Friday, October 10, 2008

Chris Baynes Diary extract

After more than 20 years working as a hospital physician and endocrinologist in London, at the end of June this year I took a career break to start a one year sabbatical.
Last year I decided that I wanted to take some time out from my usual routine, to do something totally different, get some perspective on my life, get off my safe perch and discover what else my world might have to offer…. and to make sure I spent my time being of some use.
Coming to GVI as a volunteer certainly ticked the ‘something different’ box although strangely only in some ways. It’s a well worn cliché to say we all take our ‘baggage’ with us when we go away…. and in some ways life here is not so different to usual – the working day is long, I’m working with people all day, there’s little time to stop, think, relax or eat; I behave the same as I do at home (most of the time anyway) and interact with people in the same way too. Basically, it’s still the same old me here at the centre of my life.

In other ways however, life is very different....I spend most of the day barefoot, outdoors or under water, I’m doing unfamiliar tasks in unfamiliar surroundings. I’m learning lots of new material about things I never knew anything about. My ‘drive to work’ is certainly different –this morning as we took the boat across the northern tip of Mahe to one of the coral survey sites across flat calm water with clear azure sky overhead, a pod of dolphins swam alongside us as the sun came up over the mountains – that’s not a scene that I witness on most Thursdays throughout the year.

And yet for all its unfamiliarity, life is simpler here, less cluttered, less encumbered by material things. It has also been liberating being a ‘novice’ again, an apprentice in a new field, one of the team rather than the boss.

So here I am , 9 weeks into the 10 week expedition and I’ve learned to dive, recognise many types of coral fish and invertebrates, learned how to catch and process plankton, how to make bread, husk coconuts, gut fish, fill dive tanks, how to catch and tag sea turtles and even learned how to enjoy a cold shower. Admittedly some of these skills may not be of huge utility in my ‘normal’ life (especially the plankton bit) but it has been refreshing to interact with the natural world in ways that many people will never experience.

As a result of my enjoying this so much I applied for a further 10 week internship here and , now accepted, will start the next phase in early October.

One of my aims for my ‘gap year’ was to be of some use in the world and what better way to do it than to stay here in the beautiful Seychelles, working in a pristine but threatened marine environment, putting to good use some of my new skills, using my energy and enthusiasm to make a small difference…….. and all of that with a great team of like-minded people who, between them, have enough passion about the planet to make a big difference.

I call that a win-win situation.



Drew O'Connor said...

Some day I'll be able to afford to come help this cause. Congrats!