You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2008.

May you all get or give lots of candy!

It’s not as if I’ve fallen off the planet (although if the Republicans win the election or Prop 8 or 4 passes, I may try), but more just been sucked into the vortex that is work, and every time I manage to climb out for a reasonable amount of time, I use that time to lay down.

Le Sigh.

I will return you to Fiji stories soon, I promise, and I will be back more often soon (I signed up for NaBloPoMo AGAIN, WTF was I thinking?!?!?).

In the meantime, here’s a smattering of my random thoughts lately.

*****

My childhood best friend got married two weeks ago. Financially, I couldn’t go to her wedding. She understood. It was the same reason she couldn’t come to mine. But when she posted pictures on Facebook for all to see, I felt a sense of nostalgia for the two little girls who planned to be each other’s maids of honor, live next door to one another, raise their children together, and live happily ever after with our guys-of-the-moment. I wish I’d been there. Damn plane ticket prices. Damn economy.

Speaking of Facebook, Sydney has gone AWOL. When I got back from Fiji, we exchanged emails along the lines of planning to get together, then suddenly Facebook announced to the world that she was no longer in a relationship, and as far as I can tell, she’s now gone underground. Or is avoiding me. Or is on her nursing mission in Mexico. I’m hoping it’s the last one, since I can’t remember the dates, but I’m a bit worried. Break ups suck. Poor girl.

Fall is officially here in the bay area. It has been for awhile, maybe, but between the few trees turning colors, the brisk mornings, and the RAIN today, it’s definitely here. In all it’s BRRRRness. I do not appreciate this.

Last Thursday, we spent the day in Las Vegas at a scuba trade show, DEMA. It was a lot more interesting for John, but we both schmoozed away and came home laden with a ridiculous amount of brochures. Plus we saw the guys from Fiji, which was awesome.

On the way home from DEMA (we flew there at 6:30am and flew home at 9pm), disaster struck. The flight didn’t go so well for me, but I made it off the plane with my cookies intact. Then came the bus ride to the car park. Again, I made it off the bus with my cookies intact. I made it into the car, John backed up about a foot, and then I made it right back out of the car. And lost said cookies. First motion sickness I’ve had in many a year. Famous following words were, “I believe, for the second time in my life, I’m no longer eating shrimp.”

Or is it motion sickness? Ever since then, I’ve had vague rumblings of nausea creep up on me almost daily. It sucks. I’ve basically stopped eating, since smells make it worse. I pointed out to John that an unintended side effect of this was to lose about three pounds in only a couple of days. He pointed out that they have a name for that–bulemia. I pointed right back out that it would probably be considered anorexia, since it was “not eating” and not “inducing nausea”. We joke, but never fear, I love bacon too much to ever be one, and hate throwing up enough to never be the other. That said, this feeling can go away right damn now.

John’s birthday was Monday, and we had a party for him Saturday night, with all sorts of assorted scuba people over: James and Cara, James M, Rae and Aaron, Nate and Shelly, Greg, etc, etc. Killer Bunnies was enjoyed by all. It was a blast, aside from the food smells and nausea. And this was his Golden Birthday–27 on the 27th. Happy Birthday, love!

For his birthday evening, I met him at the door when he got home with a candle in a Fig Newton. This goes back 10-15 years when my mom didn’t have time to make me a cake (I think, due to a track meet or choir concert of mine), and thus my birthday was celebrated with a table candle (not a birthday candle, a table candle) in a Fig Newton. I’m trying to start a tradition here, people. I also made him Chicken Parmesan, served him his dinner, and promptly went to bed. Stupid sick. Alas, there was no celebrating in the vein that Brat mentioned…

We had a potluck on Tuesday with all the people who’d gone to Fiji with us. It. Was. Awesome. I’ll tell that story at the end of the Fiji stories.

We also had dinner last night with Elizabeth and Mark last night. We took them to a restaurant near our house to repay them for taking care of the cats while we were gone. We had a blast catching up with them, and hearing all about their wedding plans. Can’t wait to celebrate that one!

I met with Dr. M on Monday, and we’ve set tentative deadlines for Paper 1 submission, Paper 2 submission, Last Committee Meeting, and Thesis Defense. AHHHHHH!!! WHEEEE!!!! Graduation is theoretically… Nope, not jinxing myself here. Sometime. Within reason. WHEEEE!!!! In the meantime, I’m working my buns off to meet those deadlines. And this does not allow for nausea. Sorry, it’s a common theme the last couple of days.

Last, if I’m feeling up to it, what should I dress up for for Halloween tomorrow? Got two parties to go to, one with Nate and Shelly, and one with the nursing folk that Sydney has introduced me to (I’m hoping she’ll be there and I can see for myself she’s doing okay). Both require costumes. I don’t particularly believe in Halloween costumes that require work.

*****

And now my timer has gone off at work, so I’m off to play Mad Scientist again for an hour or so, then drive home just in time to eat a piece of toast (maybe) and go to bed, then get up and do it all over again.

To my love, John!!

Love you, sweetie!

I promised a return to Fiji stories, didn’t I? Sorry. My work days have been beating me up a bit.

Stories will commence shortly.

I hope.

The combined therapy of drinks and a long evening of chatting with Rhiannon, some good stuff going on at work, a relaxing evening watching Sharks hockey with John, and a relaxing evening with James F and Cara (which involved enchiladas, more drinking, Fiji pictures, and some geeking-out time), and I’m feeling a bit better.

Not that this changes the situation with niece/nephew #7, or the potential pitfalls already facing this kid and the BIL and current Baby Momma.

But, that said, what’s done is done. And I’m done stewing. Now we just have to figure out how to help out as best we can, potentially hoping for an adoption or (best case scenario but least likely) a massive straightening-up on life by the two “adults” in this situation.

Thus. Funk over. For now. Ask me again in 8 months or so.

So back to Fiji stories now….

Bitchy McBitcherson in full force here, thankyouverymuch! Sorry, I’m off to go get drunk.

Niece/nephew #7 is on the way. This is Niece/nephew #2 from the youngest brother-in-law, following 5 from his slightly older sister (and all 5 before she was 25, too).

And no, this one isn’t planned or accounted for in any way, either, as far as we know.

Just like all the other kids these two have popped out over the years. (Okay, for all I know, SIL’s kids 3/4 [twins] may have been planned. But given that mom and dad divorced before they were born? Bah.)

And no, the prospective grandma doesn’t know yet, either. Joy–do we tattle and tell her, or not?

Meanwhile, Nate and Shelly are starting in on BabyQuest2008 and,given some issues, may or may not ever be successful. These are issues that I theoretically at one time shared (and worry sometimes that I still do), and that Amy does share. Close to home, eh?

Why is it that the people least suited to become parents sometimes seem to be the most fertile??

Because none of these are a “one time oops” story. They’re mostly a “we’re too stupid lazy busy something to go get FREE birth control from Planned Parenthood” kind of story.

Yes, this sort of thing happens, and I get that, but this often to people in a situation less suited to raising children? To people who can’t take care of themselves? To people who social services already visit on a regular basis? To people who are in and out of drug rehab, alcohol rehab and mental care?

God (or someone) help these poor children.

Fiji stories will return when I’m thinking in more than just swear words.

Part 1
Part 2

Day 4, Tuesday

Again with the early morning wake-up and the drums and the mountains of toast and fruit and all sorts of goodness to fill our bellies with, then off to the reef. Just another day in paradise, really.

On the way out, we had 5 dolphins come and escort our boat for about 10 minutes. We caught site of them behind us in the distance, racing to catch up with us, leaping through the waves. When they did eventually catch us, they swam in the waves at the bow of the boat for awhile minutes, playing in the water. They were very graceful, but disappeared as we approached the reef. We never saw them underwater, but to see them above was pretty damn neat.

Our first dive was at Three Thieves. This was hilarious for several reasons:

Earlier, on Sunday, Rae had accidentally taken Cara’s weight pouches (they go in the BCD pockets to hold the lead), and James F had been giving her a teasingly hard time about this ever since. As we all dive with pretty much the same BCD, and thus have the same weight pouches, the only way to tell is to label them. Luckily, someone had brought along a sharpie. Then, Monday morning, one of the guys in our group had been a bit preoccupied (his wife was sick for the first couple days while we were there) and had accidentally taken and PUT ON Rae’s wetsuit. Her girl-cut, girl-colored (we get two stripes while the guys get one) wetsuit! More thief jokes. Begin cross-dressing jokes. So to take us to Three Thieves to dive was just asking for trouble!

The dive was 3 large pinnacles that we swam among. Spiraling up them was pretty cool, but swimming across the chasms between, where the bottom dropped off to 80-100 feet? Was like flying. And that, folks, is one of the many reasons I dive. It’s one of the coolest, most ever-changing experiences you can have on this planet. We found a large octopus (hopefully I’ll have some good pictures in a bit), more white tip sharks, several lobsters (mmm, lunch…), more of the swimming black-and-orange flatworms, more of the purple-and-white nudibranchs, cowrys, unicorn fish, leaf scorpionfish, lionfish, banded coral shrimp. The list just goes on and on and on.

The coolest thing by far, however, was finding the cleaner shrimp. One of the divemasters beckoned me over and showed me two little shrimp just sitting on a ledge. He gestured to them, then took a deep breathe, took out his reg, and opened his mouth near the little guys. And who would have guessed, but the hopped right in and started cleaning his teeth!!! I gave it a try afterwards. Two, actually, as the first didn’t work–I don’t think I was quite close enough to get them to jump in. But the second time was the charm–it felt sort of like having a bug walking on your arm, or grass brushing against you. Only it didn’t really tickle, and it wasn’t really a poking feeling, and it definitely wasn’t gross to think of them cleaning my teeth. I suppose it was like being very gently cleaned by little tiny shrimp. Basically. Get the idea? And it was so freaking cool! John also tried it, as did Nate. We couldn’t convince Shelly to try. Ah well.

Next, it was off to Sea Fan Coral, which had (who would have guessed?) lots of sea fans. Lionfish, black-and-orange flatworms, cowrys, a reddish lionfish (not brownish like the commons), blue ribbon eels, large anemones that would retreat upon contact. Best of all, maybe, were all the little anemones with the anemone fish. I spent a long time putting my hand out nearby them to try to get them to defend their anemone, but apparently a blue-gloved hand is just a little too threatening–they never would fight me off. They did, however, tend to attack the lens of James M’s camera when he took pictures of them, probably due to seeing their own reflections. It was pretty funny. And then on the way back, the dolphins swam by again, although they didn’t escort the boat for nearly as long.

We had the afternoon off because we were planning a night dive, and we all decided to go on the tour of the local school. We arrived while some kids were having track-and-field time (and good lord could some of those kids do the long jump!) and while the little kids were having singing time. They sang all sorts of nursery rhymes to us, both in Fijian and in English. They were impossibly adorable children, and all the little dances they did with each song was so cute. Especially when one of the songs contained the lyrics, “Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds” (and that’s it) and the dance involved making a hut shape with their hands, then mimicking wings, and finally shaking their hips hula-style. It was hi-larious! Pictures to come, I promise.

In return, we were asked to sing to them. We obliged with “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (both of which they knew better than us, it turned out) and “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” (they loved the yelling part of that one) and “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes” (Shelly did it in Japanese, which was a huge hit, and which they picked up incredibly fast) and finally “Baby Beluga”. James F led this one, and it was so fun to start to watch them copy his movements to go with the words, unintentional though they were. I love that song. We’re working on a recording (and possibly something to play it on) to send to them.

Afterwards, we took tons of pictures of them, and of us with them–they all loved being in front of the camera, and we’ve promised to send them all sorts of pictures, as well as the lyrics to the songs.

Then one of the teachers took us on a tour of their new school building, which was built with a grant from the EU and which will soon be furnished with a few computers thanks to another foreign teaching grant from some other nation. The school was so charming, and we so wanted to help in someway (computers were beyond us, although Aaron did get into a deep discussion of how to network them with one of the other teachers). We asked the teacher leading the tour for a wishlist of supplies, which she gave us–it’s things like glue and paper and notebooks and pens. All simple stuff that a lot of kids take for granted in this country. Needless to say, all of us who were on the trip and are so inclined are getting together a huge package, not only with the stuff they wanted, but lots of fun stuff too.

ADDITIONALLY (and here’s where my faith in humanity has been temporarily restored), upon hearing that several of the kids had qualified for the regional trackmeet but that the school didn’t have quite enough money to send them to the mainland, people in our group donated several hundred US dollars (so several hundred and then some Fijian dollars) to the school to ensure that these kids could go and would have water bottles and lunches and whatnot. It was such a generous outpouring, on top of volunteering all sorts of money and supplies to be sent upon our return, that I was so amazed. Truly, we had an amazing group of people go with us on this trip. I am ridiculously proud of all of them.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to linger at the school and watch more track practice as we had to get back in time to leave on the night dive. And finally, finally, we got to see the sun set into the Pacific ocean. No green flash, but reds and oranges and yellows and purples like you wouldn’t imagine. Very picturesque, with reflections all stretched out on the water and on the sky and on all the island mountains. If I could have captured even a little of perfection and essence of that scene with a camera, I would have, but I think it was just something you had to be standing their watching.

On the night dive, it was back to Pearl Reef (same place as Day 2, the infamous current dive, although it wasn’t so bad at night). We found slipper lobsters (think something that looks like the tail-end of a lobster–all plated, or possible like a horseshoe crab without the tail?), a red lionfish, more tiger cowrys–one completely out of it’s shell, more banded coral shrimp, two twin-spotted lionfish, huge clams, an undulated moray, and many sleeping fish. All you could see of these last guys was just little tail tips sticking out of rock crevices. It was very cute. Pictures to come, I promise!!

It was a pretty spectacular night dive–over an hour long, plenty to see, not too cold. The reef was a bit crowded with so many people on it, but not too bad right up until the end when we were all hanging out under the boat. James F, John and I were almost the last ones up–we debated staying down longer, but dinner awaited us when we got back and hungry stomachs won out over inquisitive diving.

And besides, after dinner and sleepy time? The shark dive!!! Like kids on the night before Christmas, we all were off to bed early to bring morning that much faster.

Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Part 1

Day 3, Monday

Monday dawned partly-cloudy and breezy, although not as bad as Saturday or Sunday morning. After a filling breakfast (the carb loading was amazing–I’ve never seen so many people eat so much toast along side their fruit and pancakes), we headed out for the first dive. While I was waiting in the shallows for the little boat to take me to the big boat, one of the divemasters that we were waiting with found a little yellow seahorse, the first I’ve ever seen in the wild. It was pretty cool, and the only one we saw the entire trip.

Soft Coral Plateau was calling our name, and was a beautiful dive site. We circled around 3 coral pinnacles that started about 80ft down in the water, going from one to the next, always sort of spiraling upwards around them. We saw four white tip sharks–a loner sleeping on the bottom, a loner swimming, and two baby-sized ones swimming together. By baby-sized, I mean 1-2ft. More lionfish were found, as was a leaf scorpion fish, a black-with-blue-dots nudibranch, a black-with-green-dots nudibranch, a black-with-orange-dots nudibranch (common theme, eh?), a pink and purple nudibranch, a free-swimming flatworm (they kind of ripple along in the water), and some crab and shrimp.

This was, hands down, the best dive for many of us in quite awhile. For about an hour.

Then we dove Glory H*ole. Yes, that was it’s name. Feel free to snicker and make side jokes. We certainly did.

This site was a large pinnacle of coral that had a swim-through (hence, the name) where you could swim into the cavern left by the coral and out the other side. That alone was pretty cool, but the huge number of lionfish, two tiger cowrys, blue ribbon eels, crabs, white-and-purple nudibranchs, flatworms, pipefish, yellow leaf scorpion fish, and the triton’s trumpet we saw easily made it the best dive by far. There was a ridiculous amount of sealife on this dive, and it was just wonderful.

Our afternoon dive was pretty pale in comparison, and happened at a spot called Ridge Reef near the resort. It had clouded over, so the dive was a bit dim, and there wasn’t much to see. A blue-spotted ray, some large sea cucumbers (we’re talking measurement in feet, not inches here) and an empty map cowry shell were about it for the dive. That cowry shell is now one of my prized possessions. It’s beautiful, and as nothing was making it a home at the time, mine!

Part of the reason the afternoon dive wasn’t great was we didn’t take the hour-ish boat ride out to the reef. And the reason for this was that the afternoon entertainment at the resort was…Firewalking!!

We heard the story of how one set of tribes on the island of Bega (there are 2 tribes in 7 villages there) was given the power to walk on fire, and then 5 guys from the nearby village came and put on a show. They used big sticks to roll the logs out of the fire, leaving behind the hot rocks. These were then arranged flat-side-up. Lots of chanting and yelling occurred. And then, one by one, they walked across the rocks. Despite the logic part of my brain wondering how fast the rocks take to cool, it was pretty neat. One of the guys was also part of the Bula Band that played at the resort each night–we got to identifiy a lot of people pretty quickly.

One of our divemasters for the week (they were incredible, best anywhere) told us he used to do the firewalking, but you have to be pure to do it, and he’d accidentally been burned a time or two. Apparently coconut is one of the things that makes you impure, and he’d had a coconut cookie on the boat between dives. He was a funny guy, very full of jokes and pranks and laughter. And a very good divemaster.

After the ceremony, happy hour rolled around, and despite seeing the Firewalking, I tried a ‘Happy Fijian’–much better than a ‘Firewalker’, although they both mostly consist of vodka or rum and lots and lots of fruit juices. The Bula Band played again as we lounged by the pool and watched the sunset, and then dinner rolled around.

I’d passed around cards for all the birthdays and anniversaries, so during dinner we handed them out to thunderous applause for each person. Made me super glad for the last-minute run to Target to make people feel good. Shelly and Aaron both had birthdays there, as did two other people, and two more celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. Awww.

Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

I leave you people alone for a week, and “Chihuahua” tops the box office?

Sheesh. That may almost be worse news than the stock market collapsing.

Almost.

Bula! Fijian for Welcome! Pronounced Boo-La.

I’m safely home with tons of stories and pictures, but I’m going to parcel it out a bit. If I write all of it at once, it’ll be way too long. And I don’t have the pictures yet, so we’ll just have to string out the story a bit, eh? All the pictures below are random ones from the internet, but I’ll post some of the ones from our group as soon as possible–John and I hardly took any pictures, but James M and Cara took millions and have said they’ll give me copies. Besides, the both have super awesome cameras compared to my little point-and-shoot.

First of all, this was easily the most amazing trip I’ve ever taken. In terms of the people we went with, the place we stayed, the diving we did, the memories we made. Incredible, all of of it.

Life may be about the journey, but this trip was all about the destination.

Day 1, Thursday-Saturday

To get there involved a shuttle van, a plane, another shuttle bus, the LAX international terminal (thank all deities that we weren’t flying Air China or Air Philippines–we never would have made it given the lines at check-in) another plane, customs and immigration, a bus, and a boat. It took, all told, from 3pm Thursday the 2nd to about noon on Saturday the 4th. Keep in mind, though, that we crossed the international dateline, and thus Friday the 4th never existed.

One of the guys on the trip had a birthday on the 4th–he didn’t age this year, we decided. All told, we had 4 birthdays and an anniversary along with us. And a new one created, but that’s a later story.

The resort, Bega Lagoon Resort, was amazing. Their website isn’t the most informative one out there, but figured I’d give you guys the link if you wanted it. Take a look at the Gallery pics. All I can say is, they don’t do it justice. And Bega is pronounced bane-ga.

They have a big open-air bure (pronounced Boo-Ray…sort of, but with a bit of a rolling of the “r”, and I guess a bit of a “u” sound in there.) for meals and get-togethers, with dining tables, the Bula Bar, and smaller and larger seating areas. Nearby is the pool and lounging area, and beyond that is a big grassy field and all the individual bures that we stayed in. John and I had our own beachfront bure with a plunge pool, hammock, and beach access. It was one of the nicest places, altogether, that I’ve ever stayed in.

And if the place was nice, the people were incredible. I’ve never been somewhere where the people were so friendly and welcoming, from the manager and his wife all the way down to kitchen and grounds staff. You couldn’t walk anywhere without a friendly “Bula!” greeting. The manager welcomed us, and then we all relaxed a bit before lunch. The food there was so amazing, it was often ridiculously hard to choose between the two lunch or dinner options. Soup, yes. Dessert, for sure. Diet, what diet?

And yes, I know I’ve got a lot of “incredibles” and “wonderfuls” and “amazings” in there, and I apologize, but I can’t think of better words. You’ll all just have to either take my word for it, or go yourselves. I encourage the latter.

The first afternoon, we went on a check-out dive on the house reef. I don’t think any of us got below 16 feet, but we saw so much that it was amazing. Christmas tree worms, anemone fish, a cowry, billions of brightly colored fish, coral of all sorts. We were out for over an hour, and although the water was a balmy 79°F, it got a bit chilly. Probably the lack of energy/sleep/food/whatever, but it was still a damn good dive. And that was just the house reef!

We spent the rest of the day lazing around by the pool, watching the sun set behind the clouds, and after dinner, most of us beat a hasty retreat to bed. Fiji is 19 hours ahead of California, or 5 hours behind it on the next day. Thus, the 7pm dinner drums? Came at midnight. And we’d all been up since 3am local time.

Day 2, Sunday

Waking up normally at 8 or so isn’t a big deal. Waking up at 6am? While on vacation? On purpose? Was actually rather nice. We weren’t facing the sunrise, but we got to watch the sky lighten over the ocean, which was amazing. The breakfast drums (yes, drums) came at 7am, providing a spread of fruit, toast, jam, juice, coffee, eggs made to your liking and either french toast or raisin pancakes. Afterwards, we loaded onto the dive boats and made for open water. Or at least, the reef in the middle of the open water. With partly sunny skies and a bit of wind, the boat was rocking around a bit and it was a relief to get off and descend into the relative calmness of the water.

Our first dive was at Shark Reef, where we were guaranteed no sharks by the divemasters. Instead, we saw cowrys, large clams, many (many) purple and white nudibranchs, crown-of-thorns starfish (a horrible creature that is destroying reef life wherever it invades), a common lionfish (I was super excited about actually seeing one, until I realized they really were fairly commonly seen), a blue ribbon eel (also fairly common, but never enough to get tired of them), and all sorts of nudibranchs and fish. After Monterey, which is fairly sparsely populated in comparison, this was like a feast for the eyes.

Next it was on to Pearl Reef. Alas, no pearls, but we did see a white tip shark and our first turtle. We also saw a swimming crinoid. These guys seem to be just little mouths and a whole bunch of legs/tentacles/appendages. They’re pretty cool to watch when they’re swimming–they sort of paddle around with all appendages at once and are very graceful. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this dive, after the shark, was the current–we spent a great deal of time swimming but going no where. Suddenly, the comments of the two guys who’d visited before but mentioned never gaining weight made a great deal more sense. We were definitely working for our dinners.

Back to shore for a shower and lunch, and then it was off to the afternoon dive at Carpet Cove, both a lovely spot for anemones and for a good wreck–a Japanese fishing trawler that sank in a storm a couple years ago. More sharks, more nudibranchs, many more fish. The low point was when James F and Cara had to call the dive–her mask strap failed, and it was her first underwater gear failure. By the time she and James had ascended and switched masks, her ears wouldn’t clear and she just couldn’t descend. It was too bad that they missed the dive, but the boat crew was made up of some really lovely guys, so I’m sure they had fun talking with them while we were all down below making bubbles.

Back on shore, there was more showering (we learned quickly to hurry back to the bure, as 17 people all showering upon the return of the dive boat took the water pressure away pretty darn quick), and more lounging by the pool. Happy hour was from 5 to 6, and there was a tasty “Firewalker” calling my name. Before dinner, we watched the sun set (again into the clouds) and listened to the Bula Band–a group of 3 or 4 (depending on the night) guitar players and singers who were wonderful. The local choir also came and sang–they recently placed 4th in a nationwide competition, and were quite good. After dinner, there was theoretically going to be a game of Killer Bunnies (see the sidebar link if you’re interested), but internal clocks began to suggest it was bedtime and most of the people in our group folded quickly. That, and we spent a lot of energy diving. And we had another 6am wake-up coming our way.

But a 6am wake isn’t so bad when you’re going to bed at 9pm, is it?

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

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