One sixteen hour flight later and I'm in Guangzhou China. It looks like there are nice mountains nearby, but I can't actually tell from all the smog.
When I first got out of the airport, I was trying to find a shuttle to my hotel, and accidentally got in a random person's car. I guess a lot of people just drive by the airport and pick up random passengers, i.e. unlicensed taxi. And even though they don't speak English, they say yes to everything you ask! We figured it out when she called her friend to translate for us...
Early flight tomorrow to Jakarta, then a connecting flight to Bali!
I got to my flight early, so I was the first one at the gate. I sat in front of the window and started doing some work. Eventually, other people started showing up. Finally, the plane pulled up, and like 8 people immediately got up and started taking selfies all around me of them with the plane in the background.
Also, literally everyone smacks their lips while eating, it's incredibly annoying...
On the plane, in an incredibly pleasant voice, they announced "Dear passengers, we would like to remind you that trafficking illegal drugs is a serious offense, and carries the maximum penalty of death. Thank you." Then they repeated it a few times for good measure. Got it.
I finally got to Bali at after dark. Driving to the hotel from the airport was insane, there were so many mopeds. I can't believe they all avoided eachother. The streets here are incredibly narrow and just lined with shops. It's funny how many American brands there are. Also, lots of locals trying to goad you into giving them business, one even called me "sexy man." Needless to say, I was flattered.
I got dinner at a little hole in the wall restaurant. My Balinese Nasi Goreng (friend rice) was delicious, and there was a little bit of a clash of cultures as "Ophelia" by the Lumineers played during my dinner.
Tomorrow brings my last flight to Komodo!
Got up this morning to a balinese sunrise, very beautiful. I post a picture when I figure out how to get them on this computer. The drive to the airport was filled with street dogs and street cats. There was an interesting uniformity of the dogs, which I guess makes sense when you don't artificially select for weird things (i.e. pugs).
At the airport. Lets see if my legs even fit in this small propeller plane...
My legs fit! Actually it was a very comfortable ride since the plane was empty, so I took my own row, and just looked out the window for an hour as we passed island after island. It's incredible how many there are!
58 hours later, and I'm finally at the dive shop. First couple hours are slow, just talking some logistics with the owners. After that though, it's time to find a place to live.
The shop called a local guy with a truck, and he came to pick us up. Then another local from the shop came with me to act as a translator. So the three of us are in the tiny cab of a small truck and we drive out of the main tourist area into the local's part of the town. First place we go is to a police officers house. Seems a bit strange to me to go there when I'm not quite legal to work in this country... But I trust them. His place is full, but he has another house that will be finished being built in ~2-3 weeks. From here, we just drive around and ask people if they are renting rooms. So I have at least one option outside the main tourist area, but I'm not going to decide yet. Learn the area a little first.
So for the time being, I'm sleeping in the dive shop.
Spent the night hanging out with a bunch of other travellers. 3 brothers from spain, 4 Austrian guys who had mostly met up while traveling, a canadian, and a Panamanian. All super cool and super friendly. We walked around town and hung out at a bar. They are almost all in the middle or end of their own long term travels. I got a lot of good ideas of places to go and things to do.
This town is really small.
Taught my first class today. I can't believe how different it is from teaching at home... At ECD, we have two class sessions, 7 pool sessions, and 2 days of open water dives. Here, there is a morning of classwork, and then straight to the ocean. I was expected to do all the pool skills and the first ocean dives in one day! And for anyone that knows how much I like to talk (which is everyone that knows me at all), that's not easy for me...
In any case, the diving was incredible. I couldn't believe the diversity of fish. I probably saw at least 50 species of fish. I also saw a colorful nudibranch, countless feather stars, a 2' sea cucumber, arrow crabs (or something similar), bubble coral, feeding soft corals, and so much more.
And they told me it was a crappy site...
The hardest part was watching my students and not all the cool stuff! I really shouldn't be teaching without experience in these sites...
It was really cool, one of the guys from the shop (Marion, if I'm spelling it correctly) came out on the boat with us to snorkel. I was talking to him after, and he said that it was his first time snorkeling or anything like that. And he's lived here his whole life! It was really awesome how excited he was about it, and he couldn't wait to get home to tell his wife. It's an infection...
First dives at the "real sites" today. It is just absurd... One site put every aquarium I've ever seen to shame. In one dive, I saw more species than the combined total of all my dives in the US. I saw my first sea turtles, manta rays, a sea snake, flying fish, nudibranch, lionfish, unicorn wrasse (?), something that I don't even know what it was, clown fish in anemones, bubble coral, and another hundred species.
But most importantly... MANTIS SHRIMP! Just a little spearer, but still great.
Also, the wheel on the boat was pretty janky. It looked like a normal wheel, but if you went down a deck, you saw that it was just hooked up to two lines that ran the length of the boat. At the back is a small rudder. So when you turn it one way, you reel in the line on that side and it turns the rudder. Very makeshift it seems.
five times a day they play a muslim prayer over the loud speaker in the town. For like half an hour. It was neat at first, but I think I had enough at the point where it woke me up at 4 am. When people were making this stuff up thousands of years ago, didn't they know that people would be sleeping at 4 am??
Another random note, geckos make the most ridiculous sounds. They sound like a chew toy!
Back out tomorrow on the boat to the shark sites!
Today we went to the north side of komodo island. For the first time, I was on a site exposed to the ocean and not protected. This meant there was more wave action and more current. One of the dives was at a site called the Cauldron, it sits right between two islands and is definitely a drift dive. As the tide comes in and out of this chain of islands, a large portion of the water runs through this 100-200 meter channel. As a result, the current was crazy. The surface looked like rapids because the sea was "boiling" from the current. Underwater wasn't so bad, but I don't think you coul;d really fight the current if you needed to.
On the way back in, there was an insane rain storm. We could barely see 10 meters in front of the boat. When we got back to port, there was a discrete line dividing the clear blue ocean water and the runoff from the river (which was totally brown). There were even some small trees in the harbor that had been washed out in the small river.
By the way, I'm trying to use meters, celsius, and bar from now on, because no one here knows imperial measurements.
I think everyone here is extremely self concious. It seems like everything that people do (guys at least) is to get attention. Some peoples cars have giant subwoofers just on the outside to play music for everyone else to hear. Then they sit outside playing it for hours at a time, just sitting there...
Curry squid and red rice for dinner.
I finally got some pictures on my computer! Here are some shots from the past few days (all crappy cell phone quality). Click on pictures for a bigger version.
I Feel like I shouldn't say more beyond the title. I saw two of them, they were incredible, anything else that happened today is insignificant.
Also, I made a kids day by getting a stick from the water after a dive. He really wanted it, and I guess I'm obedient?
Pictures from my "real" camera to come very soon
I thought yesterday was awesome, but today I saw a whale shark. It left really quickly, so now I'm hungry for more. But still, incredible.
I keep hearing about the fish market down the road. It's where all the fishermen go when they return on their boats from the day. Tons of fresh fish, and they cook it right there when you buy it. Everyone says that it is incredible!
EVERYONE here smokes. Not just the locals, but all the tourists, travellers, and ex-pats. I don't understand how every tourist smokes when they are all here for scuba diving! That is a terrible combination. But enough of my judgements...
What is more important is that all the locals are incredibly nice. Not too many speak English, but I'm doing my best to pick up the language (from where I left off). Every morning, I have the same short conversation with one of the local dive guides:
me:Salamat pagi. Tastung: Pagi. Me: Apah kabar. Tastung: Kabar baik, dan anda? Me: Baik juga.
Today I met other Americans for the first time since I got here. A couple from Michigan and a guy who went to school at BU! I have no problem with the lack of Americans, but it really did surprise me.
Interestingly, almost everyone that I have met (non-local) is in the middle or end of some long term travels. Long term meaning >6 months. I thought there would be some normal tourists, just here for a week or two, but I've only met one person like that!
More Americans need to take adventures like all these Europeans. Why live your whole life in one country, what's the fun?
I'm starting to settle into the diving here. 18 dives, and I still see something new on literally every dive. Many more turtles and morays today. I also saw this strange animal that remains unidentified (but probably a worm). It had these long white tentacles reaching out a hole in the ground and writhing mildly. Very strange
I also saw my first feather star (crinoid) swimming today. INCREDIBLE! it's really beautiful how it moves, and also intriguing. I really regretted not having my camera...
Come to think of it, the hardest part of this trip so far is that I haven't been able to have my camera for any of the incredible things I've seen!
Last night we went to the fish market. Basically, at the end of the day all of the fishermen come to this market to sell the days catch. So you go, pick a fish, haggle on the price, and then they grill it for you on the spot. It's called ikan bakar, grilled fish. As a group, we got a big grouper and a snapper. it was absolutely incredible, both how fresh it was and the glaze that they put on it. Also, everyone that was there was awesome. A bunch of Spanish people, a few Americanes, a Dane, an Italian, and a Canadian. Everyone here (local and traveller) is so great.
Tomorrow will be my first day out on the boat not working, which means I can bring my camera!! I don't even know how I'll choose what I photograph, there is just so much to see.
Today I got pictures of some monkeys and cranes, only to realize after that my camera was set to shoot in jpeg, not RAW... I hate how Nikon defaults to that whenever you take a memory card. Who wants that???
I also realized today that my name means nothing to anyone here... I get no recognition for my super cool name! This must be what it was like for all of you, all these years.
I also spent a while trying to talk to some of the guys in the shop, and trying to learn some Indonesia words. I'm trying, but it's tough.
As always, Ill leave off with the promise of more pictures to come soon, but really, who knows when I'll have time.
Back to the fish market last night. We got two strings of squid, a barracuda, two snapper, and 4 crabs. For 9 people. What a dinner!It's amazing how good the fresh fish is.
It was also the last time that I'll see some friends I made here for a little while. Ryan and Rachel from Michigan were awesome, and gave me a lot of travel advice. David and Rochelle from Spain were also great, such relaxed happy people! I admire how they live their life. And then of course there was Alvaro, the other instructor here (from Spain). He is very good at haggling, which is great to have on your side.
For dinner, I got a big thing of banana juice to drink. It was pretty weird, but also quite good! Next time, I'll try guava.
I didn't go out to take pictures yesterday, I ended up guiding instead. But today I had a day off, and I spent it working of the NSF Pre-doc proposal. It's so hot in here though, and I feel like I'm going to pass out!
First off, I've realized that I'm writing a lot of short updates with few pictures, and then posting them all at once. I'd rather be writing more full updates with pictures. So, I'm going to just start writing 2-3 updates a week, but make them better. Pictures included.
To start us off, here is a monkey and herron (help me with IDs please!) from Rinca Island (pronounced Rincha, Indonesians always pronounce c as ch) where the Komodo Dragons live! Still haven't been to see the dragons myself, but there is a ton of life that you can see from the boat!
I'll see the dragons soon.
ALSO, please remember that the internet is bad and my computer is bad, so these images are not fully edited OR saved at a high resolution. DON'T JUDGE!!
I was back to diving today, and we saw some really cool stuff! 2 leafy frogfish, a big crocodilefish (which we almost missed, it was so well camoflaged), scorpionfish, several manta rays that got really close and stayed with us, several nudibranchs (I almost never see the same species twice, even though I'm seeing them every dive), and a bamboo shark that swam about a foot away from me.
I'm sure there is more, but when you're seeing so much, it is hard to remember it all. I wish I had my camera underwater!!