Its our third day here and it still feels like a dream. I can’t begin to explain the excitement and relief of getting off the plane on Wednesday and finally being in the Maldives. We had five friendly, smiling faces that greeted us with a homemade sign “Welcome UCSC Volunteers” after we passed through immigration. We then sat down at a small restaurant and were able to talk and get to know the Maldivian volunteers that would be joining us for the project. And honestly, after five minutes they had the whole group of us, bellies-up, laughing – Joseph (or Piggy as he goes by), Dan, Shah, Rash, and Aymanu. Five people who we had never met before, have lived on opposite sides of the world from, and who live in such a culturally different place – yet there was such a prevalent, unspoken connection between us, as well as an extraordinary level of kindness that they displayed.
We then took a boat from the island that the airport was on to Male, where we would be spending the night. It is apparently one of the most densely populated cities in the world (it holds around 1/3 of the entire country’s population), and everyone rides around on motorcycles (which I think is awesome). We set off for Landaa Giraaavaru in the morning, which took us about two and a half hours by boat to get to. The ride, though, was an experience in itself. You really got a feel for the distances that exist between the islands. Some look as if they are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from each other, while most of them are not visible from each other and are miles apart.
That day we got a chance to rest and recover from our 37-hour travel, which was definitely much needed. There is a small, but beautiful beach just outside the staff living quarters. This is where we all as a group took our first swim in the waters that I had been dreaming about for the past five months. And the dreams were meager compared to the feeling of the sand between my toes and the view of the turquoise water that stretches for miles on end.