Oops, I got lost on the way home…

I’ve made a slight detour on my way back to blighty… I’ve made a stop-off in South Africa, cos, ye know, I was feeling a bit sun-deprived…. ahem. It’s actually a totally selfless act, to support my boyfriend doing Iron Man South Africa. He came all the way out to the Maldives, so it was only fair to return the favour by travelling halfway round the world to support his endeavour, right? Ok ok, it’s not selfless or altruistic, but it is fun! And ain’t that what life should be all about?! Well, yes and no… Enjoying the here and now, appreciating what is immediately around you, is important. But so is considering and being accountable for what is beyond just your immediate surroundings, both in time and space, and both for you and for others.

The Maldivian culture is in some respects what I need to take on more of – enjoying the moment and not worrying about the bigger picture so much; look at what you have now and if it’s good, then smile. That said, (and I realise this may look like I am totally generalising, but it’s simply what I feel from my time there, though of course there are exceptions to every rule…) I think sometimes the Maldivian culture is just too short-term, something that does not sit well with training for international level sport. In a purely rowing sense, for those who want to make it internationally, there needs to be a certain level of short-term sacrifice for longterm gain.

But in other more societal ways this short-term mentality I believe has problems too – I remember watching a lady immaculately tidy the area around the front of her house, only to then drop a bag of rubbish over a wall into a patch of waste ground 10metres away. It was as if so long as her immediate surroundings were ok, then what was the case just beyond that didn’t matter. But it does matter. Other people’s emotions, other people’s environment, other people’s wellbeing, it does all matter. Your future beyond this week or month, does matter. Investment in the future could mean making sure you turn up for work so that you have an income next month, even if you have money in your pocket now. It could mean going to that training session even if you’ve just been invited to a party. It could mean fighting for what you believe is a better future for you and your community even if it requires short-term discomfort. And it means taking care of other people’s futures too – if I do this, then how will that make this other person feel as a consequence? If I am careless environmentally today, will it cause problems for me or someone else tomorrow?

Some local school kids being briefed by Anas and Oute, two of the local coaches

6.5months ago I left the UK for the Maldives, not knowing quite what to expect. What I got, was in some respects more and in others less than what I had hoped for. I was perhaps naive/ overly ambitious in some respects – the pace of life, and the fact that I was only there for 6.5months, (and in the faith of my own abilities?!) means that I have not left there having developed an Olympic level rowing team, who are just waiting for Tokyo to go and collect their medals. What I feel I have done, however, is this: firstly, developed a group of athletes who now have the keys to unlocking that pathway, if they are willing to put in the time. There is only so much you can teach in that timeframe (and I’m hardly Jurgen Grobler, lets be honest!), especially when the athletes are new to sport of any kind really, let alone rowing. But I think, I hope, I have given them the tools, shown them what is required, and the rest is up to them. I wholeheartedly believe that those guys can make it to an international level, the future is in their hands now.

Some of the school kid rowers
The Performance Group rowers, with me and coach educator Kerry Wardell

Secondly, the schools program now has a core of keen school kids, along with parents who want to see them succeed. In any youth program, it’s vital to have buy-in from both kids and parents, and I do believe this is the situation. Having left Hithadhoo with a team of qualified coaches (thanks to coach educator, Kerry Wardell from British Rowing) there again they now have the keys to make the youth participation program flourish. And if even just one person in the community has taken up exercising after seeing me stomping around the roads of Hithadhoo every morning in my running kit, and being reassured that it’s ok to look a complete mess whilst you’re exercising, then on a personal level I’m pleased! Showing people it’s ok to be a red and sweaty mess: the Imogen Walsh approach to community sport 🙂

I now look on with a keen and slightly anxious interest to see how it unfolds. I am not cutting off from the program entirely, not at all, the local coaches know that they can get in touch with me to ask any questions, I want to help in any way I can still.

Ok, I’ll definitely miss views like this…

What I miss is mostly mirrored in what I am looking forward to when I return home: I will miss people, but am looking forward to seeing people; I will miss the food, but am looking forward to certain foods; I will miss the heat but I am looking forward not being quite so sweaty! Then there are the things like drinking water from the tap, or a reliable electricity supply… those things that living the UK you so easily forget isn’t the case worldwide.

For the next few weeks though, I will be enjoying brai and red wine, taking a break from my running habit, and trying to figure out what is next on the cards for the Adventures of Imogen…

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