Learning the ropes as an IOI volunteer in the Galapagos

By Luke Nackley

Luke is a Social Media Volunteer in the Galapagos. Here he shares his insights from his first few weeks on Isabela Island.

Week 1

 Exploring the island with study abroad students.

Exploring the island with study abroad students.

It has been a week since I landed in the Galapagos Islands; it already feels like I belong here. I don’t mean as if my whole life I dreamed of living in the Galapagos, rather, I have experienced such a fun and exciting welcome that my mind has already accepted the people I’ve met as friends and family. The people involved with IOI are eager to include me in the programs and activities around town and have become friends that I hang out with daily.

My position as a social media volunteer has given me insight in to the mission of IOI as well as the opportunity to experience the local lifestyle. It has been a week that has given me inspiration and motivation to do my best while I am here- I see IOI as a place that produces real change. Photographing the endemic species’ roaming the island, observing the Miami students in their study abroad program, interviewing locals, travelling to the highlands on farm visits… it’s a job description I can gladly say I love.

In just this first week I have settled in to my new lifestyle. Living with my housemates is never boring- chatting in the morning over hot cups of coffee, going out to eat and spending an afternoon at the beach are becoming memories I won’t forget.

My volunteer work has been giving me amazing insight into what I might want to continue doing in life. My social media position offers lots of opportunity for adventure and meeting new people.

Week 2

 A chick rests on top of my computer as I work.

A chick rests on top of my computer as I work.

This last week has been quite action packed for me. A week ago, as I was writing my last blog, a baby chick walked in to the office. Obviously not taking notice of the very concentrated-looking human, it hopped and chirped its way on to the arm of my chair, then my desk, and finally perched itself on top of my computer. Of course, I’m not one to get in the way of someone else’s happiness and so I took a quick picture and allowed it to have its fun. A little bit of poop cleaning later and the chick was on its way out the door. This might be the only place in the world where I can start my week in that fashion.

I have learned quite a lot this week. To start, I began working on my open water diver certification with a local dive shop; they love to see me learning and constantly check up on my reading (I may slack a little on that part). I also broke a couple of mental barriers for myself. In the past I have never really been much of a dancer. I just don’t have rhythm. But, turns out all you have to do is ask a friend that loves dancing and you are bound for success; a few of my friends had a blast trying to teach me to salsa. In the middle of a crowded dance floor, I didn’t have to worry about how ridiculous I looked and soon enough I was salsa-ing the night away. To top it all off, I started surfing. I’m not the most balanced person and things like skating and snowboarding have always ended with some bruises for me. Hence, my resolve to simply observe the surfers. But, to not try while I was here would have been idiotic… and with a little beginners’ luck, I have gone to surf almost every day since then. The local surfers ended up giving me a couple lessons and still love to watch me constantly fall off my board.

I have finally become familiar with the town. Going shopping to make dinner with my housemates is a great time. And as a bonus, I now know where to find the cheapest chocolate to feed my addiction. Thinking about everything I learned, I’m more than happy with what the week brought me, and I now have some skills to master in the coming weeks.

 Not me but someday I’ll get there!

Not me but someday I’ll get there!

Week 3

Over the last week this town has grown on me. I regularly hang out with the locals and never run out of things to do. Surfing is becoming one of my favorite activities, and I am almost done with my open water diver certification. I am starting to realize how special these memories are to me. I have also been gathering with friends regularly for things like pizza or pasta nights.

There is something to be said about pizza night in the Galapagos. Having all your friends at the IOI kitchen along with a whole lot of homemade dough. Everyone brings their toppings and shapes their own dough. What you end up with is about 10 or so misshapen, steaming hot pizzas over the span of a few hours. Instead of people eating just their own pizza, the pizza is passed around and either praised or embarrassingly critiqued. We all tend to agree that waiting on each pizza is a little annoying, but it ends up being worth the wait.

Last night the Miami students and I joined the local soccer matches. There are multiple fields in Puerto Villamil but this one is right next to the beach. They play in teams of five and only to two or three goals. Some of the teams are incredibly skilled and very competitive, but others, like mine, are just there for some fun. It is exciting watching the skilled players move the ball around so naturally. I think I should bring some popcorn next time to enjoy the show. After playing for 3 hours, my legs are plenty sore today.

My volunteer work has been giving me amazing insight into what I might want to continue doing in life. My social media position offers lots of opportunity for adventure and meeting new people. To be completely honest, however, it is easy to lose track of any work I need to do when I become ‘distracted’ by the beautiful island life.

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