Touched down in the Maldives a few days ago and what a start it has been! After a couple of lengthy layovers and more than enough time spent in the air, I can say it has most definitely been worth the wait to arrive in my new home for the next six weeks at the Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru.
We spent our first night getting to know our Maldivian volunteer partners who picked us up from the airport in the capital of Male with a “Welcome UCSC Volunteers” hand drawn sign. What a welcoming and friendly gesture to arrive to after such lengthy travels. I distinctly remember spotting them from within the airport gate, giving them a wave and watching them jump in the air in elation to finally be able to get acquainted. I must admit that although I was fairly exhausted, the excitement was most certainly shared. After discussing Eid celebrations, Maldivian customs, football (or soccer), and our anticipation of the upcoming project over smoothies and snacks, we retired to a local hotel for a much needed night’s rest.
The following day our group woke up early to be greeted again by our new Maldivian volunteer friends. Today meant the chance to finally travel to Landaa Giraavaru, the island within the Baa Atoll which would be our new home for the coming weeks. I also got the chance to finally meet Trudy Rilling-Collins, our fearless leader and mosquito lady coordinator, or madiri dataa as the Maldivians would say in their native language of Dhivehi. Sydney Miller and Ibrahim Lirar, our other two leaders, also greeted us at the Landaa Giravaru dock.
It is these three individuals who have worked relentlessly to make this project happen and allow for me to have this amazing opportunity. I cannot wait to learn from Trudy, Sydney, and Lira along this wild ride of a mosquito control project in the Baa atoll. Trudy’s seemingly endless knowledge of mosquitos, their life cycle, and their breeding habitats will provide us with the tools we need to attack the issue head on. Sydney’s leadership skills, organization, and amazing attitude will give us the confidence to be able to travel island to island with the necessary tools at hand. Lira’s connection with the Maldivian people and relentless attitude in tackling this problem will help to provide the bridge needed to connect with families and communities. All together, we have an amazing team comprised of some incredibly talented people. I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks have in store for us!