Volunteer Blog by Jane Westerman

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    Madagascar will change the way you look at the world. Guaranteed. After three weeks here, issues that I would fret about at home vanish into insignificance. The here and now is what is so important – sitting on one’s terrace after a busy day, watching pirogues drift past, silhouetted against the setting sun. Who would want to be anywhere else?
    Though at least 25 years older than anyone else here, the welcome and the sense of a team has been heartwarming. Delicious food, amazing setting and Andavadoaka cheerful acceptance of strange visitors all add to the ambience. Oh, and bring everything that is on the list because there’s no popping to Sainsbury’s if you’ve forgotten it! 
    I’m very glad that we did a few week’s homework before we came – the fish don’t hang around waiting to be identified! The visibility has so far been hampered by strong winds, but strangely, when you are hovering with your nose 10cm above a tunicate (or is it a sponge?) you don’t really notice! 
    Saturday is teaching afternoon and in 30 years of primary teaching, I haven’t experienced anything quite like it. Forty clamouring enthusiastic 3 – 11 year olds in a dirt yard under a tree requires a little planning to stay sane but is incredibly satisfying. Bring any visual aids you can – a musical instrument (that can be sterilised after over-eager blowing) – better still.
    For us, the wildlife is an added bonus: The baobab forest on the 4X4 ride from Toliara, the totally different spiny forest, iridescent bee-eaters, numerous waders, huge bird-wing butterflies, scaly lizards, myriads of
    grasshoppers and the odd snake. And that’s before you dip your head under the water to see the huge diversity of sea creatures that await you. Giant centipedes in sea shoes and monstery cockroaches render one less lyrical
    perhaps!
    Our Blue Ventures team here are professional, knowledgeable and FUN! Thank you all so much – time is passing too quickly.