Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Month: September 2016

Day one- road trip to Yellowstone National park

After a really fun weekend in Seattle area with my old friends from elementary school, Trung and I set off on a 12 hour road trip to Yellowstone. I’ve been wanting to come up where for a long time and never found a convenient time to go or someone to go with.  Now that I don’t work- Yellowstone is perfect.

Trung and I download a comprehensive camping list. We start packing all sorts of stuff I never thought I would need. A bucket. String. Duct tape. Compass. The list goes on and on. 

I wake up at 8am… Pack some stuff and then make breakfast. I make the left over beef pho and then we head out.

Bring me- I forgot my glasses and toothbrush and we go back to the house. 30 minutes lost.

We drive for about an hour, stop for Starbucks and then keep going. I drive down a hill and get a glimpse of two SUVs on the opposite side of the median. Crap. How fast am I going? Crap- 80 ish. I hit the brakes and look in my mirror for the cop to turn around. He does. He catches up and the red and blues are flashing.

Shoot. Oh well. There goes $$$$. He pulls up and asks me to get out of the car. I thank my lucky stars that I’m Asian and not a threat. I walk over and he tells me I’m being recorded. Ok. 

  
“Do you know why I pulled you over?”

Me-“Yes- I was speeding”

“Do you know how fast?”

Me-“80???”

“82”

“Can I see your license?” – I hand him my license.

“Where you going?” 

Me-“road trip to Yellowstone”

“Why were you driving so fast?”

Me- “no reason. I should know better. I’m driving my friends car and I was coming down the hill and trying to break but not that well.”

“How old are you?”

Me-“36. I know. I’m old enough to know better.”

“Who are you traveling with?”

“My friend Trung troung.”

“How well do you know him? ”

“We went to college together. 16 years”

We do more chatting and then he talks to Trung in the passenger seat. He asks for registration and insurance.

He comes back to me and asks what I do for work. I tell him I quit my job and am trying to find something else. Life choices and figure out stuff, hence Yellowstone.

He says – drive slower. Don’t speed. I say I will. “Have a good day. You can go now.”

I walk back to the car and sit there. Trung is in disbelief. Did I get a ticket? No. Thank god. I didn’t have the money for a ticket. Hey everyone! Honesty pays off!! Hip hop hooray!

We keep driving towards Idaho and decide to stop at a nuclear reactor tourist site. 20 minutes on the way there and we realize you have to do a 4 hour your. Ain’t nobody got time for that. We turn around and decide to get lunch. 

The Check engine light comes on. Really?? We drive to oreillys and they say they never seen that code. P0126. A quick Google search shows that it’s 90%chance it’s the thermostat.

We are 3-4 hours away from Boise Idaho. The two shops in this road stop town are busy till tomorrow. The mechanic says we can make it if we drive slow and monitor the temp and pull over if need be. We keep ok truck in’.

I use Yelp and find a shop in Boise. 5 stars. I call the guy and explain our situation and that we are trying to get to Yellowstone. He says we can bring it in first thing in the morning and he will get a tech on it. I call 3 other places and they all are about $100 more expensive. We decide to use my hotel points and we stay at holiday inn at Boise. It’s a nice city and we make it there without issue.

Next morning bright and early I get to the shop at 7:55am. They fix everything within 3 hours and we are a GO!

We leave Boise about 11am and then drive straight to Jackson (just south of grand Teton national park). 

It starts to rain as soon as we get to the camp site. I frantically start to put up the tent. I lose a pole and can’t find it. Trung had dropped it somewhere. We search for a while and I finally find it under the tent. Go figure. The last pole goes up in the middle of the tent to create a gap for rain protection. When I’m done there’s a nice puddle where I’m gonna sleep. I use a shammy to clean it up. 

We finally drive to the park and watch twiligh turn into darkness. We hear some animals in the background and stare at the bright night sky.

Back at the campsite we make a fire and some dinner. It’s nice to relax. 

Good night. 

Fantasy versus Reality – How much work does it take to earn $70?

breakwater_beach

This weekend I got my first private lesson for a Drysuit Orientation. I’m pretty excited because I got to do these drysuit orientations every day in Silfra. Now I get money for this? Hooray.

Frank arrives just past 1pm. I’m already at Breakwater Cove relaxing after my open water course. He’s just finished doing a feeding show at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I find out that you can sign up to be a volunteer to clean the tanks or feed the fish. Its a year and a half waiting list, but he says its worth it.
We swap stories about diving and sabbaticals. He took one when he was younger biking around Europe for 3 months. I’m beginning to think that everyone in their lifetime should take a sabbatical to have fun instead of working 30 years (and then retiring to have fun).

I do my typical speech about drysuits…. Drysuits are a new factor of bouyancy… dive as if you are superman and keep horizontal… lift your left arm up with your elbow bent to release air…. kick your feet up a little bit to give yourself a better trim, press the center button to add air to your suit if you feel compression at deeper depths. Remember that the air will expand as we rise so if you have added air, remember to release the air via your left arm valve. And on and on I go.

By the time I finish, I start to see Frank sweating. Its a hot day to be in a drysuit. I help him put on his gear and then I go to put on my gear. I’m wearing my new backplacte Halcyon wing. I’m a little unsure about my weight distribution.

The first 20 minutes of the dive goes great…. then I test out my wing inflator valve at 35 ft and it starts to auto inflate due to a sticky spring. I try to quickly dump air out but its not helping. I start to ascend and feel helpless as I watch Frank fade away. I pop up to the surface where the Seals start barking at me. Frank pops out of the water and I explain to him what happens. I’m pretty embarrassed and feel my cheeks turn hot. I stop using my wing for inflation and rely on my drysuit instead. I wonder if it was smart of me to spend so much money on this backplate wing.

The rest of the dive we spend doing some drills and test out diving with out ankle weights. I also show him differences with diving with the dry suit valve closed versus open. As we walk out- Frank can’t believe how warm it is.  The 55 degree water had nothing on him. The sun is shining and it feels like a nice hot summer day.
beautiful-day-montery

We get back to my car and I help explain to Frank how to get out of his suit. He struggles. Wriggling like he’s got a monkey on his back. I show him how I get out of my suit and then slowly assist him. He keeps saying- shouldn’t I be able to do this on my own? I tell him when I first started working in Iceland that I used to hide behind a van so that customers wouldn’t see my misery trying to get out of my drysuit. Like a crazy person escaping an asylum wearing a straitjacket. Frank, like most people, is intrigued by my travels to Iceland. I tell him all the great memories I have on the island. I wish I could go back but there are other places I want to dive… like the Galapagos and much of South America.

At the end of the session he pays me $50 a dive and a $20 tip. I’m really excited because it was a really fun day and it didn’t feel like working. I did this on my own. Frank asks me if I can do more privates with his 12 year old daughter. I respond that I hadn’t thought about it, but sure. I would love to dive and be a role model to his daughter.

A few days later I meet my dad and tell him about my weekend. His first remark- “didn’t you used to earn that much in a hour?” I know he didn’t mean any harm in it. But yeah, I did. And I know I can’t survive off of scuba diving. But really, What’s better: sitting in a cushy office and pushing around powerpoint presentations for an hour or 3 hours of Scuba Diving at Monterey Bay and smiling when you realize all the  truth-isms of Finding Dory.  (don’t mind this pirated secret ending…. hilarious)

To celebrate my gig completion, I took my hard earned $70 to San Francisco and met up with one of my besties from college, Habib. We go to at least 3 cocktail bars where I paid on average $14 a drink.  A whole day’s work in exchange for great conversations and tasty drinks. Totally worth my scuba diving hardwork.

fancy-cocktail-bar-sf

 Be a responsible diver and remember to drink afterwards!

And in case you haven’t used a taxi, download uber and use my promotional code “8tlu0” for a free $20 ride or my lyft code “LESLIE40”

Quitting an Open Water Course

Perspective. Yesterday, I had a student diver that was debating on completing the open water course. He simply said “I can do the exercises. That’s not the problem. The problem is that I don’t like being under water. I don’t think I like scuba diving.” Hmm. I tred to sway him and tell him what a great job he did on day 1 of the pool session.
But then I thought, does he want to be convinced? Or should i lay off an just let him quit? I tried to tell him that I would do all the review skills privately and he could swim around the bottom of the pool and enjoy scuba diving without pressure. He was resistant. The more I try to be nice, the more he resisted.
The worst part was that I forgot his name. I asked him again, and he gave me a half laugh / half frustated remark. He was done. At this instance, I realized that I can’t force someone to finish a program. That’s something he needs to figure out. Maybe one day he will wake up with regret, and call the shop and finish the program. Maybe he will decide he loves to snorkel instead. Who knows.
I felt like I had failed as a divemaster.

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Continuing Scuba Education – PADI or GUE

PADI DiveMaster

I thought becoming a PADI divemaster would put me into an elite stage in scuba diving. However, after a few dives in Monterey, CA, I’m quickly learning that I have barely scraped the surface into scuba diving. There are so many more things that I need to learn. I feel confident that I can help other PADI open water divers and advanced open water divers, but I want to challenge myself.

Global Underwater Explorers (GUE)

Screen Shot 2016-09-01 at 12.18.59 PMUp until a few weeks ago, I had no idea GUE even existed.  Another divemaster at my new shop introduced me to his fellow GUE divers.  He explained to me that this was another diving organization.  His short explanation to me was that it teaches all divers to dive use the same equipment configuration, dive in group formation, and a higher level of buoyancy and trim requirements.  Essentially it means, whenever you dive with another GUE person, you always expect the same type of diver.  You could dive with someone you just met, and feel like you have been dive buddies for years.

Comparison between PADI and GUE

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