The past month has absolutely flown by. It's simply amazing to me that I arrived in Papua a month ago and I am already sitting in the airport on the way to my next destination. In this post I will recap the last week but I will follow with another post on my final thoughts about working with a NGO, why I wanted to do it, positives and negatives, etc.
I'll continue on where I left off from my previous post, last Thursday. I was mistaken in that I thought I was finished with the science work for the expedition so I had some more tests to pass last week. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and underwater weather conditions (strong current) I didn't complete enough of the science program to be able to contribute to the group as much as I would have liked, but I certainly learned a great deal and will carry that knowledge with me. Last Thursday morning we dove at 8am, 2pm, and 6:30pm (night dive). On the first dive, I had to identify all of the hard corals we had learned within a ten meter line trail that had been set up (as well as one meter on either side of the line). The format of the test is very similar to the actual surveys that are done for the science program. I ended up barely failing my first coral test on the first dive and on the second dive the current was too strong to try again so we just drifted along the reef and enjoyed ourselves. During the night dive, I spent most of the time identifying the invertebrate species we had learned.
Friday, November 8th....happy birthday little sister Kristen Joiner (and good friend Matt Pucak)! I did a paper test on algae and invertebrates in the morning (and passed) then we dove mid morning as well as in the afternoon. The highlight of the day, however was after our last dive when I went for a run on the beach. I accumulated a trail of about nine local kids who did the whole run with me and I had them chanting (repeating after me) the entire time. I took some video footage that I will upload as soon as I get to a normal computer.
Last Saturday was supposed to be a "fun dive day" but due to a torrential tropical downpour, we had to cancel our morning dives. We ended up going out in the afternoon to a close dive site and remarkably, even though the visibility sucked, we had a great dive. We saw three wobbegon sharks and a ghost pipe fish, which are not seen very often.
Sunday was another chill day. I crushed a run early in the morning because the tides were cooperating and that was pretty much it. Monday was super cool though. We went to go see the manta rays one last time (for me, anyway) and as soon as we got to the dive site I saw a huge manta breach out of the water (supposedly females do this to attract mates). Under the water there weren't many divers and the current was mild. We saw seven different manta rays and spent almost a full hour watching the mantas do their thing (filming and taking pictures, of course).....blissful. After seeing the manta rays we headed to a dive site that I had wanted to try for a while, called Arborek. The reef and underwater landscape at Arborek are amazing and we saw so many fish....all in all, a terrific day.
Tuesday was my last full day on the island. We shore dove in the morning (a shore dive means that you just walk into the water with all your gear on from the beach as opposed to being dropped off by a boat somewhere) because our boat was getting fixed and then when the boat came back in the afternoon, we did one last dive at our home dive site called, "The Jetti." The visibility kind of sucked because the currents have been insane over the past seven days but it just felt nice to be in the water one last time.
Wednesday (yesterday), three other volunteers and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the Barefoot Conservation group and headed to Waisai where we had to buy tickets to catch a ferry to Sorong. The ferry from Waisai to Sorong was undoubtedly the worst ferry ride I have been on in my entire life as we were battling huge ocean swells the whole time. During the ferry ride the boat was slamming so hard that it was literally throwing me out of my seat. It was all I could do not to vomit all over myself....yuck. Thankfully, we made it to Sorong okay and although my face was green and my limbs were shaking, the three other volunteers and I all made it without tossing up our breakfast. Last night, the group and I spent the night in a pretty decent hotel and enjoyed a great dinner together. The cleanliness of the hotel room and the quality of the food was a slight departure from showering with rats and eating breakfast with monitor lizards over the past thirty days....lol.
I woke up at about 4:45am this morning to get an early cab to the Sorong airport where I am sitting now waiting for my next flight. From Sorong I will fly to Makassar and then take another flight to Jakarta. I have a highly anticipated layover in Jakarta for twelve hours before I catch my next flight to Seoul (where I have another long layover and will actually be meeting up with a Korean friend for lunch) and finally, approximately 60 hours from right now, I will arrive in Los Angeles, CA. Upon my arrival to LA, it will be my first time back to the USA in nearly 15 months. I am super excited to link up with my mom and sister for a few days of relaxation before starting it all up again and heading to Colombia for the next chapter.