Nathaniel Maekawa is one of our latest aquaculture intern recruits from the USA. He is passionate about aquaculture, and was drawn to the inter-disciplinary nature of our aquaculture internship. He is going to be sharing his own personal experiences of the programme over the next few months. Read his first instalment below…….
“Brushing my teeth at the sink, my mind began to wander. In a few hours, I would arrive in Tulear to begin my summer with Reef Doctor. My time in Tana had been short and uneventful, but just long and restful enough for me to feel rejuvenated for the days ahead. Spitting, I proceeded to rinse my toothbrush and mouth. I’d only been out a couple of times, but Madagascar had already left me with a novel impression. The fascinating spectrum of colour found on houses and reposed market stalls, the worn dirt roads and the overpopulated refurbished vehicles that traversed them. My senses were enthralled by stimuli in all forms. Turning from the faucet, I paused. Then, swivelling back, I reacquainted myself with the sink and my toiletries – specifically the rectangular plastic box marked with bold, capital letters for each day of the week. Tossing the malaria pill to the back of my throat, I congratulated myself on remembering to take it. As the capsule descended towards my belly, my satisfied smile slowly folded into a sobered line of remorse. In my prideful moment of malarial prevention, I had swished my medicine down with water from the untreated tap.
Having spent about a week in Madagascar, my body, routine, and clean water awareness have started to settle. I’ve shared a taxi-brousse with over 25 men, women, and children in a vehicle designed for 11, I’ve played sea urchin minesweeper while out on a fisheries survey, and I’ve started to get to know and feel part of the incredible orchestra of staff, interns, volunteers, technicians, locals, dogs, and cats, that give Reef Doctor its breath. For the next two months, I will be working as an aquaculture intern to contribute to Reef Doctor’s sustainable livelihood project. Specifically, I will be working to assist local communities achieve greater economic autonomy through sustainable practices that emphasize social equality and oceanic conservation. In the process of earning my bachelor’s degree in Global Health and Environment from the University of Michigan, I hope to offer my own interdisciplinary understanding of sustainability to this inspiring project. With introductions and orientations comprising my first couple of days, most of the work I’ve done so far has been geared towards developing familiarity with the project’s background and trajectory. Readings on aquaculture implementation and the social life of sea cucumbers have proven to be as interesting as they are informative. In regards to fieldwork, the fellow aquaculture interns and I took a pirogue (canoe carved from a tree trunk) out to Reef Doctor’s seaweed farm to do some maintenance. Jumping into the salty water, I floated along and stroked the seaweed branches to relieve them of their silty stress. When too much silt builds up, seaweed growth becomes inhibited and their delicate limbs become a shade of white. This pathological state is referred to as “Ice-Ice” and unlike Vanilla Ice’s one-hit-wonder, “Ice-Ice” is not something we like to see around here, baby.
When the dark hours of the evening fall upon camp, I find myself amazed at just how much has transpired since I stumbled out of my hut to start the day. As I lay in bed, listening to geckos chirp and the wind gently rattle my hut’s branches, reflection often brings me to a place of gratitude. It’s truly remarkable to have the opportunity to work for something you believe in. It’s even more special to be working alongside people of all different backgrounds and places to call home. Wonderful people united by a passion to learn and contribute to the protection of the earth. People that are willing to work towards a sustainable future that is accessible to all. In the next couple of months, I hope to share my experiences in Madagascar as a guest and Reef Doctor intern. It is my goal to convey these moments with the same humility with which I have been received. Thank you for tuning in, and wherever you may be, cheers to the adventures of tomorrow.”