New Kid on the Island

A week ago I hugged my island mates goodbye after we disembarked our plane and collected our bags from the one-room terminal that is Tagbilaran City Airport in Bohol. I folded my long legs into a tiny van and spent three hours trying to keep myself from falling asleep with my head on a strangers’ shoulders. And then I was here: Talibon, my stomping grounds for the next two years.

rainbow

I caught a rainbow over Talibon one morning waiting for a boat

The first week as the kid can be tough, even if you’ve done it a handful of times before. But here I am not only “the new kid” at work, but the “new member of the family” and the “new, Amerikana around town” (and only Amerikana, at that). The first few days were equally overwhelming and underwhelming: I hardly did anything, yet everything was overly stimulating. There were a couple of moments where I thought ‘what the heck am I doing here?’ and ‘I am all alone in this foreign town’ but mostly I stayed positive with the idea that settling in takes time.

What started as a slow and seemingly uneventful week ended up full of unexpected excitement and adventure. When I try and put together now my mind is scattered, so I’m cheating and writing a list of this weeks endeavors:

  1. I started and finished two novels. It’s been a few months since I could read for fun (I was determined to do well in my Tagalog lessons) and lazing around for a couple days after being up for 30 hours and letting my mind escape was bliss.
  2. My Filipino Island Count went up from 1 to 5. Only 7,102 more to go…

    private-island

    This is Bongan Sandbar, part of my town… It’s also adjacent to a marine sanctuary!

  3. I tried exotic foods I wouldn’t dream of eating before. Sea snails, something like a scallop, chocolate caribou milk, and red bananas to name a few.

    img_20160918_164827466

    A couple towns over is a caribou milk farm and plant… I had caribou froyo and caribou chocolate milk!

  4. I went running so early in the morning it was almost chilly out and watched the sunrise from the town pier alongside fishermen.
    DCIM100GOPROGOPR0877.
  5. I helped release this juvenile green sea turtle. It was caught accidentally by fishermen who handed it over to the authorities. To watch the release video, head to my facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/stavfree)
    turtle

    A beautiful, juvenile green sea turtle

    turtle-1

    This little guy was 42cm wide by 43.5cm long (shell only) and weighed about 30lbs. He’s missing his back left flipper but the wound was well healed, most likely a result of fishing line entanglement. When released, he sped off so fast, it clearly wasn’t hindering him that much.

  6. I visited an island community of about 100 households and learned 100 new things just from watching how they live and work for a couple days.
  7. My new family took me to the picturesque Anda to dip my toes in cool clear water and soft white sand.
    anda
  8. I snorkeled in a marine sanctuary and saw several giant clams (Tridacna gigas, for you science nerds) each about a meter wide. These clams can grow to be 120cm wide and can live for over 100 years! Right now, they have a conservation status of ‘vulnerable’ and there are protection laws in place for the species.
    DCIM100GOPROG0850835.

    The ‘little’ clam on the bottom left was about 20cm long, the giant one on the right was over a meter!

    DCIM100GOPROG0730793.

    This was a smaller clam (25cm), I was awestruck by its pattern.

  9. I met the mayor three times in my first three days… a good sign, I think!
  10. And lastly, I joined the community in a mangrove planting they had already organized.
    mangrove

Today is the last day of the working week and I’m heading to a National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS) meeting at 9am (Filipino time means it will really start at 10am). I’m very excited for the weekend, where I will head to the main city and meet not only my three batch mates but a volunteer couple that was part of batch 274 (2015)! They’re taking us all to the much buzzed about ‘Buzzz Café’ which is famous for its local honey, organic products, and coconut ice cream! I’m not sure what the week ahead will bring, but after notching one week onto my belt, I think I’m more than ready for it.

Have a great weekend!

Peace,
S

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