Monday, July 7, 2014

I Love You Cory* – Saturday, June 14, 2014

Today we had to go scuba diving again. If you don’t already know how I felt about this, I will quote myself: “No. I do not like scuba diving.

We just had a few more of the “elements” to do today in order to get our open water scuba certification. This is apparently a valuable achievement if you ever plan on scuba diving again in your life. (I don’t.) I tried to explain this to my instructor but I think he was concerned about getting paid so he gave me a pep talk and got me back out there.

One of the “elements” we had to do was take off our BCDs [buoyancy control devices…aka…fancy life jackets] in the open water and put it back on. This obviously sounds like a stupidly simple process, but remember that I had issues the day before transferring from my snorkel to my respirator while keeping my head underwater. (BUT IN WHAT SITUATION WOULD YOU NOT JUST PICK YOUR HEAD UP AND BREATHE THE ACTUAL AIR THAT IS ABOVE THE WATER IF YOU’RE IN A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN USE A FREAKING SNORKEL ANYWAYS??)  

So obviously, getting the BCD back on in choppy water was a pain and required a lot of rolling around in the water. Cory and I actually both put our respirators back in as the rolling required to get the straps to connect was too unpredictable for somebody who likes breathing (even if it is through her mouth). And then we, of course, rolled right into each other. I actually kind of liked this because it meant that I could use Cory as leverage to stabilize.

What I did not like was, when we emerged with our vests haphazardly re-attached to our bodies, our instructor made a joke: “Just can’t keep you two off each other.”

Umm yes…it’s actually quite easy to keep me and Cory off each other. Considering we are not (and never have been) romantically involved and we basically know way too much about each other (read: really only applicable one way) to ever care to be romantically involved. But that moment, when I was struggling to stay afloat, to breathe, and to not cry, did not seem like the right moment to correct our instructor.

The problem is, there had been A LOT of a “not right” moments to correct people making assumptions about our relationship. For example, when our instructor had us practice the “tired diver push”, he told Cory that he could “whisper sweet nothings into [my] ear”. Again, though, this was while I was in scuba gear so I was in no shape to correct anybody. On another occasion, a fellow patron of the hotel said to me “here comes your hubby” right as I said “here comes Cory” and in our awkward speaking over each other, I forgot to correct him until the moment had long since passed (although will never be forgotten).

Granted, we didn’t have that much going for us, proving our case otherwise. For one, we were vacationing together on a remote beach in Africa. Even all my American friends I had told about this trip assumed I was being coy with my use of the word “friend” to describe Cory. Additionally, we were sharing a bed. Although…I maintain that this was all Cory’s fault.**And then, on top of all of that, we’ve just done a lot of activities together…I mean…we’ve celebrated our birthdays together in Namibia, snuck off the MV Explorer in the Bahamas, and actually, I’ll just throw it out there, that I titled the blog post about our time together in Malaysia “My Honeymoon”***. And in between all these adventures, we went to college together, which had its own set of adventures. I also have a tendency to call everyone babe. So, for example, a fellow patron at the hotel might overhear a conversation like this:

Me: Babe [referring to Cory], I dislocated my shoulder doing remedial scuba today.
Cory: Oh really? Again??
Me: Yeah…[giggling]…remember when I did it while we were taking sailing classes together?
Cory: [Manly giggling] haha yeah…but thank god you’ve never done it during the many late nights we’ve spent together in college playing pong together!
Me: [Girly giggling] or like when we’ve been sleeping together in the same bed during this trip which is still slightly less romantic than our trip in Malaysia together!

No, we weren’t doing ourselves too many favors trying to convince our instructor that we were not, in fact, together.
Accurately captures a lot of our relationship. I love you Cory!*
I intended to post a picture of my **Scuba certification** here, but my smarter self apparently foresaw a problem with my trying to make use of it at some point again in my life and went and hid it from my stupider self. So, instead, you get a picture of the fish dinner at our favorite restaurant in Tofo beach. We ate there a lot and never once fully knew what was going to come out, but we loved it every time. And we loved the price more.
*But, to be fair, I say that to everybody.

**However, if anybody wished to really look into the details of it, I don’t really call it “sharing a bed” when you literally place a coat rack in the bed to separate the two people. Cory said he did this because he didn’t like my attempts to cuddle with him (while fast asleep, in the middle of the night). I handled this searing rejection by telling myself that it helped me because it prevented him from stealing the covers. Or at least, proved that he stole the covers.

***Please note the last line of this post: “So I have now given up on my goals of learning Hindi and being in the CIA – now I want to become a full-time scuba diver/instructor and maybe even make my own documentary about fish. Or just run away and find Nemo. Something like that.”

Scuba Diving – Friday, June 13, 2014

[#sorryimnotsorry for the lack of updating over Fourth of July weekend]

I think it’s not a good sign if the most exciting part of my day was going to the market, and not scuba diving for the first time in open water.

The day started with remedial scuba. I had to meet my scuba instructor and apprentice at 7am to plunge into the freezing pool while Cory got to sleep in and stay warm (and very much enjoy my absence from our shared bed…his fault…he booked the hotel). This, simply because during our pool session the day before I refused to fill my mask up with water and blow the water out of it. I mean…this is an absurd exercise. I have a solution: build a better flippin eye mask! One that doesn’t fall off or fill up with water. Give me an astronaut helmet! It doesn’t make sense to me to purposely fill my mask up with water (or, worse, take it off!) “just in case” it actually happens. Just ensure that it doesn’t actually happen! Worse, in order to really do this properly you have to breathe through your mouth. I’m not a mouth breather and I’m actually quite proud of myself for that. Middle school could have very easily been worse than it was if I were a mouth breather.

That said, I did feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I did successfully do this. Sense of accomplishment was lost when I then dislocated my shoulder. A conversation about my frequently-dislocating shoulder ensued and my instructor threatened to banish me (and therefore Cory) to the ridiculous-sounding “Clownfish” reef if it was an issue in the ocean. (Because, maybe there was a chance that it would only be an issue in the pool?)

So with a successful remedial scuba lesson, off to Clownfish Reef we went. This is where I learned that my least favorite part of scuba was not the stupidity of filling my mask up with water, it was transferring from snorkel to respirator because – I swear – the snorkel was too big for my mouth. I just kept on breathing in water. Eventually, I either did this correctly or my instructor gave up because we were going to be allowed to actually go down to the reef.

And that’s when I learned that my least favorite part of diving is “equalizing”, aka the process of helping your ears adjust to descending to 10m of depth in water, aka 2 ATM OF PRESSURE. My ears were not psyched about this. I tried to scream at my instructor that THIS IS NOT NATURAL – WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF/MY EARS but I was inhibited by my respirator and the logistics of being able to talk under water. Thankfully, though, at this point in my African adventure, I had become quite adept at communicating without using words. My instructor understood what I was trying to communicate (possibly because I was so good at “communicating” this, possibly because this happens every time the instructor does this with a new student), but instead of turning around and letting me abort right there, he just stopped and waited for me to calm down and “equalize” at that level before dropping another dreaded meter.  

We finally reached the sandy bottom. And that’s where I finally learned my actual least favorite part of scuba diving: buoyancy. We had to figure out how exactly to use our “breathing” to stay buoyant in the water. This was confusing to me because it was drilled into our minds that the number one rule in scuba diving is to never hold your breath but then it seemed that we were supposed to hold our breath to “fill our lungs” to ascend a bit. As a last resort, we were allowed to put some air in our BCD [buoyancy control device], but put too much in and you would shoot to the top, accidentally but definitely actually putting your ears through the gauntlet of “equalizing” again.

No. I did not like scuba diving.


-          Sitting on the beach and paying the boy trying to sell bracelets to go up and buy us beers from the market (we were never going to buy those bracelets). Then he offered to open the beer with his teeth and we screamed at him to stop. Didn’t want to be responsible for any broken teeth. Of course then, when he walked away, we realized that we didn’t have a way to open the beer, and going up to the market to get a bottle opener would’ve defeated the process.
-          Going to a nearby hotel to watch the Netherlands-Spain game but being without internet and too embarrassed to ask anybody so we didn’t know the significance of the game or which team was which until there was a goal.

[The local CVS just told me it will take at least1.5 weeks to develop my disposable cameras. Apparently if I go to a different CVS, it can be done in 1 hour. But I'm just not sure I'll get to the other CVS within 1.5 weeks...]

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Entrepreneurs – Thursday, June 12, 2014

Between our written Scuba test (barely passed…but I think the cheating hurt us more than helped us…the blind leading the blind really) and our first Scuba pool session, we headed to the market. On our way, we were waved down by one of the many entrepreneurial children who has learned that there’s more immediate money to be made in learning enough English to talk to tourists than to attend school during the days…”You! You promised yesterday that you would buy my coconut bread today!”

Cory and I exchanged looks…umm…did we?

Neither of us remembers this, so we keep walking, but he doesn’t give up. We start to feel bad…maybe in an effort yesterday to get some of these entrepreneurs to give us a break for a bit we said “tomorrow” and now he’s holding us up to it? Plus…he did say “coconut bread” and that sounds pretty good.

We stop and joke around with the kid for a little bit. It soon becomes very apparent that hungry Cory doesn’t care much if we promised to buy this yesterday or not, he wants the coconut bread NOW. But luckily, in our hesitation, the price dropped from 150 mets to 50. We take it. [And, in retrospect, are still ridiculously overpaying.] He tries to get 70 out of us at the last second, but we’re smarter than that. He said a price, we agreed to it. He may be adorable, but no.

AND THEN…he upsells us! After successfully selling the bread, he starts talking about “fish” and “meat” and “veggies” and draws a triangle in the sand.

“WAIT…SAMOSAS!?!? In addition to this lovely coconut bread that is now in my mouth, your mother also makes samosas!?!?”

We are too excited to contain ourselves. We want fried food so bad. Also, this kid has already proven himself to be pretty reliable and punctual, so we make a deal on the spot…

”Kid…if you meet us here at 2pm every day for the rest of the week, we will buy samosas from you”,  we honestly report.

We are not so honest when we say similarly optimistic things to the kids selling bracelets. Or the ones asking Cory for his shorts.

[Relevant pictures are on my disposable camera...still need to develop it...]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Rural Entertainment – Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Woohoo! First day of Scuba diving!

Oh wait…except not. Apparently, first day of scuba diving, consists of sitting in a “classroom” watching “movies” “all day” while hearing the pitter patter and excited laughter of all the real scuba divers just outside and seriously suffering from a case of “why is everybody hanging out without me??”

Cory and I powered through the five lessons, which consisted mostly of listing out all the different ways one could die from scuba (or at least those were the only bits I remembered), and were out of there by lunch. Only to immediately discover that there was no reason  really to power through and get out of there by lunch because…now what was there to do??

Classroom selfies! Also...I think the only pics of me and Cory together from this trip were selfies. So don't hate.
Besides scuba…not all that much.  We discovered the town and market, which was embarrassingly close to our hotel (and on the beach!) to have missed the night before. We went on a loooonnnngggg walk on the beach. I learned (or most likely…re-learned) that I will never be adding “likes long walks on the beach” to any online dating profile.

Long walks on the beach do lend themselves to make great pictures however. And this might one day appear in an online dating profile. 
And then we hurried back to our hotel for “Whale Shark Wednesday”, an educational lecture put on by the Marine Megafauna Foundation for the benefit of locals and tourists alike. We were upset that we had missed Manta Ray Monday but were very excited for Fauana Friday. Except…oh no! The lecture was cancelled because the scientists in charge were stranded somewhere between Durban, Safrica and Tofo Beach, Mozambique. Their car had broken down as they were returning from “The Shark Conference” (which is how it was referred to by everybody around…as if they were referring to “The World Cup” or “The Olympics”…like obviously I knew that “The Shark Conference” had been in Durban – a place I knew – the week before). TIA.

But all was not lost, we learned some something else…A THING TO DO! A nearby hotel was having **MOVIE NIGHT** so, armed with our pre-downloaded versions of Google maps, off we went. It had been a long day of doing nothing and drinking on the beach, so I obviously had to make a pit stop. And when I came out of the bushes, I realized that I didn’t have our room key in my pocket.

“Umm…Cory…do you have the room key?”

[He slapped at his pockets] “No”

I was already back in the bushes with my phone flashlight – sun sets early in June in the southern hemisphere! – looking around for the key. It was nowhere to be seen.

“We need to backtrack.”

“When was the last time you remember seeing it?”

“I remember locking the door when we left, but don’t really remember having it after that.”

“Okay let’s go back to the restaurant.”

“And if it’s not there, we need to go back to the hotel and let them know.”

[It was 6:45 and the movie started at 7pm.]

“I say that if it’s not there, we just go to the movie. I don’t want to miss it! And it’s something to do!

“CORY! This is a REALLY BIG DEAL…African hotels don’t have spare keys…if we don’t have the key we have to go back to the hotel and figure out what to do!”

“Well that sounds like your problem not mine.”

I understood. A day in Maputo followed by a day of travelling followed by a day of walking along the beach was really eating away at both our spirits…we were both just so excited for something to do that we didn’t want to miss the movie. And it would have been a little more understandable, had he not, 15 seconds later, patted his breast pocket and realized that he had actually had the room key all along. J

We made it to the movie. It was The Grand Budapest Hotel, which can actually go down in history as the first Wes Anderson movie I have watched all the way through, a tribute to the true extent of my boredom that evening.  

What is important to understand from this image is that when I went to take a screenshot of the supposed 16 minute route from Casa Barry (our hotel) to Mozambeats (the hip, movie hotel), I had flashbacks to the night that we were lost on the very dark, very uneven roads of Tofo Beach, circling the place that Google maps said was "Mozambeats Motel". We eventually asked some local children who led us quite a distance from that location to the real Mozambeats Motel. Just in case anybody else ever tries to use Google maps to get their in the future, I have now updated the location for them. You're welcome, future traveler!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Literally Still Travelling – Tuesday, June 10, 2014

We flew the domestic Mozambican airline to Inhambane [African airline note: there was a meal service on this 45 minute flight but, shockingly, no alcohol was served!] and cabbies descended before we even got off the tarmac. Actually though. We were still on the tarmac. They were mostly charging 600 mets (~$18), which seemed absurd mostly because Cory claimed to have read at some point that it should cost 100 mets to get from Inhambane to Tofo Beach. But they really were not budging on the price and we were pretty stuck. We stood staring at the flock of taxi drivers as we waited our turn to climb into the underbelly of the plane to grab our bags (only a slight exaggeration), until I finally spotted a potential savior: a white guy, with dreads, reading a Dan Brown novel. The challenge so far in Mozambique was that most white people spoke Portuguese, but I just knew that this guy HAD to be American. As much as we try…we stand out anywhere.

So I approached: “Hey [I was so confident, I didn’t even start with the classic ‘Excuse’]…how do we get to Tofo?” (I tried with all my might to act cool, chill.)

“Are you willing to hitchhike or take a chapa [local bus]?”

“You, sir, are on my level.”*

He described to me the way, explaining where we should stop at an ATM (GOOD TO LEARN FROM HIM THAT THERE’S NO ATM IN TOFO), where we should start hitching or looking for a chapa, and how much we should pay (20 mets). Admittedly, my full understanding of these directions is up for debate. There was a left turn, and an ATM, and 30 km. I was convinced we were supposed to walk to the ATM before we started hitchhiking. I was also convinced it was a 20-30 minute walk.

On the shorter end of that range, we started getting short tempered. Several chapas had passed us, but we waved them all on, convinced that we’d soon make it to the ATM and then we’d flag one down. It was also hot. An unrelenting African heat. Eventually, one chapa headed THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION slowed and tried to communicate with us. “ATM” didn’t really translate but “bank” did. It was unclear if there was still an ATM in the direction we were headed, but it was very clear that there was NO BANK and that if we had to go to a bank, we had to get into the chapa and go with them. For 20 mets. It was also made clear that Tofo was TOO FAR and it was not an option for us to continue walking there.

We gave up. I questioned everything about my sense of direction as we zoomed past all the same fields and schools we had just walked past, past the airport, and then into a bustling town – Inhambane. We were let off at the bank and it was made clear that they’d take us to Tofo for 600 mets. NO! WE WERE TRYING SO HARD TO GET AWAY FROM THAT PRICE GAUGING!

Definitely had a bit of an “oh shit” realization when the bank teller didn’t know any English. Like…maybe I should’ve looked up a few Portuguese phrases before this trip. But whatevs, he referenced a “Super Market” and made hand gestures for turning left when I made it clear I was trying to get to where all the chapas were. I walked out of the bank, to where Cory was guarding our backpacks (which weren’t allowed inside), and acted way more confident than I was.

Thankfully, the town wasn’t too large, and the chapas were only two blocks away from the bank. Even so, we stopped three times to ask for directions to ensure that we continued to be pointed the right way. (The first stop, I bought much-neeeded sunglasses. The second stop, the teenage boys made a great joke using all the English they knew: pointing at Cory they yelled “You! You! You! There! There! There” implying that he should go away. We started to scurry, but then they pointed at me and yelled “You! You! You! Here! Here! Here” implying that I should come hang with them. I was tempted. The third stop, I bought an orange. Maybe I would’ve saved money just paying the 600 mets for a taxi…)

Briefly, the chapa ride was one of those moments that made me fall back in love with Africa. There’s just something wonderful about sitting there comfortably and thinking “this is okay”…and then suddenly realizing that two more people need to fit into your row and thinking “okay this is a little uncomfortable…but we must be all set to go now” and then literally the number of people on the bus doubles. I don’t know how they do it, but it happens. I’m not one for taking pictures in this type of situation, but I found a few bloggers/artists who have attempted to visually capture what I will say you must experience to actually understand:

Thank you, random blogger, Camille, for your artistic representation, and for teaching me something about Swaziland along the way! Although, while I think you've done a great job capturing the babies and livestock that can be found on a chapa, this artistic rendition leaves out the 10 people standing in (and out of) the doorway, which is partially captured in the image below.
Thank you, random blogger, OutOfOfficeTilAugust2012, for your willingness to take pictures I was unwilling to take
Anyways…eventually the chapa heads out. We go straight past where we had previously walked. Finally, we see the ATM…we appreciate that that was probably too far to walk there (I guess I didn’t fully get that part of the directions??) and finally start to see some signs for Tofo. When we see a sign for our hotel (NOT a hostel!), we jump out and pay our 40 mets each (20 mets for each of our bags…because they probably did take up the space that people could’ve used…). But we weren’t there yet. It was probably another 20 minute walk to the hotel from where we got off the chapa (we maybe later learned that we could’ve gotten off way later…)** until we finally, finally…at 3pm on Tuesday when I left at 8pm on Friday…reached our final destination. For that part of our trip.

“Ahh…Mr. Cory!” the receptionist exclaimed when we walked in, “where have you been? We sent a driver to pick you up at the airport!”***

*I believe I’ve already written a blog about how comfortable I got with hitchhiking in Rwanda, but I think the most concise way of explaining this is to just say that my MOTHER picked up hitchhikers when she was visiting me in Rwanda. Granted, I don’t think she was happy about it. But it’s the way things are. TIA.

**Entertaining bit from our walk: at one point, we heard a baby crying. I observed to Cory that I’ve never heard an African baby crying before, so this was a very new experience for me. But then we got up to the source of the sound…and it was a little white baby. Made a lot more sense. (Later learned that it was the baby of our hotel receptionist and scuba instructor.)

***Later in the week we learned that the airport pick-up/drop-off actually costs 600 mets (WHAT ARE THESE ABSURD PRICES?), so we still preferred the chapa ride. We even took the chapa back to the airport!