Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Volunteers, Staff and Others

I've go into a volunteer project with two expectations: 1) the project may or may not be satisfying and could be frustrating and 2) I'll probably meet some really cool people.  This was indeed the case this time.  I didn't often feel like we were making much progress, but I did enjoy my Koh Rong companions.
I tried to get pics of everybody, but I had to borrow a few for this post. No, I'm not trying to look through my flash.  (Photo by Declan)

MCC PEOPLE
When I first arrived, there were two volunteers around, plus an intern and a dive instructor. Cami (American/ Italian) and Ceri (Welsh/Londoner) were the volunteers.  Cami had been on the island for almost a month by the time I arrived.  At that point she had done a lot of teaching English, but not much coral reef surveying.  She only overlapped with me for a week.  We tried to get some surveying in before she left, but weren't terribly successful.  Cami moved on to do other volunteer work in Phnom Penh.
Cami and BJ (photo by Ceri)
The volunteer that I worked with the most was Ceri, a middle-school math teacher from London.  She was seriously into teaching English and getting kids to sing catchy tunes, often in a round, to learn the days of the week and other useful phrases and terms....yeah that damn song just started playing in my head again.  Argh! I thought that I had managed to delete it!  Since there weren't many people with reef experience around, I started training Ceri on reef identification on my first day of diving.  Over time, Ceri got into identifying marine organisms and became quite skilled at it.  Unfortunately, it didn't do us much good because we didn't complete many reef surveys.  Ceri was the one that first found the seagrass beds in the bay when the two of us were out on a survey.
Ceri teaching the kids how to brush their teeth.
Ceri petting her pet worm.  We're not sure if a worm had burrowed into her foot or not.  If so, then it probably made its way to her lungs and then she swallowed the larvae.  So right about now the adults would be pumping out eggs in her intestine.  For some reason, Ceri was often thinking about parasitic worms.
When I arrived a German intern named Daniel was also on the island.  He had been working on the project for 11 months, mostly on the neighboring island, and was around to help us get some reef surveys started.  He also functioned as a jungle gym for the local kids.  Daniel was great to have around.  He always gave me material to make fun of and he knew the local reef fauna well.  Plus, he would distract the kids when we were getting overwhelmed.

Child transportation in Koh Rong.  Thanks, Daniel.  Nid misses you dearly.  Now she has to walk. (photo by Ceri)
Kylie was the coordinator and dive instructor for the island.  Originally from Canada, he recently got engaged to a local girl from the village on Koh Rong Samloem.  A week after I arrived, an anthropology student from Oxford named Declan arrived on the island.  He was not a diver and was starting out by learning how to dive from Kylie.
From left to right:  Declan, Ceri, Kylie, and Daniel.  The beer is called Klang, which means "strong"
In my final week, Tina arrived from the UK.  She's Swedish, but she's going to school at Cambridge in the UK.  Fortunately, she lived in the US to learn, as she said, "proper English" before moving to the UK.  I really enjoyed using that line with the other two Brits.  
Ceri (hiding a cigarette), Declan and Tina
Tina and Ceri watching a heavy rainstorm from their window (not jail)

STAFF
Three times a day, Rim would cook us meals.  I hadn't considered fried rice for breakfast, but I quickly came to enjoy it.  By the way, Nid, from previous posts, is the daughter of Rim and Mr. Dam (the nicest guy on the island, who really would encourage people to Dike!  Dike!). 

Rim moving charcoal for our meal.  (the charcoal was like my alarm clock, it choked me out of bed each morning)

Nid and Rim (phot by Ceri)

The "boys" that took care of us and ran the boat all looked younger than they were.  Mr. Dot was the go-to guy for all kinds of things.  He often saved us when we needed to say something in Khmer or needed to understand what someone was saying.  He helped with our teaching by translating for us at times and he kept our SCUBA tanks full.  Plus, Mr. Dot had some stylish shirts. Actually, almost all of the guys did. My ragged button up shirts could not compare.
The stylish Mr. Dot
Even in swim trunks Mr. Dot may sport a slick shirt.  I was definitely the worst dressed guy around...except for Kylie.
Mr. Dot writing the Khmer for one of our lessons.
Then there was Mr. Worn.  A name that was easy to remember.  Worn kept our boat from hitting things and handled our SCUBA gear when we needed to get in or out of the water.  He could be super serious, but sometimes he'd be a total goofball.  Worn had a talent where he could sleep with his face smashed into the wooden floor and he legs tangled up above him in a hammock.  Often Worn would be in some crazy hammock position.

Worn

I don't have a picture of Mr. Rong, but he was our boat driver and he was excellent.

An interesting note:  Our staff along with their friends and many of the other villagers, including babies and children all wore facial bleaching cream, typically at night.  I'm not sure of the origin of this, but I assume that sunscreen would be more effective and, perhaps, cheaper.
One of the boys washing off his facial bleaching cream.
Mr. T was our police chief and probably the jolliest guy in the village.  One day Ceri and I were walking up one of the roads to check out the bay and he saw us.  He came driving up in his air conditioned truck (probably the only AC on the island) and asked us to get in.  Fortunately, we weren't being arrested, we were just being given the grand tour.  He drove us all over the wide, unfinished roads of Koh Rong. 



"Our Pets"
Two dogs "lived" with us.  Katie, who belonged to Mr. Dam and Rim and was impregnated by BJ.  I once saw Katie go to the bathroom on the boardwalk and then run madly around as a worm hung from her anus.  She ran straight through our house yelping and swinging a tapeworm with a little feces attached.  Maybe retelling this story is why Ceri was so worm-obsessed.
Katie

BJ

This woman loved BJ and Katie and they loved her.  Their arteriosclerosis may also be from her.
Many other interesting people passed through while I was on the island and I don't have pics of everybody.  This little post is here to remind me of some of them.