I'll even miss duty groups...
After almost two months at Cap Ternay, my time here will be up in less than a week. Naturally, I’ve spent a bit of time in the last few days thinking about my experiences and what my favourite part has been. The diving is, of course, phenomenal and the setting unlike anything I’d ever seen. But I’m positive that in the end my favourite part of this program has been the people. Naturally, at a marine conservation expedition, you’re bound to meet like-minded people, but I don’t think it was really the nature and conservation side of it that drew us together as a group. It was the shared experiences.
To begin with, when we all crowded into that van, soaking wet from the pouring rain, nervous and excited, we were already connecting. Nobody really knew anyone else outside of maybe some facebook interactions, and most of us didn’t really know what we were in for. I think in a way just experiencing that first day together was enough to set the foundations for what would come. The remainder of the first week would cement that further; most people did their Advanced Open Water certifications which involved a lot of buddy coordination, and everyone had to learn to work together within their Duty Group every morning. By the time barbecue night and the weekend Regatta festival came around, pretty much everyone had established a group of friends.
As the weeks went by, more barbecue nights were had, weekend bus trips to Victoria became a routine and everyone had dived with everyone else within their Fish or Coral group. Some of us went on snorkelling and hiking trips on the weekend, and the entire group hiked up Cap Matoopa to gawk at the incredible view. All of these, partnered with the sheer proximity in which we were living, forged some very strong friendships, and by the time it was time for the one-month-ers to leave, many of us were devastated to see some of our friends go.
However, as old friends left, new ones came. While it took around a week for everyone to settle in, we bonded with the new guys in pretty much exactly the same way as the old ones. Barbecue nights, movie nights, diving together, weekend trips, duty groups, and just generally living together brought the new and old together seamlessly.
And how could I forget some of the most important friends I’ve made: the staff. For me, being fresh out of high school, this concept struck me as rather odd for the first week (as I somewhat embarrassingly admitted to one staff member on Regatta “This is so weird! It’s like partying with your teachers!”) but my naive mind soon grasped the fact that the staff on base are much less like the teachers from school and much more like the other volunteers and myself. Once that barrier was breached I ended up making friends with pretty much all them, and I’m so glad I did, as some of them turned out to be incredibly interesting people.
So now, thinking about my last day, I know I’m probably going to end up balling my eyes out because I don’t want to say goodbye to some of the incredible friends I’ve made here. Some of them I’m sure I will stay in touch with, but that doesn’t make the fact that I have to leave them behind any more bearable. And when people at home ask me what surprised me the most about my trip, I know I’m going to say it was the strength of some of the friendships I’ve made here.
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