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Monday, May 29th, 2001

Our flight back was uneventfull, and naturally a little depressing. I still can't believe I'm back already, and neither can Geoff. I must admit though,I'm much less depressed about returning this time than I was last year, when I can remember how much it hurt to have to leave.

This second trip was completely different for me than my first trip to Hawaii in almost every regard. First of all, coming with Geoff made it a very different journey just in getting there.
Ake with Ring
Ake playing with a ring (click here for a lager version)
Having someone with me kept me focused away from the travel time, and having both of us there as a group meant meeting new people and doing things was that much easier on us. It took the pressure off since we knew we always had one another to talk to, no matter what. I am somewhat disappointed that Geoff and I didn't choose to do more activities together though. One of the things I really wanted to do with him was have a double local, where each of us would have a dolphin and we could do behaviours with them together as a team. Last year, two of the participants I was with were able to do this for their aloha locals, and even though I asked a number of times and tried my best to make it happen, it wasn't possible unfortunately for Geoff and I to do this. Still, we did share Akeakamai for our Aloha, and we did do a lot of stuff together at the lab, but I guess I was hoping for something a little more significant. Not that I'm complaining particularly. I know both Geoff and I did everything we wanted to do while we were in Hawaii, but most of it was done individually rather than together. Maybe my expectations were just too high... =)

Another big change this year was my learning curve around the facility. I came back, and it was like I had never left. Well, almost anyway. I discovered on my first trip that half the battle of working with the dolphins is learning the hand signals and understanding what they mean and when to use them. I basically had that part figured out this time, but what I did find was my confidence level in working with the dolphins was nowhere near what I had built up from when I left last year. I had to build that back up again from scratch by watching others work with them and seeing the dolphins reactions to various situations. To be honest, I was a little depressed at first that I wasn't fully confident after being here last time and building a really good confidence level. I guess I felt like I was moving backwards, losing ground rather than gaining it. I can look back on it now and see that the problem wasn't in how I was doing the sessions, or how I interpreted the dolphins moods, but rather the way I was thinking about the session, and how I had to change the way I was thinking while I was up on the stand. I was able to focus this year on what I wanted the dolphins to do rather than thinking strickly about hand signals, making combinations much easier, appropriate behaviours for the situation easier to figure out, and adlibing and playing around much easier to do. This is the best advice I could give anyone trying to improve their abilities with the dolphins. Don't think about hand signals! Look at the dolphin in front of you, and if you manage to keep your concentration after doing this (they really are beautiful, arent they?), invision what it is you want to see them do and THEN think of the signal.
Open Mouth
Ake shows off with a twisting jump. (click here for a lager version)
The dolphins will love you for it, and every time I was able to do this, the session was incredibly fun.

Knowing about working with the dolphins was only half the battle of being at the facility. I found quickly that knowing how to do other things around the lab made me more able to help out. I admit, I enjoy helping out and knowing I'm making a difference, which is half the reason my time at the lab was so fullfilling. The people at the lab bestow a lot of responsibility on you if you want it, and I did, giving me a feeling of being part of the team. This year, being part of the team was easy for me. I was even able to help a few of the newer people at the lab to figure out ways of doing things I had already done before. Knowing about fish room, incident reports, things to watch for, and general operations around the facility made helping out like second nature. I was in familiar territory. It made me feel so good being able to do nearly everything I was asked without needing much more than a quick refresher.

Something that didn't change for me from last year was my inability to spend time away from the lab. The atmosphere surrounding the group of people and the animals at this facility is something I have yet to properly define to myself. Whatever it is, it's a feeling I can't get enough of. There simply is nothing I would rather do than spend time at the lab, even in Hawaii with unlimited possibilities for things to do outside of the lab walls. Sure, I still managed to get out and do some interesting things while I was in Hawaii, but the whole time I was thinking of what I'd be doing next time I was at lab. Call me obsessed. Call me pathetic. I don't care. I just hope everyone out there finds a way to do something they enjoy as much as I enjoyed this. I'd better be carefull, or I'll end up changing professions...

Will I go back before the Dolphin Institute moves to Maui? I don't know for sure. I do know this though: I AM going back. I HAVE to. Perhaps next time, I'll be the one giving the locals to all the lucky participants who come through that big, front door. It might be a year or two away, but Becca and Alanna will have one more internship application to sort through very soon...

    The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.

- Jacques-Yves Cousteau


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