Tracking backwards.

Dear world,
Yes, I know it’s been a while since I blogged, but there have been some TV shows that have caught my eye, along with many days of work. Yes, I’m working here. It’s great. I’m paying to work. Which seems backward, but it’s life, eh?

I recently wrote down all of what I’d done in the past few days, and it went like this:
26 Nov: 2 dives at the Bang Sak Wreck, where I was supposed to map the thing, but I was pretty much unable to.
27 Nov: 3 dives of under 45 minutes for part of an advanced course – Peak Performance Buoyancy, Navigation and Search & Rescue.
28 Nov: office shift
29 Nov: Snorkel Guiding in the Similans
30 Nov: DMT lecture #2
1 Dec: Scuba Review at Khao Nayak – this was dive #100 and then #101. YIPPEE!!
2 Dec: DMT lecture #3

Saturday, 3 Dec, I started assisting with an Open Water course, which is a requirement for my DMT. It’s also good to go back over everything.

I was so excited to go to the Similans, even for snorkeling. After all, that’s why I’m here. THE SIMILANS ARE RAD. Of course it would have been better to have been diving, but Snorkeling is a requirement of my course as well! Every day I get to knock something off my schedule. There was a lovely US couple on the boat, who came diving with Sea Dragon the next few days. It’s so funny to meet people from the US who are on extended trips. All of our countrypeople always are stunned when you mention you’re going away for any time longer than 2 weeks. We have it much less awesome than the rest of the world! There was also a woman who is a scuba diver, but had her daughter with her, so she was snorkeling. She was so glad her daughter enjoyed the snorkeling, due to the fact that she misses scuba diving. It was fun to be with them as the daughter learned about the fish in the water!

On my scuba review assist, my instructor, Stephan, showed us where a baby box fish lived. OMG I LOVE THEM. As you may know, I have two tattooed on my back. So, yes, I love them. It was so cute and wobbly. (p.s. I need to get an underwater camera – but someone needs to sponsor me.)

I’m still a bit frustrated – if you are friends with me on the facespace, you’ll know that I posted that I am supah buoyant. It’s true. I am. My feet and legs like to float. I did some skills with Stephan in the pool the other day, including practicing hovering and my fin pivot. Stephan tried to tie my ankles together while hovering to get me to stay in one place. And then Stephan put 1kilo weights around my ankles. And I was FINALLY able to do a proper fin pivot. But good gawd it takes a kilo of weight around my ankle to get me there?? Now to practice the hovering. I was almost crying I was so frustrated.

I think one of the things that I’m having a really hard time with is doing everything so slowly – when I, as a DMT, model something, it has to be done instruction-level-quality, and slow enough. More exaggerated than most things. It’s hard for me, apparently. Ugh. Frustrated. Anyway, as I get to practice more, I hope to get better. It’s difficult, because I have no one to practice in the pool with. Usually there are at least 2 DMT candidates on a course (you may recall that I was supposed to have a classmate), so you can go into the pool and practice. But, as a solo student, I can’t go into the pool and practice alone. So, I’m on a mission to get more practice in, with other people who are in the office.

That’s the ONLY way I’m going to get anything done! And I have to get certain points to pass. ARGH!! Maybe I don’t want to go back to school.

Anyway, today is more Open Water class, starting in the pool, so I have to go get on that.

There’s a small part of me that misses the holiday season and being with family. Mostly the being with family. But the rest of me is okay with being here and missing out on the crazy, crass commercialism. I heard a few Christmas songs a week ago – and now I want them back.

My flickr feed has some more pictures on it. And I keep forgetting my camera. So here is the link again. Noelle’s Flickr Feed. I will try to do better!

“You are very buoyant.”

Yes, this is true. I am very buoyant. So, the fact that I say I need more weights than you think I do is true!

Over the past few days, I’ve had to do some tests and some review. I finished all my knowledge reviews – including Chapter 9, which is the hardest chapter out of all of them – it’s all Dive Theory. There are questions about halftimes of tissues, absolute pressures, partial pressures, etc, etc. I didn’t do badly, but man do I need to work on my Dive Planning table work! There will be a test much harder than this soon.

I had to run through the skill circuit that goes for teaching students how to dive. There are 24 skills (mask clearing, hovering, taking off and putting on of your buoyancy control device – both at the surface and at depth, etc.) that I have to be able to reproduce with demonstration quality moves. So, I’ll work on that. I did fairly well for the first review, but mask clearing and hovering are huge issues. I hate having my eyes open under water (I have hated it since I was a kid) so it’s difficult I can keep my eyes closed, but I have to get much better and demonstrating the removal and clearing.

After the skill checklist, I had to tread water for 15 minutes, including 2 minutes where you had to hold your hands up to the sky. I told my instructor that it wouldn’t be a problem and he said – just wait till 10 minutes have passed.

I’m still waiting. The truth of the matter is this: my butt is so buoyant, it has a hard time not popping to the surface. I have to really learn my buoyancy better and figure out the weights – and how to situate them!

I was the victim for a rescue course for two days – it’s only fair that I now be the victim as I had my very own DMT as a victim in Nicaragua. Their beach rescue stuff was SOOOOO much nicer than mine. We had clear water and no surge and no waves. It was pretty great. For them. On Friday we did the actual scenarios. I got to hang out under water for a bit and just chill with the fishes while I waited for Sylvie and Andre to come find me. It was kinda fun. I got to see an Emperor Angelfish and some shrimpies and some other fun stuff. I was almost at the end of where I was supposed to go up, but they ended up finding me (after the almost full 15 minutes). I drank a bit of water when I was being given rescue breaths at the surface, but I have lived to tell the tale. We saw a pipefish on the second dive – it mostly looked like a piece of string, but one of the other instructors showed us that it wasn’t. Fun stuff!

I met a woman who is the CEO of Planned Parenthood for WA, ID and AK yesterday – that was great. She was in Laos giving away some money in the Phonsavan area, and decided to come down here for a few days of diving. Good times. All together now: It’s a small world, after all…

Today is mapping – I get to write down some details of fin kicks, and cool things to look at, on a wreck. I’ve been there before, and I like it, so looking forward to it. I’m also going with a DM that I’ve never gone diving with before. I think learning from various DMs and instructors is a good thing to do. Each of them have little tips!

I also think my computer is a bit confused. All these short dives are making it confuzzled. Up, down, up, down. Get with the program, dive computer!

Diving still wins!

...and the boat voyage to the dive sites I've done this trip so far.It’s been a few days since I posted, and I’m frankly very glad that I didn’t write a blog post after my dives on Sunday. They were crap. I was told something different about the weights, and even though my gut told me one thing, I didn’t listen. So, I was underweighted, and was supposed to work on Peak Performance Buoyancy. It didn’t work so well. I was completely distracted the entire time, due to both being underweighted and having super buoyant fins. Combining my buoyant fins with my 7mm booties was super lame. I wasn’t able to do a fin pivot, I wasn’t able to cross my legs and hover in the water. I barely was able to get through the hoops that are part of the obstacle course. On the last part of the dive, which we did as a fun dive, the weight belt would not stay lower on my hips, and I was swimming along with my head down and not even able to look ahead. It wasn’t good, all around.

So, I came away from Sunday really doubting myself and really being annoyed with the whole thing. Wondering why I was doing this, etc, etc. And then the instructor I was with was all bratty about some stuff, but at least she did speak with me about it, and I felt better. She wanted to give me some helpful hints for the Divemaster program and overall, they were helpful. I just don’t need someone to tell me that It’s not super easy – um, I know this. If it was super easy, everyone would be a DM and would be a dive guide. But, it’s NOT, so no, not everyone is doing it.

I decided to go home, do some navigation prep and then to call it a night early – and NOT to second guess my decision.

Monday was much better – and not just because it was my mom’s birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Mom!!). I did some navigation training with one of the managers at the shop, along with a German guy who was doing some specialty dives. (Sidebar: evidence of UK vs US English can be seen in Speciality vs Specialty and Snorkeling vs Snorkelling.) Luckily the instructor (and the student) were able to let me come along and learn while they did. Because, after all, underwater it’s the same language!

For Monday, I added more weights (and clarified the info on the weights I had on – in the shop there are 1kilo weights, on the longtails they’re .8kilos) and used some of the shop’s fins. Completely different diving.

Underwater navigation is a good thing to know, but sometimes visibility screws with your ability to correctly discern where things are. We tested fin kicks and how long it took to get from point A to point B and then used a compass to find locations. I think I’m rather dyslexic with the add or subtract degrees to make myself go right or left. So, there’s that problem. But, I got all the way around to almost where we started. It’s kind of funny when you’re underwater and using a compass to find your way around, you kick much more seriously than when you are just going on a dive for pleasure. So, that tends to make you have a single focus. I did that so much so that I almost lost the instructor and the other student. Oops. And with the visibility decreasing at the minimal depth we were at, this didn’t help. I stayed in one place for a while, and it was fine. After this, we went on a fun dive and saw a fun sole – it was almost invisible, but when it swam away, it was like a ribbon over the sand. When we ascended, I came up a few seconds too fast – I don’t know why I do this. It’s something I have to correct. Obviously.

On the second dive, we descended to try to find “the dive site” we marked with visual clues we made as we ascended. We came close, but not close enough to find it. We started with creating a hexagon underwater with markers – first Damian had to do it, and then I had to do it again. I didn’t find the same markers. D’OH! When we were done with that exercise, we got to do a fun dive. We found a kindergarten rock which was super – filled with baby fishies! We saw baby Moorish Idols, a baby pufferfish, and some other baby fishes. They were so tiny and adorable (yes, I’m a dork. But remember – I have fish tattooed on my back.) that I almost didn’t want to leave them.

This time I didn’t have any issues with my head down or anything, so I was pleased. Having proper neutral buoyancy is key. My weight belt stayed in one place – also good. We saw a tiny nudibranch – smaller than my fingernail! After the fun dive, we went back and found our “dive site” (aka the piece of rope in the ground) and then the instructor went to go see if we could find the markers from the hexagon. We found 3 of the 5. Maybe I’ll have to go map / find the others when I do my real Navigation test.

Overall, I feel very happy with the results of the dives on Monday. I did well, and the buoyancy issue was resolved. In addition, I met a girl named Kelli who may know my cousin from Antarctica. And, she lived a few blocks from my house in Hermosa. The world is small, yes it is.

Now it’s time to finish quite a few knowledge reviews. YAY for Studying!

And I have updated my pictures. Including a pic of the twin I met last weekend, whose twin in Orange County I’ve met before. Small world comes to mind…

Day 3 was an office day.

Today I got to spend way too many hours in the shop and get oriented to what happens in the shop on a day to day basis. I learned about selling liveaboard packages and classes from a Thai girl called Cougar and then I had to sell them! At least I knew some of what I was talking about due to having gone on liveaboard trips with Sea Dragon before! I believe I worked through 3 different customer trips today. So, I apparently succeeded?

I learned about refilling tanks with the compressor in the shop, loaning equipment to other dive shops, how to check out equipment to customers… all things that you need to know to work in the front office of the dive center.

So it was all very exciting. And I learned that my feet are very displeased with me – walking around on a cement floor all day, barefoot, is really quite awesome. Or not.

On Day 4, I get to do a Peak Performance Buoyancy PADI Specialty dive, one I’ve done already, but it will be a great one. It’s always good to do, especially since I now have a new wetsuit!

Even though I am paying someone to “let” me work in the office, it was still good.

Am I crazy? I think yes.

Days 1 and 2. Because I’m not clever with blog names.

I started class today. I got my proper orientation of the dive shop, and my instructor Axl told me to just tell him when I did NOT know someone in the shop, and he’d introduce me. Because I know most of the people who work in the shop. I have been here since last Friday, and I’m just a friendly person (I know, this is shocking news to you), which allowed Axl to introduce me to the peeps I didn’t know yet. There were not very many of them.

I got oriented to the DiveMaster Training schedule and also to the shop – all the detailed places in the shop were pointed out and then I worked on my self-inflating BCD with several people. Then, there were more knowledge reviews to do and reading to get done.

Day 1 was nothing too exciting, but it was fine. And then I was also able to stay out of the sun, so this was a bonus.

Day 2 was more classroom stuff – and knowledge reviews. I also was turned over from Axl to Stefan for the DM course. Stefan is more land-based, while Axl goes out on boats. I was to be Axl’s first DM student, but no longer!

In addition to classroom excitement, I had to complete a rescue assessment. Axl thought it would be an easy journey to the sea, but the surge was hellacious. I had to drag a non-responsive diver 25 meters to the shore and drag him out, all the while doing rescue breaths.

We were easily in waves of 1.5 meters high, so that posed problems. I never gave up, though – even though I wanted to walk my way home via Phuket to LA, but I didn’t. It was good to not have given up. The shore seemed to get further and further away as I attempted to get closer. It was very frustrating. Upon arriving at the sand, I fell over.

I came back to the Dive Center and wow – I think I took home half the sea shells on the shore in my gear.
I passed the scenario, and I know that I almost choked Stefan – but by the same token, the shore never got any closer.

All of these things makes for a very tired Noelle. And, it makes me say: WTF WAS I THINKING?? After the fact, though, I do feel pleased that I did it.

And, apparently the two instructors I was with have been saying what horrible conditions they were, and how I never gave up. I had several people come up to me today and mention it. So, I feel proud of that.

On to bigger and better things! Like guiding tours under the water.

Well, that sucked.

So, today I went on a trip to do some fun dives. Out at a wreck called Thai Muang. It’s an old tin ship. It’s in deep water and has some good life on it. It’s closer to the short than another wreck I now know I like better, but it’s a moderately good one.

I helped the two DMs from the shop onto the boat, got sunscreened up and settled in for the half hour ride to the wreck. Upon getting there, we got in the water, sorted masks and I lost a fin. Perhaps I should have realized that this dive might not have gone very well. I was in a new wetsuit too, so was quite buoyant. And I didn’t think I had enough weight on me.

We descended the line and then started moving along and I felt very bouncy. And then I started going up. My “dive” was over at 4 minutes. I did what is called a “buoyant ascent.” Which is bad. I went from 17m to the surface very rapidly. As soon as I knew it was happening, I started looking up, put my Left hand up and made sure there was nothing above me – like the boat. I popped up not far from the boat but still couldn’t figure out why. I rested on the boat for the remainder of the other two groups dives and saw my BCD inflate on its own. The bastard. Anyway, both DMs thought that my inflator button was/is broken, so I went down on the 2nd dive without my inflator hose clipped. I self-inflated on the boat before we went into the water, and then at the surface after the dive I did the same.

On the dive there was a ghost pipe fish, a nudibranch, some schools of fish, a lovely eel and crap visibility.The current was stronger on the 2nd dive too.

While it was good to have that experience, I don’t want to have that experience. But, then again, it’s good to know that it can happen. And to know how to resolve it easily. As a beginning open water diver, you are taught how to unconnect your inflator hose, but I didn’t really know what the problem was when I was at depth. I was unsure if it was due to the weights, or the wetsuit, or all of it combined.

My fins are also buoyant, as opposed to many that sink. I think I’ll be splitting my weights up between my BCD and a weight belt. I texted a friend while I was waiting on the boat and said “I can only get better, right?”

That was dive 89 – because I’m not counting my under 5 minute dive as another one.

The list of things I forgot has grown:
Proper & Good Sunscreen, my First Aid Mask for rescue breathing.

Class starts today, on Thursday, and I will do some specialty dives this weekend, I think – one is Peak Performance Buoyancy. That’ll help with the new wetsuit issue. I’m pleased with that one for sure!

I’ve started taking random pictures, and will continually post them on my flickr photostream if you want to look. It is here: Thailand Journey on Flickr.

A bus ride to do my shoppings.

Read her shirt. Very closely.

In an effort to save some ducats, I decided to make a trek to the Phuket Tesco Lotus. The things on my list were:
Water kettle, sunscreen, towel, detergent, tea… The things that can make life less expensive in Thailand. I am still a little upset that I forgot my towel at home, along with my sunscreens (the ones that are GOOD!). So, I went to Tesco to remedy the situation.
My friend Fiona went with me, as I had offered to get some items from her. Last night, though, she asked me when I was going, because she wanted to go with me, instead of giving me a list a mile long.

Tesco Lotus in Phuket is about 2 hours away, via bus, so we decided to leave early, so as to not spend the entire day away from Khao Lak. The bus comes every hour, on the hour, so 7am was the desired starting time. I didn’t have a chance to get coffee, and neither did Fiona, so we were both yawning the entire ride in. Kinda pathetic, really. Can you say “addict,” class?

Upon being dropped off, we realized that there was a new Tesco Lotus that didn’t involve a 10 minute taxi ride, but instead a 4 minute walk across a car park. Unfortunately, most everything was closed. Including Black Canyon Coffee. It opened at 10am, not at 9am. It’s a coffee place! Shouldn’t it be open at 9am? Or before?!? Anyway, I had some noodle soup for breakfast (Because what else is there to eat? Other stuff? Pshaw!) and then it was time to explore the store. Next to the food court was the kids’ play area. Obviously it’s a Wonderland.

I knew that at some point I’d need to look at the t-shirts, as at the Tesco Lotus near Siam Square in Bangkok there are some classically badly worded shirts. They’re kind of fantastic, though.

We went up and down every aisle, except for the kids’ clothing aisles, and found all of what we needed. Including packets of ramen and Tesco’s Finest teas and shortbreads! Tesco Lotus is apparently importing items from the UK to sell in Thailand. There were a lot of items incorrectly located, due to the flooding in Thailand, and it seemed that the store staff was just trying to create the image of NOT being out of items. I wasn’t able to get sweetened, condensed milk for my instant coffee (aren’t you jealous now?), but want you to know that there IS indeed a difference between sweetened, condensed milk and evaporated milk. I forget who I was discussing this with, but gdamnit, there IS a difference.

As any of you who have been following this blog may remember my obsession with grocery stores. Yep, I still have it. Even after working for a store for 5 years. So, it was fun to walk up and down the aisles. In the meat department you can scoop your own minced meat – I’m not sure if it was pork or chicken. And you can peel your own bacon! Very different than in the US.

The most priceless picture is above. From the food court. It says what you think it says, and below it said “You got the right one, baby.” It was probably missing the comma, to be fair.

Although, this shirt, and this one, are pretty fantastic. Can you spot the spelling errors? For other awesome Thailand pictures, check out my flickr stream associated with those pictures. It’s called Thailand Journey. I’m not sure when air fresheners needed these names: Sweetness and Smart & Cool.

For the record, the shirts were better in BKK and the soup is better across the road. Also, there will always be a part of me that is F&E, and therefore Tesco.

A Blatant Plea

This has nothing to do with my trip to Thailand. This only has to do with my friend Aidan’s awesome new movie. I have known Aidan since the 7th grade, way back in 1989. He’s been making movies since before I met him. That’s a long time. Now he’s working on a movie that combines science fiction and real high school experiences. It is a collaboration between professional filmmakers and high school students in Oakland, CA.

Aidan needs your help to get the movie made. There is a kickstarter campaign out there that needs some love, and you can share the site with your friends.

Please go and support SPACE OUT. As with all kickstarter campaigns, you get various things if you donate and the project moves forward (essentially gifts for donation levels), whereas if the amount is not met, your pledge is not turned into money.

Here’s the trailer (I cannot WAIT to see it): SPACE OUT trailer
Here’s the kickstarter site: SPACE OUT kickstarter campaign

And tell a friend! Aidan is almost to the halfway point… help out just a smidge!

Scuba Diving. Cycling. Eating. Cocktails. Not at the same time.