As a volunteer I stayed in the volunteer house, a rustic stone hut with two bedrooms (girls, boys), a small living room and a shower. Most of the furniture is cobbled together, there’s some shelves and wardrobes without doors, some bunk beds, a table, a fridge, a sofa-bed and a clothes drier, the front-door doesn’t stay shut unless locked.
There’s a hardworking but poorly performing air-conditioner which probably lowers the temperature by a degree or two, it gets left on constantly, and is often backed up with a couple of fans when it’s too hot to sleep. I’d hate to think what’d happen if they broke, even with a fan on full, and the aircon whizzing, there are many hot and sweaty nights.
The house is away from the staff village; where some 150 staff members live. It can get quite noisy, with parties, music, and other lively activities. It’s not uncommon to hear loud hip-hop and reggae music blasting from the wooden cabins.
Even though I’m a volunteer, for many purposes volunteers are treated as staff, with access to staff services. I was very much staff and not a guest, it’s an important distinction, and this means following rules and wearing a uniform. When I arrived I received a set of clothes that didn’t fit quite right; shorts, shirts (very short shorts for women – without pockets). I had to wear these wherever I went on the island, staff village and staff beach being the only exceptions.
On arrival each bag must go through the staff’s rat room, checking that no bags have inadvertently reintroduced rats onto the island; rats wreak havoc on nesting bird populations, and quickly destroy ecosystems. Staff are also only allowed to bring in one bottle of alcohol.
Food is served at the Bistro, a staff buffet in the village. Every morning between 6am and 8:30am we go there for breakfast; 11:30am to 1pm for lunch; and 5:30pm to 6:45pm for dinner. There’s not much choice when it comes to food, you eat what they’ve made; which is usually a seychelles dish of rice and fish or meat, sometimes pasta (and on saturdays there’s ice cream), they’re tasty and hearty meals, the portions are huge, but without much variety. I ended up craving the things I couldn’t eat, like a stone-baked pizza, chocolate or cheesecake. Because of the heat, and almost constant thirst, I felt hungry all day, even if I’d just filled my stomach with carbs, and despite the piles of food, I lost weight.
As a volunteer you’re given a plate, some cutlery, a cup and a bowl; you take them to each meal, wash it at the bistro and bring it home. “Own your plate”, CJ said when I arrived.
There is a staff shop which sells some of the things I craved; simple snacks like chocolate and crisps, or necessities like shampoo, batteries and toilet roll. But it’s only open for an hour 6pm to 7pm, every other day, there’s always queues, and beer is limited to 3 per person. Apparently Seychelles has, in general, an alcohol problem, but having rowdy drunken staff on an un-policed island is also a thing to avoid.