into bed, dusting the sand from my feet, andread for all of five minutes before, driven by fresh air and activity, sleep claimsme.
About Global Vision International (GVI)
GVI is an internationally based volunteer abroad organisation which offersvolunteer programs in Africa, South America, Asia, Europe and Latin America.Formed in 1998, GVI provides support and services to international charities,non-profits and governmental agencies through volunteering opportunities anddirect funding, filling a critical void in the fields of environmental research,conservation, ducation and community development. Various types of overseas

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