Friday, October 29, 2010

Into the Sweaty Fist

To begin...


Thailand truly has been an adventure so far. After an epic (ahem, not so much) 32-hour long trip, including 13 hours in the Seoul airport and one brief, fuzzy trip to a Buddhist temple in Seoul, we arrived in Bangkok at around 10 p.m. on Friday, October 22nd. And into the sweaty fist was a lovely 85 degrees when we landed, with more humidity than I have ever felt. My hair has been one wild ride and I don't anticipate that changing.

The first night was rather terrifying, landing among 8 million people, about 4 million of them partying in the tourist district of Bangkok, but we found a decent hostal (with A/C--and we proceeded to shiver all night) and got about 4 hours of rest thanks to jet lag.

The next day...we were off! We ran errands, got a bus ticket to get out of that city--a joint ticket, including a boat to the island Ko Tao--and began to discover how FRIENDLY everyone is here. A kid on the street led us to the tourist office, everyone wanted to discuss Schwartenegger's impact on California with my cousin, and a random teacher put us on a tuk-tuk to see the reclining Buddha, and, inexplicably, a sapphire export company. The Buddha was completely incredible, and we caught our first sights of the Thai Buddhist monks in their head-to-toe orange outfits. We also learned that they are not allowed to touch women...I'm not exactly clear what happens if they are to accidentally brush against one, but they even have spots on buses and boats to avoid this situation.

The next day, after a loooooooong overnight bus ride and a morning ferry ride (which included a stop over in Chumphon and the viewing of a truly terrifying horror movie--Orphan) we arrived at the paradise of Ko Tao Island, in the Gulf of Thailand.

For all of you lucky enough to get postcards, prepare to get realllllly jealous!

We had a perfect little bungalow over looking the beach, and it was so perfect we could even forgive the toilet, the bucket-flush kind (which is the norm here!) and the jet lag slowly began to recede.

That's it for now, folks, but stayed tuned for my REAL OCEAN diving adventures coming soon!


Saturday, October 9, 2010


Diving is one of those things I've always wanted to do...and I'm learning that a lot of those things I've always wanted to do actually terrify me on some level. I actually didn't think I would be that terrified until I started the class. Reading about all the horrible things that can happen, the scary things, while under water trusting your lungs to a fake tank of compressed air strapped onto your back, well, freaked me out.

But, as someone wise told me this week, just because you're afraid of something doesn't mean you can't do it. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't do it because of my fear--I guess that means I do have a small kernel of bravery wrapped up in my worry.
Anyway, the first class was, well, to be redundant, quite scary. I didn't expect to be so afraid and uncomfortable and panicky under that water! As a competitive swimmer for a big chunk of my life, as well as a certified lifeguard, so I'm confident in most water situations, and the fact that I wasn't expecting to be scared made it even worse.

The first day also included a lot of information, and a lot of tests. Tests on paper and underwater. My least favorite was when the instructor came by, as we were all seated underwater watching him, and took our regulator (that contraption you stick in your mouth to enable you to get air) out of our mouths and threw it behind us. Of course, it's attached to the air tank, so it's not that hard to retrieve, but I kept freaking out and inhaling water. I finally got all of the skills, including the one where our masks were ripped off (have to thank my
horrible genetic eyesight for forcing me to keep my eyes squeezed closed as I groped around for the allotted minute, to keep my contacts intact) and where we had to use our buddy's regulators.

I was fairly exhausted and scared and not sure that this was the sport for me, until the next day! It was a million times more comfortable. I was, again, surprised at how much more fun it was! The equipment wasn't as terrifying, or as awkward, and I passed all of the tests without panicking once, and I was giddy the entire time, and wished our next class wasn't a week away.
So, the moral of this story is, fear can be a guidepost. It's one of those tricky things we need to master during life: either to follow your fearful instincts or to defy them. Sometimes fear is the best warning system, sometimes it holds us back. Just another part that works so much better if it's balanced.

This small little lesson about fear has oddly helped prepare me for me trip, too. For someone who loves to travel and who is a fairly experienced traveller, I am usually quite apprehensive and anxious and well, terrified before anything trip like this. I guess it's the fear of the unknown--and for me, the lovely little hypochondriac tendencies my psyche leans toward.
I'm afraid of leaving my boyfriend, my dogs, my family, my friends, my doctors, my therapists, my JOBS, the pretty great rhythm I have here. I'm afraid of coming back and having everything be heartbreakingly different. I'm afraid of not coming back. I'm afraid of my plane pulling a 'Lost' in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and getting stuck on an island with polar bears and smoke monsters and people-snatchers (although I wouldn't be too upset if I ended up with a handsome doctor and a hot con-man fighting over me). You probably get it--I'm afraid.

But hey, it's just like strapping on a tank and submerging in the ocean--doesn't mean I won't do it. And you know what? There's a 99% chance it will be completely, totally worth it (and that 1% chance probably holds a lesson I really need to learn, even if it plain sucks).

We never know what's next, we never know when our hourglass will empty, but it truly is beautiful on
the other side
of the unknown (even at the bottom of an old pool likely filled with the pee of kids and the sweat of old men).