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We’re not quite all packed, but the laundry is done, the suitcase are full (which is no good, given the not quite packed state), our fridge is emptyish ( will be more so after James F and Cara come to dinner), and we’re almost ready to go.

We’re flying out at the crack of doom in the morning, heading to Iowa. We’ll be with my in-laws for a week, and my parents for two days when they get back from their trip to The End of The Earth. It should be a fun, if freezing, time.

My mother-in-law doesn’t have internet, so I’m guessing I’ll be out of touch for the next week or so.

So I’ll go ahead and wish all of you a Merry Christmas now. Or Happy Hanukkah or Kwanza or Dinali or whatever it is you do or don’t celebrate.

Happy Holidays to all! May you be warm and safe and happy wherever you are these holidays.

P.S. I found the superglue. 🙂

There should only be so many logical places to store superglue in our apartment.

Where ever we did so, it’s well hidden.

(Because I’m needing some warm, happy thoughts right about now, and because it’s about damn time I finished my story…)

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Part 5

Day 7, Friday

Our last morning to wake up and go diving. Sad, but part of the reason vacations are so great is that they’re different from the same old, same old, right?

It began to rain during breakfast, but being the hearty, intrepid diving souls that we were, this didn’t phase us. After all, we were headed out to intentionally get wet, right? I will admit, though, that there’s a difference to getting into the ocean and getting wet versus getting caught in a rain storm.

We boated in the opposite direction the last morning, heading to a nearby island instead of to the far side of our island, where all our previous dive sites had been. This island was a private resort, and we were going to be diving off of it for the morning.

Our first site was a place called Fantasy. Or maybe Fantasea. It was supposed to be covered in large sea fans, including some gorgonians. Indeed, there were tons of them, some bigger, or wider as the case may be, than us. It was pretty cool to swim along and look at them stretched out beside you as you passed. We also found some more “magic coral”—the stuff that changed colors if you touched it (gingerly!!). Towards the end, one of the divemasters found a tiny popcorn shrimp. While looking at it, John found several other miniature shrimp (is that possible? Smaller than what we were used to seeing, at least) nearby. The site was also covered in many beautiful red anemones, which made a splendid backdrop for all the Nemo-like clown fish. There wasn’t anything truly spectacular or outstanding that we saw at this site—nothing special like the octopus, but just a generally great site where the whole dive was entertaining and fun.

During our surface interval, we motored in towards shore and anchored there. Some of the guys from the private resort came out to hang out with our guides, and we all went off snorkeling.

The very first thing we found, or John found, was a giant scorpion fish, just sitting in a little hole in the rocks in about 10 feet of water. He looked suitably grumpy and mean, so other than diving down to view him, we mostly left him alone.

Instead, we went off to play with some of the striped black-and-white fish that were clustered on the coral heads. John dove down to grab a coconut at one point, and after we tossed it back and forth a few times, we tossed it in the ocean. To our surprise, every little stripped fish from yards around came dashing over to inspect the coconut, probably hoping it was food that had been dropped from heaven. This was repeated numerous times, right up until we had to go get on the boat again. Fun little fish games for you, I suppose.

The second dive was at a place called Golden Arches (I know, I know, bah), and it was simply fantastic. There were a huge number of swim throughs/unders/betweens in the coral, adding a sort of acrobatic atmosphere as we swam along. Many of these were decorated with all sorts of soft corals, mostly in shades of yellow (hence the ‘golden arches’–much more appropriate than in reference to a certain greasy local), hanging down towards us, making for beautifully framed views of blue ocean surrounded by hard and soft coral.

At one point, we found a hug moray, greenish-brown and speckled. He was easily over a foot, maybe two, in diameter, and probably 6-8 feet long. He was in a hole, and when the divemaster poked at him, he swam out right and John and myself! Eek! Thankfully, he took an immediate left into another hole, although this meant he disappeared and only ourselves and Nate got a good look at him. Gigantic!

Towards the end, I saw a small little octopus, about the size of my hand, come out from one whole and swim to another one. He sat at the entrance, changing colors form reddy-brown to rock-colored, but as soon as I tried to get John’s attention, he ducked off into the hole, never to be seen again. But! I spotted my first octopus by myself!

At the end of the dive, as we hung out on top of the coral head, it was funny to watch all the bubbles filter up through the rock. They were from our out-breaths when we’d been going through the swim-throughs below, and were taking their sweet time to filter up and out towards the surface. Pretty cool.

About the time we started to head for the anchor line to ascend, it occurred to me I was getting out of the water for the last time. I signalled “tear” to John, and waved good-bye to the reef. Sad times, but some of the best diving I’ve done in my entire life. And hey, we’ll be back.

On the way back to the resort, it was commonly agreed that these two sites were two of the best of the whole week, along with Three Thieves and Glory H*ole. Not that any of the dives was “eh”, but these four were even better than the rest. I highly recommend them to anyone heading there!

We spent a lazy afternoon swimming in the pool or reading in the lounge chairs. The rain in the morning had disappeared while we’d been on our first dive, and it was bright and sunny and warm—perfect lounging weather. John and I did head off at one point to do some packing and to lay out all the wet dive gear in the hopes that the sun would dry it before we had to pack it home.

There had been an afternoon activity of traditional Fijian cooking lessons, which we didn’t attend (too drawn to doing nothing at that point), but we did get to partake of the food afterwards, and I have to say, I’ve never had such delicious fish in my entire life. Apparently all you have to do is soak it in coconut milk, wrap it in leaves, and cook it in a pit in the ground for a couple of hours. Delicious!

In the evening, just before dinner, we had a Meke Night. Many of the resort workers, as well as a number of the local villagers, came and sang and danced for us. The women did a traditional song and hand dance routine, the children all sang for us, and the boys did a dance with spears, which was way cool. It created a very party-like atmosphere, which pretty much banished the “how sad, we’re leaving” mentality. The school teacher that we’d met on our tour was there, and we were able to give her an envelope with the money we’d collected for the track meet that the kids were going to, and her gratitude and thanks were very touching–it made us feel like we’d really made a difference. At dinner, the chef outdid her self, and we all gave her a round of applause when she came out to wish us well on our trip home. A beautiful last day of diving and a beautiful and tasty last night to remember our trip by.

Day 8, Saturday-Saturday

We woke to have our last fresh fruit and toast and pancakes with our resort friends on Saturday morning. It was drizzling a bit, befitting our mood, but the food was as tasty as ever. After the boats were loaded with our luggage, it was time to say goodbye. In particular, one of the waitress came to say goodbye to me—we’d become friends over the week—and I nearly cried. That’s how warm and friendly these peole were! The people at the resort came and serenaded us as we headed off to the boat, just as they had when we arrived. Cara did cry then, and I definitely teared up. The boat and bus ride back to the mainland were somewhat subdued, but we still talked and joked along the way.

Back in Nadi, we all had day rooms rented for the six hours before we headed to the airport. Nate, Shelly, Rae, Aaron, John and I got a cab to one of the shopping centers, where we did some last-minute souvenir shopping and sat around with our last fruity cocktails of the trip. Then it was off to the airport to catch our 11pm flight home to LA, where we arrived approximately 10 hours before we left, at 1pm. By 6pm, we were back home in our own little house, suitcases full of dirty clothes and damp dive gear, and greeted by the general disdain of our cats, who were not impressed with our prolonged absence.

However, there’s something to be said from coming home from a trip and being in your own house in your own bed. Lovely.

And all in all, by far the best diving I’ve ever done, and in general, the best trip I’ve ever been on with some of the best people I’ve ever traveled with.

The only real, true downside? Never, not once, did I see a sea snake. All that therapy, all that preparation, and I’ve got no idea how well it worked. Oh well, there’s always next year!

To quote James F upon arriving home: We need to do this more often–this traveling together thing.

James? We’re all coming on your honeymoon when you go back, dude. Hope you don’t mind!

I’m having trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year. Not that I’m not excited, but I’m not. Not really. And I think I used up all my useless posting ideas with NaBloPoMo. Ba humbug.

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that my parents just left for the distant reaches of the planet, shepherding a bunch of college students, and won’t be back until the 30th. Christmas is just going to have to wait.

They’ve done this several times in the past, and this is the second time they’ve missed Christmas, but it’s a bit depressing.

Yes, we’re going home. Yes, Amy will be there. Yes, we’ll be with John’s family until my parents get back into town.

Right up until we fly home on the 2nd. Thus, I effectively get two full days with my parents. And of course Northwest wanted an exorbitant sum to change my ticket after my parent’s tickets got changed to come back later.

Ba humbug.

A number of years ago, a book was written by two of the men who fought alongside my maternal grandfather in the European theater in WWII. The book details a number of heroic deeds by my grandfather, and opened to me a whole different side to him–he never talked about the war, and this book was the only way to really know anything about his experiences.

I became fairly interested in WWII history, especially the personal accounts written by so many people who fought in it, like the authors of the book my grandfather is in. Since then, I’ve read a number of books, mostly about the European theater.

My other grandfather fought in the Pacific theater, and it left a lasting impression on him that manifests itself in countless small ways, as I’m sure it did for everyone at the time. He doesn’t talk about it much, but will mention things from time to time, so most of what I know about his experience is snippets of conversation.

In any case, I’ve always been thankful for whatever circumstances allowed both these men to survive, and to go on to father my parents. It’s sort of one of those things where you wonder how different the world would have been if a bullet had been an inch to the left or right. Regardless, things happened as they did, and I’m here today.

So is John.

His maternal grandmother’s brother was stationed in Pearl Harbor, and is entombed on the USS Arizona.

When we choose our honeymoon location years ago, that was a top reason to pick Hawaii–he’d never been, and we both wanted to go. Visiting the memorials was one of the first things we did upon arriving in Oahu.

When we went to the Arizona memorial itself, we spent a long time just standing and looking at his name on the wall, and I remember crying for this man that I would never know, who I was only connected to now, so many years later. The experience would have felt personal regardless, but to stand there and look at his name carved into the wall, to know that we stood above his final resting place, and those of over a thousand of his shipmates, was sobering, to say the least.

I respect those who can’t forgive, although I wish they could, but so long as we never forget, I have hope that today will never been doomed to repeat itself.

Remember the diver who was in the accident almost three weeks ago?

Well, after two weeks of absolutely no good news, it’s now looking like the diver might possibly probably maybe be okay.

I can’t think of a better (almost) Holiday Miracle for the diver, the family, and all the people involved, as well as all of those of us in the dive community who have been worrying and hoping.

Thank God!

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