Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quick Hits vol. 3

Just a few thoughts for today.

1. The weather on the East Coast is really messing with my baseball viewing/listening. It's irritating. The rain needs to stop. I was looking forward to hours upon hours of Twins baseball today because of the double header. Someone needs to build an ark the size of a baseball field with a retractable roof. That shouldn't be that hard.

2. If you're looking for some interesting reading check out I find at least a couple of articles there each day that blow my mind. I just finished reading an interview of Gary Schwitzer regarding the media's coverage of health care issues. I didn't even realize that it was an interesting topic until I read the interview. Worth five minutes of your day for sure.

3. We're supposed to go out on the pontoon again this weekend with Navy peeps. Last time we had crummy weather and had to abort our day of fun. Now it looks like we might have crummy weather again. Seriously??? This is Hawaii. I'm disappointed in this state.

4. Here's me and a wallaby in Australia:

5. There are waaaaay too many things on the internet that distract me from work. Unbelievable. I'm sort of ashamed of myself. But then I find something that amuses me and the shame vanishes.

6. I have desperately wanted to bake cookies for two weeks, but the guys have their Physical Readiness Test (PRT) on Friday and I have been instructed not to introduce baked goods into Zac's office until after the completion of the test.

7. Here's Zac feeding the dolphins in Australia:

8. Here's a koala, doing what koalas do. Eating eucalyptus.

9. Oh my goodness! They're showing the Gopher v. Badger softball double header on BTN right now! Sorry baseball, you've failed me. It's all about fastpitch today. Most excellent! (My only gripe about college softball? Lately I've seen more and more players wearing crazy eye black, like they're trying to be John Randle. I think it's rather silly. If you're going to use it, put a two inch streak under each eye and leave it alone. You're not Polynesian warriors.)

10. I want to be Michele Tafoya or Marney Gellner when I grow up.

11. A Gopher just crushed a homerun. The audio caught the MN bench cheering, "Ya, you betcha!" I love it. Classic.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lincoln and his rake

That's a little man, with a little rake, and a lot of leaves. Supremely cute.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Scuba isn't quite my thing, yet

I now have four scuba dives under my belt. Well, three and a half, anyway.

Let me back up a month or so ago. Bernadette mentioned something about her and her husband taking scuba lessons. [Speaking of her husband, have I given him a code name yet? I don't think so. I just asked Zac for a suggestion. He has dubbed Bernadette's husband "Ken".] Ok, so Bernadette and Ken were interested in scuba certification. I mentioned it to Zac in passing and think we both spent about 30 seconds discussing that it sounded kind of interesting but we left it at that. We had Australia to plan for and it wasn't on our radar for the foreseeable future.

On Saturday, Ken sent Zac a text asking if we were interested in taking the scuba course that started on Monday night. It turns out that Bernadette and Ken were the only two people who had signed up for the class and they wanted company. Zac and I talked about it and even though it was short notice, it sounded like fun. On Sunday we met up with Bernadette and Ken for lunch and after talking about it, Zac and I ran over to Ocean Concepts to sign up for the class. I also had to get scuba fins and scuba boot for the class, as I didn't have these things already. So after dropping a wad of cash, Zac and I headed home and spent Sunday night cramming for Monday night's class. We made it through three chapters of the book and were looking forward to Monday night and our first taste of scuba.

I should take this moment to mention that our scuba instructor is a Navy guy who works with Zac and Ken. The fact that he was teaching the course is one of the main reasons I was comfortable with joining the class. Even though I didn't know him very well beforehand, I figured that since he works every day with Ken and Zac that he'd do right by us and make us feel comfortable.

Monday night we spent some time in the classroom and then it was off to the pool to get into the water for the first time. Monday night was fun. I left feeling positive, like this scuba thing was something I might be able to handle.

Monday's result: Optimistic. Positive.

Tuesday night we were exclusively in the classroom, which I'm always a fan of. Yay school!

Tuesday's result: Optimistic. Positive.

Wednesday we were exclusively in the pool. And it sucked. I was miserable. I couldn't control my buoyancy and almost had a panic attack when I performed one of the skills. The skill I fumbled was the one where we have to take our masks off underwater, breathe for a minute using our regulators, put our masks back on, and then clear our masks of the water that was in them. I took my mask off and tried to focus on breathing so I could calm myself down. But the bubbles you exhale go up, by your nose, and if you don't tip your head back a little, the bubbles go up your nose, causing problems. Just when the bubbles started bothering me, the instructor tapped my arm to tell me to put my mask back on. Thank god. So I struggled to put my mask on, but I couldn't get it on. I was bouncing around on the bottom of the pool, eyes closed, trying to put on a mask and I started to panic. I started breathing rapidly and I couldn't slow myself down. I actually thought for a moment, "*&%$# this. I'm getting out of this pool and not coming back."

Just then I got my mask on. I thought to myself, "Ok, I know how to clear this." I cleared it a couple of times, but I was still nervous to open my eyes since I couldn't tell if water was still in my mask. I was worried that if I opened my eyes and it was still flooded that I might freak out again. I slowly opened them and was happy to see that my mask was clear. I managed to survive the rest of class, but I still felt awkward and unbalanced in the water. I couldn't use my fins correctly, and I couldn't figure out how to move my body correctly. I finished the class pissed off and crabby.

Wednesday's results: Dejected. Pissed. Unhappy. Pessimistic.

Thursday we had no class, but Friday was our final exam and last pool exercise. I was strangely calmed by the final exam. I would have scored a 100% on the test, but I misread an easy question and go it wrong, resulting in 98%. I loved the test. I can do tests. I can do books. I can do studying and theory and all that academic stuff. That doesn't translate to doing many times. I'm better at the books, but Zac is by far better at the diving. So while I felt good about the exam, my stress level rocketed as we got up to the pool. I wasn't looking forward to it at all. I had spoken to Bernadette early that day and she had some of the same feeling about Wednesday as I did, so at least I felt like I had someone there to commiserate with.

Friday night we did some more skills and for the first time I was able to get my buoyancy a little bit under control. I started having major issues with my mask, however. I bought the mask as part of a snorkel kit when we first got here and it has served me well for that task. But for scuba I had been having some issues with it flooding and fogging up. Especially after I got my hair cut in the middle of the week, the mask didn't seem to fit me. I had to surface a couple of times to try and get it fixed. But, overall, the class was okay. I felt better than I did at the end of Wednesday for sure, so I started prepping myself mentally for our first ocean dives the next day.

Friday's results: Cautious. Anxious. But better than Wednesday.

Saturday we did two shore dive from Electric Beach. A shore dive is where you wade into the water with your scuba gear on and swim out to what you want to see. I was nervous, but excited. I wanted to see how it was being in salt water versus the fresh water in the pool. We put on our gear, which is *$%#@!! heavy when you're walking on sand, and waded out to put on our fins. First thing. There were waves. Which kicked my butt. It took more than a couple minutes to get my fins on because I had to keep ducking under waves. Eventually we all got our gear on and headed out to open water. My mask was driving me nuts. It kept fogging up. And leaking a little. It got to the point where I was relying on one clear spot on my right lens that was clear enough for me to see what was going on. I know I missed a lot of fish and scenery because I had no ability to look around. (Plus it's hard to be into sight seeing when you're under 25 feet of ocean for the first time. At least I had a hard time.)

I wasn't having a great time. I was crabby. I was still having a hard time with my buoyancy. So much so that the instructor actually had to put rocks in my pocket to give me some more weight. Between the current and the waves I was pretty tired when I got back to shore. Oh yeah, had to fight the waves to get out. And then you realize how tired you are and how heavy the gear is and you try to walk through the sand and UGH. No fun. When we got back up to the pavilion to change out our tanks, I realized that Bernadette wasn't doing too well. The waves had really made her sea sick. She's been having some inner ear issues and the ocean wasn't helping her out that day. She decided that she couldn't go back out for the second dive. I considered staying back too. I wasn't having fun. My mask sucked. I still wasn't "feeling" it.

After resting for awhile I decided that I'd give it another go. Our instructor offered me a different mask that had a smaller profile(?). Essentially the mask is smaller in that there is less volume around your eyes, which is nice for clearing because it doesn't take as long. I thought, what the heck, so on our second trip out I tried it out.

We got back into the water and the mask worked great. A lot better. And because I started the dive with the rocks in my pockets I was more in control of my buoyancy from the word go. We moved around the reef and did some skills. I made it through the skills with no real issues and the rest of the second dive was pretty uneventful. We did see a sea turtle cruise by. That was pretty neat. We got out of the water, brought the gear back to the shop, rinsed everything off and grilled up some burgers and hot dogs. I was exhausted, but feeling okay. Sunday would bring two more dives, this time off a boat, into deeper water. I was okay with the prospect, but was disappointed to learn that Bernadette couldn't come along on the boat if she wasn't going to dive. Yes, Zac was technically my diving buddy, but Bernadette is my partner in misery. Her absence was a blow.

Zac and I got home, decided to go to a movie, and then collapsed on the couch and slept for two hours. Sometimes that just happens.

Saturday's results: Better. I might be starting to like it. It was pretty cool to get up close to the reef and the fish.

I was smart Saturday night and took some motion sickness medication before I went to bed. Then I took another dose in the morning on the way to the harbor. Why? Because I get motion sick driving to the grocery store sometimes. I wasn't going to risk having a crappy day in case the rocking of the boat got to me. We climbed on board and headed out to some place on the west coast of Oahu where some pieces of an airplane had been sunk to create an artificial reef. We were going to be going down to 60 feet. I was nervous. Not overly nervous, but nervous. There were two groups on the boat - our class with our instructor, and a group of regular divers who were just there for fun with a dive leader from Ocean Concept. The dive leader and our instructor were unhappy that there was such a strong current. At that point I should have figured that it was going to be a rough go.

After being briefed about what were going to do in the water, we all hopped in. We followed a rope down into the ocean to help us descend slowly and to try and get below the current. The current was STRONG. I have never felt anything like it. Usually when the current is strong at the surface, it lessens when you get down lower. That didn't happen this time. I was the last in our class down the rope. I was having a hard time going down, fighting the current that wanted to push me up, and I was having some trouble getting my ears to "equalize" or pop. Finally I got to the bottom and the guys started to swim into the current. That's what you're supposed to do on a dive, swim against the current to start with, so you can swim with the current on your way back when you're tired.

I started to follow. But I couldn't. I was swimming in place. My legs were moving, churning behind me but I was motionless. I tried kicking a little harder. Nothing. Now I was starting to worry because I could see the guys ahead of me (the instructor, Ken, Ken's diving partner Tim, and Zac) getting farther away. I knew if I started kicking really hard I was going to wear myself out. I was already breathing hard. Tim looked back and saw me. He came back, took my arm and the two of us kicked together to catch up to the group. Once we caught up were were supposed to do the skill where you fill your mask and then clear it. I was bobbing around, trying my damnedest to stay with them. When it came to be my turn the instructor faced me and gave me the signal to begin. I tried filling up my mask, but I was so tired that something went wrong. I breathed some water in through my nose. I started to choke and cough. Violently.

This is probably where I should share some scuba knowledge with you. One, regulators (the things you breath with) are amazing. They clear (get rid of water) really easily and it is not hard to breathe from them. You can cough in them, vomit in them, it doesn't matter. You will still be able to breathe. It's really remarkable. If you start coughing when you have your regulator in, you just want to put your hand over it so you don't accidentally spit it out when you're coughing. Also, 60 feet is the deepest you can go without worrying about the bends coming up. (That is if you're coming up without stopping, say, in an emergency.)

So I'm at 60 feet. And I'm coughing violently. And while I'm getting plenty of air, I can't get the water out of my lungs. I just feel the gurgling.

And I panicked.

Just panicked.

I started to hyperventilate. I could hear myself screaming in my head, "Slow steady breaths. SLOW STEADY BREATHS!" I put my hand over my regulator like I learned. But while I've been able to calm myself before, this time I couldn't do it. That's when I really began to lose it. When I realized I couldn't calm down . . . that's what scared me the most. I've never had an anxiety attack. I've never felt so out of control of my own body. I was terrified. So I breathed even faster. My heart felt like it was going to explode. I couldn't get it together.

The instructor had grabbed me by the front of my vest. He looked me square in the eye, trying to calm me down. And even though my brain was screaming, "HE IS NOT GOING TO LET YOU DIE. YOU ARE FINE. YOU ARE BREATHING. CALM THE FUCK DOWN" it didn't matter. I gave the thumbs up sign which means I wanted to surface. My mouth was dry, I couldn't swallow. I was still coughing and I couldn't do anything. I didn't even know if I could make it to the surface without . . . I don't even know. I just felt like I couldn't even get to the surface.

The instructor gave me the sign that we were going to ascend but we can't just shoot out of the water. Even though we were at a safe depth, if you can slow down your ascent, you should. And the instructor knew that I was breathing. Too fast, yes, but breathing. Unconscious would have been another story. As we went up I could see the surface of the water. It seemed so far away. And I started breathing faster (if that was even possible) the closer we got. I wanted to take off my mask. I wanted to breathe. Please just get me up.

Finally. Gasp. Choke. Cough. Gasp. "Just breathe, Kate. Just breathe, you're okay. We're going to get you back on the boat." The instructor was calming me as he signaled to the boat. The captain of the boat tossed out a line and the instructor and I tried kicking together to get back to the boat. But now we were down current from the ship and we were having a heckuva time getting back. The captain had to pull us back in, with us kicking, to get us to the boat. Once we got there, the instructor made sure I was on the boat safely and then went back to get the other three in our group. I made it onto the boat and with shaky legs walked over to my spot where my gear was. The captain was talking to me calmly. "Drink some water. Get that salty taste out of your mouth. It will make you feel better. Don't worry - you're not the first person this has happened to and you won't be the last. The current was a bitch today. It's tough for anyone to swim in that." I appreciated the fact that while he was consoling me, he didn't come off like he was babying me.

Then the tears started. Hot, salty tears, running down a hot salty face. Sea water and snot dripped out my nose.

The fear was gone. The fear was actually gone as soon as I made it to the surface. Now I was mad. Disappointed. Frustrated. Pissed off. Embarrassed. I knew what I needed to do down there, and I couldn't do it. And then it dawned on me that because I needed to be rescued that there were three students down there without an instructor. And then I started to worry. And the guilt. What if the instructor couldn't find them? Would they be able to safely ascend in the current without them? Did I put them in danger because I screwed up?

More tears. Then I saw all four head pop out of the water. Relief. And then shame. I couldn't even look at them. (Which is hard on our boat because there's really no place else to look.) The guys were good about not talking to me about it. No, "Ohmigosh are you okay?" I didn't want them to talk to me. Zac gave me a look to make sure I was okay, but I couldn't really say anything to him. Finally someone cracked a joke, a little joke, to try and test the waters to see how I'd react. I gave a wise ass response and things were fine. The instructor called me out to the front of the boat where we sat down to talk about what happened.

He was great. Honestly, the instructor was really great. He had me tell him what happened. He explained what he was trying to do for me down there. He assured me that I wasn't a total screw up and that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. We talked for a few minutes and he left me to cool off a little more. I choked out a "Thank you, Caz" as he walked to the back of the boat before I dissolved into more tears.

I pulled myself together and moved to the rear of the ship with everyone else. We were going to spend an hour on the boat, having lunch and such and then move to another dive location. The instructor looked at me and asked, "Are you going to go again?" I nodded yes. "Good girl," he said. Patronizing? No. It was what I needed to hear. As we approached the next dive spot I put on my gear slowly. I was scared. I didn't want to freak out again. What if I spazzed out when I first jumped in? When the boat anchored I knew it was go time. If I didn't go in now, I'd never scuba again. I didn't want to fail a second time in the same day.

Gear on.

Move to the edge of the boat.

Toes all the way to the edge.

Regulator in my mouth. Mask on.

One big step into the water. One big step.


As soon as I hit the water I could tell that there was no current. It was easy to move. So far, so good. We made our way down the rope into the water. I was shaking, I'm sure, but slowly, hand over hand I made my way down the rope. Then about half way down, I couldn't get my left ear to pop. It hurt. A lot. I moved up a few feet. Nope. Can't get it to pop. Damn it! I am not going to be cheated out of this dive because of my ear! Finally it popped. I moved down the rope but I must have seemed tentative to let go because the instructor came over and took my hand and had me swim down the last 20 feet with him. I focused on breathing. In. Out. Slow. And steady. In. Out.

We were at 60 feet again. The water was crystal clear and for the first time I thought, "Jeez, it really is pretty down here. Peaceful." We swam around for about 15-20 minutes. I felt good. I felt in control. I was moving around, well, not gracefully, but I was moving. And I was enjoying myself. We got to a spot where we stopped where we had to do one last skill. It was the one where you take your mask off and then put it back on. You remember this one? The one that I had the most trouble with in the pool? But we had to do it. My heart started pounding.

Zac did it first. The instructor turned to me. He held onto the front of my vest, just so I wouldn't move around when I was using both hand to put the mask on. He gave me the signal to procede. I breathed. I put my hands up to my mask. And froze. I took a couple breaths. Hands back up. Stop. No, I wasn't ready. I think I did that about five times. I'm gonna do it - no, I'm not gonna do it. Finally I just thought, I can do this. I've done it before. I'm going to do it again.


Eyes closed.

Mask off.

Cold water hitting my eyelids.

Breathe, Kate. Breathe.

Time to put the mask back on.

Mask on.

Now you have to clear it.

Inhale through your mouth,

eeexxxxxxxhhhhhhaaaaaale out your nose.

Inhale though your mouth,

eeexxxxxxxhhhhhhaaaaaale out your nose.

Moment of truth. Open my eyes. Slowly.

There's the instructor. Smiling at me. He applauds. I almost laugh. He signals, "Ok?" I signal, "Ok."

I can't tell you happy I was. Elated. I did it. I conquered the fear and did it. We dove for another 10 minutes and then headed back to the boat. We stopped at 15 feet, like we were supposed to the first time, for a safety stop and then climbed back up on the boat. After getting my gear off I went and sat on the front of the boat again. The waves were rocking the boat and the breeze on the front made it more bearable. The dive leader from the other group came out for a few minutes to talk to me. "Was the second dive better?" she asked. "Yes," I said. "Much." She seemed pleased and told me that it just takes time.

I could have quit at a number of points. Wednesday night, Saturday afternoon. After Sunday's first dive. But I didn't. I stuck with it. That's not always my strong suit. I was proud of myself. I felt like I acheieved something that day. I stayed out on the front of the boat for a long while. There was the Waianae coast behind me, a big beautiful sun up the sky and water and sky that stretched to the horizon. And it was good.

And yes, even with the screw up, I passed. I'm a certified diver now. A very humble, cautious, but optimistic diver.

Sunday's results: One of the worst moments of my life. One of the best moments of my life. Happy. Proud.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A break from the Australia entries

I haven't had a whiny, moody blog entry in awhile and I feel like doing one this morning. I'm just homesick today. I miss my sister. And my parents. And Lincoln and Paul. And Sharon. And softball. And tulips coming up from the ground. And the smell of snow melting. And the sight of grass growing. And the thrill of being able to be outside without a coat for the first time in four or five months. I miss my friends. I miss being able to talk to everyone when I want to, without having to factor in five hours of time zones.

It's an accumulation of a couple of things. The first thing actually happened in Australia. I was writing a postcard to my parents. As I was writing it I started to write about how I had taken a ton of photos and then I started to write something to the effect of, "We'll have to have a Sunday Dinner when I get back so I can show them to you." You see, back in MN, my folks, Megan and Paul (and Lincoln) and I would get together for supper maybe once or twice on month. And when I was writing the postcard, for a moment, it didn't even dawn on me that I'd be returning "home" to Hawaii, and not "home" to MN.

Once I realized what I was writing, I crossed it out and made it into some sort of statement about getting together on a Sunday via webcam and Skype. But I was surprised that even though I've been in Hawaii for more than six months, my subconscious brain thought I was going "home" home. As I thought about it, I realized that I had no idea when I'd be going back to MN again, to see people. To tell them, in person, what's going on. I've never gone on a vacation where I didn't come home and show my friends and family photos or get together to tell them about what all I had done.

What else? One of the guys Zac works with is going IA. (Individual Augment.) In crass terms it mean that they spend a year playing 'soldier' in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army guys are getting worn out and they've been training and cycling in Navy guys to help relieve some of that stress. They call it "boots on the ground." Sometimes IA is voluntary, sometimes it isn't. The guy Zac works with volunteered for an IA, so it didn't come as a total surprise when they called him up to tell him he's going to be leaving in May. Zac's coworker is married. No kids. I know his wife and like her a lot. We have quite a few things in common. And I like to think I can sympathize with some of the feelings she's experiencing right now. There's that rational part of your brain fighting against your emotional part.

What does this have to do with me? Well, Zac and I were talking about this last night. About IAs, sailors, spouses, the person who stays, the person who goes. The whole conversation just reminded me that while I love my husband, I don't love the military life. Not one bit. I'm not ashamed to say that and I'd say it in person if you asked. I respect and admire our service members and their families for what they do, but this is not the life I would chose for myself or my future children if I was just picking off a list. If I could have Zac without the Navy I would do it in a heartbeat. The only reason, the only reason, I'm here on this island is because I love Zac. Talking about it made me think about the constant state of the unknown that comes with this life. And it made me really miss the "known".

I talked to Megan yesterday on the phone too. I heard about all the stuff I'm missing with Lincoln, with softball. I used to be at her house practically every other day. During softball I'd see her every day. Now it's a phone call once a week or so. Not as good as sitting on her couch eating ice cream with her and Paul. And I got an e-mail from Mom this morning talking about tulips coming up in the garden, her work, Easter dinner plans, normal "known" stuff. Combine that with a gloomy, gray sky today and it adds up to a blue morning. Luckily Bernadette is coming over in a few minutes so we can go watch a friend compete in a bowling tournament. And hey, who doesn't love bowling?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Captain James Cook - the tie that binds

Captain James Cook. English explorer, navigator and cartographer. I had heard of him before I moved to Hawaii, but never knew much about him. He was one of those names that might have popped up three or four times over my 20 years of schooling. I think I knew he had discovered Australia, but that was about it. When we moved to Hawaii we bought a copy of Hawaii The Big Island Revealed for our trips over to the Big Island. (Off topic: All of the books in this series are terrific. I wish the authors did more than just the Hawaiian islands.) Revealed spends quite a bit of time talking about Captain Cook and his interactions with the Hawaiians he encountered in the 1770s. It didn't take long to learn that Captain Cook is an important historical figure in Hawaiian, English and Australian history.

Wait! Australia, you say? It just so happens that we were just there . . .

Here's Zac, standing in front of Captain Cook's statue in Hyde Park in downtown Sydney. On the base of the statue is his name, his date of birth, his major achievements, and his date of death. His death occurred on the island of:

If you're not familiar with Owhyhee, maybe this map of the Sandwich Islands helps:
Yup. There's Owhyhee, aka Hawaii's Big Island. Nine years after being the first European voyager to set eyes on Australia, Captain Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay. I've been to the site twice. (The snorkeling is great.) The story of Captain Cook's life, and demise, is pretty interesting so Zac and I were excited to get the chance to learn a little more about our good Captain while in Australia by going to the National Maritime Museum in Sydney. There we took a tour of a replica of Cook's ship HM Bark Endeavor, the last ship he commanded.
There she is, floating in Darling Harbour. It's a beautiful ship, and sea worthy. Yes, it's a replica, but it is an exact replica and pretty impressive in it's own right. This ship has been on trips to England and around Australia with volunteers sailing it. Maybe not how I'd want to spend a vacation, but to each their own.
Between our tour of the Endeavor and our recent watching of "Master and Commander" I think Zac is grateful that he's a sailor in the 2000s rather than the 1700s or 1800s. You can't really see it in this photo, but the toilets on board this vessel are a couple of wooden boards that hang over the bow of the ship that have a just-smaller-than-butt-sized hole cut into them. I didn't see a toilet paper dispenser anywhere. Yes, I'm pretty sure Zac is happy to be a sailor nowadays.
This is the area below deck where the crew ate and slept. At this point in the ship the ceiling is about six feet. There was a big wood stove where the cook could work his magic and then the crew would eat at the tables on the right. The frayed rope hanging up acted as napkins to wipe off their hands after eating. After all, no one wants pig grease on the ropes above-deck. When it was time to sleep, each member of the crew had a hammock that hung from the ceiling. When the hammocks weren't in use they were tied up to the rafters; at night they let them down and rocked themselves to sleep. In the whole 14" of shoulder-room they were given.
This is where the Marines slept. The Endeavor wasn't a war ship, she was on an exploratory mission, but she did have Marines on board as most vessels did in the day. The Marines slept between the crew and the officers to make sure nothing funny happened to the folks in charge. They also stood watch at the captain's quarters and at the magazine, where they stored gunpowder and such. As you can see, we went from 6 feet of clearance to about four. That's because the floor Zac is standing on was added after the ship was built. Originally the Endeavor was to haul coal below deck in a big, empty area. When they decided to take her out exploring they retro-fitted her with the living/sleeping area below deck. The result was enough headroom at the front and back of the ship, but in the middle you had to be careful about knocking yourself out. Again, oddly, I didn't feel to cramped. Suddenly being strong, healthy and tall doesn't sound so appealing, eh?
Moving through the ship we came to the officer's mess area, where they ate. It was nice and airy as there is a skylight right above the table. Again, I can't help but feel like they made this ship for me. Low ceilings, little doors, chairs where my feet can touch the groud. The short shall reign supreme!
This was Mr. Banks' cabin. He was the naturalist on board. (What a great job title - "What do you do for a living?" "Oh, I'm a naturalist.") He got the best cabin of the officers, even nicer than Captain Cook's. It looks much more comfortable than a 14"-wide hammock below deck.
This is the Great Cabin, where the captain, the naturalist, the astronomer, the botanist and other officers could do their work. It was really quite a nice room to be in, with windows that could be opened and the ability for tall people to stand up.

Here's me, thinking that perhaps steering my Escape Hybrid is a little easier than the Endeavor.

So, class, here ends our lesson on Captain Cook and the HM Bank Endeavor. The Wikipedia article about the ship is really quite interesting if you find yourself looking for something to do. Or, if you're thinking that roaming the seas on a ship like this looks like fun, check out the National Maritime Museum's page to see how you can spend your next vacation playing sailor.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Back from Down Under

After a number of hours in airports and on planes, Zac and I have made it back to Hawaii. I'm sure you've missed me. :)

Australia was fantastic. Amazing. Fascinating. Delightful. Exciting. I could rave about it for days. At the very least I'll probably rave about it for at least a few blog entries. I suppose I could group my entries by topic, like scenery, wildlife, activities, observations, or I could go the route of chronologically retelling the story of our trip.

One thing I'd like to mention before I start, just because it might be important later to my recollection skills: Once upon a time my parents took my sister and I on a trip to Europe. Before we left my parents bought each of us a blank journal and required us to write in it each day while we were traveling. It was a great idea and it's something that I continued for every major trip I've been on since then. This time around I again bought myself a nice, new journal, excited about recording my adventures in Australia.

Except this time I was terrible at writing in it. I'm so disappointed in myself. I only have entries maybe every third day, and then when I do have entries I'm trying desperately to go back and cover things I wanted to address but didn't. It's a right mess. This trip was just different. I think it's because I have different right-before-bed habits. On all my other trips, I'd get ready for bed, write for 20-30 minutes and then turn out the light. On this trip I was with Zac and as is usual for us at home, after getting into bed we'd sit and talk for a good long while before drifting off to sleep. I just never got into the routine.

I only say this because I was thinking of using my journal as a cheat-sheet of sorts for blogging when I got back. And now my notes are poor so my blogs might seem a little out of order. Forgive me if I seem to skip around chaotically or if I get my days wrong.

Let's get this show going:

We got to Sydney in the evening and the next morning we had booked a bus tour of the city. We figured it made sense to get a feel for the lay of the land as soon as possible so even though we were pretty tired from travelling the day before (10 + hour flight from Honolulu) we were up bright and early to be driven around the Sydney area. It was a good decision, as we were able to make well-informed decisions about distance and time of visiting locations based on what we learned on the trip.

After the city tour wrapped up we went on a tour of the Sydney Opera House. It was really interesting. Yes, the building was grossly overdue and over budget, but I heard something in one of the videos that we were shown that rung true: There are few other buildings in the world that are as widely recognized as the Sydney Opera House. And really, it is stunning. Yes, it photographs well from afar, but up close it is astonishingly beautiful.
I'm not a architecture scholar, but the lines, the arcs, the materials, they all work so well together that it's mesmerizing. One thing I didn't know until I got up close to the Opera House is that the those big white "sails" that you see are actually intricately laid tiles of two different colors and textures.
Inside is just as pretty as the outside.

While we were at the Opera House we picked up our ticket to Madame Butterfly. We had ordered them online before we left. Yes, Zac was willing to go to the opera. To be totally honest, it was his idea for us to go. He figured it would be something that I would enjoy. Awww. How sweet is that? We picked up our tickets and about five days later we were back at the Opera House decked out to enjoy our first opera together.

The opera was great. It was visually stunning and it just flew by. Yes, I had a hard time empathizing with Butterfly, but that was mainly because I kept forgetting she was supposed to be 15 years old at the beginning of the story. Over all it seemed really well done, and it was the last night of the show so everyone in the audience gave the cast a very long, very enthusiastic send off to a standing ovation. It was a very good night.