Sunday, January 27, 2013


A conglomeration of three island names, Wakatobi is an amazing place at the far southeast arm of Sulawesi that has been set aside by the Indonesian government for protection - a Marine Protected Area (MPA). It was a wonderful place to get my introduction to the work that USAID does in the field.  That being said, I'm pretty bummed that I didn't actually get into the communities.  I arrived a couple days late due to flight and itinerary rescheduling at the last minute, so I missed the actually 'talking to the people' part. I did get to take a walk the morning of our departure and meet a couple of families, like this mother and daughter collecting octopus and starfish from the reef at low tide.
Enjoying the sunrise before our dive.
 Outside of all of the meetings, I did get to squeeze in a single early morning dive.  It was a great way to start a day full of sitting in a darkened room... full of beautiful healthy corals. Now I guess my colleagues can officially justify calling my first trip a "junket".  It was great to see that there was both something on the reef to save as well as immediately see threats to the reef.  All of the corals were amazing... large plate corals, one of which had a medium sized fish sitting in the middle like a fish on a dinner plate; gorgeous soft corals, whips and sea fans gently swaying. My personal favorite was the variety of crinoids - black, stripped, purple... The other divers liked the lobster and giant clam.  However, the diversity of fish was largely depleted. There were very few large fish and only a few large schools. The dive master, Bryony (I swear pronounced "Briny"), said that there was a crown-of-thorns bloom on parts of the island.  So clearly there are some direct threats.

It was encouraging that the government appears to be committed to marine conservation. We toured the construction site of a new academy (similar to vocational school) dedicated to marine conservation practice. It was an impressive building. May be this child waiting on the stairs for his mom or dad to finish construction for the day will be a pupil in the new school.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

First TDY

TDY - Temporary Duty; Temporary Duty Yonder, Testis-Determining Factor on Y, Temporarily Divorced for a Year, Typically Developing Youth.  (Dictionary definitions of TDY)

The world of the USG (U.S. Government) is filled with acronyms, often with out definitions. I think what I'll be doing is the first definition, which will hopefully not lead to the second to last definition. For all intensive purposes, here, TDY will mean a three week trip to Indonesia.

This trip could mean:
 Days on end in a room (I hope is as nice as) this:
or days spent visiting sites like this:

Likely it will be mostly option number 1, but I'll be happy if I get any of option number 2... and it sounds like I might. There is at least one day that says 'snorkel/diving' on our itinerary. It does make sense that we would check out the marine resources that the programs are working to conserve, preserve and utilize to improve peoples' lives.

I've been told that this rarely or never happens on a TDY for our office. But I've also heard the same thing about high profile projects... so we'll see what happens!! I'll at least get a better sense of how our work is translated 'on the ground'.