Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goodbye MJO, and Addu

This is my last morning in Addu Atoll, after a truly inspiring 17 days. I was here for the start of the active phase of the MJO, and it's leaving with me. This morning the sky is almost cloudless. I seem to have misplaced the cable to download photos off my camera, but luckily there's one automatically taking pictures on a regular basis at the S-Pol site. Here's what it shows now - it's not beautiful photography but it gives you the idea.

I realize now that I haven't put up photos of what the sky looked like during the active phase. Perhaps because it wasn't as striking as during the suppressed phase, when there were convective clouds but they were isolated and one could get a good view of them. The active phase tended to be overcast, and not as superficially glamorous. I'll put up some when I get back.

The active phase is still in the Indian ocean, but the focus of the convection has moved to the east and south of the Maldives, as the current infrared satellite image shows:

Notice TC 5 is still kicking around the northern Arabian sea, hanging on for dear life against strong vertical wind shear.

My colleagues who were here before me wrote a fair bit on the blog about the more human side of being in the Maldives. I haven't done that up to now, partly because they had done it already and partly because I wanted to focus on the science. But besides the science, it has also been wonderful for me to be a visitor here. While my interaction with the local people has not been particularly deep, I have spent two and a half weeks biking back and forth through their home towns every day, shopping for groceries, going to the bank, the Dhiraagu (cell phone & internet) shop, and laundry (the last is basically in a family residence, with kids running all over and clothes hanging on lines in the yard). Like everyone else who has come here for DYNAMO, I've found the people very open and friendly.

Addu Atoll is apparently - according to tourist guides - the one place in the Maldives (apart from the capital, Male', where no tourists spend any time) where it's easy for outsiders to be in local villages and interact with Maldivians who are not resort employees. You hear the calls to prayer, see everyone zipping around on their motorbikes, and witness other dimensions of life in this tiny island nation. I've seen a couple guys carrying a big octopus off the beach one morning (obviously it was about to become lunch), lots of people swimming in the afternoons (the women in full long pants, sleeves and hijabs) and a guy building a boat by the side of the road.

Quite a number of times random people have struck up conversations with me, asked where I'm from, and whether I'm on vacation. They are always a little surprised to hear "no", and their eyes widen a little more still when they hear the actual reason. As a New Yorker, I instinctively get a little edgy when a stranger starts to talk to me in an unfamiliar environment. Experience at home has taught me that usually it means they want money, or to get me to their bible study group, or some other purpose I want no part of. That instinct is misplaced here. People are just genuinely eager to meet foreign visitors and learn a little about us.

It's hard to get a decent cup of coffee or slice of pizza in Addu City, but apart from that it's a wonderful place. It's been a great privilege to be here for this brief time.


  1. Speaking of food, I haven't seen any pics of that yet! You should post some pictures of any interesting food you ate if you have them.

    I would put up pictures of the food at Diego Garcia, but nobody wants to see what they serve in the mess hall.

  2. You know, I didn't think to take pictures of food. It wasn't the most exciting aspect of being there (though I'll grant you it might be better than US military rations).