Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back from the Big Island, vol. 1

Zac, Bernadette, Ken and I were on the Big Island from Wednesday to Sunday and now that I've had a day to recover I finally have some energy to recap the trip. It was a great trip. It's always a good sign when you can travel with friends and everyone comes home still speaking to each other. We arrived Wednesday morning and spent the afternoon snorkeling at the Place of Refuge. It was a little strange moving from scuba diving back to snorkeling. I kept thinking, "I wish I could get closer to all that cool stuff down there."

At once point I realized that Bernadette and I were about 100 yards from shore. (Maybe. I'm terrible at estimating distance.) We were pretty far out anyhow. And yet I wasn't panicked at all. 1.) There was no current or waves, 2.) I was wearing my diving fins, so it was easy to swim, 3.) The water was really clear, which somehow calms me, 4.) I felt light as a feather because usually when I'm in the ocean I have my BCD with 16 pounds of weight in it. I was just amazed that I was that comfortable being
that far out from shore. (Granted I could see the bottom as clear as day due to the water conditions. But I'd guess the water was 40-50 deep out there, so it wasn't like I was in the shallow end of the pool.)

After snorkeling we checked into our hotel and went to dinner. We walked around Kailua-Kona for a little while and then retired for the evening. Thursday morning we went out for breakfast and hung out until the afternoon when we had to go to Big Island Divers to check in for our manta ray dive. I was getting nervous and excited about the dive. The water had looked a little choppy as we were driving around in the morning, so I had started my regime of Triptone (like Dramamine) around lunchtime way before it was time to get on the boat.

The manta dive is a two tank dive: The first dive is in the afternoon while there is still light, the second is after the sun set. The boat ride out was bouncy shall we say? I would like to thank the makers of Triptone. I believe that I was able to enjoy my manta experience because of your product. I don't think I ever got my sea legs, but at least I didn't want to vomit. Once we moored ourselves to the dive site we did our afternoon dive. After boat diving, I might not ever want to go back to shore diving. It's so easy. Just suit up and jump in. There's no exhausting surface swim and because of that I could stay down longer. As a matter of fact, I was down for a little more than an hour (personal best) and reached a depth of 84 feet (personal best) on the first dive. I was pretty darn stoked about diving by the time we got back to the boat.

We sat on the boat, eating sandwiches, waiting for the sun to set. I added another layer under my wetsuit for the night dive because I was told that people get cold because of the lack of sun and the fact that you're just sitting there, watching, not swimming. I even added a couple of pounds of weight to help with staying on the bottom. We were all given large flashlights and then we hopped back in the inky water. The first few seconds of being in dark water is strange, but so many people had flashlights that pretty soon you feel really comfortable. We descended at set up shop with about 50 other folks (yes, 50!) on the ocean floor in about 30 feet of water, waiting for the mantas to show up.

Mantas eat plankton. Plankton is attracted to light. So if you shine a bright light, plankton will come followed by mantas. At least that's the way it usually works. I was still a little buoyant on the bottom so I had to grad a rock with my knees to keep me down and still. It was chilly. But then the first manta arrived and you forget about everything else. It was one of the most amazing experience of my life. Mantas are just mesmerizing. They're so graceful, so beautiful, so agile in the water. And they're HUGE. I'm used to little fish, little eels, little sharks. And then this 10-foot wide behemoth comes cruising two-inches over my head. Just unreal. Zac actually got bumped by one. (Rule: Mantas can touch you, but you may not touch the mantas.)

Here is some of what we saw:

video

video

We were down there for about 45 minutes. I don't have a large enough vocabulary to describe how fantastic it was. Zac took some amazing videos on the underwater camera. I'm so pleased that we had that for this trip. It was fantastic being able to record what we saw. We headed back up to the boat and headed back to the marina. We were back to the hotel around 10:30, and we were all pretty tired. We headed to bed because we had to be at the marina by 8:15 the next morning for another two-tank dive.


I'll pick up there in the next post.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Zac is not a Potterhead

I love Harry Potter. The books. The movies. The general madness that surrounds all of it. I had the pleasure of working at Barnes & Noble for the release of all the books. As the hysteria around Harry Potter grew over the years our store began having midnight release parties (like many other places). However, the release parties we held at our store were fantastically GRAND. Some of the finest times I had the bookstore revolved around Harry Potter in one way or another.

I've got the collection of books on my shelf but instead of re-reading them before the opening of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince last week, I decided to re-watch the first five movies. Much to my surprise, my husband, Zac, was on board with my idea.

Zac is not a sci fi/fantasy kind of guy. Not at all. He's not really even that into super hero movies, which can usually be chalked up as a common denominator for most folks. Don't get me wrong, he loved "Iron Man", but he doesn't quite get comics or their avid fans. Despite the fact that he doesn't really enjoy super heros, Star Wars or wizards he was game to watch FIVE Harry Potter movies in the space of SIX days.

His involvement in the marathon went something like this:

me: "Wanna watch a movie?"

him: "Sure."

me: [slowly, already wincing from his rejection] "How about the first Harry Potter?"

[pause]

him: "Sure."

[stunned silence]

me: "Really? You know I said 'Harry Potter', right?"

him: "Yeah, I'm okay with that."

I didn't take the time to double-check because I was afraid that he'd change his mind. I tossed in the movie and at the end he asked, "So are we going to watch the rest of them too?" Mind you not in a, "Ugh, we're not going to watch the rest of them, are we?" sort of way, but in a curious, almost hopeful, "I should at least get up to speed if we're going to #6" sort of way. So began almost a week of watching one Harry Potter per day. Zac actually asked questions as we went along, making sure he got all the plot points in order. Because of our program of HP Indoctrination, we didn't go see HPATHBP until yesterday, but the buildup was worth the payoff.

If you haven't seen the movie yet, do. It's great fun. Well, at least as fun as the rise of Voldemort and the Death Eaters can be. But there's snogging. And that's enjoyable.

So what I learned in the last week is that my husband is even more wonderful than I thought. He does that every now and again - surprises the hell out of me with something great. While he's not a Potterhead, he's cool with my HP geekiness and actually joined in for a while. As he has told me a few times when I get excited about Harry Potter, "You're a geek, but you're my geek."

[sigh]

I think I'm going to go snog my husband. :)

Monday, July 13, 2009

In lieu of substance, I give you photos! vol. 2

I wanted to put some content out quickly, instead of mulling over words, so here are photos from this weekend's two dives. Where did the photos come from? From my trusty little Canon Powershot. I bought the Canon underwater case for Zac for his birthday. Yes, I know that the case is for my camera, but Zac dives more often than I do so he will get more benefit from the case. Also, he's a great bottom feeder (i.e. creeps along the bottom of the ocean slowly and deliberately) and sees lots of cool things that I sometimes miss.

By the way - I kick funny. Not in the effective, Olympic-swimmer-style of kicking. I did not know this till I looked at the photos and videos from the camera yesterday. I was mildly embarrassed. Zac's response? "I just thought that's the way you kicked. I didn't know I was supposed to tell you you kicked funny." I feel that this tidbit of knowledge should have been disclosed to me sooner.The first dive was focused mostly on scenery. We went diving through the Cathedral near Three Tables. It is an amazing structure of lava tunnels with light that cascades through holes in the "ceiling". It's stunning.Bernadette and Ken were there. We also had two others in our dive group.
Zac. On our second dive we saw all sorts of fantastic wildlife.

A coronetfish. They're about four feet long. It's weird seeing something that long and that skinny swim by. They don't seem as skittish as some types of fish.
A seven eleven crab, tucked away.

An eel popping his head out to look at us, but still well camouflaged.

Cruising around.

I love sea turtles.

Last, but not least, a neat picture of a white tipped reef shark, courtesy of my fearless Zac. Actually there were two sharks tucked away in this cave, but it was tough to get a shot of both of them without getting uncomfortably close. Bernadette was the one who spotted them. This guy was a little intimidating, about four feet long, but he seemed content to hang out in his cave with his buddy. It is a rush to see them - equal parts awe, fear, and excitement.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"How I spent my Holiday Weekend"

For a long, holiday weekend that started out with very few plans I ended up really tired by Monday. The weekend actually started on Thursday with Zac's command picnic. Lots of sun, lots of heat, and lots of fun talking to people. The heat alone would have been enough to wipe me out, but I also spent a good bit of time playing with a friend's two-year-old daughter. She's a little Energizer Bunny, that one. After the picnic we spent the rest of day picking up and setting up our new couch. (Our first "grown-up" furniture! No more college-life-relics or hand-me-downs!) Moving the old stuff out of the living room, cleaning the room, moving the new stuff into the living room and cleaning up again wore us out further so we spent the remainder of the evening breaking in the couch by watching movies.

Friday evening Zac and I played racquetball. Afterwards, despite being in our workout gear and looking (and smelling) like we just spent an hour in an oven, we decided to meet up with Ken over at Hideaway for a beer. We figured it was just after 9pm so no one would really be there to critique our appearance, and Ken had mentioned he wanted to be out of there by 10pm. Ken was already feeling pretty festive by the time we got there. Being the mature, responsible person that he is, Ken had a designated driver lined up to bring him to and from the bar that night. (A perk of having a night-owl 19-year-old neighbor who is willing to shuttle people around for $.) I decided I'd be Zac's DD for the night so Zac could throw a few back with Ken.

Ken sent his DD a text message at 9:30 requesting an pick-up extension until 10:30, instead of 10. As the evening progressed, and the boys enjoyed their lagers, the text messages from Ken to his DD kept flowing every half-hour or so - "How about 11?" "11:30 ok?" and finally "You had might as well just come over here because it is going to be a late night." Ken's DD arrive around midnight to join me in consuming non-alcoholic beverages and laughing at Ken and Zac. The two of them were having a grand time.

Of course as Hideaway was filling up with people throughout the night, Zac's and my appearance stood out more and more. All the guys and gals were there dressed to impress and we . . . were not. We were dressed to play racquetball. It made me feel mildly awkward. Zac, bless his heart, was beyond caring.

At 12:45, I was tired. I was on my fifth water and despite the thumping music and bustling atmosphere I was about ready to fall asleep. I convinced Zac that it was time to go so we headed home. When I got to the car I realized I was starving. We had had supper around five, and now it was almost 1:00am. My body called attention to the fact that another meal was in order. So I did what I haven't done in a very long time - I stopped at a Taco Bell after 1:00am. I ordered us a few soft tacos and inhaled them as soon as we got in the house. We climbed into bed without spending much time digesting. Why?

Because the alarm was going to go off in five hours so we could go diving with Ken. Yeesh.

Yes, Saturday morning we were going diving at a new location. I checked the surf report before we left. It said 2-4 feet, so I was already a little reluctant to go as we piled into the car and headed out towards our destination. The surf had been 2-4 at Electric Beach the last time I had trouble. When we got to our dive sight, we met up with Ken and the other members of our group. I surveyed the water and decided that I wasn't comfortable going in right then. I told Zac and Ken that I'd stay back and let them try it out. If they came back thinking that the conditions were good I'd join them for the second dive. While they dove I relaxed with a book, which requires much less energy than diving.

The boys came back about an hour later and I could tell from their demeanor that the dive wasn't fun. They filled me in: the current was tough, the waves were tough, visibility wasn't great, they didn't see much exciting wildlife, etc. They decided a second dive wasn't in the cards for them either, so we ended up packing up our stuff and heading home. We dropped off my rental gear, ran to the store to get some brownie mix and made it home around 1:00 or so.

I whipped up the brownies and threw them in the oven. Zac was hoping for an afternoon nap, but we were supposed to be going down to Honolulu to a friend's house for a 4th of July picnic and fireworks viewing in a couple of hours. (The brownies being our contribution to the picnic.) We cleaned up Zac's diving gear, took showers, got ready and by that point Ken was already at our house ready to carpool into Honolulu. At least I got to casually read by the beach that morning, so I was a little rested. Both boys looked like they were not going to make it through the night without nodding off.

The picnic was fun, the company was entertaining, the fireworks were spectacular. It really was one of the best firework displays I had ever seen. And viewing it from a condo on the 26th floor was fantastic. As all of the guests waited for traffic to dissipate, sure enough, Ken and Zac zonked out for naps.

It was a solid weekend, but exhausting. Now it's time to buckle down and get some work done.