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A journey to the South Pacific

Bilikiki boat pic zoom

I arrived at my assigned primary school in early October to take a tour of the campus and meet our Bilingual Coordinator. Although I felt super excited to introduce myself to the staff members and get a feel for the school, I also felt nervous about one thing in particular.

My dad and I had a vacation booked for late November, and I would be missing at least 6 days of school in order to be there. And I kept getting conflicting advice about how to approach the conversation.

Don’t tell them right away! Bad first impression, for sure. In Spain, it’s better to wait a few weeks in order to establish yourself as a trustworthy person and hard worker. Then, talk to the Deputy Head of Studies.

Just tell them when you get there. They might dock your pay, but it’ll be alright.

Whatever you do, don’t admit that you’ve already bought the flight!

After our auxiliar orientation, I began to feel anxious that the administrators at my school would be upset that my family had already committed to a trip. The vacation had been booked over 6 months in advance - before I even knew I had been accepted into the Teach Abroad program - so, at this point, it was a matter of broaching the subject in a culturally acceptable way.

I finally decided to do what felt most natural to me. That meant talking to the Deputy Head of Studies, Isabel, on the first day of school to let her know that I’d be missing 6 days of class time for a family vacation.

… and nothing really happened.

Both Isabel and the Bilingual Coordinator, Cristina, were very understanding and excited for me. Cristina simply asked me to make up the hours I’d be missing over the next several weeks during my free periods. It took me about 7 weeks to get it done, but since auxiliares generally do some presentation prep and other activities outside of class, anyway, it was a breeze.

Side note: I’m aware that the highly positive reaction of my school administrators might not be the case at all schools in Madrid, but I do feel that this reaction is more common than one would think. Moral of the story for me was to be honest up-front about this sort of thing! Either it will be okay or it won’t, but a delayed conversation doesn’t help the situation.

So, after two months working as a teaching assistant in Madrid, it was time to pack my bags once again and head to the South Pacific!

My dad and I spent a couple days diving in Fiji (where I got lucky and saw a tiger shark!) and then 10 days on a liveaboard dive boat, The Bilikiki, exploring the seascape around the Solomon Islands. Our group of 19 divers made good use of both our macro and wide angle cameras, as the underwater fauna ranged from tiny nudibranchs to 20-foot sharks. We also saw the healthiest coral I’ve ever seen, including a field of green staghorn coral lovingly named “The Rolling Hills of Ireland” by our dive instructor, Tina.

The 14-person crew worked hard to ensure that our experience onboard and in the water was enjoyable and unforgettable. Huge thanks to The Bilikiki for a breathtaking journey!



P.S. The best thing (besides the trip itself, of course) was returning to school and showing all sorts of underwater photos and videos to the kids in my classes. Check out some of the pictures below!

Group photo

Mirror Pond light purple boxy nudi

Fiji Shark Dive 1 bull shark mug shot

Bilikiki Bay brilliant red scorpion fish

Larry Jen scuba selfie

Solomons iridescent little cardinalfish

Raymond Jen and Oli

Toatolave Island coral decorator crab

Bilikiki Bay shadowy eel

Barracuda Point Jen and Wayne pre dive selfie

Bilikiki sunset

*Photos are copyrighted: Copyright © 2017 Larry White. All rights reserved.


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