Category Archives: Random Musings

Oh, Just Sitting in Osaka

Osaka’s skyline rests across the bay from where I currently sit, laid out on a lounge chair in KIX, an international airport with the feel of small, regional airport. Out the window, on the left side of the panoramic view, runs a long bridge, connecting the airport to the city, looking as though it will collide with a huge building that towers over all everything else on the horizon. As I scan to the right, my eye is caught by a large Ferris wheel that sits right on the water, making me think this city might have more personality than first meets the eye through the haze. (Fog? Smog? I’m not sure what is causing the gray out there today, but gloom is definitely the overriding feel.)

I’ve been in this airport since 7AM, which means I’ve roamed its compact hall for six hours now, with at least three more to go. While the sign may say international airport and the planes come and go from international destinations, the concourse speaks a different tale. There are two cafes in the terminal, both small and both serving very little other than coffee and tea. Luckily, I had packed Pop Tarts in my backpack to tide me over, knowing I wouldn’t want much from my plane meals (and not having my favorite travel companion to swap out my entrée for his roll and brownie), so those became breakfast at KIX. Hours later when lunchtime rolled around, I revisited my two café options, finding the afternoon choices limited to hotdog-like meat wrapped in bread or shrimp ramen. Neither of these options was going to hit the spot, so I stepped into the one convenience-type store in the concourse. Stepped in is a bit of a stretch, as the shop was small enough that as my body was inside, my backpack remained outside. Not a lot of room to browse or turn. I quickly grabbed a few things I could recognize, (Pringles, a Coke and a weird little waffle thing), opting not to try the freeze dried tentacles, even though they were quite easily recognizable!

Between these two meals, both of which would make any nutritionist cringe, I did discover a hidden row of lounge chairs, making the perfect place to take a nap. Not far off the beaten path, these plush chairs had little cubbies around the top half, giving the sitter the feel of being in his/her own little pod. I knew I had found my home for a few hours! Pulling my ever-handy travel blanket and pillow out of my backpack, I kicked off my shoes, stashing them under the chair and tucked my bag in the space between the chair and the surrounding cubby and curled up for a mid-morning siesta. When I laid my head down, the closest gate was still occupied by the Malaysian Airlines plane I had come in on. When I finally pried my eyes open two hours later, those red and blue markings had been replaced by the green and red of Eva Airlines. Time passed. Planes moved. I slept.

Now, well-rested and kind of fed, I should be working on my thematic paper for my one of my literature classes. The ideas are all there, bouncing around my head: Tom Bissell, Uzbekistan, Peace Corps, the Aral Sea, the inner journey of a travel writer–bounce, rattle, rumble. The problem is, those ideas are competing for my attention with the planes that keep rolling up and down the runway, the boats trailing through the harbor (Is that a harbor? The ocean? A river? I have no idea what the body of water that lies between the Osaka airport and the city is.) and the strangely hilarious FaceTime conversation of the pre-teen in the next lounge cubby over. (Things I know about my cubby neighbor: She has an American accent. She is on my flight to SFO in a few hours. She is eating a sucker, loudly. I am pretty sure she memorized some list of current slang, using all of it much more liberally than any self-respecting tween should. Occasionally you have to use a full word in a sentence, even if you are talking to your bae and are totes excited to see her.)

If only the cubby around my head provided focus in the same way it shielded me during my earlier siesta…

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*Reblog* 10 Books to Inspire the Traveler in You

Re-blogging this article I wrote for A Traveling Life: Working to See the World

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Travel. For many of us, it is the reason we get up and go to our jobs each day. I work so that I can afford to go awesome places, so that I can meet new people, and so that I can experience new adventures. Whether the goal is to go black water rafting on the south island of New Zealand, visit the Giant Buddha … via 10 Books to Inspire the Traveler in You.

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Bidding on the Brain

Tokyo vs. Tallinn vs. Taipei.

It’s like comparing apples to oranges to grapes, with maybe a few bits of durian thrown in there.  Why would these cities even show up in the same sentence? Because, my friends, pre-bidding season is upon us! Pre-bidding? Oh yes. That part of the year that is consumed with making lists of potential job openings and then making new lists as positions come and go from the projected lists. (In the interest of corridor reputation and general good sense, I’ll refrain from specifically labeling any place as the durian, but it actually plays out as a pretty good simile. Durian, while not the fruit for me, is loved by many Malaysians and even a few Americans. Foreign Service posts can have a similar vibe. A post that many people don’t really care for can end up being the perfect fit and you’d never know it if you didn’t give it that first shot. Your durian post might be my pineapple post!)

One of my favorite things about the Foreign Service is that we are always getting to live in new countries and call new cities home, but there is no magical eight ball that determines the next posting. Rather, at this point in his career, it is all about Thad reaching out to posts he is interested in, lobbying for positions that look intriguing and selling himself as being the fantastic officer that he is. In a lot of ways, this is like job hunting Stateside. He has to put together a resume, collect recommendations and interview with interested posts. Before this, when he was a first and second tour officer, all he had to do was put together a list and then left the rest to fate.

I actually kind of like that style of bidding, partially because I get to be more involved. (I’m not going to say that I am bossy, but I do like to have a hand in what is going on. This might be one reason I adored being CLO in Chengdu. I may not have had a lot of power, but I did get to be a part of a gazillion different activities and committees at the consulate. I loved that job!) The last time we bid, coming out of Chengdu, we put together of a list of thirty posts he was interested in. We ranked them in order of our interest and then sent it off to do CDO- career development officer- in Washington DC and then waited. And waited. And waited. But after what felt like a lifetime, he got the email saying he’d spend the next two years in Kuala Lumpur, which was #17 on our original list. (Initially, this was a shock, as I had been betting on something in the top ten and had done little to no research on anything beyond that.)  Being able to just rank our preferences and sit back and wait was great. Once the list was turned in, there was no stress of lobbying, but rather just a test of patience, and at least on the surface, I can fake patience. (Inside, my brain is overtaken by swarms of lightning bugs, but that is a different matter altogether!)

This time around though, I’ll be sidelined from the process, as it is all about the officer working the system to find a position that is a good fit. But, that doesn’t mean we haven’t had discussions about options we love and those we are less excited by. While there may not be an official list that I can help create, I definitely have thoughts on where I’d like to see us end up!

So, it seems, does my oldest niece, who already has designs to come spend a summer wherever we land. (She’ll be a freshman this year, so probably old enough to do just that, provided she can convince her mom to buy her a plane ticket to spend a month on a new continent! She might need to start saving her babysitting money now.) With her hopes for future travel (which, of course, I fully support!) in mind, her uncle sent her a long list of possibilities and told her to get back to him with her top ten. Now, in the Foreign Service, all posts are listed by city, not country, so I’m sure this little bit of homework stretched her geography skills a bit and had her Googling like mad! After perusing the list for a few days, here is what she came back with, in order of preference:

1.Casablanca, Morocco

2.Rangoon, Myanmar

3.London, England

4.Tokyo,Japan

5.Nassau, Bahamas

6.Tallinn, Estonia

7.Minsk, Belarus

8.New Dehli, India

9.Guangzhou, China

  1. Vilinius, Lithuania

Interesting choices! While I’m not ready to reveal our top choices right now, I do have to say a few of these look promising to me too, but there are also a couple there that would definitely not make my top ten for a variety of reasons. Some people run towards durian. Some run away from it.

It is always exciting to look at lists of possible future postings and there are very few places that I would really dread going. Flipping open an atlas and tracing the outlines of new countries with a finger, figuring out a new travel radius and researching potential new homes is at the heart of why I left my teaching job to become a “trailing spouse” (don’t get me started on that nomenclature) in this crazy Foreign Service lifestyle. The question is, where we be “homebase” for my next round of sidewalk searching? Only time will tell…

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You Too Can Search for Sidewalk Endings!

Do you ever read this blog and wish you could live/travel to different cities abroad? (The adjectives for these cities include all of the follow, depending in the day/my mood: strange, exciting, frustrating, fascination, wonderful, tiring…the list could go on and on!)  The Foreign Service is currently advertisting OMS openings. (Office Management Specialist)  Here’s your chance to join the Foreign Service and search for your own sidewalk endings!!

Below is an excerpt from the job listing. Be sure to check out                                                  http://careers.state.gov/work/opportunities/vacancy-announcements/oms for full information!

Office Management Specialist

VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT
United States Department of State
An Equal Opportunity Employer

Position Title: Foreign Service Office Management Specialist – Administrative Assistant
Open Period: 06/17/2015 — 07/07/2015
Series/Grade: FP – 0318 07
Salary: $35,014 – $51,419
Promotion Potential: FP-03
Hiring Agency: U.S. Department of State
Duty Locations: MANY Vacancies throughout the World
For More Info: HR/REE/BEX-EVAL, OMSVacancyInfo@state.gov

Who May Apply

All potential applicants are strongly urged to read this entire Vacancy Announcement to ensure that they meet all of the requirements for this position before applying.

Applicants must be American citizens and at least 20 years old to apply. They must be at least 21 years of age to be appointed. By law, all career candidates must be appointed to the Foreign Service prior to the month in which they reach age 60.

Duration Appointment

Permanent after being tenured in the Foreign Service by the Tenure Boards.

Grade and Starting Salary Range: FP-07, $35,014 – $51,419

Summary

The U.S. Department of State is the lead foreign affairs agency formulating and implementing the President’s foreign policy and representing U.S. interests throughout the world. Foreign Service Office Management Specialists (Administrative Assistants) serve at U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide as well as a few domestic locations. Assignments can vary from working in a Political or Economic Section in one mission to working in the Management or Security Section in another. Future assignments can lead to the Executive Office and the position of Office Manager to an Ambassador overseas or to a high-ranking official in Washington, D.C. Whatever the position or nature of duties, Office Management Specialists will have a rich opportunity to make valuable contributions to their country while leading professionally and personally fulfilling lives.

The Foreign Service is more than a job – it’s a career. As a member of a diplomatic team, you will not only help to accomplish the mission of the Department of State, but also will be a representative of your country to the people of other nations. A Foreign Service career involves uncommon commitments and occasional hardships, as well as unique rewards and opportunities. A decision to enter this career should be based on extraordinary motivation and a firm dedication to public service.

Many overseas posts are in small or remote countries where harsh climates, health hazards, and other discomforts exist and where American-style amenities and the latest in technological advances often are unavailable. Personal security frequently becomes an area of concern in countries where there is political unrest or terrorist activity. However, careers in the Foreign Service offer special rewards, including the pride and satisfaction of representing the United States and protecting U.S. interests abroad.

The Foreign Service strives to maintain diversity in the representation of gender, geographic region, race and ethnicity within its work force.

Key Requirements

All applicants, in order to be considered for selection, must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen.
  • Be at least 20 years old to apply and at least 21 years of age to be appointed. By law (Foreign Service Act of 1980), all career candidates (except for preference-eligible veterans)** must be appointed to the Foreign Service prior to the month in which they reach age 60.
  • Be available for worldwide service.
  • Be able to obtain a Top Secret Security Clearance.
  • Be able to obtain an appropriate medical clearance for Foreign Service work.
  • Obtain a Suitability Clearance, based on a review of the candidate’s record for conduct in accordance with suitability standards defined in Chapter 3 of the Foreign Affairs Manual. For more details see http://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/specialist/selection-processor http://www.state.gov/m/a/dir/regs/fam

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July in June

Long time, no blog! Well, at least not a travel/KL-related blog. I’ve been great about Wordless Wednesdays, as it is pretty easy to pull a photo from our cache and pop it up while I eat my Cheerios on Wednesday mornings. (Those Cheerios are like gold, so I set my alarm early enough that I can leisurely enjoy them while perusing blogs or People.com first thing in the morning. I usually ship my cereal in from Amazon, which while not always as cheap as you can get it at Albertson’s, is much cheaper than the $8-10 a box they would cost here in Malaysia. And don’t judge my People.com fixes. I am sure to his the news sites as well and I do spend much of my free time writing papers about contemporary travel writing, so I get a few guilty pleasures when it comes to my internet browsing. People, Lamebook, Yahoo comments…you know, all the classy stuff.) I’ve also put up several Top Ten Tuesdays over the last few months, so blogging is happening, just not always travel blogging.

Anyway, I could give you a laundry list of excuses why it has been a month since I’ve written anything travel-y: I went temporarily blind in my left eye; I am working on a second graduate degree; I work full time at the US embassy; blah, blah, blah. But they would just be excuses since we’ve also watched ten seasons of Friends on Netflix this year, I rarely let a Saturday get past me without taking at least a brief nap and I have time to make cookies for the office on a semi-regular basis. It boils down to two things: 1) we’ve not been out of town much recently, other than the recent, unplanned/unwanted trip to Singapore and 2) laziness.

Probably more #2 than #1, as we have definitely been busy.

Lately, life has been all about the 4th of July. That’s right. It is just passed the middle of June and not only have we thought about Independence Day, but we have celebrated it. Twice.

Since Ramadan falls pretty early this year (tomorrow is the first day and it goes until mid-July), embassies in Muslim countries have to work our holiday around the fast. A big party just isn’t much of a party when your guests aren’t eating or drinking. So, rather than throw a drink-free, food-free party close to the actual 4th of July, Kuala Lumpur opts to do it ahead of time. We had a huge event at the Marriott Hotel in KL last Tuesday night and then a smaller, more intimate event in Penang just a few days ago.

For the KL event, I was assigned to be on the decorations committee, which meant many meetings ahead of time, but then a lot of supervisory work on the day of the event. While it took a bit of coaxing to get the hotel to bring our vision to life, in the end the red, white and blue bonanza that is Independence Day looked great! There was tons of food (most of which I didn’t eat, as I’m just weird about food other people make), a great band and lots of patriotic pizazz. The evening of the event, I didn’t get to see the actual ceremony with the presentation of the colors or the ambassador’s speech, as I was on check-in duty at the front door all evening, but judging from the smiles on the guests as they headed home, it was definitely a success.

This is the first year KL has done a second event, this one in Penang. (I think the Ross family brings the second 4th of July event with us. When we were in Chengdu, the first year we were there was the first year they had held a second event as well. Maybe we just look like party-planning folk!) Penang is a great island off the northwest coast of Malaysia. It has an amazing art scene and a totally different vibe from Kuala Lumpur. (Click here to read my post about when I went there on vacation last fall.) The party there was smaller, but maybe better. Without hundreds and hundreds of guests, it was easier to actually spend time chatting with folks and the whole thing just felt a little more relaxed. Once again, I missed the color guard and remarks, as I was checking people in at the front desk (somehow that ended up being my gig all-around this year!), but I did get a chance to wander through later in the evening and it was great! Again, red, white and blue ruled the night, with numerous flags flying. It’s funny that for a bunch of people who have chosen to live mostly outside the US, you probably won’t find a more patriotic group. Foreign Service officers took their jobs to do just that- to serve their country and they are mighty proud of it!

So now, it is just mid-June and I’ve already celebrated the 4th of July twice. Looking at the calendar, I’ve got two more celebrations to go: one with the embassy community on the afternoon of the day I fly out for the US and then the *real* one on July 4 when I am home in Idaho. I hear that one is going to entail homemade ice cream and sparklers, so not a bad way to round out the quad-fecta (it’s like a trifecta, but with four!) of Independence Day parties.
Happy birthday, America (X4)!!

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Stumbling on the Sidewalk

When in pursuit of sidewalk endings, adventures are bound to pop up along the way. Most of the time, the escapades that seem the craziest at the time, once survived, end up being the best stories and they are the reason we sling on our backpacks as much as possible and go-go-go. But, not all adventures take us down a road we want to travel, and that, my friends, is how I almost became Thad’s personal ACS case last week. (ACS= American Citizen Services.)

It all started on a bright, sunny Friday afternoon, three weeks ago. I had just driven back to the embassy from a going away lunch at a local polo club (great Indian food!) and was settling in at my computer for an afternoon of sorting and scanning diplomatic notes. Strangely, my left eye was super blurry, but I blamed it on the raging sunshine outside and figured it would quickly adjust to the florescent lights of the office.

It didn’t.

All weekend.

By Sunday night, I was doing the worst thing anyone with any kind of ailment can do: I Googled it. Suddenly, WebMD had me convinced I had rare eyeball cancer and was going to die before morning. Thank you, internets. The upside to my internet searching was that it made me realize maybe my blurry vision was a bigger deal that I was giving it credit for and maybe, just maybe, I should pop in to our embassy medical unit to have them take a quick glance on Monday morning.

Which I did. After finishing the visa intake for the morning. (I was really not too panicked about this whole thing yet. I’d get to MED when I go there…) Going in, I told the medical officer that I had only half-vision in my left eye. I would have slated it nearly a horizontal line across my eye, with vision on the bottom. Without much hesitation, I was shuttled off to an ophthalmologist here in Kuala Lumpur for a series of tests, but I still wasn’t feeling super worried about the situation.

That sense of calm would not last much longer.

After a succession of eye tests at the hospital here, the ophthalmologist sat me down and without much ado announced that he was diagnosing me with optical neuritis and that I must be admitted to the hospital immediately for an MRI, as the condition is a precursor to multiple sclerosis. Suddenly, I went from having what I thought was a bit of blurry vision to the possibility of a life-long, potentially debilitating disease. How did that just happen? Not really sure what to think or do in the moment, I told him I needed to check in with the embassy before making any further plans. I was in shock and couldn’t really process what was happening. Had my life just changed in the course of two minutes? I quickly got ahold of the medical unit, who decided if that is the route we were going to take, we were going to take it in Singapore.

Back to the embassy I shuttled to throw together the makings of an emergency medical evacuation. By this time it was Monday evening and I was scheduled on an early Tuesday morning Air Asia flight, with specialist appointments booked for Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. (All of these bookings happened in the course of about an hour. When MED moves, they move!) Before leaving post, I had to get a few things in order at my desk, I had to top off my cell phone minutes, I had to pack a bag for a week and load up as much school work as I could fit to take along. Things were a blur, and not just because my left eye had quit working!

It was all happening quickly.

Too quickly.

Which is how my crazy medical condition also nearly made me become Thad’s personal ACS case! In the midst of the chaos of prepping and packing to go, as I moved all of my money and cards to the purse I was taking to Singapore, my credit card got left sitting on the dining room table. On Tuesday, I caught the quick one-hour flight to Singapore and headed to the 4 Seasons hotel where I would be lodging for the duration of my stay. The great medical section team in Singapore had the room pre-booked, so when I arrived, I just rolled on up to the counter, ready to sign in. I passed my credit card over and scanned the fancy lobby as I waited for the desk clerk to run it. Soon, he had a worried look on his face. He swiped the card again, but I could tell something was wrong.

Oh no! He didn’t need to say a word. I might be partially blind, but the lightbulb went off.

A few weeks ago, we had some weird taxidermy charges on our credit card out of Texas. (You know how I like to keep stuffed dead things lying around my house!) The credit card company shut off those cards and sent us new ones. Well, the card in the hand of the desk clerk was the old card and the new shiny one was sitting at home, in Kuala Lumpur. Not good.

So, there I was, in a foreign country, half-blind and with only the cash in my purse: about $200USD total, trying to pay for a hotel that ran $300 a night. Uhhh…Thad to the rescue! I quickly called him and had him give his card number to the hotel so I could check in. He then had to sign an avadavat saying he would cover my costs for the entire stay (room service, anyone?!), but he quickly sorted it from his end so I was able to drop off my bags before heading to the first appointment.(It is almost as if sorting out unprepared Americans is his job or something!) But, the lack of functioning card did make me basically destitute in what is definitely not one of the cheaper cities on the globe. I spent the next four days, until he was able to join me in Singapore, convincing doctors and hospitals to take my card by just the number, without physically having it in-hand. (Scary how well this actually worked! I was able to put thousands of dollars of medical bills on a card I did not actually carry.)

I felt like such a dunce! Maybe the eye-sight really was a bigger brain issue.

Over the next three days, I had eye tests where I realized that no, I did not have 50% vision in my left eye, but closer to 5% and that I was basically color-blind as well. I had an MRI, which at the cost of that thing, I’m not sure why they can’t add a muffler to the machine. And I was admitted to the hospital for three days of IV steroids to reduce the swelling on my optical nerve. (My nurse friends will attest, I have what must be close to the world’s worst veins, so this was a rather unpleasant period for me. I’m such a terrible blood donator that Red Cross usually sends me away, not able to get enough blood to bother with. The doctors at the hospital in Singapore had to call in the head phlebotomist, who was still not able to get three full vials of blood and then had to poke and prod to find a place to insert the IV. No fun for anyone! Three weeks later, my right hand still has two rather good sized bruises on it from the poking and prodding procedures.)

To make a long story short, the answer to the big question is “we don’t know.” Thankfully, the MRI scans came back clean, no lesions, so for now, no MS. (This is something that will have to be monitored long-term with follow-up MRIs in the future, but clean and clear for now.) The IV steroids and subsequent oral steroids (don’t mess with my right now, man!) have brought my vision back to probably 90% and its improving each day. With nothing to go on, the doctors are leaving the diagnosis as “optical neuritis” and will just monitor. I’m headed back to Singapore in a month for follow-up exams (you can bet I’ll have my credit card next time!) and then it will just be a wait and see (literally!)situation.

Adventures, for the most part are fun, but sometimes the sidewalk gets a little blurry, which gets a bit scary. Over the last three weeks, my sidewalk nearly disappeared but is slowly coming back into focus and is a good reminder to keep searching and enjoying the journey. (It’s also a good reminder to always carry a valid credit card!)

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Officially a Diver!

Open Water Dive #3-

Day two of our SCUBA weekend dawned early as every rooster in the vicinity was keen on letting us know the sun would soon rise. I was a bit sore from the previous day’s long swim (you know, the one where we damn near died) and my coral scrape was redder and angrier than the day before, but my biggest complaint was my feet. The big toe on my left foot had a giant blister, and I couldn’t imagine shoving it back into a flipper. When I got to the dive shop, I asked one of the workers about trading for a new pair of fins, thinking at least if they rubbed, they would rub in a different spot. Taking a quick glance at my fins from Saturday, we quickly realized why only one foot was sore- my fins were two different sizes! The one on my right foot was the correct size, but the left flipper was a size smaller. No wonder if rubbed so badly! After getting matching fins (and a pair of socks to help lessen the already painful blister), it was time to head out for a day of boat diving.

The first task of the day was to get our equipment ready to go, something we had done numerous times before, but never with the added challenge of a boat bumping over waves as it made its way to our destination.  It took longer, but eventually we all had our BCDs strapped to our tanks, our weight belts on and our masks ready to go. There is only one way to exit a small boat once your equipment is on- the back roll! We had not practiced this at the pool and it took me a couple of deep breaths to psych myself up for the maneuver, but with one final draw of air, over I went. Thank goodness for an inflated BCD! I quickly popped back to the surface, ready for another outing.

Convincing myself to deflate the BCD and head under the water usually takes a few extra seconds. Each time the teacher would give us the signal to descend, my classmates all quickly disappeared below the surface, but because I had been having ear problems, I was always more cautious about the decent. As I worked on getting myself ready to head under on Saturday morning, my little routine was immediately sped up when I saw a sea snake, just inches from my face. He was black and white striped and came swimming along right in front of my eyes. I’m not talking about an arm’s length away or ever a comfortable foot away. He was in my space bubble 100%. Not wanting to spend any extra time with him, I dropped at a rate faster than I ever had before. Goodbye surface. Goodbye snake! (I learned that evening that he was a particularly poisonous sea snake, lethal to those he bit. And he was inches from my FACE!)

For some reason, I had no equalization problems with my ears all day on Saturday. They easily popped and I never got the shooting pains of Friday’s dives.

This third dive was the last one where we had to check off skills, which we did in quick succession. The reef we were swimming near was full of fish, so while each person when through their various checks of removing their mask, using the compass (a skill I am sure I didn’t really pass, as I pretty much just swam in a circle, but whatever!)  and demonstrating proper buoyancy, the rest of us enjoyed swimming around in the world’s largest aquarium. Apparently, a few people saw a turtle, which I am hugely bummed I did not see, but I did see lots of brightly colored fish and sea urchins. (This weekend also taught me that those sea cucumbers that I thought were so rare and exotic when I did my 4th grade research report on them are really not nearly so special. They sea floor was covered with them, looking not unlike certain parts of male anatomy, scatter hither and thither.)

On this third dive, we went down to nineteen meters, the maximum regularly certified divers are allowed to go. (Technically, we are certified to eighteen meters, but when our instructor checked her dive computer that evening, it showed we made an extra couple of feet before hitting the ocean floor.) I think one thing that stunned me the most about this dive was how it didn’t feel like we were nearly sixty feet below the surface of the ocean. Amazing!

Open Water Dive #4-

Finally! The final dive of the weekend. A week ago I would have told you I was not sure if I would make it this far, but there I was. Off the boat I bailed, not even the last to back roll into the sea.

The final dive was really about just enjoying SCUBA. We had no skills to check off, but rather a start point and an end time and away we went. We swam through coral reefs and saw fish of all types, including the dreaded trigger fish. (Stay away from that one!) We wove our way through rock formations to which clung spiky urchins and wavy anemone. We spent forty minutes under the sea, all of which passed much too quickly, as there was always something to see around the next corner.

And, it was done.

I am now a certified diver! A few years ago, it would not have even been on my radar to get certified (not a lot of cool SCUBA to be done in Idaho, after all) and a year ago when I first saw the classes offered in the embassy newsletter, I was skeptical. A month ago I was a nervous wreck. But today, I am a SCUBA diver. While I am never going to be the Sportiest of Spices, I do have a few tricks up my sleeve!

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