RSS

Tag Archives: Scuba Diving

When It All Begins To Feel Normal!!

In the Beginning

Back in school I was the epitome of nerd, I loved school, was president of the Wildlife club, in choir, participated in the speech and drama festival and if that wasn’t enough was Head Library Prefect/Monitor. In fact, I actually won a trophy for service to the school in my final year. As a result I was bullied and suffered low self esteem. Thinking back most of my fellow classmates, and the teachers too in fact, would most likely have expected me to be married and settled fairly soon after graduating or completing college. After being accepted into the Horticulture program at Natal Technical College it seemed like that was a likely path. However, Fate had other ideas by giving us the opportunity to immigrate to the USA.

Alter Egos

Four years at Oregon State University ended with a 2 month trip to the UK. I believe this was around the time my alter ego began to emerge. For years I had had a plan, to find a good job in the environmental field and… well… save the world… But suddenly I was starting to explore the world… and so my organized responsible side now had a sister, the world wide traveler…. 3 years teaching English in South Korea fed that alter ego with numerous trips around Asia.

My alter ego allowed me to feel free and more confident while abroad and seemed to thrive among different cultures and fascinating history.

On the contrary, my responsible side followed society expectations and parents always feel more comfortable when their kids have a good job and are settled.

However, social situations still made me uncomfortable and my inability to come to terms with my dual personalities constantly made me feel guilty about traveling and yet stressed over not taking the opportunity to explore more.

Sanity

Lucky for me I have a great friend, mentor and fellow traveler. He always seems to be online in my darkest hours, when I feel like a stranger in my “responsible” job, and… when I decide to buy a ticket to somewhere new. (I can help anyone else buy a ticket but when it’s my turn I am completely indecisive). If I owed him a beer for every time he has calmed my fears over letting down my responsible side I would most likely owe him an entire brewery. It is his advice that has kept me sane year after year, and as others have got used to the idea that I don’t necessarily fit any mold and they can live vicariously through me, they too have begun to keep me sane.

When It All Begins To Feel Normal!!

This past year has really been a turning point for me. For years people looked at me as this confident world traveler but inside I remained that bullied library prefect, and my two egos were constantly at odds. But, at the encouragement of amazing friends and my parents, I completed my PADI Dive Instructor course in Thailand last July. The moment I was told I had passed I cried, became weak at the knees, and said “does this finally make me cool??”. I don’t think I had ever realized just how much I had been affected by those long ago bullies, how I still considered myself as always that “nerd who won a trophy for service to the school”… my confidence began to grow…

Then, while at a hostel in Bangkok, fellow travelers, many abroad for the first time, seemed to be drawn to me asking my advice of where to go and what to see, and surprised when they mentioned a destination I had not yet been to… and my confidence grew…

Returning home, I decided to return to the cruise ships for another contract, and instead of feeling embarrassed about working on a cruise ship, a job many would think a joke, I found myself confidently stating the fact, “I am a social hostess on a cruise ship in Europe”. Never once was I faced with a sneer, but rather genuine interest and envy… and my confidence grew…

I am not exactly certain when I came to terms with the fact that travel is who I am, at least for now, when it all just became normal for me and everyone around me… But for now it has… I feel at peace and most importantly confident… that is until I need to pack for this upcoming contract….. 😉

Dedicated to my amazingly patient parents, my phenomenal travel guru mentor and fantastic friends who have believed in me all this time …. I think I may finally have begun believing in myself!!!

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

WHALE SHARK!!!!

When a Great Dive Becomes AMAZING!!

For me every dive is good, some are great and then there are the amazing dives. It doesn’t have to be that the visibility is astounding, or we see something huge, some of my amazing dives involve seeing my favorite nudibranch or a small octopus. But, if truth be told, there is at least one creature in the oceans that guarantees me a truly incredible and amazing dive, and that is a Whale Shark, the largest fish in the sea.

Sometimes however, it is not easy to get a guest as excited as we are at the prospect of seeing one, seeing their faces turn to utter horror at the words “shark” and “largest”. In fact some instructors have begun altering it to Whale Fish in order to calm the nerves of those who do not know what to expect. But one thing is for sure, no matter who you are, no matter where you are from or how many dives you have had or even how many times you might have seen one of these incredible creatures…. you will be wow’ed!

There are truly no words to explain it when you first see this behemoth of a fish glide right past you. Sometimes it can be mere inches away but you are completely unawares, only to turn and gasp at it’s sheer presence.

Whale shark at Sail Rock

Whale shark at Sail Rock

Past Experiences

I have had the opportunity to dive with whale sharks on multiple occasions thanks to my time diving here in Thailand. But there are 2 occasions that truly stand out.

#1 During my time training as a divemaster I had to return with one guest who had sucked his air faster than his companion, so while the instructor continued with her I began the ascent with him. It was a rare occasion where the visibility meant you could barely see 1meter / 3feet. I gingerly followed along Sail Rock knowing that the boats were “parked” above the chimney which started at 6m/18ft, so I followed the rock at this level keeping the guest close at hand. Suddenly a vertical thermocline created a 2m/6ft, swathe of crystal clear water, rather disorientating to enter after concentrating so hard on finding the chimney. At the precise time I entered from my side, a ginormous, vacuum cleaner type mouth, emerged from the other side. It took me a few milli-seconds to realise it was a whale shark and not something out of a sci-fi horror flick, and quickly hugged the rock in order not to touch it, indicating the guest should do the same. I swear we had to suck in our guts in order for it to get passed, it was that close. At the end of the dive we were the only ones to have seen it, a truly unbelievable experience… it’s not everyday you very nearly french kiss a whale shark.

silhouettes...

silhouettes…

#2 This was the dive that made me realise I might want to pursue becoming an instructor. It was my final dive after completing my Divemaster before leaving the island. We had a group of 6 Spanish and one of them was terribly nervous having quit barely 10min into the first dive. We decided on the 2nd dive that I would remain with her at a shallow depth while the instructor would take the other 5. We remained at barely 6m/18ft for the beginning of the dive until I heard the tell tale banging of tanks indicating something cool, another diver gave the “whale shark” signal and pointed the direction. It was the 4m/12ft, juvenile that had been around the boats for a week or so. Somehow, I just knew where it was heading and began slowly manoeuvring my diver closer and a little deeper till we got to a small pinnacle about 9m/27ft deep. Within seconds of us getting into position the whale shark changed direction and swam directly over us, enjoying the feel of our bubbles on it’s belly. It was so close we could have touched it (which of course we were careful not). After that I could not get her out of the water, she wanted to see everything, experience everything, and near the end even attempted to chase down the whale shark to get closer. She was so happy and excited at the end of the dive attributing the entire phenomenal experience to me… it made me feel fantastic and realise that showing people the undersea world might just be something I wanted to do permanently…

This wasn't our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

This wasn’t our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

Most Recent Encounter

It was nearing the end of September and whale sharks had only been sighted once or twice near Sail Rock, but we knew they were in the area. Most of dives up until this day had been Discover Scubas or courses, not giving me the luxury of diving for fun and being able to look around or carry my gopro. On this day I had an advanced fun diver, so not only was it going to be a fun dive but she did not require tons of attention but instead preferred just a guide.

News of the whale shark quickly spread and we all got in the water excited at the prospect of seeing it. It lived upto it’s reputation and swam above us for half of the first dive at about 14m/ 45ft.

On the second dive we descended over East Pinnacle, a pinnacle that sits just a few kicks from Sail Rock at approximately 17m/55ft below the surface. We dropped down and started exploring, the only divers at the time. Glancing at something over my shoulder I saw the whale shark suddenly emerge from behind us, he swam around us and descended. We were so excited and when other divers approached I was thrilled to give them the whale shark symbol and, as if on cue, he appeared again circling us and in general making our day.

Selfie with a whale shark.

Selfie with a whale shark.

They are truly phenomenal creatures, the largest I have ever had the honor of swimming near was a juvenile of maybe 5m/16ft, I can’t even begin to imagine an adult of 10m/32ft….

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 7, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1st Course: Scuba Diver

After assisting other instructors or completing a final dive of a course, I was finally given the opportunity to teach a course from the start, on my own!!! I was to teach 2 students the Scuba Diver course.

What is Scuba Diver

Scuba Diver is the first level of certification, it is usually for those on limited time, only takes two days, or funds, or who feel too nervous to complete the full four day Open Water course. Essentially a fantastic beginner introductory course which gives the student a certification and allows them to continue diving without having to pay for a Discover Scuba Class, something that could become expensive over time. While Open Water allows divers to dive to 18meters/ 60feet, with a buddy, Scuba Diver allows students a more conservative depth of 12meters/ 40feet and always under the supervision of a professional be it a Divemaster or an Instructor.

However, it is important to note that many divers complete Scuba Diver and love it so much that they decide to immediately upgrade to Open Water.

Like Susanna and Filippo, on the right, who upgraded soon after taking their Scuba Diver

Go With the Flow

The night before I reread my literature, compared my slates, made notes and consulted my Course Director for advice on the best flow of the class. Since you only have 2 days and the second day is filled with dives in the ocean, you need to be able to complete all of the 3 pool sessions and at least the first knowledge review. Technically you can complete the last 2 knowledge reviews on the boat, but its always better to have that day dedicated to fun in the ocean.

After contemplating the meaning of life and the wise words of my Course Director I decided on the following:

DAY 1
~Complete videos 1-3
~Encourage students to do the knowledge reviews during the videos
~Discuss chapter 1 and correct it’s knowledge review
~Complete quiz 1

Break

~Pool session 1-3

Break

~If time allows complete last 2 knowledge reviews and quizzes

DAY 2
~Ocean Dives!!!!
~Final Paperwork

My Students

Of course all the planning in the world is at the complete mercy of your students, if they understand the concepts, if they exhibit fear of getting water in their mask, if they discover breathing through their mouth vs nose just impossible… so many things could effect the flow…

Luckily, Murphy was on my side of the law for once. My 2 students were from Germany, 14 and 15yrs old (Therefore a Junior Certification), but their English was perfect, they were enthusiastic and we just flew through the material. They showed no fear in the skills completing them on the first try (the joy of being young, still fearless). They showed initiative and questioned possible issues with equipment, be it the snorkel that wouldn’t stay or a hose that leaked a little.

We breezed through the 3 pool sessions and even had time to finish all the knowledge reviews and quizzes with the kids scoring 85-100% on them. Love it when they get the info!!!

Open Water

The day before the ocean had been quite lake like in it’s behaviour, flat and gorgeous!!! Today however, the wind had started up and turned the water surrounding the rock into the Sail Rock Rollercoaster. The kids showed no fear, as usual, and were super psyched to get in. We giant strided, which they did perfectly, and made our way to await our turn for one of the descent lines, riding each roller of a wave. Eventually it was time and we started down the line. At about 2.7meters, the lad showed the symbol for a problem and pointed to the nose piece of his mask, possibly an equalization issue. I wasn’t sure what was wrong with his mask but made sure to proceed slowly until he felt comfortable.

We had to do the skills at 6meters and the line did not go quite deep enough, so we shifted against the current to another line, again the kids did great. We managed all the skills with no problem, however, the problem with the mask did not go away. We kept shifting up the ladder to see if whatever was bothering him abated, we proceeded like this: up a meter, all good, down a meter, problem, up a meter, all good, down half a meter, problem. Eventually I decided to just let them get the feel and stay on the line, the lass was loving every minute of it and pointing everything out. The final skill was to release the SMB (Surface Marker Buoy). First the lad, retrieved it, then the lass. At the surface he explained that he had pain in his jaw. I realised he most likely had a cavity, usually a rare occurrence to get a “squeeze” from a cavity, but here we were. We decided on the second dive to take it extra slowly and if necessary swim at a shallower depth.

Getting back on the boat turned out to be quite the amusing mission, hanging onto a line, collecting their fins then having them board one at a time as the boat bounced and bobbed in the waves. Just as I climbed aboard the latest swell abated and was “almost” calm. Murphy at it again.

The second dive was much more successful, we got down to depth slowly and no cavity squeeze, completed outr skills which involved an out of air, alternate air, skill to the surface. He was so chuffed that he hadn’t had a problem so we excitedly headed down nice and slowly. At 2.7meters, PAIN! Bummer! We hung out and waited with him going up and down the line trying to work the squeeze out. Eventually we were able to swim around a bit and the kids did great, great positioning and buoyancy, all an instructor could dream of.

Back on dry land we completed the paperwork and I handed them their log books with their first dives! They were thrilled and will most likely move up in the ranks of scuba diving in the future!

20150820_150459
Congrats to my two amazing Junior Scuba Diver students

 
1 Comment

Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Let the Work Begin!!!

Come Discover Scuba Diving

And so with certificate in hand the work begins to filter in, first up were a couple of DSD’s. DSD is a discover scuba diver, folks who are trying out diving for the very first time. They require an introduction, orientation of the equipment, complete 3 basic skills and usually the instructor holds onto them during the dive in some manner to control their buoyancy. This is an excellent opportunity for the instructor to instill the love of diving, to encourage the guests to continue to take the open water course and beyond. It is also an excellent opportunity for an instructor to scare the living daylights out of someone if they are not careful. Luckily that seldom happens.

Trying to get used to handling DSD’s is one of the great secrets, for some instructors they have the DSD link arms, or hold onto elbows, or the instructor holds the tank of the DSD and let’s them just enjoy while the instructor acts as a taxi driver… I prefer a variety of these, depending on the DSD themselves.

My first 2 DSD’s were French, so with the aid of Thomas, a Divemaster candidate, we were able to do the briefing and everything in a combination of French and English. I almost had them interested in doing their Scuba Diver Certification (just below Open Water Cert), but they decided they just wanted to go out and enjoy. They had been diving in Malta once before and were excellent students, in fact it was difficult to get them out of the water, especially after the second dive.

Great DSD's and an Awesome DMT

Great DSD’s and an Awesome DMT

My next DSD turned out to be more of a challenge. A wonderful lady from New Zealand, living in Phuket. 4 of her family were already divers and were taking their Advanced course, while another 2 were taking their Open Water course. So this was her entry into the world of Scuba Diving. During the orientation and the knowledge review she seemed calm and confident. Then I got her in the water and she was nervous but ok. When we got to the line there was a bit of wave, but we managed to get down a bit below the surface and begin the skills. We had to pop up once or twice as she was getting very nervous. It didn’t help that another instructor waiting for the line had his brand new divers too close and we both got nudged in the head by fins… luckily he was able to move them before anything more serious.

We headed down and stayed really shallow as she had issues equalizing. We only made it for 15minutes before she decided to end as we surfaced out came the regulator and she fed the fish… she felt so bad for doing throwing up, but I just kept swimming and told her not to worry, the fish were happy. She had really enjoyed it but just felt a little sea sick, which can easily happen. Back on the boat she fed the fish a few more times but was determined to try again. This time the dive was 16minutes and she did much better with equalizing and swimming and is now tempted to do her Open Water. A very educational morning for me.

Later on that week I had a request from another Dive School to take out a DSD from Israel. Dana was a sweetheart but her english was not perfect so we took a little extra time to explain everything. This must be one of the most entertaining DSD’s I have taken thus far, we were diving at Sail Rock and usually going around the rock and enjoying what you see should take you 20-30 minutes at least. We zipped around the rock 3 times in 31 minutes. It was like having my own little propulsion vehicle, I just held on and had her drive me round, a nice change from having to be the driver. She so badly wanted to go deeper but due to equalisation problems she was having I decided to keep her around 6 meters, which meant I had to keep pushing on her tank to stop her from pulling us down. The second dive she did much better so we were able to get a little deeper. Dana loved every minute of it and had excellent air consumption, in fact I started to think her air gauge wasn’t working or she wasn’t breathing. By the end of the day she was super excited and wanted to do her Open Water Class as well. A great day diving!!!

DSD Dana!!

DSD Dana!!

I truly love taking DSD’s and seeing the expression on their face when they discover the underwater world for the first time!

Tune-uos and Fun Dives

Other than DSD’s another section of divers that do not involve a few days of course work are the Tune-ups and the Fun Divers. Tune-ups are the ones who are certified but just not been in the water for a period of time and need a refresher. Fun Divers are just that, out to have fun, already certified and loving diving!

My first Tune-up was combined with a fun dive. The mum was getting a reminder and her 12yr old daughter was fun diving. The 12yr old was an absolute natural and her mom picked up the skills perfectly, although had some issues with buoyancy so I kept a hand on her tank just in case. The second dive was tremendous, both of them were phenomenal and at the end of the dive the mum said something that made my day:

“That was brilliant!! I have never felt so comfortable diving before in my life!!! Thank you so much I think I want to do my Advanced Class soon!!! Thank you again!!”

Great family of divers

Great family of divers

My most recent Fun Divers were a father and son. Another great day diving in fairly challenging conditions, there were some waves after the first dive but then a storm moved in, getting back onboard after the second dive was more akin to riding a bucking bronco in a rodeo, but we all survived and enjoyed the ride. The son had just passed his Open Water course and was doing his first fun dive, he was a little nervous but did fantastically, a few buoyancy issues on the second dive but he compensated very well. His Father on the other hand was a Divemaster who had logged hundreds of dives and had freediving fins that were almost the same height as me.

Now THOSE are FINS!!!

Now THOSE are FINS!!!

So all in a days work of being a Dive Instructor… can’t wait till the work week begins again!!!

 
5 Comments

Posted by on August 12, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Castles, Caverns and Coastlines….. Oh My!

Castle in a Cavern

Of course go figure, I final trip was heading to the seaside and after spectacularly hot clear weather, it rained as we left the house… Murphy’s Law!

Slovenia is famous for castles and caves, you can even combine the two and visit Predjama Castle, which was built inside a cave, creating an awesome vision!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was built in the 13th century and moved into legend when it became the Seat of Knight Erazem Lueger in the 15th century. Erazem was a renowned robber baron, rumored to be a lot like Robin Hood. After killing the leader of the Imperial Army for offending the honor of his deceased friend, he was besieged in the castle for a year and a day. He could have held out longer except for the betrayal of servant. The only place that was impregnable was the outhouse, perched atop the castle and off to the side. At the appropriate time the servant signaled that he was… occupied…. and a single connon blast killed Erazem.

stunning castle!

stunning castle!

The caves near the castle are much more expensive and very touristy, but Predjama was perfect, so cool in fact that you didn’t even need to pay to go inside.

This is What Bilbo Felt Like

On the way to our next set of caves, Škocjan caves, the rain really started pounding down, and while turning a corner the windscreen wiper on the right side broke… we pulled over and I managed to dislodge it. Luckily Kaja’s side was clear, since she was driving.
wiper down, wiper down!!

Finally we made it to the caves and lined up for tickets. We must have waited close to 20minutes and were right at the window at 12pm, the time the next tour was starting. The guy asked us which tour we wanted and explained some things and right as we were about to pay it was like the clock in his head just tolled noon and he stopped looking at us or talking to us. All of the rest in the line were so confused. A few minutes later he looked at us as if we had just walked up to the window… we purchased tickets for the 1pm tour. At least that gave us time to eat a little snack!

The caves were phenomenal unfortunately no photos were allowed. It is a Unesco world heritage site and contains one of the worlds largest underground river systems. There was one area with an immense cavern and a lighted path that just seemed to disappear into nothingness, then a bridge to cross over a 45m / 147feet drop where I had the distinct urge to grab a stick and yell out:
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!
(Lord of the Rings reference)

skocjan-cave
courtesty of http://www.tourismontheedge.com/

At the end we decided to grab the funicular to the top, of course it meant an immense climb first but thank the heavens for funiculars when we finally got to it. Loved every minute of this cavern adventure.

I Can See The Sea

Finally it was off to the ocean with the grey clouds following our progress. The plan had been for me to go diving the next morning, but it was looking decidedly dubious. We visited the dive center in Portoroz and then off to the tip and the town of Piran. Just beautiful, we were both knackered by this time, had been a long and eventful trip, so we just relaxed in the square and drank something. Finally we made it to the hostel in Izola and dumped our bags, the very top room with 4 flights of stairs and no elevator.

drink break.

drink break.

Panoramic of Piran

Dinner Fit for A Queen

For dinner we visited the home/restaurant of one of Kaja’s friends. He creates the most amazing dishes, all organic, all natural, and all very very unique. His home provides a unique setting up in the hills surrounding the coast and a chance to visit the garden filled with fresh herbs, fruit and honey bees.

It was 7 courses, all exquisite. Words can not begin to describe all the varieties he made. Here are a few of them…
Course 1 we shall have a cold dish of marinated zucchini over herb goat cheese with asparagus puree and herb pesto

Course 2 we shall have a cold taco style with celery root puree with marjoram and dried egg yolk shavings

This next one was amazing!!!!
Next we have a fermented ricotta with slow roasted tomatoes basil leaves and shavings of black summer truffle.

And finally baked apple with walnuts glazed in homemade honey

So if you find yourself wandering around the coastline of Slovenia, near Koper, thinking of good food, check out Domačija Butul

It’s A Small World After all

When he learnt I was moving to Thailand to do my scuba instructor course he said his friend who stayed there was also a scuba diver and worked in Thailand in winter, in summer he worked at his shop, Nemo Divers in Slovenia. We joked how funny it would be if he worked on the same island, Koh Phangan, that I was heading to.

When he arrived not only did he work on Koh Phangan during winter but he worked at Haad Yao Divers, the dive school I was going to be working with. Just crazy how small the world really is.
Boyan and me

Wind and Waves

Unfortunately in the morning the wind was too strong creating waves, so the dive had to be cancelled, oh well. We decided to wander around and just enjoy the seaside anyway. We opted to visit the local salt pans and do some birding. They were incredible and I got really excited when I spotted some herons and an oystercatcher. Bought a little bag of salt to take with me to the island, a little treat.

Salt Pans

Salt Pans

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Great Trip with a great friend

Great Trip with a great friend

A great trip even if the dive never happened.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 18, 2015 in Slovenia, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Next Adventure Begins…With a Few Vexing Moments!!!

The Ultimate Adventure

A few months ago a great friend invited me to return to Koh Phangan island in Thailand and work for him at Haad Yao Divers, where he just became manager. It seemed insane to tell people “yes I am 37 and moving across the world to Thailand to pursue my love of scuba diving”, but here I am sitting in the airport about to follow a childhood dream. At the same time another friend invited me to visit her in Slovenia, so combining the travel has me heading most of the way around the world and to some great adventures.

Seeking Flights

For some reason if I am helping another with choosing and organizing flights and travel plans I have no problem, I know what I am doing and can rationalize the choices. However, the minute it comes to myself I turn into a bundle of nerves and second guessing. Luckily, thanks to a good friend, fellow traveler and writer (Price of Travel), who is always there to listen to my crazy ravings and uncertain choices, I was able to finally make a choice.

I usually shop for flights through Kayak.com and after much looking and comparing I came across a great looking route at the decent price of $697 all booked through a budget airline called Condor, the cheapest by over $100 that I had found. Living in Eugene, Oregon I always hope to fly out of that airport, but all these flights were ridiculously expensive and so I opted for a route out of Portland, Oregon (2 hr drive from home). The flight was in late afternoon which allowed a bit of a sleep in (as much as the cats allowed) and time to visit with a friend on the way up. From Portland I fly to Seattle (on Alaska Air), on to the Dreaded Frankfurt airport, FRA* (on Condor) and finally to Slovenia (on Adria Air).

An important side note, I always book through one airline to ensure my bags get checked all the way through even if some of the flights include smaller affiliated airlines it has never been a problem…

*For those of you who have never been to Frankfurt airport, it is enormous, takes forever to get anywhere between flights, in fact they actually have guys in golf carts picking travelers up and taking them to their gate.

The Day Arrives!

Arriving with 3 hrs to spare at Portland airport, PDX, I went to get a cart for my luggage turning around mid stride when I saw it now cost $5 to take one… when did that price hit the roof?? Dad helped me drag my bags over to the curbside checkin where we all said farewell. As my turn to check my bags arrived I asked about connecting internationally, turns out I had to go inside, so turned around and dragged my bags towards the counter. The reason for dragging was because my backpack straps were zipped up, but with my dive gear and my daypack and my camera…. oi vey!

First Vexing Moment

At the check in counter I hand over my passport and my panama book, (this is the seaman’s or mariners book for people who work on ships, often allowing folks to take extra luggage or weight). The start of my vexing moments began right then and there as the conversation went something like this:
Lady: Well which passport do you want to use?
Me: Oh the US, the other one is my Panama book
Lady: Well I DON’T know what that is, you have to pay $85 for the second bag.
Me: The Panama book is for people who work at sea and usually we are allowed an extra bag.
Lady: Well I DON’T know what that is
(Obviously the end of that discussion!)
Me: ok, here is my credit card.
Lady: And I can only check your bag to Frankfurt, there you will have to collect it and go through customs
(Never have I ever had to take my luggage through customs on a connecting European flight)
Me: I have never had to go through customs and I only have 2 hrs in Frankfurt
Lady: Well you have to, I can’t do anything, do you want to see the computer???
Me: It’s ok, it’s just new, have never had to do that.
Other Lady: Maybe it’s a code share thing with Adria, maybe we should check the bags to Seattle and then Condor can check them through
(First Lady gives Other Lady dirty look)
Other Lady: or not
Lady: so $85 and you have to collect your bags and I can’t give you a boarding pass or seat assignment for anything other than our Alaska flight!
Me: ummm, ok

So unbelievably rude and unhelpful and ultimately the person who f*&$ed it up for the rest of the route. Headed to security feeling the start of that stressful sensation in the back of my neck and trying very hard not to let it creep too far.

Second Vexing Moment

Arrive in Seattle without any problems and get lost trying to find my way to the international terminal, finally make it though and find my gate, an hour before flight. Go to the counter to get my boarding pass and ask about luggage conversation went like this:

Me: hi good day, please I need a seat as far forward as possible, an aisle seat, I have to get my bags in Frankfurt and transfer them to the next plane because of customs.
(The very sweet lady was possibly Chinese, so please read her part with that accent).
Lady: oh you no go through customs, you no probelm
Me: Yes I have to, Alaska refused to check my bags through to Slovenia I need to collect them and I am not sure why, because I booked my entire flight through Condor.
Lady: no no you no go through customs, no problem you go straight to your airplane
Me: (Handing over the papers trying hard not to respond in the same accent) See Alaska did not check my bags through
Lady: ahhh yes you go through customs, no problem you have 2 hour
Me: I only have an hour and 40min and Frankfurt is huge
Lady: ahh you no problem here I give you aisle seat, no problem
Me: ok, but if I miss…
Lady: you no problem!
Me: yes ok , but IF I miss my fli…
Lady: no no problem, you have more than 2 hour
(Apparently in her mind my time is increasing)
Me: (Just breathe) But. IF. I. MISS. MY. FLIGHT. WILL. CONDOR. SORT. IT. OUT??
Lady: you no problem all good, have good flight, next….

Vexing was an understatement. Feeling irrationally irritated, or rather rationally irritated, I called a friend to vent and after a discussion decided to talk to another agent. Her response was confusion over why Alaska refused to check my bag and her thought was that most likely there was a code share issue between Alaska and my final flight on Adria. She assured my I should be fine and if there was any problem Condor would take care of it. I felt a lot calmer after that, although annoyed that these issues were just because Alaska and Adria air can’t play well with each other. Why did I book a budget airline????? Why????

When Things Go Right

As I waited to get onboard I chatted with some of the other passengers and discovered why we had a short delay, turns out there was a plane change and this was a different design so some people had to change seats. I told them my vex and joked that maybe the “seat upfront” I asked would be right at the back… Apparently that is not something you joke about because I had the last row (the one that doesn’t recline) on my side of the plane. There was one more row for the passengers in the middle to be fair, so it wasn’t right at the back. Also my seat mate apparently had the same problem, she was continuing on Austria air and Alaska refused to check her bags, but she had 5hrs so wasn’t worried, however, she did mention they might make us pay for the second bag. Oi Vey!!!!

I immediately found a flight attendant who was very sweet and very helpful, she was also confused about the bag situation, but promised to see if any seats further up were open and assured me that 2 hours should be enough time. I hoped she was right. Just before take off she brought me a list of seats up in row 11, 15 and 16 that had an open aisle seat, also the row (2 seats) in front of me were open. I opted for the row to hopefully get some sleep.

From here things kept getting better. The guy across from me was super cool and we chatted a bit. He was from a small hickville (his words) town in Washington state and this was the first time he had ever travelled internationally. He recently became a history teacher and he figured he may as well explore a bit well he had nothing holding him down. I warned him that it is easy to become addicted to travel… Then he asked the most precious question that made him stand out like a sore thumb as a newby traveler:
Guy: so Kathy, do I just stay on this airplane for my connection to Venice or do I get off?
Me: (first looking at him blankly, then reminding myself that occasionally you do stay on a flight well others disembark, rarely but occasionally) Usually you get off and have to go to another gate, but if you show me your flight info I can double check.
He was just so sweet, so bright eyed and bushy tailed at the thought of adventure…. oh dear I fear too much travel might be making me jaded…

Just after take off I popped into the loo and heard an announcement that was music to my ears. Since Condor is a budget airline you have to pay for any extras such as a 2nd bag, movies, food etc… Well the announcement stated that movies would be free due to the inconvenience of a plane change. Woohoo!!!! The guy across me didn’t have ear phones so I loaned him my other pair. I must admit that the entertainment system was great, the screen was unscratched and a decent size, the touch screen responded well and didn’t require the

The happiness didn’t stop there, since I had been so stressed and annoyed in Seattle I had failed in my plan to buy some food to eat on the plane, so I asked the cost and choice. The flight attendant informed me that the food, too, was free!!! Woohoo!!! Although after attempting to eat the food I was very glad I didn’t end up paying for it!

I was able to manipulate myself into some form of comfortable position for a bit of sleep, but not much. Near the end of the flight the guy across from me said “Kathy, I feel like a zombie”, shame he had managed no sleep, my reply was “welcome to the wonderful world of international travel!”.
With around 30mins to go, my amazing flight attendant said I could move to 16C, aisle seat to be closer to the front if it made me feel better. Heck yeah it did! That’s also when I discovered 16 was the last row of business class, which meant I could have been sitting there all along… Oh well I had fun chatting with the guy.

And The Good Times Are Over!!!

Things seemed to be going pretty smoothly, which is never a good sign, I got off the flight quickly, I made it to immigration and the info desk man suggested I go through the Crew side to save time if they would let me , they did! I got to the luggage carousel and the info desk man there said no problem as Adria air was right above me and gate B03 was close by after security. My bags were one of the first out and I walked up into the check in area feeling almost relieved, like this might actually be all ok…

Info desk man up in check in sent me to Lufthansa since Adria was part of Lufthansa.
Lufthansa sent me to the bag check since I already had my boarding pass.
Got my bags on the belt when the guys there realised I didn’t have the bag tag and sent me to a counter.
The guy there said no problem, then paused… again never a good sign.
The F*&^$ng Alaska lady had only marked my paid bag through as far as Frankfurt in the system, which meant I had to pay another 50 euros to check it.
He suggested I take it to Condor, since all the flights were booked through them, and they should check it through no problem… (That phrase again)
I walked all the way to Condor, only 5minutes but felt like hours.
The Condor people just looked at me and said NO, since Adria isn’t Condor, almost as if I was stupid for even considering it.
I walked back to Lufthansa, now getting very very frustrated and verge of tears.
The guy who helped me had left already and the other guys were confused why I was back. They sent me to the other check in desks.
There the guys tried to make me wait in line, but no I had 50min till my flight left and they finally figured out that I needed a check in desk NOW!!
Finally they took me to a desk, with 45min to go.

The lady at the counter looked at me in tears trying to blubber my way through all the tragedy that was happening on this flight and just said calmly. “OK let me do the bags then we look ok, now you have both arms, both legs, you are beautiful so stop this crying!”
Turns out she is married to a South African and lives in Germany but she is from Spain. A wonderful person who really helped calm me down. But, this didn’t mean things were getting better as I had to go upstairs to pay the 50 euros since it was Adria air not Lufthansa… oh joy joy, but she assured me calmly that is was ok as the gate was just after security and security was just there. I joked that it must be something about Frankfurt airport as I ALWAYS have issues when I fly through, she agreed and said the staff feel the same way.

At the counter upstairs, with 40min to go, the machine had a problem, of course it did. But finally it went through and I headed downstairs towards what I hoped would be my flight. I got through security which was right there as the wonderful lady had said, and got to the gate as they started calling for boarding, even had time for a quick pee.

And It Is All Good Again

I boarded the bus that would take us to the airplane and realised I had not let Kaja, my friend I was visiting, know that I had made it. A lovely young woman let me use her phone to text and then I breathed a very long sigh of relief and contemplated the size of the glass of wine I was going to need after this. The bus ride turned out to be a runway tour of Frankfurt, a good 10min drive, all of joking that we were actually driving to Slovenia. There is something strange about driving to your plane and having to stop for the other planes to cross your path. But we got there, and I had another great seat mate. She and I chatted most of the way and when we parted she kissed me on the cheek and promised to stay in contact.

And then it was over and there was Kaja, she had got my message. I admit I did let out a rather loud squeak of joy and relief. Never before have I experienced a trip where everything that could go wrong did and yet so much went right!!! Not sure if I will ever book with Condor again though as the whole point was to book with one airline and avoid just this rather vexing experience.

For now…. Slovenia awaits!!!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Island Life cont….

Beach puppies

Beach puppies (11)
Around the beginning of December I was having breakfast at my usual spot and noticed a tourist walk on the beach and get mobbed by puppies!!! Well this needed closer investigation. So climbing down the restaurant ladder to the beach (I love being able to write that) I walked on over. Instantly I was mobbed. There were 7 puppies if I remember correctly and they were solid balls of fluff that lived under the deck of another restaurant. I had a flash back to a week before when, while having breakfast with Simone** at the French Bakery, I had heard some yelping. I discovered a few teeny tiny pups seemingly lost and not finding their mother. I picked one up and carried it out of the road just as the mum trotted up. I had not thought of them till this morning.
Beach puppies (10)
They had grown to be even cuter and it appeared well looked over. While I played with them, and decided on my favorite, the owner came out and proudly looked on. She was feeding them well and truly seemed to care. However, it did cross my mind that if the mum dog could produce this many pups at one time Chaloklum may soon be overrun. I just hoped she might consider spaying her soon. I let PAC know so that they could look into it.

Favorite that I think I would have named BEAR

Favorite that I think I would have named BEAR

Visiting the pups became part of my morning routine, when I didn’t dive and I loved every minute of it. They would see me coming and run down the beach towards me for attention. Then again I shouldn’t feel special as they ran down the beach towards everyone, including seagulls and crabs. After a week or so I noticed my favorite had disappeared and feared the worst. Later, while chatting with Laura at PAC about them, she told me that someone had brought in a very fluffy black pup with white paw that they had found “lonely and homeless” on Chaloklum beach. It had to me my little Bear, at least she found a home, but am pretty certain the person made up the part about finding a lonesome pup wandering the beach, as they never parted company from the pack.

At my farewell dinner in mid December the pups had got older and also discovered they could climb up to Genny’s Italian restuarant and beg. One little guy was very persistent and only happy with us and preferably on a lap, namely mine.
Beach puppies

I hope they will all find homes this year!

Bungalow Dogs

There are 2 dogs that live around the bungalows, Blackie and Brownie. They come around every now and then and usually make themselves at home. We have also been told to make sure the little porch gate is closed at night as they have learnt to open the fridge that is located in the outside kitchen. Luckily I never had any issues like that.

Blackie and Brownie

Blackie and Brownie

One day while I was eating some left over pizza Blackie came over to see what was on offer for snacks. Usually I try not to give them anything as I don’t want to encourage begging too much. But on this occasion I just couldn’t finish the piece of pizza and hated to see it go to waste (it had already been in the fridge 2 days and I had no microwave to freshen it). So I grandly placed it in front of him. He looked at me and looked at the pizza… Then looked at me as if I was completely bonkers for offering him something so unappetizing. So with no other recourse I tossed it into the trash. It had barely hit the top of the pile when Blackie enthusiastically got up and grabbed it. Obviously it is more appetizing out of the garbage, after finishing it he brought Brownie over to get some (oops all gone)… got to love island dogs.
bungalow dogs (2)

Monsoon it be a coming

The Monsoon season in Southern Thailand does not follow the same timing as the North, often catching travelers off guard. On Koh Phangan it runs between October and December, but so far we had only had a day here and there. But finally it arrived, en force. Almost 10 days of solid rain…everything was super saturated! After that you could time the mosquito incubation period almost to the minute as wave after wave hit us in swarms.

Preparing for the rains

Preparing for the rains


The storm moving in at Sail Rock

The storm moving in at Sail Rock


Almost had to swim my bike back to the bungalow

Almost had to swim my bike back to the bungalow


the new lake aka mosquito breeding grounds!

the new lake aka mosquito breeding grounds!

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: