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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Teaching Open Waters…

Assisting 

Over the next 3 days we have a group of 4 open water students. Padi Open Water is the first level of certification that allows you to dive without having to take any basic skills courses each time you want to dive.

We had 3 from France and 1 from England. Andy and Carol had 4 from England and we all knew theirs was going to be a “fun” group when we saw one of the lads chugging down SangSum, Thai whiskey, at 8am in the morning. Well I guess they are here for the Full Moon Party. Ours on the other hand were perfect students. No worries what so ever. They got through the 3 hrs of theory and then we had a further 3hrs in the pool doing skills.

I am fairly certain I start absorbing the pool water after 10min as I needed to pee so many times it was ridiculous. The pool water was a good temperature until you have been sitting at the bottom of it for 2hrs and then it starts getting a bit chilly. By the end of the pool session, we were all completely water logged and shivering.

Jungle Island Fever????

Returning home and having a wonderfully refreshing shower or rather dribble (no water pressure), I lay down and pretty much felt like my skin was on fire. I didn’t have a fever, but my skin was almost radiating heat and yet I felt cold. I had felt tired before and a little hot but this was taking on a life of it’s own.

Also I was developing little red dots all over my body. Not like the humidity induced rash that lasted for months after living in the Amazon, but more of subtle, yet disturbing, rash. It wasn’t itchy though, which might have meant it was the dengue rash. Of course everyone still insisted it was the Dengue rash which didn’t help my sanity.

Luckily Laura, from the animal shelter, recommended I start pretty much bathing in baby powder and to get some of the prickly heat powder. This seemed to help the rash quite significantly, so I think it is just my body adjusting to seeing sun for the first time in years and living in a tropical location.
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Warning on the Prickly Heat powder, it is like powdered air conditioning and feels fantastic unless you get it near any sensitive areas… trust me

First Dive For Students

While conditions up top were glorious with clear blue sky and no clouds, the vis turned out to be so so, maybe only 5meters. With the full moon and it’s party, the coral also spawns and the currents change causing a significant decrease in vis.

The French boys had a friend with them who was already certified, so she buddied with me on the dive. Yuko hadn’t been diving in over 4yrs and had only dove during her course, she realised she most likely should have done a refresher as we did our giant stride into the water. Oh well, too late now, just going to have to keep my eye on her. At the surface we prepared to go down, the first thing being to clean your mask using spit. This might seem gross, but for some reason the enzymes in your saliva keep the mask from fogging, and apparently boy saliva is the best. Then Ricardo said a line I will never forget, “Remember, the greener the cleaner”. At this the Frenchies got right into that and we could hear them hocking a loogey from the other side of the rock. It might seem disgusting but none of their masks fogged.
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The dive itself was ok, and the boys all thought it was wonderful. But seeing the rock in much better conditions, it wasn’t much fun for us and at one point I almost lost the group as they went round a corner and mingled with another group. On clear days you can see 20 – 30 meters no problem, so 5 meters is rather limiting. At the end of the dive Yuko and I still had a lot of air so Ricardo indicated that we should keep diving as he took the boys up. But Yuko decided she wanted to return as well. Unfortunately as we surfaced we realised we had been caught in a current and towed around the back side of the rock, it was almost impossible to swim against so we dropped back down to 5meters and I pretty much pulled her back to the boat. Talk about tired diver at the end of it.

First Couchsurfer

Returning back to the shop the group was thrilled that they had seen a whale shark on the second dive, making the bad visibility of not much importance. Andy and Carol’s group had unfortunately proved to be what we all feared, the one drinking SanSom the day before had panicked at about 2 meters and Carol had to bring him back. He ended up quitting the course and just recovering from his hangover while the rest completed the last pool session after returning.

I had a couchsurfer waiting for me when I returned. Stephanie was from France and would be my first surfer to stay with me. For those of you who are not aware of couchrsurfing, it is an online community which allows people around the world to post profiles and then stay with others who live in a place they are visiting. There is no cost and there is no obligation to host. In most cases the surfer usually contributes something to the house or buys the host dinner. It is a great way to meet people and I have hosted and surfed all over the world.

Since the boys in our group still had to do a pool session, I sorted their equipment and then took Stephanie to my bungalow. In most cases the host would have a couch or spare bed, but I had a floor or a hammock, Stephanie didn’t mind. Then we went to meet Yuko who had some time to waste while her friends finished their skills. We walked around Chaloklum and then I took them to have banana balls in chocolate sauce. Always a good way to end an afternoon.

French Cuisine

Stephanie and I decided to drive down the coast a bit to watch the sunset, it was glorious.

Sunset

Sunset

Since I wasn’t comfortable driving on the coast road yet, I sat behind Stephanie on the bike she had rented. On the way back there was one spot where we wobbled a little but thankfully she was able to keep the bike upright.

Back at home I took her over to meet my multiple French neighbors. They all rattled away in French and I just smiled and nodded, still not feeling 100% these days especially after the exhausting dives. Next thing I knew we were both invited to have dinner. Sophie and Frank, long termers, always had dinner parties and Sophie was a phenomenal cook, I nearly crashed my bike once driving past as it smelled so good. The food was incredible, and with the limited resources on the island, it was downright incredible. We had rolled pork with bacon and scalloped potatoes and sticky apple cake for dessert. The food was perfect, the company was great (even in French) and yet I was feeling very run down and could feel my fever like non fever coming on. Sophie insisted I have a small piece of the cake before going home. I passed out at home feeling less than miserable. Could this be a sun allergy???

Last Open Water Dives

Waking in the morning I felt fine, no problems. It probably helped that I had had such good food the night before. It’s weird how this “illness” only seems to hit me in the evenings.

Today was full moon day and so the vis was not any improved. But when you have a great group not much can spoil a good day of diving. Carol and Andy had a slightly better day with only 3, the 1 no show most likely nursing another hangover. Our only issue was on the 2nd dive the one guy had some ear trouble, not being able to equalise and so I took him back to the boat. Ricardo managed to take him back out for a short dive and get him deep enough to pass the last 2 skills.

One of the best groups I had during the whole 3mths odd I was there.
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Sunsets and Wipeouts

That evening we decided to go try find a place Stephanie had hear about called Amsterdam. It was meant to have the best views of the sunset. We didn’t find it but we did find another place with a stunning view and an infinity pool, wish I had brought my swimsuit. Also outrageous prices so we could only afford one drink.

Sunset and Infinity Pools

Sunset and Infinity Pools

Stephanie and Me

Stephanie and Me

On the way home we were going at a nice pace, not speeding but also not going too slow, which is also rather dangerous. Steph had had a bad fall in Bali and she had just uttered the sentence “I don’t want to fall again like Bali” when, Murphy’s Law, we hit that same patch of loose gravel we wobbled on yesterday. We hit it at just the wrong angle and in her effort to slow the bike, Steph grabbed both the front and back brakes, causing the bike to lock and us to slide. Thankfully we only had a few scrapes, nothing too serious. Although we were both rather shaken. 2 people drove past us and one English chap going in the opposite direction, stopped, looked us over and deciding we were ok, uttered this oh so helpful sentence: “try to be more careful!”. Well ya think we were not being careful??? Then he drove off. So much gallantry and knights’ in shining helmets…

Back home we treated our wounds and headed to the Italian restaurant for a friends farewell. I decided to drive my own bike, as I felt more secure having control. We had no issues driving their and back, a few good laughs with everyone and sharing stories about accidents and injuries. Apparently that corner has caused a few broken arms and legs, so we got off lightly.

Handmade to Order Taglietelle with Homemade Bolognaise Sauce

Handmade to Order Taglietelle with Homemade Bolognaise Sauce

It was a great 3 days, but still feeling a bit under the weather and now rather shaken after the slide out, I headed home to bed, Stephanie following later to her spot on the floor.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2012 in Thailand, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Briefing, Leading and Discovering

Kathy Will Lead….

It’s been 3 days without any diving due to weather, and I am seriously starting to get itchy feet, both literally (due to all the rain and wet, but don’t worry got a cream for that) and figuratively. I woke up to a glorious sunrise over the coconut palms right outside my window and knew it would be a diving day. 

Ricardo and I had a couple from Turkey and they were great folks. Very chatty and talkative about diving and all the places they had been. Right as we settled down for the briefing Ricardo informed that I would be explaining the dive and …. leading it. Well that was news to me! 

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I think I did ok for leading my first dive. The main problem was that my dive briefing was too brief and my guiding was too fast. It felt like I was going really slowly and showing them small things like nudibranchs and such. Ricardo had told me to look for the frogfish and so was trying to remember was crevice he hid in. Eventually we found the right one but the frogfish wasn’t there, possibly moved away because of all the paparazzi. Ricardo then felt I was too concerned about it and missed the area where the bull sharks hang out. Usually we get to that spot and hang out for a few minutes to see if any of them surface above the 18m murky layer, all rather intimidating. The real reason I missed it was because I didn’t even know I was in the spot of the rock, I thought I was on the other side… got to dive it a lot more to memorize where all the critters hang out. 

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Frogfish – courtesy of Ricardo Gonzalez, Padi Instructor

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Nudibranch – Courtesy of Michael Devlin, Padi Divemaster

All in all the couple were thrilled with the dive,  and that is the most important thing. So I think I “done a good job” for my first time leading, but I do need to slow down.

Discovering Scuba

When we returned to the shop we were introduced to Michael who was waiting to do the pool session of the Discover Scuba program. This is for people who have never done scuba diving before and want to give it a try before committing to a full course. We do a 4 basic skills in the pool, or at the dive site, and then take them on 2 dives. I have never seen anyone so excited to get in the pool. It made the session great fun for us to as Michael was eager to learn. 

Diving with him the next day at Sail Rock was brilliant, a really good student. He was in heaven and we had a really good group on the boat. With the full moon party just around the corner it also meant the boat was quite full. We say the island breathes at Full Moon, as the population expands and the contracts the next day. 

Floating Around

One of the skills needed for the divemaster course is a 15minute float with the last 3minutes having your hands out of the water. It was a blisteringly hot day, and you could almost feel yourself cooking, but we managed to make it through. At one point the very slight current pushed us towards the toilets’ exit point and we got permission to push off and float to the back of the boat. The guys on the boat behind us were making fishing motions, and each guy was deciding which one of us they wanted to catch, seriously can they not see us looking at them… boys! Raising our hands out of the water was surprisingly difficult, who would have thunk….

Ear Issues 

When we returned to the shop one of the customers, a girl from Spain, was having severe ear pain. She didn’t get much assistance from her dive guide and so I stepped in with Ricardo to calm her down as she was verging on hysterical. I soaked a cloth in hot water and had her hold it to her ear, which seemed to help the pain a bit. Ricardo suspected it was inflammation in the ear canal from trying to equalize too hard, and recommended she go home take an ibuprofen and get some sleep. It is true she was a bit of a high maintenance gal but sometimes you just got to go the extra step, especially when telling them to stop whining doesn’t seem to help. We had mentioned that Ricardo’s band would be playing in Haad Salad at the Sunset Bar and they said they may try to come. 

Heat Exhaustion and Music

Carol, the other divemaster trainee, and her boyfriend Pom, were going to come with me to watch the band. But when they showed Carol looked terrible. She was cold and clammy and nautious and had a terrible headache. I recognized heat exhaustion immediately, even though she argued with me saying she was a nurse… I ignored her and made her drink rehydration salts and go under a cold shower. She insisted Pom take me to watch the band and said she would be fine. He was super sweet and drove me all the way there and then walked me right to the bar, insisting I call him if I needed a ride back. I was getting better on the motorcycle but driving that road at night was a no go for me. 

The concert was excellent and very relaxing. Michael our Discover Scuba and the couple with the ear issue showed up and we all chilled out, chatted and drank mojitos. A good end to the day. Michael gave me a ride home, he spent a lot of time in Paris and grew up riding motorbikes, so he had no issues with the road. 

All in all a fantastic couple of days… I think I could definitely enjoy this life!

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Rain, Music and Joints!

Monsoon and Mosquitoes

Been on the island for 10 days now and it looks like the threat of the monsoon has arrived. It has rained solid since 1am, non stop torrential downpour. At this rate I may have to store my scuba gear at home so I can get to the shop. 

The dive was cancelled due to weather so was forced to spend the day sorting, cleaning lying in the hammock and killing mozzys. If there is one thing I hate it’s the mosquitoes here. They are honestly the ninjas of the mosquitoe kingdom, silent and deadly and often you don’t even realise you have been bitten till they are long gone. Add to that the constant threat of Dengue fever and one becomes very addicted to mozzy lotion and coils to keep them at bay. This afternoon I found myself in long pants, sweatshirt with hood and socks wrapped up in the hammock in 30C temperatures… but at least they couldn’t get me!

Turns out Ricardo didn’t have dengue, it was the infection from a mosquito bite that had hit his bloodstream, however,instructor Andy, German, does have Dengue and could be out of commission for up to 3weeks depending on how serious it is.  There is no treatment for Dengue but there is an expensive test. Go Figure!

Band Practice

By 4pm of torrential downpour I was verging on bungalow fever! I texted Ricardo and he said we would meet for band practice at one of his friends’ houses. So at 6pm he came over and gave me a ride since my driving skills are no better than a toddlers’, although here I have almost been run off the road by Thai 5yr olds on dirt bikes. 

Ricardo plays guitar and vocals in a band with his friend Alessandra (from his home in Chile), vocals, and Nolan, an American on guitar and vocals. They are really good and it was great fun relaxing and watching them practice.

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Nolan and Ale Practicing

After a few hours of band practice, we all hopped on bikes and headed to one of my favorite places, Omega Bar. Run by Jenny, the Italian Chef who also runs Cucina Italiana, the Italian restaurant, another of my favorite places. Omega is the perfect chill out place and is only open on Wednesdays. We all lounge around on pillows and watch as anyone and everyone is encouraged to sing or play or just participate in the music. There is also a number of “relaxing” cigarettes floating around 😉 .

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Welcome To The Neighborhood – Thai Style

A few days later I was walking to look for the bungalow cats and happen to meet 2 of my French neighbors and the Brazilian neighbor. They invited me over for welcome beer and joint… yup the special kind of cigarette. Politely turning down the joint I was happy to share in a beer, and chat to my fairly stoned neighbors. A great welcome!

 

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A New Bungalow to Call Home!

So Much To See

The night before I had packed my bags so that I could move immediately after the dive. Waking up at 6.18am, always about 10min before my alarm, I made it to the shop by 7.10am. Amazing how easy it is for me to wake up early here…never seems to work this way as home.

The boat was fairly full but it was a good group and we all sat upstairs and chatted about different adventures and so on. On the way there was a large, rather chewed up, what we assume was a shark carcass, floating in the water… A little unnerving if I may say so.

The dive was phenomenal as usual. Whale shark right at the beginning coming really close, and circling the rock meant we got to see it at least 3 more times. We also saw a rather intimidating bull shark that did a little detour near us. But at least they appear “friendly” here.

I was diving with Gem, Thai instructor, and she was really working with me to cut my weights down. Usually I dive with lots of weight in cold water because of the wetsuit, and it’s just a habit I have got into. I started with 6.4kg and cut it down to 3.2kg. But Gem wanted me to try cut it down more. I attempted 2.4kg but near the end of the dive with an empty, and now more buoyant tank, Gem had to give me another weight to keep me stable during our 3min at 5m safety stop. So I think I will stick to 3.2kg for now. Plus being a little heavy and allowing me the safety net of always having some air in my BCD to release and stay down, makes me feel more comfortable.

Ear Issues and Whales

I had been having issues with my left ear not being able to equalize it completely. It hadn’t started hurting but there was a definite threat that it might. SO I decided to skip the 2nd dive, I had already seen so much and it was such a nice day anyway. As I was relaxing on the top deck I spotted a minke whale surfacing not to far away. I yelled out “Whale!!” and everyone who was at the surface said, “whale shark? Where?”.
My reply, “no, a whale whale, as in a whale.”
Theirs, “a whale shark or a whale?”
Me, “A whale!! I think it’s a Minke whale, surfacing just over there”.

All rather amusing. I felt very happy that at least I had seen something cool and didn’t have to feel bad about missing the 2nd dive. As everyone came out of the water, I excitedly said, “I saw a Minke Whale surface nearby”. Their reply, “We saw a 9m whale shark, it looked like a submarine!”. Well that deflated my enthusiasm, dang it and I thought the 6m one was huge.

My New Home Away From Home

Making it back to the shop and cleaning all the equipment, it was time to make a quick change and move to my new place. I was really excited and couldn’t wait to get settled in. Located just 1min by motorbike from the shop it was in a quieter part of town and also had a lot more room, wifi, a kitchen and hot water.

PeeOng Bungalows #2

PeeOng Bungalows #2

My Porch

My Porch

My Main Room

My Main Room

My Bathroom

My Bathroom

My home away from home, now all I need is a cat… oh wait please meet the bungalow cats that share their time among all of the bungalows in my “neighborhood”.

Please Meet Felix and Zed

Please Meet Felix and Zed

Ahhh that's better!

Ahhh that’s better!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Diving, diving, diving…

Have been in Thailand for a week now and am loving it. Love the sounds of the birds and insects (except the mosquitoes) all day and all night, the frogs pretty much put on a rock concert after the sun goes down. I forgot how much I missed that living in Oregon.

I usually get to the shop around 7am and start helping get gear set up and sorted. I asked one of the instructors, Andy from Germany with years and years of experience in almost all realms of diving, what he suspected was wrong with my camera. He reckons it might be the moisture as anything electronic doesn’t survive long in the humidity. His suggestion was to buy a bag of rice and stick it inside, try and suck out the moisture and see if there is an improvement.

However, another friend in Australia who does underwater photography fears that it might have been the pressure in the airplane when I checked the camera in my bag, and the sensor might be shot. Mmmmmmm, what to do. Just have to wait and see.

Kittens

When I arrived Momma cat had a litter of 4 kittens about a week old and now they are almost qualifying as real cats. Momma has brought them down from her hiding place and they are super cute, endless entertainment as you watch them learn and grow.

Ginger and Spot

Ginger and Spot

Shy girl peeping from behind.

Shy girl peeping from behind.

Momma Cat, note her left eye it is blue and brown.

Momma Cat, note her left eye it is blue and brown.

Diving With Gem

Gem is a Thai instructor at the shop and I got to dive with her and a student doing his open water course. Gem insisted that I cut my weights down and by the 2nd dive I had gone from 6.4 to 3.2Kg. I realised that diving in cold water you tend to control your bouyancy with your BCD (the jacket that inflates) vs your breathing like you do in warm water. It is a whole new set of skills to learn.

She also has impeccable hand signals, very clear and precise, will have to try pick up some tips from her in that regard.

As we were going down the float line we saw a whale shark, incredible as always! Later nearer the end of the dive we heard a very excited diver making noises, and turned to see another whale shark in the distance. It’s almost as awe inspiring to see them at a distance as it is to see them up close.

On the second dive I literally looked a whale shark in the eye, time seemed to slow and I felt captivated by what ever intelligence there was in there. The spell was broken when I was kind of muscled out of the way by another diver trying to follow it. Seeing whale sharks tends to make certain folks oblivious to everyone else. Unfortunately our student was low on air and we had to surface so we weren’t able to follow him.

Coconuts and Monkeys

Back at the shop I got a fright when coconuts started dropping from the trees. John said that the monkey was up there picking the ripe ones. I was about to tell him it’s not nice to say something like that just because a guy can climb a coconut palm, when I looked up…

monkey picking coconuts

monkey picking coconuts

The trainer

The trainer

Apparently, monkeys are trained to climb up and pick ripe coconuts which are then taken away and sold or used. It certainly is a great way of preventing more coconut related injuries, they are really quite hazardous to your health unless mixed with alcohol…

Driving…kind of

Managed to putt-a-putt to the 7-11 about a minute down the road for everyone else, about 3min for me. Am starting to get the hang of the bike and might even have some freedom at some point. Woohoo!

After packing my bags I went for a shower and nearly had a heart attack as I discovered I had a shower mate, who seemed to want to hang out and watch.

Shower mate, about 30cm/1ft long

Shower mate, about 30cm/1ft long

and soooo handsome!

and soooo handsome!

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Thailand, Travel

 

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