Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

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

Author: leslie (page 3 of 4)

Day 2- Grand Teton National Park

So after the check engine light problem was solved we made it pretty easily to Jackson Wyoming and Grand Tetons National Park. For those that don’t know the local geography there- GTNP is another national park south of Yellowstone National Park. GTNP Is surrounded by the Tetons mountains. We talk to the visitor information guy and he suggests the Gros Venture campground just south of the park.  It’s $25 a night with a personal bear locker, flushable toilets, and a personal fire pit. We love it.

We set up camp and it starts to rain. Trung and I over-analyze the set up of a rain covering tarp area. We keep trying to secure and make a false ceiling to keep dry… By the time we finish the rain stops and we never actually use the dry area.

Next stop- the park. The sun is setting and we pull over to a turnout spot and listen for animals. On the way back to the camp site we some sort of deer running along the road.

Back at the camp, we use our skillet and cook up some awesome thick pork chops with a side of rice and potatoes. Crack open a bottle of wine and sit by the camp fire. The dinner tastes better than if we cooked it at home. We toast some s’mores and get all sticky and gooey from the marshmallows. The night sky is bright with all the stars shining down on us. You can see the Milky Way and we use an app to find some constellations.

Next morning- Trung looks at the car. A flat. Ok no big deal, we start to get the donut out and the crow bar… Uh oh. We can’t find the key to the lug nut on the rim. We search and search. NADA. So then I call AAA and explain the situation. They call the tow company and a local car repair shop back in Jackson that can fix the tire and get the rim off without a key.

I cook breakfast and the tow truck guy, Victor shows up. He’s a self-proclaimed redneck from Florida Everglades. I offer him breakfast but he declines. He gets to work and we clean up the site so bears won’t come and eat our stuff.

We get in the car and the guy is in disbelief that Trung likes country music. They talk about Tim McGraw and some other artists and he blasts country the entire way to the shop. We talk about the federal lands and the good sites to see around the area. Locals like to camp, drink and shoot guns. He shows us his Instagram of a video the captured last week of his buddy sheriff shooting a deer in he neck. The deer was hit by a car and had broken its nose and bit its tongue off. The deer couldn’t walk or move. One second you see the deer on the road, BANG, it tumbled over. Dang. That’s crazy. He says there’s a school bus across the street full of middle school ages kids. They all bust out screaming and crying.

We get to the shop (mom and pop local shop) and everyone is pretty friendly. They are able to get the rim off without the key,but he tire is toast. Two nails are in the tire and there’s a slow leak on the inside side wall of the tire. Apparently we drove on a jacked up tire for 50 miles and didn’t know it. It’s fucked. Then choices: $250 for a Bridgestone tire with afternoon replacement at 3pm or a Goodrich tire from Salt Lake City that will get there at 8am the next day. They can get us a local discount on a rental car for $36. Ok- we choose the cheaper option.

By noon we take off to the park and do a 4-5 hour hike around lake Jenny to inspiration point. We are hiking high up. The steepness is making me pant like a dog. I stop, catch my breath and a grizzly bear cub is staring at me. Oh wow! Cute! Wait… Aren’t bears dangerous? Crap- do I play dead? Or run away?

Trung catches up and then starts telling me to take a pic. I grab my phone and do a really quick one because I don’t know if he will get offended. Finally he looks away and we tip toe off higher on the mountain. We pass three hikers and tell them in hiker sign language whisper… There’s a bear down there!!! They look really excited and walk down. They make a lot of noise. The bear doesn’t care.

We get to the top and instantly the clouds turn grey. We take photos of a nice Japanese family and they take our pic. Boom…. The rain is here. I scramble to try my raincoat on and we run down the mountain in record time.

The rain stops and it’s starting to look pretty again. The backdrop of the sun setting and the fall leaves are breath taking. Every area looks so beautiful it’s looks fake. We see more wild buffalo running around on the drive back.

For dinner we cook up some spaghetti and squash veggies. I don’t know if I’m starving, or if I’m just a really good cook.i can’t stop eating.

We play around and the fire and look for animals in the back area. I get scared and run back. We both sleep pretty easily in the tent.

Good night GTNP.

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. 

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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Being a Tourist in Iceland: Dogsledding Day!

dogsledding Iceland

Finally! A reason to take some time off from the internship. My sister and her BF have come to Iceland to visit. I started planning all the fun activities as quickly as I could. One awesome thing about Iceland is that the touring companies give out discounts to other companies’ employees. If I like the tour, I can recommend it to our customers as another activity to do.

In case you are wondering what awesome adventures you can do in Iceland, here’s what I have planned for my Sis:

Day 1: Pick up from Airport. Relax. Walk around the city, go to the Summer Festival. Eat at Icelandic Fish and Chips.

Day 2: Dogsledding on Langjökull glacier. Then take the 4×4 route to Thingvellier National Park. Go to Fontana (the real icelandic geothermal spa!)

Day 3: Puffin Tour in the morning, Laxness Horse Riding in the afternoon

Day 4: Big breakfast in town. Escape Room. Fishmarket, then Drinking at Fredrickson for the boot liters.  Meet the rest of Dive.Is staff. Party!

Day 5: DIY Golden Circle Tour. Snorkeling at Silfra.  Geysir. Gulfoss. Followed by the best restaurant in town – Grill Market.

Day 6: bye bye 🙁

There’s so many things I wish I could take them to if they had more time. Hopefully they like what I’ve organized and love Iceland as much as I do.

Money, Money, Money – Getting Tipped for Scuba Diving

tips

This week I got my OWN very first tip… $20 from an American couple. It just made my entire day that someone actually appreciated my help while diving.

Icing on the cake, today another dive instructor, CJ, gave me half of another tip (1500/2= 750 kroner) which I then used to by three scoops of ice cream from Valdis.

I have to thank all the guides that split their tips with me. I hope they are happy to give me part of their extra money and that I, in return, have helped them and made their day a little easier.

Ok, before I started I really getting into diving, I didn’t really know if we (customers) were supposed to tip. In Thailand, my local friend said there was no tipping. But then I got on a liveaboard and the Americans I was with told me they  planned to tip everyone working on the boat. Then, I met Patrik, and he told me “YES! You should tip your dive guides!” Insert face palm here. I wish I could tell all previous guides I’m sorry I didn’t tip.  I think I tipped, I can’t even remember. Now I won’t forget. I’ll be sure to bring $20USD from now on all my vacations so that guides can get their own “valdis” ice cream.

Tipping is a great gesture to give someone working hard a little extra props. I don’t expect tips while working. Its not customary in Iceland.  There isn’t a glass jar by the scuba tanks asking for tips.

Since I don’t earn a salary here… the tip helps me treat myself after a hard day. oh that Ice Cream tasted like sweet sweet success. mmm mmm.

So the next time you are debating on whether to tip and extra $5- think about what $5 means to you and how much it would mean to the worker. That extra money might change their entire shitty day to one of the best days of the week.

THANK YOU TIPPERS! Woot woot!I feel like I’m on the top of the world with my Valdis Ice Cream!!

valdis

Its a Sad Bloody Rainy Day at Silfra

weather_iceland

Feels like 4°C. Brrrrr….

Today I worked the surface shift for about 12 hours. At Dive.Is, they have a position called “Surface shift.” Its a person that’s not getting into the water. The responsibility is to prepare the morning gear (get all the hoods and gloves for the day ready). Organize the dive site and prepare for the morning customers to arrive. Assist the dive and snorkel teams get ready to get into the water. Go to the entry point of the dive site and assist each customer by having them spit into their own masks and then rinsing them out, putting on the customer’s masks so that they fit properly, and strapping everyone’s fins on. I probably put on over a 100 pairs of fins during a shift.  It’s not the funnest shift to work, but its part of the whole learning experience. Here you learn how to fix stuff before someone gets into the water. Let’s say the regulator kept free flowing, well now you get to change the regulator out while the customer stands at the stairs. Its real “on the job training.”

Ok back to my rant of the day….. It was a really cold, windy and rainy day. My hang nails were at peak nastiness. Nothing could be done about them. At one point, I left a bloody mark on a customer’s cheek while assisting her with her mask and hood. It wasn’t that bad, but I was embarrassed that I got stuff on a customer.

At the end of the shift I couldn’t even unzip a guide’s drysuit. My hands and strength were just gone.

I’m glad that I’m experiencing all this as a trainee, I can’t imagine experiencing cold like this after working in dive industry for a bit.  It’s only going to get easier, right?

BIG Props to all the guides that did this throughout the winter.

Now…I can’t wait to go home and defrost for an hour or two.  Thanks to my app… I’m bloggin in the car 😉

Drysuit Diving: Zip me up before you go go

Zipper

Yesterday was the first time I experienced water in my drysuit. Not that bad… But definitely something I don’t want to experience again anytime soon.

After the first dive, I asked Patrik to check my zipper…. There was a very small gap near the end. So water slowly leaked in and filled my right arm. I think the worst part was my elbow. It got really old and felt liked I had arthritis or something.

The water and coldness really messed with my head. I felt like the soggy sweater was occupying my thoughts instead of the dive (work). Once we finished everything, I couldn’t get out of my drysuit. I usually have a hard time anyways, but then my right arm was hurting and I just couldn’t find the leverage or strength to pull my hands out of the right wrist seals.

Once we got back to the shop I hung my under garment up to dry… But 7 hours later, it still was wet for my morning shift.

So what does it feel like when your suit leaks? Well- the biggest difference is that you feel WET. I felt soggy and painfully cold. When I first started drysuit diving I thought my back was wet. But really that was just the suit compressing. That felt like someone out a cold rock on my back. In comparison, the leak felt like a sharp painful coldness. Now I can explain the difference to customers.

Lessons Learned:

  • Double check your own zipper before jumping into the water
  • Double check your own zipper before jumping into the water – really!!
  • Customers always stress out about getting wet. They aren’t going to die of hypothermia, but if they do get wet, change before the next dive so they don’t become the most miserable person in the world

Grundarhverfi – Diving on my day off

Grundarhverfi diving

So it’s been about 2ish weeks into my dive program. Patrik suggested a “fun dive” on my day off. I thought he was crazy. Everyday I’ve been lugging around heavy gear and breaking my back- why would I do that on my day off?

Well, it turned out to be a good idea. We went to Grundarhverfi (north of Reykjavik). It’s a small reef with lots of macro stuff. Lots of hermit crabs, clams, slugs and stuff. I got to try out a 15L steel tank. I quickly realized that it felt like a giant turtle that ate too much. I couldn’t get my trim right and I think I was underweighted. www.divebuddy.com estimated 12kg for a 12L tank. I went with 10kg and a 15L… Should have been ok, right? Oh well- too late now.

If you ever thought about doing a divemaster course or an IDC, I think you really have to be a die hard fan of diving. Do it because you can’t wait to see what the water will show you. If you aren’t in LOVE with diving, this program can really wear you down. I’ve even had days where I wonder if I made the right decision to go on a sabbatical and become a divemaster. Then I open my eyes and take a deep breathe from my regulator and gawk at the life around me. This is amazing. Diving is amazing. Look at that hermit crab fighting with the other crab. Straight Crab gangster. Thug crab life. hooks up.  This fun dive reminded me why I wanted to do the divemaster program in the first place.

Cheers to fun diving!!

Tripadvisor Reviews

Tripadvisor

Dive.Is is #1 on the Iceland scuba tours. As of today there are over 950 reviews. In the office they give rewards to employees that are mentioned in a five star review. As a dive master student, I don’t receive any incentives or rewards for tripadvisor. However- it would be nice to have someone appreciate my hard work. Some employees tell customers about the rewards and ask for a review. Other employees never ask customers. I’ve been on vacations where companies have asked for a review and ones who have not. I usually write reviews on tours that I really enjoyed. I don’t like to be a negative reviewer. (Ok one time I did write a bad review for a hotel that lost my Sonicare toothbrush… but then after I wrote the review, they gave me credit for a new one. So it was good that I wrote the review after all.

Now, being on the receiver end of reviews, it panics me. I don’t want ruin someone’s vacation. I don’t want to be that person that “lost” a toothbrush.  The management at Dive.Is really has a keen business sense on this tripadvisor stuff. It really pushes me to make sure everyone has the time of their life on these tours.

So far I have received two positive reviews. One of the reviews was from a dry suit course where I assisted Patrik and Tom. We never mentioned tripadvisor … Yet they were kind of enough to mention our names and thank us. It truly was a great feeling knowing that someone recognized my hard work.

The other review was from a guided tour where the lead asked the customers to write us a review and mention our names so that our boss could give us some “thanks.” It also felt good that the customers had a good time and took the time to write a review, but I have to wonder if they would have written one if the guide didn’t mention it.

Is the praise less of a praise? Or are they equal in strength? Does it even matter? If I was an official guide would I ask someone to leave me a review? So far, I’ve never had the guts to ask anyone. It’s strange to me.

Lessons Learned: 

Customers: Before writing a review, think about who reads them and what impact its going to have on the company and future customers. Think about how happy you make an employee when you drop their name in the review.

Divemasters/ Employees: Regardless of tripadvisor, we should go out of our way to make sure each person has a fun day. They are on vacation. They want to have a good time. Be wary of the silent but deadly negative reviewer. It could be that nice grandma that was quiet all day. She didn’t complain, but did she have a good time? Make sure to treat everyone the same and with the expectation that this is going to be the best part of their vacation.

Consequences from Diving all the time: Dishpan Hands

dishpan_hands

Hi! How can you tell someone is a newbie at Dive.Is? Just ask them to show their hands. It sounds silly really. I never thought I would be such a pansy about hands. Just look at my sausages. Its like I’ve been living in the middle ages as a clothes washer servant gal.

Being in the cold all day doesn’t help, but when you add scuba diving in 2°C water and helping customers with scuba gear – its a recipe for disaster.  My nails have always been brittle, but now i’ve tried to really cut them short as possible.I feel like I’m in kindergarten or something. Nice short nails. No color, not even that white part of the nail on top of the pink part of the nail. No scratch post for me — ow.

Remember that horrible part of Black swan where Natalie Portman has the nastiest hang nail? Yep, thats me.  My middle finger nail split when i was trying to put on a customer’s glove, so now my middle finger nail is slowly ripping.  Filing the name down to stop the chip only made it worse.

Others have complained of their hands cracking at the joints. Think small cuts everywhere. My hands are extremely dry and feel like the tops are going to explode and crackle off my body, but still in tact. I have been trying to prevent this by  covering my hands in  “All good goop.” I call it my hippie creme because it smells like lavender. I got this stuff at Whole Foods before I left for my sabbatical. Its good for itchiness, cracked heels, burns, bites… you name it, it helps it. I would recommend anyone traveling for an extended time to get this stuff. $7.  This stuff has really been a life saver.

I’ve also been putting on some Kiehl’s Creme de Crops Body Butter. This is some fancy smancy stuff I bought when I used to have a job. Now I can’t stop using it. I’m going to be sad when I run out and can’t get another bottle of it (especially in Iceland).  At times I chuckle to myself because I feel like that chick at the bottom of the tunnel in Silence of the lambs. Her nails all jacked up from trying to crawl up. Then crazy psycho telling her to “put the lotion on or it gets the hose.” I’ll be a good scuba divemaster trainee and put the lotion on.

One instructor has recommended work gloves. So I started wearing a pair to try prevent my hands from scraping on the gear.  I’m not sure if that helps, but its giving me some more grip strength.

Bottom line: My hands look like they came out of a horror movie. Iceland +Scuba = Dead Hands

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