Surrounded by Sea Lions..
Trip Start Nov 08, 2004
55Trip End Nov 08, 2005
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We were met at the airport by William, the Director of New Era Galapagos - the charity we are volunteering for. His news was that we are the only 2 volunteers arriving to teach English - another 2 or 3 had cancelled. I had expected to teach but Jason was supposed to be doing project management. It was a bit of a shock but he is actually quite looking forward to trying his hand at teaching English. Lack of other teachers means that I will have to teach children from 5 up, this was the second shocker... I have never taught kids before and William also told us that there is a major discipline problem in the schools here..... should be interesting.
Classes don't begin until May 2nd, and we have spent the last 2 weeks in the office sorting out the books, taking enrollments and writing tests for the new students
We are very chuffed with our accommodation. We have a room on the top floor of a big white house with great views over the sea and the town. It's a small room and we share a kitchen with one more room, but the terrace is enormous and has lots of sun beds, hammocks and tables: it's a living room/dining room / sunbathing room with a view! Best of all the, nicest swimming beach is only 5 mins away.
So what about the island? The main town is small with one main street running along the waterfront and lots of fishing and tourist boats. Already for me it has a homely feel about it, I wasn't expecting it to be this pretty- the water is a gorgeous blue and the sunsets everyday are stunning. Well, you've heard of those people who give up civilization to go and live with some ancient tribe of cannibals in the jungle
On the other side of town the "Bachelor beach" is the home of the big, fat grumpy males who are apparently surplus to requirements of the women (great to put them all in one place!) and must wait until they can fight their way past the current ruling male. They have no fear of humans at all and will shuffle clumsily up to you to say hello or gracefully duck and dive around you in the water.
Of course it's not only sea lions who star on the island. The birds hog a lot of limelight too
The Galapagos Islands are volcanic and the black lava rocks, barren landscape and these birds sometimes make me think I am on a cross between the moon and the set of some sort of Jurassic Park bird film! We went on a boat trip for a day last week and it was quite a surprise when we polled up at a beach with white sand, turquoise waters etc - just like any in the Maldives, except for the lolloping sea lions, oyster-catchers, marine iguanas and pelicans wandering around!
On the boat trip we also snorkelled at a place called the "Sleeping Lion" which is where 2 massive rocks stick up high out of the ocean for no apparent reason. We saw loads of stingrays, eagle spotted rays and white tipped sharks swimming amongst the fish below us - quite amazing. As I that wasn't enough for one day, we then stopped at another set of rocky islands and saw frigate birds nesting close up, and blue-footed boobies doing a mating dance a few feet away from us
Just as you think you are getting used to all this something else happens which just astounds you. Last night we were walking by a café on the sea front and noticed a 200kg male sea lion actually at the doorway of the café, looking like he was about to go in and order some food! Then, as we stood in the main square we noticed at least 100 sea lion mothers suckling their babies 1 foot below us on the beach - what a sight!
Life in this small town is laid back to the extremes. The community is small and everyone knows each other. By the time we met the only other Kiwi on the island (who has married a local girl and lives here) he had already been told by about 10 people that a new Kiwi had arrived! Obviously tourism brings in the bucks, but as this is not the main island for arranging cruises there aren't many actual tourists at all. This may explain why, if you don't like fish, good food can be a problem! The local meat is often terrible and attempting to eat anything European in a restaurant always ends in disaster
The other volunteers have been great at showing us around and we already feel like part of the family. Many are leaving soon though and so I have been madly placing ads on the Internet for more teachers! Meanwhile we decided we should acquaint ourselves with some of the local kids before having to teach them and helped out with the "Scout" group that William also runs. Little did we realize he was taking us to the beach and dropping us off - we were the only adults! 3 hours, a beach and 25 kids.... What to do! The language barrier was a huge problem but we managed to teach them Bulldog and Jason became everyone's best friend when he bought out his goggles and had them queuing up for a go with them
The best job on San Cristobal is definitely being a policeman. 60 police for 5000 people and no one has ever heard of a crime being committed! Even by the admission of the town sheriff they have bugger all to do except sit around outside the police station smoking and chatting up teenage girls. They continued to do this, I noticed, last week even when the president of Ecuador was in the process of being ousted by congress and there were major riots in Quito!
Stay tuned for the next episode. Will the kids from Jason's English classes be wandering round saying "My name is Carlos, aye!" and will I be able to control a class of the little terrors at all?
First we are off on a 4-day trip to some other islands, and then the real work begins!