Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Sunday and Monday/Tuesday... longest day of my life?!

Oh dear. What to say...

Sunday was a "free day" but it ended up being not so "free" for us. We were kept in a lab room all day to cooperatively write a report on all that we found while SCUBA diving. It was a lot harder than I expected to work together with everyone. Yikes! I volunteered to help with making graphs out of the data, but the few I tried to make seemed useless and not too exemplary, so I felt like I wasn't really helping to contribute to the paper. I actually listened to my music and sang out loud with Squirt for a good amount of time while others were working. I know, I feel horrible! I should have been helping more! But I just didn't know how to help and after a while of asking who needs help or if there is something for me to do (and getting zero responses), I gave up!

We stopped around noon for a lunch break and headed out to the Rock Islands Cafe. It was yummy.

Back at the lab, we finished the paper by five... and it's not too great. The conclusion especially is very weak, especially because we spent so much time on it. David said it was expected that our conclusion would not be perfect because we only spent one day on it, but I think we could have done a lot better considering we were cooped up in one room all day! I had started to forget that I was on Palau.

Dinner was at "The Taj," an Indian restaurant. Everyone was super excited, except for me: Indian + Bridget just do not mix well. I tried to be conservative: I ate naan with dried fruit and raisins (yum!) and a spinach cheese dip thingy. I felt a little queasy afterwards, but not too terrible. Everyone else was thrilled with their food, as well as mine! But Indian food is just not my favorite, sorry. We smoked some hookah afterwards, then headed home. Sabrina, Mariah and I decided to walk and when we were about five minutes from the hotel (at the end of a thirty minute walk), it began to rain. Correction: downpour. We were soaked! At first we tried to stay dry but we soon gave up on that and just accepted being drenched. And I was wearing a white skirt, oops. Hehe.

When we got back to the hotel, everyone else was swimming in the rain. Sabrina and Mariah jumped in in their underwear, but I opted not to. Hehe. I did stay outside with everyone though! Sabrina and I put our swimsuits on and went out in the ocean a bit to look at the bio luminescence, but everyone else started heading upstairs. We soon went back up and got on the roof, but it was still barely raining and, thus, too cloudy to see any stars or meteor showers. (Pearl used to be an astronomy major and said that, two days earlier, the biggest meteor shower of the year was beginning. Darn, I missed it! I saw a few shootings stars, but not like I could have seen if I had been on the roof or out in the ocean on a boat like Pearl and Squirt. Bummer!).

Sabrina and I headed to bed, not knowing that everyone else was still up downstairs having fun. Bummer x 2! Eh, that's ok. I got a good amount of sleep I guess.

Monday

Our last day! It was terribly humid and hot in the morning. After breakfast, everyone in our group set out in separate groups, heading for the museum and shopping along the way. It began to downpour pretty hard while I was in a store. That was nice because then it wasn't as hot. I did a lot of souvenir shopping. We stopped for lunch in a local market place. I had some plantains of some sort (YUMMM) and ate some of DanK's octopus thingy and rice, but it made me a little sick at the stomach until dinner.

We never made it to the museum, though we had a ton of fun out all day. We returned back to a shop we had already been at so that DanK could buy a story board. This is a piece of wood with a specific story carved into it. His was about $60, but other people bought some that were $175 and more. It's cool to buy if you go to the prison and buy it, because I guess than the inmate that made it will come out and talk to you about it. But I didn't have that much money to spare hehe. Anywho, the people of this shop that we had returned to felt badly that we were walking around int he rain without umbrellas or anything. They offered to drive us back to our hotel because they wanted us to enjoy our last day in Palau. So nice! It is amazing how wonderfully nice the people are here.

Dinner was at the Drop Off... AGAIN. Bhaha oh my goodness. Blackened sashimi again! But it's just so dang good... we had a great last group dinner.

The plan was to meet around 11:15 PM to head off to the airport. We were pretty on schedule too (Sabrina and I were the first ones in the lobby but last ones back in the lobby when it was time to go because were went out for a few minutes, oops). We were nice and early at the airport for our 2 AM flight to Guam. We weren't "sterile" when we landed, so we had to go through customs and security here. Then we got right back in line for our next flight to Honolulu. The security officer guy dude who checked my passport and ticket thought that David (my professor) was my boyfriend. Hmm.... awkward. Hehe. I told everyone that, they thought it was hilarious. Our seats were all together and really great on this flight. I was on an isle, thank goodness. AND I have finally figured out the best way for me to sit/sleep comfortably on an airplane, because I can't sit still normally. I bend my legs and put my feet on my seat, so I'm in a tuck position. Then I latch my seat belt around my ankles so that I can relax and not struggle to keep my feet on the seat. Voila!

Pocahontas was on the screen in front of me and I watched it: that made me so happy! And I got some sleep. We landed in Hawaii (and my Mama did not fail to call just as I turned on my phone. Flipper said hi). We had to go out, get our luggage, then go back in. Ugh what a pain. Squirt left our group here because she lives on Oahu and needed to get her stuff for school. I was so sad :[

We landed in L.A. around 5:50 AM and, of course, my mother called right as I landed. Flipper commented, "Hi Mama Hardy!"

Leaving the group was super sad, even though we will be seeing each other again. It just won't be the same, I know it. People will have conflicts and I'm not even sure we will be able to all be together again. Although, we all want to finish our research diving certification, which means more dives on Catalina, a test, and First Aid/CPR training. Guam Squad reunites!

I miss my group :[

It's 7:34 AM and I feel like I just pulled five all nighters in a row. But now I have rush school all day. Hopefully I don't fall down/pass out at all. I do enjoy having breakfast ready for me in the morning :]

I will post more, but I want to go sleep now.

Peace,
B

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kayaking the RocKs

Saturday

Ready at 7:45 AM, we headed to Sam’s Tours and hopped on some boats equipped with kayaks for all of us. I stupidly decided to stick my foot over the side of the boat in the water while we were hi-tailing it and I splashed myself and everyone else near me. Correction: I drenched myself.

We headed to a secluded beach and waded around in the water a bit, swinging on a rope swing on a branch over the water. I found hermit crab city, a pile of garbage absolutely overflowing with hermit crabs of all shapes and sizes.

We headed out on our kayaks to explore the rock islands. I opted to have a single rather than share with someone, I guess because I like to go off and explore things often and I didn’t want to get annoying to anyone.

At one corner of the still water in the rock islands, we saw a whole bunch of baby black tip sharks! I wove my way around some dense mangroves, and found another baby shark! This one wasn’t scared away by me as much as the other ones, so I tempted him with my fingers in the water. He did indeed come up close to my kayak. Eek! I wanted to touch him so badly, but I decided that might not be a great idea. Our guide explained that the two sharks fight each other and one ends up eating the other while still in their mother’s womb. That it how the winner learns to hunt. Then they are raising in the lagoons of the rock islands to improve their hunting skills with small fish. WHOA.

Riding under the jut out of the rock islands was nice, cool and shady. It was like a half-tunnel shape on the edges of all of the rock islands and we followed it around the rock islands. We saw a baby ray! It was so little!!! And a sunken WWII Japanese fuel tanker, sticking out of the water. We also investigated a pretty cool cave.

We headed back to the beach; Bento boxes for lunch!, and kayaked to another beach site. We had to pass under a sort of tunnel. And guess what... it was shaped like a DELTA! Ahhhh rush is so soon.

I didn’t hear the memo about wearing shoes this time... and it hurt my feet to walk on the beach where we landed. There were so many crabs and hermit crabs, you couldn’t step without landing on at least about three at one point. Yikes.

We were visiting an old village site. There were lots and lots of crab holes in the ground, then our guide brought us over a full grown crab and it was HUGE. I didn’t not want to touch it. It had big ‘ol claws. Laura held her water bottle up to his claw and he grabbed hold of it and would not let go. It was intimidating. He also was moving his claws around like a ninja ready to attack. So funny!

We walked around the island, looking at places where there used to be a well, houses, etc. Now it’s just overgrown jungle. Kind of awesome!
We found a translucent ball that David and the guide got really excited about. Apparently, the Japanese fishing line balls float over to Palau and Guam and other islands occasionally, and people go crazy collecting them. David has a few, some of them really big. It is just a ball of some kind of clearish materials that is plastic/rubber and floats. Not actually too special... but when David held it up and made a big deal about it and wondered what to do about it, I suggested, “put it in the ENST [Environmental Studies] office!” Everyone else seemed to hear me and excitedly agreed. Yes! Success!

Also, just as a funny side note, DanK decided to wear a red beanie all day and sit around alone occasionally. He looked just like Waldo. From where I was balancing on top of a beached rubber floating fishing ball thingy on the beach, he was just showing through the branches and trunks of trees. I called over people walking by and told them to stand directly in front of me, turn and look, and then I’d say, “where’s Waldo?” Everyone laughed.

We kayaked back to the first beach for some snorkeling. We all headed out. Our guide was great! He really knew his stuff. This one coral we had been seeing all trip but not being able to identify turns out to be razor coral. He picked it up and passed it around. It was not given that name accidentally: it’s very, very sharp, dense and heavy. Cool! Later I discovered from Pearl that it is the only mobile coral. There are little tentacles all over them. Hehe cool!! I saw some anemones, scary fish staring at me, and even a moray eel hiding away in a rock! Then the guide yelled shark! I put my head above the water to see if that meant danger and that I should do something, but he pointed furiously towards me and yelled, “look in the water!” When I plopped my head back in the water, there it was: a SHARK! He was swimming right towards me. Terrifying. Then it (he?) swam next to me and away. I started to chase after it, along with Squirt and Pearl. It was exhausting! Eventually, we were nearing the reef crest and he swam out into the ocean, so we let him go. That was awesome though.

We headed back to shore, took everything we had with us (oh, I had another coconut :] ), and kayaking in the other direction. We went for a long time and my arms started getting sore. At least I didn’t have to walk too much, because my ankle it pretty swollen and sore. We stopped eventually at shallow, protected area in the rock islands to snorkel. We tied all the kayaks together and jumped in... right next to an open giant clam. Eek! I was speechless for a moment. I motioned for Squirt to come over and see where I almost landed. I could have for realz lost a foot, folks. Once a giant clam closes, it doesn’t open. You put a finger in a giant clam underwater = you drown. Yikes!
This snorkel site was supposed to have mandarinfish, a colorful little guy that is rare adn hard to find. I had no idea what I was looking for, but I looked mercilessly for something colorful and rare. Needle in a haystack.

I did some free diving here and started to feel like I was getting good at it. The visibility was the best I have ever seen in the ocean, probably like 50 ft. or more. I could see everything! And I swam all the way down to the bottom. I had to equalize/clear my ears every time because of the pressure on my ears. I saw a spade fish! (One of my favorites). Its amazing how much more you can see when you get down to the level of the fish. I met up with most of the group and Chloe showed me that when you put a piece of small coral in the home area of a damsel fish (female), she will pick it up in her mouth and move it away from where she wants to raise her kids. So cute! I didn’t not see any mandarinfish though. On the way back to the boat (the boat appeared and we left the kayaks there for someone else to come pick up), we found a crocodile fish! It was sooo cool because it was changing colors right before our eyes.

I was very very sad to get back on the boat because that was our last snorkel of the trip.

We headed back, got a free T shirt, and headed back to the hotel. I showered and we went out to The Drop Off (again) for dinner. I had the blackened sashimi again. It’s just so good! There was a lot of lightening in the distance that looked really cool. After dinner, a few of us headed to Rip Tide bar and restaurant. Our local friend, Sue, recommended it to us the other night. The people there were really friendly. I was sitting at the end of the counter and kind of excluded from the group at one point, and a local guy in a Hawaiian shirt who works at the bar came over and talked to me. He asked where I was from, etc. Then he walked over to the stage, grabbed a guitar, and said, “this song goes out to a girl from Illinois, Bridget, from USC!” Bhahahaha! He said “You’ll Always Be My Baby,” a Mariah Carey song. Bhahahhaha! That made my night. We started dancing like weirdoes in front of the stage (no one else was dancing there), and soon decided to leave because we were really sweaty and getting tired. We headed home and some people wanted to night snorkel, but I wasn’t up for getting in the salty ocean water and feeling sticky and gross afterwards. So Squirt and I had some vanilla ice cream and watched the fishies from the suspended table at the bar at the hotel.

A group of us tried to get up to the roof to watch the meteor shower, but some Asian woman was salsa dancing by herself behind the door to the roof, hilarious! So we turned around and ran away. No roof tonight.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Done Diving / Swimming with the Jellies!!!!

[Sorry for the long delay, I've been very busy: early mornings, late nights, and tired of trying to remember everything that happens. Bear with me, Mama.]


OMG OMG OMG Most EPIC day of my life. Ever.

So, yesterday we had bfast and were in vans going to the marine lab at 8:30 AM. It was the day of our last group dive on th
e Guam/Palau trip. This makes me very sad, along with everyone else. There was a sadness in all of us that not even the beautiful weather could suppress.

We chilled for a little while before everyone was organized, and I went over to the dock to play around in the
water. Because it was high tide, the water had come up and over the side of the dock! It looked like we were walking on the ocean. So weird.

Soon it was time to go to lecture. David's colleague from U
niversity of Guam talked to us about the ecosystem around Palau, the geography and geology, and about the marine lab. They have an aquarium set up in order to educate the public on preserving coral reefs, as well as to have an income, but it's not working and that makes me very sad. It was a good talk, though, and he gave us all free textbooks on coral reef biology in Palau! Every single one of us was thrilled. Wow, are we nerdy or what?

After our brief lecture, w
e jumped in the boat, this time with only 17 air tanks because we only had one dive planned. We were told the boat ride would be a long one and it was. I loved it. I feel like a dog when I'm on the boat because I just want to sit in the front or pop my head out the side and let the wind blow on my face. It's wonderful!

We made it to the dive site, what should be
the best dive yet. What a grand finale it was. I was partnered with Christine and I was laying the transect line at 20ft. Flipper stopped me right away and redirected me to follow the contour of the reef (swim in zig zags and stay at 20 ft.), rather than just swim straight ahead, because the reef was very three dimensional. I tried to lay the transect tape in interesting places, like nearby giant clams, etc. Then we started counting invertebrates, followed by fishies on the way back. I was so focused on my counting that I realized about halfway through that I was not really looking around at the reef or appreciating it.

So I decided to look around.

And


I saw


a

SHARK!!!

It was a black tipped reef shark, nbd. So cool! Prolly like 4 ft. long and just making his way around the reef, 20, 25, 30 ft. deep. Thus is was right at my depth and just having a grand old time. I reached out for Christine (underwater, moving is painfully slow, especially when you
want to get someone's attention right away). I pointed at the shark and she saw it too. We watched it swim around for a bit until it disappeared, putting our scientific work on hold. Nice! I also had no broken coral incidents. Yessss. After our taking down all the information we needed too and rolling up the transect tape (I guided, Christine wound, and it work perfectly, yeah!), we wandered off a bit. It was really cool diving here, because the reef was extremely three dimensional, and you can swim up and down and look through lots of things, etc. However, the deal with Jerry was that we could stay down for a whole hour (oh wait, Squirt and I have done that before on another dive, hehe oops) as long as we don't go any deeper than 40 ft. I flirted with 40 but didn't break the rule! Flipper and DanK motioned us over and I saw a fish that looked like... a crocodile?! It's called a stone fish I think and it changes colors to blend in and resembled the head of a crocodile, no joke! So cool! We spotted a massive, MASSIVE humphead wrasse, this kind of big 'ol grey fish that we had been looking for four our data this whole trip. He swam right up close to us too, no problem. At 54 minutes underwater, we decided to head back to the boat line to surface. It hit me then that this was our last dive of the trip and I started to tear up a bit, no joke. How sad! I never wanted to leave. I glided around the reef on the way back, kind of taking my time, but the stupid boat line snuck up on me suddenly, boo hoo. ;[

Back on the boat, we headed for a r
ock island with a beach and tables for lunch. Mariah talked with some people from Ireland, etc. maybe Australia too? And when Mariah talked to them about Maui, her home, the lady was rude and said that the diving was "eh, ok," there. That's not very nice! Mariah was a bit upset. We ate Bento boxes, of course, om nom nom. There was a really cool tree there, some kind of monkey tree? Idk but I had an urge to climb on this one particular limb that was low and horizontal to the ground, a perfect little seat. Mariah joined be and we climbed up a bit higher to take a picture. On the way down I scraped my belly a little, later finding out that I must have gotten bitten or reacted to something as well. It's ok, just itchyyy.
Here's the good part.

The boat guys claimed that low tide was approaching quickly, and they had to move away from shore right away. So, while we were all mid-thigh deep in water, the drove way far out. Chloe was freaking out and realizing the severity of the issue: we have to get back to them eventually. I was relaxed and told her it's ok, we should be able to walk out to them because of low tide!
But the storm clouds
were moving in.
Jim was walking away. Bhaha. We were waiting for him because he had the USC flag that we wanted to take a group picture with. It was starting to drizzle and Jim was moving slowly. Hurry! Mariah had a shirt and hat she wanted to keep dry, the storm cloud was closer and closer, and it's drizzling. AND someone's camera was sitting out on the boat where I had put it, so I felt responsible and I wanted to get to the boat asap. Jim made it and the drizzle turned to a light rain as we snapped a picture.
Then, downpour!
We all start yelling and laughing and freaking out and I mad
e a run for it towards the boat. Well, not run, but slosh, then swim. Then BAM.

Coral.

100% coral cover. Ouch! I was trying to swim over the coral, but I could not see in the water at all and, even with a frog-like swim, I ended up scraping my foot up, getting a bit of coral stuck in it, and scraping up my right thigh a bit. We all got some cuts from the coral. The other Bridget was screaming and saying hilarious things, which wasn't helping me concentrate on avoiding the coral because I was laughing so hard! I looked back to see if anyone else had a better method of getting through the coral mine field but I just saw strained faces. And it was hard to see through the downpour. Bhaha! I was laughing and freaking out at the same time. People were making noises, I couldn't not laugh, but the coral was hurting me so bad! I made it back to the boat first and ran to put the camera away (it's ok). Then I was safe and relaxed, so I grabbed my camera and took a picture. ! ! ! So funny!

On to jellyfish lake!
Some Scuba guys stopped to take the tanks off of our boat, and as they left I yelled "tank you!"
No one really heard my joke though...

JELLYFISH LAKE!!!! It's a tourist spot now, so they had a dock (David said it did not use to be this way). Lots of Asian tourists. We had to wait for some of them to leave. We were told not to touch a certain kind of tree because it would give us a rash like poison ivy. We climbed up a steep hill, then down the other side, emerging at a large lake with a dock. At first, I didn't see anything. For some reason, I because worried that the jellyfish wouldn't be as amazing as I had hoped, and that human interference may have contaminated the lake. Boy, was I wrong. I hopped in a started snorkeling towards the middle of the lake when... BAM a jelly! Let me note here: the jellyfish of jellyfish lake have stinging tentacles but do not sting, or at least do not sting enough to harm humans. Instead, they gain energy through photosynthesis. Yes, these are plant jellies!!! So coming upon my first jelly, I was a bit cautious. I reached out tentatively and touched the top of the round part and squealed. So cool! So so so cool!!! The top of the round part is kind of firm and squishy, like I imagine silicone boobs would feel like. They have loose floppy squishy stuff around the round part that flaps and undulates. Then they have the tentacle thingies hanging around and looking all intimidating, but I know they truth: they can't hurt me! And they're sort of translucent, with white branching structures inside the round part. Some of them have freckles on their head part too, so cute! I looked for the smallest one and pulled it close: "I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine, he shall be my Squishy." Hehe. I kept swimming towards the group and found that there are more and more jellies, until it was so dense with jellies, I couldn't swim without kicking one or pushing one with my hand. I
left late
back to the boat, rinse off feet
dropped off at hotel, shower
, ready to eat!!! ate some fresh coconut yummm then to "The Drop Off" for dinner. Blackened sashimi, rice, and pina colada life is perfect! It was a fun place too.

. . .

Friday

Ready by 8:30 AM. I think? I don't really remember, oops. Oh, and it was raining ew. OH. And I woke up at 5 AM and couldn't go back to sleep. I ended up getting up at 5:30 and sitting on the dock, trying to watch the sunrise. But that was difficult because it was raining. So I got drizzled on for a bit.

Headed to Sam's Tours f
or a guided hike to a waterfall. We drove in a bus for a while, stopping to look at an old Japanese airplane that had crashed, as well as a beautiful tropical river, where our guide Jayden said that crocodiles sometimes hangout out EEK! It was really pretty, we saw a big 'ol froggie and started to get dirty in some nasty mud.

We made it to our waterfall hike starting point. We were told to wear water shoes because things might get messy, and boy was it messy. The rain earlier as well as currently as we were hiking just meant mud, mud and more mud, and no avoiding it. I started to just walk in the mud rather than try to avoid it, because I was pretty filthy. We had cool walking sticks and I felt very much like Gandolf. We were on some steep steps, and I knew my legs would be burning, especially my quads. And, oh yes, they do hurt.

At one point, we came to a wooden bridge and old railroad tracks that we suspended over a place where the land had collapsed and slid down the slope. It was so cool! Right away I had to ask everyone: remind you of Donkey Kong video games? Yes! Continuing on, we came to a railroad car/choo choo train/whatever you want to call it. It was all rusted and cool. Backtracking our steps, I was trying to walk on the old tracks like a balance beam, rather than walk directly in the mud, but it started to rain, and then it got harder and soon I was putting my camera in my dry bag and trying to keep my bag wet, while I was getting drenched. So fun! Oh, and the noises in the jungle sounded just like something you would hear on the "jungle" track of a CD. For real! It was unbelievable, I just wanted to stay put and listen to the sounds, of cicadas, rain falling on big waxy leaves, then the patter of drops on the soggy ground cover, birds singing, feet squishing around in the mud, etc. etc. I was filthy.

We jumped into little pools on part of our walk. It was river that was kind of like waterfall. Fun!

The waterfal
l was HUGE, with pounding water if you stood underneath. It felt really good though, like an intense massage! Asian tourists were everywhere around us. Hehe.
My ankle started to
hurt real bad :( it's the same one that I hurt senior year of high school, so I know that it's going to be swollen and hurting for a while, because I have a full year of experience dealing with it. Ack, stupid ankle.
Jennah (Mama Fish), Sabrina and I took hair flipping pictures. Nice! I never realized how much water my hair can retain and then flick all over the place as I flip my head back, hehe. I was falling all over the place during the photo shoot too, because it's hard to tell where the water is deep or not. Ouchh

We backtracked to the top of the hill. I bought a coconut for $1, and it was amazing, best coconut deal yet. I drank it then had it split open so that I could eat it. Yummmy! We stopped on the side of the road on our way to another place. There were a lot of local fruits, etc. on sale. We had fried banana, tapioca plant (kind of like yucca/potato), fish balls, and grapefruit that had some stickiness about it and tasted like butterscotch yum!

We ate lunch on top of
a hill: bento boxes again! Luckily I'm not sick of them yet, but I think other people are getting bored of the same diet. These ones were in nice wooden boxes, unlike the plastic ones we had been having, and the fish was really good.

Next was the stone garden: big stone structures, some with faces, are laid out where buildings used to be, or were supposed to be. I think people aren't sure whether or not the construction was ever finished. And then there's the legend of the stone garden: Beings that were part human, part spirit were building a house together. They all went to dinner and forgot to invite one guy, who became angered. To get back at them, he lit a coconut on fire and threw it towards them. It turned into a red rooster, which made the sun come out and turn all of the spirit/men to stone. Thus, there are stone faces all over the stone garden. And Red Rooster is the national beer of Palau, and a mighty a fine beer it is! Hehe. I also saw an endemic bird here that looked very much like the Guam rail, and in fact it is a cousin I think. It's called a megapoda I think.

We drove up to the top of a hill where there was a ruins of an old Japanese lighthouse that was bombed. A big hole in the ground was from a bomb, and the ruins were almost fake looking they were so cool. We had a few "America's Next Top Model" photo shoots around the ruins, so funny. I also propped my camera up on the ruins to get a good picture of the group, it kind of worked! The view of the rock islands, jungle and the ocean was fabulous and I just could not stop taking pictures. We decided to try betel nut. You split the areca nut in half, scrape a little seed out, pour lime in (like from stone) and wrap it in peppermint leaf. You chew it on the side of your mouth and spit out the red spit until your saliva isn't red any longer. I decided to try it because: I'm on the island of Palau at a lighthouse ruin, when will this ever happen again? Oh, never. It was kind of fun to spit because I was good as making the juicy squishy noise as I spit. But I wasn't a big fan of the whole process, and I burnt my tongue pretty good with the lime. Ouch.

Back in the bus and off again, we headed to the Capitol building. I only had a pathetic shirt on that would be too inappropriate to wear in a government building, as did Squirt, so David let us wear two of his shirts. It fit us like a dress and was kind of hilarious. The
government buidlings are pretty sweet here: they have birds and fish and cool geometric designs all over, like nothing you would ever see the U.S. doing. And I took a picture of a picture of a government official and his buddy sky diving with the Palauan flag. Cool!

Our last stop was the stone village. There is a man's house here, exactly like the ones the local people have been building for many years, where the chief has is office, I guess you could say. It's this long building structure made of wood, beautifully painted with meaningful animals, people, and shapes all around the outside and inside, and a roof painstakingly made of palm fronds. We did not walk inside out of respect I guess. There is a painting of a fruit ba
t just above the square opening that is meant to remind you to bow your head before leaving or entering. Intense... We checked out the rest of the site, and our guide showed us how to easily open a coconut using a sharp stick. Now I know! Also, I know there are three types of coconut: the hard ones on the ground, the soft green ones in the trees, and the kind that are sitting on the ground and sprouting new leaves. These ones are cool because there are filled with a spongy coconut inside. I don't think I've ever seen this before! And it's pretty good! Our guide Jayden showed us how to climb up a betel nut tree I think it was? using a T shirt tied around your feet for leverage. I was kind of like Mulan, how he inched up the tree. Mariah tried it and was good at it! Jayden says that he climbs up one tree, collects the nut, and hops to another tree top. He makes a lot of money by stealing other people's crop.

This was the end of our tour, and we headed back to the hotel to shower and go back to The Drop Off for dinner and fun. They know who we are now! But it's just sooo good. David joined us, and I had this absolutely delicious fish called milkfish I think. It came out as the whole fish split in half, even with the eye ball eek! DELICIOUS. We met some guys with accents, one from Northern Ireland, one from Scotland, and one from South Africa. I told the Scottish guy about my mom's maiden name, Stuart, and he got excited and started going off about the different spellings of Stuart, and all the Stuart's he knows, and how I'm undoubtedly related to all of them. Hehe.

Ok, I need a break from blogging. I'm still a day behind, I'll try to finish it right now after I eat something.

Stay thirsty my friends,

B

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday and Wednesday in Paradise :]

Hi all!

Ok, so I'm moving to Palau and never coming home, sorry.

Yesterday (Tuesday I think), we were supposed to be ready at 10 AM. I got up around 6 and ate some breakfast. It's very Asian-influenced (think stir fried rice for bfast), but good. I had coffee and some kind of blueberry bread of some sort, yummy!

I decided to snorkel instead of sit around until 10, so Lauren (Squirt) and Casey (Pearl). We saw so much! Just outside of the hotel! Oh, and today was the first day we were on Palau with sunlight, so I was surprised to see a big rock island just behind the hotel, making a sort of private ocean pool for the hotel.

FYI, the rock islands are made of old reef structure, which now exists as limestone rock. Tectonic plate movement and time has exposed the rock. There are many rock islands, and they sit above the, some very high, covered with trees and shrubs. At the bottom of the rocks, there is a sort of notch, where the water has eroded away the rock. You know when it's high tide or low tide; at high tide, the rock looks like a rocks coming out of the water. In low tide, the rocks look like some odd rock islands floating above the water, suspended almost, kind of Avatar-esque feel.

Anywho, the rock islands are awesome! And the water is wonderfully warm. Just from our short, spontaneous snorkel around the hotel area, we saw spade fish (one of my favorites: fish with fins on their backs and bellies, rather than sides), territorial fish (who shot up into my face when I was free diving nearby), lots of coral and colorful fish, giant clams!, tiny jellyfish that stung Pearl and Squirt, crabs, and a plane wreck! The territorial fish scared me and made me not want to free dive too close to any coral again... but I still do. Giant clams are awesome! They have a mouth opening with beautiful, tie-dyed, psychadelic coloring that is different with every clam. I want one!!!! A boat captain told our group in Guam that if you poke your hand in a clam, it will close, and you will drown. Ruh roh, not doing that! But if the clams are big enough, the "lips" are too extensive and the clam can't physically close all the way. So, snorkeling at the hotel, we found a massive giant sea clam (redundant? I think not) and I touched it. Oh yeah. They sort of retract when they sense danger is close, but this guy was too puckered up to hold me down. Cool! There was also a small plane still sitting in the water. It was shallow enough for me to free dive down to it, but when I did, this mean, territorial white fish came up at me suddenly and got right in my face. Eek! I screamed a bit underwater and swam back up fast. Yikes! The plane is super small, but the wings are still there and most of the body too. I really want to swim down and sit in it, but I'm afraid of what might be in there.

After our snorkel, we got on a boat with our gear and headed to the dive shop. There, we explored the marine center for a while. They have an aquarium there with lots of fish exhibits and small blurbs on fish life and ecosystem management in Palau. This is where I got to take pictures of a sea turtle, black tipped shark, lionfish, NAUTILUS, hot pink fishies, OCTOPI (plural of octopus), Nemo and his anemone, and weird fish. I took a picture looking into an accurately-designed tank, and it came out looking something like what it looks like to Scuba dive. Check it out! I really love the octopi. They change colors so quickly! Their tank has white coral on the bottom, so they were often white, but when they swim a bit they turn brown spotted right away, and when the one was frightened, big black circle appeared around his eyes. The other one came up to him and they fought a little, both getting black circles around their eyes, then they parted ways. Haha! A nautilus is a cephalopod, some call it a "living fossil." They c

Lunch was a Bento box, a Japanese? type of meal that comes in a box, all cafeteria style, with marinated meat or fish or some veggie thing, rice, sweetened egg, salad with ginger dressing, and a brownie. So good! We all enjoyed these immensely.

When the dive boat was ready for us, we loaded 34 air tanks and all of gear and headed out. The boat was kind of unsafe, so we had to stay put on the seats and nearby, rather than ride on the front of the boat. We made it to our first dive, a wreck. Jim Haw told us all very simply: no penetrating the wreck. Penetrate, and I will kill you. Bhaha. Ok, ok! We won't "penetrate." With our gear on, the boat stopped, and a lot of people near the back of the boat, we started taking on a lot of water. Like, a LOT. David asked is this normal? and the guys driving laughed at us and kind of avoided an answer/said yes. EEEK! I don't want the boat to sink with my good camera and passport and stuff! Oh dear. But it didn't sink, and I'm still alive, no worries.

Going down, I could not see a wreck because the visibility was so poor. Hmm? Is this the correct sight? Then it suddenly began to appear... a huge ship! It was covered, absolutely swarmed with corals and giant clams and other nifty things. In comparison with the wreck in Guam, this one was a lot more deteriorated and taken over by sea life. In other words, it was a lot more biodiverse. I found it funny that there was a dead old giant clam on the front of the ship that was propped open, so it looked like the ship had a claw reaching out to whatever was in front of it when it sank. Jim found a spot with ammo, a rifle, and a canon. Cool! Then he didn't recognize me and showed it to me again... hehe.

We surfaced and headed out to a reef for our next dive, chillaxing a bit during our Surface Interval Time of 1 hour. Rounding the bend among the rock islands, we found HUGE group of Asian tourists snorkeling. And lots of boats moving in and out. Hmm, I don't think I feel comfortable diving in water with so much traffic... so we decided to move to a different site. It looked just like the previous site we were at, a small lagoon looking area among the rock islands. I hope the visibility is better here!

Once we were in the water, we descended with transect tape and slates to record fish and invert numbers, as well as evidence of coral bleaching and trash. It was a little chaotic, and there was a bit of silt in the water due to the high tide, but we got our acts together and started our counting. It was so beautiful! I can't recall anything spectacular that I saw, but I'm sure I saw a nice bunch of giant clams and pretty fishies, like parrotfish, which are so colorful! It amazes me how they have evolved to grow up with so many unique lines and dots and shades of the most vibrant colors. Whoa.

After our dives, four of us stayed with David to clean up the tanks and such back at the dive site, while the rest of us headed back to the hotel. I was tempted to lay out a bit, but it was getting late-ish and so I decided to shower and smell good instead. Diving in the ocean makes you feel disgusting. The salt and icky sea life water sits on your skin and makes you all sticky, as well as sweaty from the humidity. AKA ew.

I ordered a smoothie first thing when I got back to the hotel. I decided to mix up a mango pineapple smoothie, and the girl said she would bring it to my room, sweet! When it came up it was SOOOOOOOOOOO good. Ahhhh. Everyone had a little sip, and later down in the lobby more people started ordering mango pineapple smoothies, though they didn't taste as good as mine :[ I felt bad for them!

We ate dinner in the lobby: I had a nicoise salad with tuna and sardines. My tongue felt like it was bubbling up from the salty sardines. Everyone else got food and didn't like it and they were starving so it wasn't really a happy situation. But we were laughing all dinner and resigned to never eat dinner down in the lobby if we could help it again. Well, we had tried to eat at the Japanese restaurant on the second floor, but when we got up there, it was stuffed full of people, and they said that they we needed to have a reservation to eat there. Psh! Meanies. Just wait until tomorrow... We got ice cream to make ourselves happy. And then we were happy. I split mine with Flipper and fed him like a little kid, hehe.

Then bed time...

. . .

Wednesday, I got up and went downstairs with swimsuit and goggles, only to discover that we were supposed to be ready at 8:30 to go and it was about 7:30... hmm, but I still wanted to swim/snorkel a bit before going to the dive shop! So I did. I didn't see anything new, but I swam swam a bit, like swimming laps, then snorkeled, and it was very nice to be able to do that.

We hopped into taxi vans and met up at the marine lab. We didn't know where to go, so we ended up chilling in front of the gift shop for a while. Soon David was there with the boat and we headed off to load our gear. Apparently, he needed to get permits for us to be able to go to our dive sites today. $35 dollars each! Whoa.

We slowed down at a place where the water was lighter blue next to deep blue, but it turns out it was just engine problem. Eek! I don't wanna sink! We do have B.C.'s that can inflate and we could swim back to shore, but I don't wanna sink!!! Once the engine started working again, and it stopped working a few more times on our way out, we made it to our actual dive site: THE DROP OFF. Yes, the drop off, just like in Finding Nemo!!! The water was deep, deep blue, hundreds and hundreds of feet, next to a blob of very light blue, shallow water, teeming with life. I was so stoked!

We hopped into the water, Squirt as my partner, and descended. WHOA. This was by far the most magnificent dive of my life. And I will probably never see a site as beautiful as this one. It was so colorful and wonderful and amazing AH. We ended up staying down for 57 minutes, the longest dive of my life, at which point David and Jim were nearly pushing us up to the surface. Hehe oops. We saw Nemo and his family in the anemone again!!! And this weirdo fish: he was black and white, with a tall fin that went up and touched the surface of the water. It was so tall in comparison to his body, it almost looked like a sailboat in comparison with his body. Continuing this metaphor, he also had a fin below himself: he was a triangle shape, but more obtuse than anything. He also had two little fins at his sides pointing down. He was just chillin near the surface, just barely scraping the surface of the water. It was just so hilarious to see this weirdo fish cruising along. Hehe. I would not have noticed it either if Squirt has not pointed it out to me. Thanks! I saw lots of beautiful, colorful giant clams, which I would try to get as close as possibly to so I could see them shrivel up; sea stars, blue coral and bleached white coral and red coral, weird spiny cone-structures that looked fun to touch, though I didn't, worms that looked like underwater centipedes, sea urchins of all sizes inhabiting one rock, butterfly fish, idol fish (Gill from Finding Nemo), fishies swimming in pairs, in schools, big ones swimming alone in the deep blue water just next to the drop off, brain corals, etc. etc. I could just go on all day! Anyways, it was the shortest 57 minutes of my life. I didn't want it to end! We also took a picture with the USC flag underwater, it should be a cool pic.

We surfaced, hopped on the boat, and headed to our next dive site. We ate lunch on the boat, Bento Boxes again yum!, and sitting in the front with a bunch of peeps it hit me: I don't want to move past this moment in time. The sun was shining, the ocean was sparkling, I didn't want to leave. Ever. Ah, it makes me sad just thinking about now. Heaven.

But we still had time to kill, and Flipper and I saw a sandbar, so I suggested we go there and he agreed so we went. Soon everyone was following because we had found paradise!!!!! For realz. Imagine a circular beach with soft, soft perfect sand in the middle of the ocean, with tons of shallow beach water surrounding it, so you can sit in the water just up to your belly button and chillax. It. Was. Amazing. Perfect. Spectacular. Heaven. I don't know what else to say. We all got a huge wind of energy and started to run around in the water and tackle each other and roll around. David and Jerry followed us out and we took a picture. It was amazing! OMG it hit me again then how much I want to stop time and never leave. It was such a wonderful moment in time, and I knew then that it would never happen again. Even if we were come back, separately or in a group, to this site in a year or more, it will probably not exist and have moved on because it is a sandbar after all, and a small one at that, so it is moving often. So sad. And happy. Too many emotions to explain! We also found a lunch of styrofoam with a crab on it so cute!

We had to leave eventually, and I grudgingly swam back to the boat. I partnered with Christine and we went down to 40 ft. to lay a transect line. There was a lot of big white coral here, and I ended up swimming under a big fan of one to see a giant clam. David swam by and I looked up at him, started to rise in the water, and knocked my head on the coral. Some broke off in my hair! Whoops. I felt terrible and clumsy and stupid. I mumbled to myself "I'm an idiot," for a while. Ugh. But I'm over it now.

It was cool laying a transect line here because we were on the near vertical cliff of the drop off. Sick! I saw a chubby sea star that I later found out Flipper had strategically moved the sea star there so that we would see it hehe. I was trying to be very careful not to touch any more coral and break it off the entire dive. At one point, I was investigating a cave area and something huge--think 3-4 ft. long-- swam quickly back into the dark hole. I wanted to look in but I was too afraid of bumping into more coral to get close enough. Oh well! Maybe it's better that I didn't go look in there....

Christine and I swam to meet up with the group and looked around a bit, seeing a bunch of pretty fishies, including this one that was spotted like a jaguar. And a black and white one that had both stripes and spots. We chilled for a bit until DanK had to surface cause he was low on air, so we slowly went up. I was very sad to go.

We headed back to shore, dropped people off near the hotel, and I stayed with three other girls and David to clean up the boat. We had to lift heavy tanks, clean nasty B.C.'s and regulators, the whole time under a killer hot sun. I was dripping sweat, ew. But we had fun doing it. We caught a cab back to the hotel and got ripped off: it should cost $4 and we knew that, but, Bonnie was her name, charged us $8, then accepted $7. Rip off! Back at the hotel, I asked to make a reservation at the Japanese restaurant, and they told me that they weren't sure yet if they were taking reservations. Hmm, weird? Jim went up a little later to ask again and then it was suddenly okay to make a reservation. WTF? Whatevs.

People met up at 6:30 and even David came (he's staying at the marine lab) and we sat down at he Japanese restaurant with grumbling bellies. I ordered a dinner deal, sashimi (tuna, herring, shrimp, and two other kinds of fishies), miso soup, salad, tempura fried shrimp, sushi, hot green tea, and an orange slice for dessert. DELICIOUS. and I have been complaining to everyone that all I want is sushi. I am now satisfied. We had a ton of fun at dinner, and we stayed later (like 2.5 hours hehe) and talked and talked with David. It was so much fun! Sabrina and I pretend "rushed" David like we would at a sorority, it was hilarious. Flipper got it on camera. And I learned how to say a naughty phrase in Japanese... not gonna say it.

After we went on a night snorkel. I was afraid of the dark water, but I went anyways. First thing we saw was a 3 ft. trumpet fish, just chillin under us. We also saw a sting ray and all I could thing about was Steve Irwin :[ I didn't get too close... We were looking for the plane wreck cause it would look creepy at night, but we couldn't find it. I was with Flipper and Squirt, and soon we noticed that Pearl and Danimal were out there too. We all joined and swam out in one direction until... we nearly ran into the limestone rock island! Whoa. I was inches away, whoa. I saw some glowing eyes that quickly disappeared at one point, yikes! I started to feel a bunch of pin pricks on my skin. Baby jellies! Ouch! It was just like a pin prick, which isn't too bad, but after a while and with pricking on my abdomen, etc. it started to get annoying and then painful so Squirt and I decided to get out. But this was not before we turned our lights off completely and moved our hands around underwater, watching the bio luminescence in the water. COOL. And we floated on our backs and looked up at the amazing stars. Awesome. The milky way is directly above us! It's sooooooo cool! Gosh I love stars.

We crawled out and got some ice cream. Yummmm. Looking into the water from a suspended bar, we saw cuddle fish! They are little squid guys who are so funny to watch, scooting around and eating stuff. There are also four humongous giant clams chillin right there. Awesome! We moved over to lawn chairs to get out of the light, then to the dock, where Pearl told me all about the stars (because she knows so much about them). I loved it. I didn't want to leave.

Eventually we had to go back to our rooms, I showered and saw on BBC the tragic flooding in Pakistan. Wow, it's crazy to realize how out-of-sync I have been with reality and what is going on around the world right now. I feel ignorant, but at the same time at ease.

It felt wonderful to fall asleep... and now I'm at breakfast writing this, so excited for the climax of our trip to Palau JELLYFISH LAKE. Today. Right. Now. !!!!!!!!!

With the jellies,

B

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday eeeeek!

So much to talk about!!!

Sunday was our "free day," but some of us chose to drive to the southern tip of the island with David in the morning until lunch. I went and am so glad that I did! We saw the spot where Magellan landed, Umatac, a spanish fort, a monument to Chief Pagao and Chief Quipoa, and some beautiful, beautiful views. I rode a carabao! It's this awesome type of water buffalo, endemic to the Philippines. The guy who owned them said that the two he owned can tow 150 and 300+ lbs. each. They are used for hunting: the animals killed (like deer) are draped over the carabao and the hunter leaves the carabao to find his way back to the village on his own. Today, the carabao are creating problems because of their excessive population numbers, so they are trying to kill them off :[ It was a lot of fun and we took some awesome pics. I found some mermaid tears! We let hermit crabs joust in our hands and we went to a dock where the locals hangout.

Afterwards, we headed to the beach Tuman Bay, where all the hotels and tourists are. The song Dynamite by The beach was full, FULL of green algae, mostly because of the nutrient runoff from all of the urbanization around that area. Otherwise, it was wonderful. We came just after 1:30 P.M., when low tide hit. Thereafter, the water got progressively higher until by the time we left, where we were kneeling before we would not have been able to stand on our tippy toes. Whoa! The coral was sharp and hurt our feet though.

After a good swim and fun, a group of us decided to walk around, looking for tropical drinks. We walked down the beach toward the hotels, thinking we would find a "Tiki Bar," or something. The first hotel did not look very welcoming, but we found a path off the beach that looked like it might lead to the street... oh, but no. We found ourselves looking at a strange glass building with a bunch of seats and a beautiful pool surrounding the building. It was all very nice looking. I was afraid that someone would find us and chase us out, like the mean ballerina teacher from the Little Rascals. Anywho, no one found us. Let it be known: I was walking with two white guys and five ethnically Asian girls. Okay, so fastforward from that note: we walked next to tennis courts, indoor tennis courts, golf courts, then... AMAZINGNESS. At least two pools, waterfalls, a lazy river, kayaking through a waterfall, water slides, a Tiki Bar, and... Asians. Nothing but Asians. Lots and lots of Asian boys, girls, families. Only Asians people. Yes, I felt like an outsider. I felt the stares. I felt the discomfort and awkwardness. OMG. Here's the kicker: we were running through Guam's Pacific Islands Resort. Bhaha! The white guy in front of the pack felt super awkward and started to book it through the hotel. Our group got very divided and lost amongst the Asian children in rash guards and parents staring at us. I tried to stay back a bit and keep the group together, but it was a lost cause. Oh well! We made it through the madness and then calmed down a bit, recovered a few people, and crossed the street to the Jamaican Grill, where we had eaten dinner a few nights ago. We ordered our much-anticipated tropical drinks yummmmmmm ;] we called Bridget McDonald (who was still at the beach) to tell her that we would be late, so everything was good.

We walked back to the beach and headed to dinner... Marianas Trench, a Thai restaurant. Unfortunately, I love spicy, but That food does not always sit nicely with me, so I was a bit cautious about dinner. Everyone else was stoked though! I ordered a seafood salad with mussels, shrimp, and calamari, and it came last. Of course. But it was pretty good. I survived! And this was challenge for me, eating mussels, because I had made a promise to myself never to eat them again. But Ibroke it, and I lived! I guess it's not a rule anymore. Also, dinner was hilarious because everyone was freaking about about how spicy the food was. Mine wasn't bad at all, but some people got more spice than they had anticipated, and they were definitely throwing water down their throats and very red in the face. Haha!

Back at the dorms, we had to pack our bags for Palau!!!! because we would not get an opportunity on Monday, with all that was planned. It didn't take me as long as I thought it would, and I was able to pack my personal Scuba gear (fins, booties, etc.) in my suitcase, whereas before I had Christine stuff it in her suitcase. Phew! The local kiddies came back with a lot of energy and cake for us. Yummm. They were playing old music really loudly and practicing their boxing: the one guy is good, and may have taken part in the Micronesian games that were occuring as we were there! Boom Boom Boom Boom by Venga Boys has been in my head all trip and was, coincidentally, one of the four songs on their repeated playlist. Bhaha.


• • •

Monday morning we were up and out the door at 7:15 to go to the Naval Base. I was super excited for this, because my grandfather was an airplane mechanic on the island of Tinian during WWII, and I was hoping to get some more insight into what it was like for him from this tour.

At the base, we were not allowed through the gate; as it turns out, the tour guide was waiting for us at the museum, just outside the gate. We picked her up in our van and another guide in the other van, to get tours while driving. We stopped and got outside at a flag pole. In about 20 seconds I wanted to crawl into a hole and die, I was dripping sweat! Ew. We drove on (phew!) and stopped to see a lot that used to be an amphitheater. I was overtaken by jungle and forgotten. An old, old Japanese war veteran recalls the amphitheater back in the day, and once when on Guam remarked that he remembers it, but he didn't not elaborate, so historians know little about it. Japanese P.O.W.'s constructed the wall around it. I don't know why, but it gives me the chills to think that those men made this wall, where so many people congregated, and now it looks like a haunted house. Yikes. We stopped to see a cemetary with Chamorro families who used to live in Sumay, the town where the naval base now sits, the town which was decimated by war and now no longer exists. Very sad, in my opinion. It creates conflict, though, because Chamorros complain that they are not allowed on the land, but the lady who was touring us (Annette I think?) says that the families are free to come onto the base, as long as they talk to her first. She is frustrated that they are not listening; they are frustrated because the land of their ancestors is completely taken over. Sad. We stopped for the tribute to the war dogs and the statue of a dog, in the center of the graves. Aw! And we saw the beach, where the Chinese? or Japanese clippers landed in the water, and ships brought people to the Pan Am Hotel. The whole tour, flies were cleaning the bacteria off of all the cuts on my legs. It was gross, but kind of good for me... ew.

After we stopped at the naval base museum, watch a thirty minute movie on the war (in which they showed decapitated heads/bodies and some sad videos, among other cool shots. It is mind boggling to stand on land exactly where guys my age and younger (for reference, I am twenty) were holding guns and fending for their lives. Unbelievable. It scares me to death. A guy in the gift shop brought in a rifle gun for us to hold, but I was distracted with a book of photos of war dogs, and another book with old war slogan postcards. So cool! We took a group picture in front of the torpedo outside.

We were starving at this point, despite plans to do more things this afternoon, so we hastily decided on T.G.I. Friday's. Meh. Okay. Fun. Meh.

After, we went back to the dorms to pack and leave the dorms by 3:30. I'm sad to say that my rash guard has been taken for good. Stolen is the word. I told our R.A. that she gets to keep a nice, long sleeved black rash guard as soon as she finds it. She was happy!

We left, me alone in the van with Jerry, where I had better A.C. than the other peeps. As we turned into the airport, Jerry's wife called (she's also on the island with us, but doing her own thang). Our flight was delayed 2 1/2 hours. Great. Figuring out what to do was hectic, though it needn't be. We ended up checking our luggage but not going through security yet. My bad weighed 57 lbs., 7 lbs. overweight. Bhaha oops?! She let me pass after taking out some stuff and dropping to 54 lbs. Nice lady!

We ended up back at the same Thai restuarant. Thai two nights in a row? Ugh. But I survived. The fried calamari, papaya salad, and chicken satay were on nom nom good. I had a lot of fun. We talked about ENST (Environmental Studies) grad school options. Yale anyone?!

Back at the airport, we got through security in a breeze. Literally, there was absolutely no one there. Hello small airport! There were a lot of nice stores, but I didn't feel much like looking around. I settled down with my laptop to watch The Life Aquatic, but the sound was too low for us to hear (me, Christine, Lauren, and Laura); so we decided on Finding Nemo. Perfect, eh?! I forgot how much I love this movie. I can still quote most of it. Chyeah! Christine went to the bathroom at one point, but the security guy would not let her back into the gate area. He lectured us on being "sterile" and not being able to mingle with the people getting off the plane, or else we would all have to go back through security, immigration, blah blah blah. So Lauren, Laura and I went outside of the gate area to sit with Christine and finish the movie. But we watched people walk freely back into the gate area and were confused. So we just went back in no problems. What? The mean security guy started talking to us again, apologizing for coming off as mean, yahtah yahtah. Bhaha drama! They also provided free beverages and snacks for us because of the insane delay. Thanks!

On the plane, I slept, and I'm glad I did because for the few moments I was awake, I could feel the plane getting higher and lower in altitude much too often. In other words: scary flight.

Flying
into Palau, I peered out the window. I could not see a thing... then some faraway lights, a few more, then... land. So suddenly! And rough, eek. We turned to each other excitedly: guess what? WE'RE IN PALAU!!! Finally!

We scurried off the plane (side note: I realized that there were a ton of empty seats at the back of the plane, where I could have had three to myself and slept a little more comfortably. Eh, oh well.). Through immigration quickly, and onto our awesomely-Asian style shuttle bus. I remember buses like this in China! I thought the drive would be fast to the Sea Passion Hotel, but I was very wrong. We were winding through jungle for a long, long time. I commented that I felt like I was on a DisneyWorld ride and others agreed. It was weird too because it was dark out and the windows were fogged (humidity!), so we really felt confused.

Finally at the hotel, we were dumbfounded. I was shaking. No words. Just. Right. WHOA.

We're in paradise.

!!!

The hotel is beautiful. There is a pool, decks, lounge chairs, a gorgeous, gorgeous beach and water (though we couldn't see it well in the dark), an outside bar with steps into the water, AHHHH! I'm so happy!

Sabrina and I decided to room again, rushed to our room (everyone was hyper at this point), only to find only one bed to share. Not okay, apparently, and we were switched to some yucky room with an ugly view of some jungle, rather than ocean, which everyone else got. Not fair :[ oh well.

Despite the rush of adrenaline, we passed out. Really passed out. I didn't move all night. Ahhhh

P.S. pictures aren't uploading again, sorry. I'll do that later. And my battery power is at 10%, and my plug doesn't fit into outlets here SO, a demain, B

Monday, August 9, 2010

Saturday

Saturday. Word.

Note: pictures are loading too slowly, I will load them up later when I have the time. Sowwy!

We got up a little later today than usual, there was nothing planned to do in the morning. We ended up meeting in a lab classroom in the marine lab to talk logistics. We were in this pretty awesome room with preserved stuff in jars and such. Dive safety procedure was discussed, as well as the details for the next dive: A SHIPWRECK!!!

I couldn’t believe it when I heard that. A shipwreck?! There is special training to be able to dive into a wreck, but we weren’t planning on going in any doors or holes, just look. We were told that the highest point on the boat was at 40 ft. and the deck at 60 ft. Our max. depth is 60 ft. so it worked out perfectly.

We also got sick dive bumper stickers. Oh, and while we were being lectured at, Flipper was sitting next to me fooling around on his computer. He had some application up that uses the camera in the computer to video record your face and insert it in a picture over another face. In other words, there was a picture of, for example, people on a roller coaster, and Flipper’s face was moving around in the middle of the picture. Casey (Pearl) was sitting a row behind us and she got in the picture a lot too because the computer was picking up her face in the camera. SOOOO funny. I wanted to watch but I couldn’t without laughing. Eventually David Ginsburg caught on and asked us to stop. I don’t care, so worth it.

We left the lab lecture hall quickly and got our stuff so that we could go to Kmart for some much needed personal items. This was also souvenir shopping time, and I got some awesome stuff. We ate some lunch at a “Little Caesars” conjoined to the Kmart. It was my first time, so yummy! The “crazy sticks” really are crazy -- crazy good! I also got myself a watch that shows the moon cycle and the rainbow zebra gum that I remember getting from Toys ‘R Us all the time.

We went to the same dock as every other dive and got all the gear out. My little friend Nicole was there (the daughter of the boat captain), which made me happy. Jerry came late with the rest of our dive gear, then we were ready to go.

The shipwreck was an intentional sinking. It was meant to build a breakwater. Going down, we used the buoy line so that we didn’t go too deep (the water was about 100 ft. if you go all the way down). I saw the boat appearing and got so excited. It. Was. Awesome!!! I felt like i was in Titanic, when the robot goes underwater to video record the ship. And in the movie, the rusted sunk ship suddenly transforms into what it was, then back to sunk ship, then the past again. I tried to image the ship with a crew running around on the deck and ropes lying around. It gave me the chills.

The portholes on the side of the ship were particularly cool, because of the conglomerate of sea life growing around the edges. It looked like something Disney would construct for a sunk ship ride at DisneyWorld. I used my flashlight to peer inside, but it was too deep and too dark... creepy!

We swam from the bow to the stern (front to back, I feel so smart!) and at the end I looked over the edge, suspended parallel to the ship/the ground, and I nearly had a stomach dropping sensation. It was very dark below me and I imagined what it would have been like to look over the edge of the boat when it was being used.

Swimming back towards the bow a bit, a big structure was nearby, where perhaps the captain spend his time. There was a ladder inside to a second level, and an American flag still hanging on the outside wall. This really gave me the creeps, idk why. I nudged my dive partner DanK and put my hang over my heart, as if saying the Pledge of Allegiance. He didn’t understand me at first, then he saluted the flag with his hand at his forehead.

Moving on, we were headed back to the bow to end the dive (so sad!). Jennah was taking lots of pictures, I hope they turn out clear! I shined my flashlight down a hole in the ship deck that has a ladder. I could not see the bottom of the ladder. I thought to myself: instead of stairway to Heaven, I’m looking at the ladder to Hell. I got a chill down my back.

We had to make a long safety stop to off gas the nitrogen. There was a bar suspended 15 ft. below our boat, connected to our boat with two regulators. It was convenient for holding onto during the safety stop, or in case of an emergency/no air. We posed with the bar a bit for pictures, then headed up.

After an hour surface interval time, we did our second dive of the day at the same site but closer to the brake wall. Our transect tape jammed up at about 30 meters. After some struggling, I wrapped the tape around the machine and we decided to use the 30 ft. level as a reference. I saw two spiky black sea cucumbers and a camo one.

We showered, dressed up a bit, then BBQ’d. We were hoping to go out and have fun, but we didn’t end up going out; our instructors didn’t want us to. Eh, we’ll survive. But that was definitely a fun night...

Peace, B

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fishy Friday - U of. Guam President and Barracuda Rock

Hi all!

(Derek [Flipper]with a dazzling butterfly who must have been injured or sick, because it did not fly away! -->)

Friday we met with the president of the University of Guam. He was a nice and we had a nice talk about academics vs. politics. Once again, we were told that Palau is going to mind blowing. I am SO excited!

Afterwards, we ate some food at the marine lab and headed out to the dock to load up on the same boat.

Our first dive was at Barracuda Rock in the open ocean. It's called that because of a large exposed rock on the surface of the water that looks like a barracuda head. The current was pretty strong here and there were significant waves. I was wary about the dive because of this. I was expecting to use up a lot of energy and air.

Underwater the current wasn't as bad as I expected. We laid out our 100 meter transect line and counted fishies and inverts, just like yesterday. Man, we are pretty dang good at this. We got in trouble though for picking up the transect tape while winding it in, rather than just leaving the end tied down and spinning the tape into the measure while swimming back. Oopsies, oh well!

Then we explored a bit. I saw Nemo! I also saw lots of butterfly fish, which have a cool geometric design on their bodies, of white lines crisscrossing. A lot of fishies swim back really fast into holes in the ground or the coral when we swim near, it's so funny! We swam through a tunnel under the big barracuda head rock, and then Jennah showed up and motioned for us to follow her back to the boat to ascend. On the way back, Kirby started making exaggerated pointing motions to something behind me... I turned... and saw... a

SHARK !!!!!

It was maybe four feet long, idk it was far away (sorry for the bold btw, it won't undo now that I've done it. oops). So cool! It was definitely Bruce from Finding Nemo.

We ascended and headed to our next dive side, this time in the wharf. It was Western Shoals, where our second Guam dive took place. I misspelled that earlier.

we had to lay a transect here at 20 meters, and the stupid tape measure jammed up at about 30 m out. I took it and wound it around itself and we decided as a group to use the 30 ft line as a reference and to swim about 20 ft deep. Eh, I guess it worked. Oh, and my pencil was broken before I even made it all the way down, so I was essentially useless. Awesome.

I was a bit frustrated, but that's ok. The ship mate Chase told us that we would find a lazy sea turtle down there. I definitely didn't see that and I told him that I was upset. :[ I did see lots of Gill fishies from Finding Nemo, thanks for the correction Kristin, so that was cool! But no turtle :[ (P.S. Yay! The bold type has gone away!)
(<-- that's Kirby) We came back to shore and it began to rain on us again. We unloaded everything and left, got groceries, and headed to the marine lab house to have a BBQ. The neighbors were already using the grill, which was nice because we didn't have to start it up then. But we did have to wait for them for quite a while.
(Bridget McD, the other Bridget -->)
We had Casey Quon's (aka Pearl) AHmazing Korean potato dish. OMG so so so good! And super healthy! AND you can make the dish with sweet potatoes, one of my most favoritist foods in the world, instead of potatoes. Um, yes. AND Derek Lazo--excuse me, Flipper--made his delicious steak dish. Yum yum yum. We never grilled the eggplant or corn like we wanted to, but I was not hungry at that point.

I also was hurriedly moving plates and dishes and things around and I accidentally.... knock Jim Haw's half-full expensive gin to the ground. Crack. Break. Splash. FAIL.

I felt horrible.

Everyone "ooo-ed" and "ahh-ed" at me, then tried to console me, saying accidents happen, it's ok, worse things could have happened. I'm such a klutz! I'll admit, as I'm writing this right now, it's the next day and I have been banned from the kitchen. Walking into the house, I was informed that I am not welcome in the kitchen and wary stares led me to sit far, far away on the other side of the room. Hehe. Oopsies.

We had a great time eating (and quenching our thirst ;D ) and talking with each other. There was definitely some bonding going on. I was sitting on a hammock under the stars (stars which I have never seen before in the Midwest), next to Christine, talking with my peeps, loving life. There was only one problem: bugs. I was nearly eaten alive, though not so much because my bug bite are itchy yet small. Poor Christine, her bug bite are HUGE. I think her body is more sensitive to the bites, because they are probably five times bigger on her than on me. Whoa. Poor girl. Really, it's pretty nasty.

Most of the group left, and it was just me, Sabrina, Flipper, Lauren, and David Ginsburg (professor). We had some nice talks and had a bunch of fun.

AND David showed us the ladder to the roof of the marine lab. OOPS should I not say that? Hehe oh well.

That is all. G'nite, B