Scuba Diving in Indonesia

2016/05/12

I was a bit anxious going to the airport because I thought I may have forgotten something. It was 10 on a Wednesday night with a little bit of rain here and there. The drive eventually calmed me down. I enjoyed being in the car at night. Less people, less problems.

I checked into the Malaysia Airlines counter. I was able to carry on both of my bags. On this trip, I brought my blue Converse backpack, normal sized, and I borrowed a friend’s backpacking backpack to take along. The backpacking backpack was only half filled and the checkin staff said the flight was not full. I also got my choice of seat: window.

As for the flight to Kuala Lumpur (KL), the capital of Malaysia, we boarded after the takeoff time and didn’t get onto the runway until about 2 hours later than scheduled, due to heavy rain and wind. I had the opportunity to watch the movie Creed while on the plane, waiting for it to taxi out, but I was dozing off by the end of the movie. I slept for the majority of the 6 hour flight.
Even with the delay, I landed in KL with plenty of time to spare. While wandering around the airport, I stumbled upon a Lonely Planet store. In there I realized I had forgotten to pack a travel power adapter. I bought one.

I did not have a window seat going to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, which was less than ideal but it wasn’t too bad considering it was a 3 hour flight. I got to watch Jurassic World on that flight. It was less scary than I thought it would have been.

Landing in Denpasar, I easily found the driver with my name on his sign. It took us approximately 1.5 hours to drive along a motorcycle (and helmet) filled road to get to Bamboo Paradise, the hostel I reserved a night at, which is located in Padang Bai.IMG_1417

I arrived at Bamboo Paradise without getting carsick and got situated in my assigned room. I asked an employee where I could eat non-spicy fish for dinner and I walked to her suggestion. At the restaurant I had the recommended barracuda. It was tasty but it was not THAT good, but I still enjoyed eating fish, nonetheless.


2016/05/14
IMG_1418Yesterday started off with a tasty omelet, toast, and fruit. I talked with a couple of guests in the hostel. They were both from Germany. After breakfast, I headed to the well known white sandbeach, about a 15 minute walk up and down a rocky hill. It was quite a cozy little cove, with hardly a person in sight. For awhile, I only put my feet in the water, but later came a local woman to set up shop for the day and convinced me to get in.
I was enjoying the waves for a good
10 minutes before I started to feel itchy. I have felt this sensation before in California waters, so it could only really mean one thing. I looked down, and sure enough, there they were. Little white jellyfish. Probably no bigger than half a dime. I could have stayed in if I wanted to, the stinging was bearable, but considering that I didn’t have much time left, I decided to get out and change clothes.
IMG_1435A man later came to the shop I was sitting at and
was informed that jellyfish were in the water. He had a look with his mask and snorkel, and my discovery was confirmed. He said that there were thousands, probably millions of them. He also mentioned there were small blue jellyfish yesterday. After I ordered and enjoyed a banana juice, I headed back to the hostel to pack for the boat ride to Gili Trawangan.

IMG_1421The boat, which probably had about 150 people on board, stopped at Lombok, Gili Air, and then my destination, Gili Trawangan, aka Gili T. I disembarked the vessel and found my hostel, Gili Beach Bum, relatively easily. My next task was to find Lutwala Dive, which was the diving school I found online and I wanted to take a diving course with them. I informed them that I was going to take the 2 day course called Scuba Diver, but they told me that I could decide towards the end if I wanted to extend it to the 3 day course, Open Water, which would grant me a first level certification, under the same name as the course. I had time to think about it. It was mainly dependent on time. I had scheduled the return boat for Monday but unsure of the time. If I wanted Open Water, the later the boat sail time, the better.

IMG_1444Being that I hadn’t eaten lunch, I was pretty hungry. I headed to a nearby restaurant and ate the seafood platter. The plate. Was. Large. Shrimp, fried calamari rings, red snapper (I think?), fries, and rice, plus a salad from the salad bar. I also drank another banana juice. So good. Like the barracuda the previous night, not the best tasting seafood but it was fresh and worth ordering.

 

 

 

IMG_1511Following dinner, buying sunscreen and a swimsuit, I called it a night and read most of chapter 1 of the Open Water Diver textbook that Lutwala gave me to read before 9 AM the next day.

 

 

IMG_1442Being close to the center of action on Gili, Beach Bum isn’t exactly quiet at night, but I didn’t have too much trouble falling asleep. Beach Bum is also next to a mosque, so at 5 AM, it projects a voice chanting something from the Quran (I’m guessing). An hour or so after the chanting stopped, I fully woke up and ate quite a simple breakfast provided by Beach Bum. It was a crêpe with 4 banana slices with some watermelon slices on the side. Though it was tasty, it wasn’t a lot. Shortly after I headed to Lutwala.

 

 

IMG_1473Once everything was sorted, I was grouped with a dive master named Sergio, a dive master in training named Kal, and an older couple from San Diego, CA. The husband already had his SCUBA certification, but hadn’t dived in over 40 years, so he was required to take a refresher course. The wife had never gone diving before and was taking the 1/2 day course, called Discover SCUBA. She and her husband were essentially taking the same course, with the same length, skills, and procedures. They were a friendly pair and I got along with them really well, as well as Sergio and Kal.

IMG_1474Saturday had a theory session, pool session, another theory, the first open water dive (this was the final stage for the Californian couple), and another pool session.

The first pool session went well. I got most of the skills down on the first try. The exception was filling the mask with water and emptying it. I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to purposely allow water into the mask and empty it. I thought we were simply emptying an already empty mask, performing the action and its motions.

IMG_1452The first dive site was set for Halik and the boat ride was very short but I still got a bit of motion sickness. It was also prevalent when we were on the water’s surface preparing to descend. Once we had descended, it went away. I was at peace. The only sound I could hear was my breathing. My air source. If Sergio needed to get someone’s attention, he would tap on his tank with a metal clip that he carried around.

IMG_1457The first dive was really fantastic. Halik was a really good site with really good visibility. The couple had some problems equalizing the ears, but they got the hang of hit soon enough. We saw 2 hawksbill turtles (which I recognized were hawksbill on my own because of all the nature programs I have watched. Thanks mom and dad.) For me, the most surprising and cool creature to see was the mantis shrimp. I only saw it for a few seconds but I did see its global eyes. I didn’t realize they live in this part of the world, but it makes sense that they do.

 

IMG_1512We all made it back to the surface, the couple said their goodbyes, and ate some lunch before some more learning and another pool session.

Scuba diving for the day ended around 5:30. I had some more reading to do in the PADI Open Water course book, so I headed south to the eastern side of the island (Lutwala is at the very north) where both Beach Bum and restaurants are located.

IMG_1483For dinner I ate mahi-mahi with baked potato. It was the best fish I had eaten so far on the trip.

 

 

 

IMG_1488The next morning, Sunday, started at 9 once again. Sergio, Kai, and I talked over some more theory then we all headed into the pool so I could practice more skills.

For the dive, we all went to Shark Point, which is on the western side of Gili T. We didn’t see any sharks, sadly. The other divers said sharks tend to like stronger currents, which was not present. But we did see a lot of turtles, mostly hawksbill but also 1 green sea turtle.
I had a non-satisfying seafood fried noodle dish for dinner that day. It was basically a ramen package with tiny bits of seafood mixed in. I also had my last readings of the trip to complete so I once again headed back to Beach Bum fairly early, read a bit, and fell asleep.


2016/05/17

IMG_1472This was my last day on Gili T and I arrived at Lutwala with all of my things around 8:30 in order to set out on the boat at 9. We went to Shark Point once again, hoping for some better results than the previous day. It turned out to be the opposite. The visibility range was at 5 meters, significantly lower than the 20 meter range I had in the preceding dives. Regardless, we did see a clown triggerfish and a scorpion fish.

IMG_1508I had one more dive to complete before leaving Lutwala, so at 11 the participating divers headed out once again, this time to Turbo, located 10 minutes north east of Gili T.

Turbo had good visibility at 20 meters and I we all saw blue sea stars, 2 green sea turtles, a trumpetfish, 2 mantis shrimp, clownfish, and a blues potted stingray, detected by me.

IMG_1515It was a memorable dive and leaving Lutwala proceeded it. It was a overall wonderful resort and team that I hope to return to one day.

It’s Still Halloween in Hawaii

Sunday was a full day for me, and Sundays are already quite busy.

sf.picI started off the day with my second softball game. I arrived at the Peking University soccer field a bit before 9 am, and the game started at 9:40.

I fielded fine throughout the game like normal, but my batting hasn’t been very good since I started playing in China. The first game I did not get on base at all. That didn’t feel very good. I batted 3 or 4 times, either struck out, thrown out at 1st, or I caused the 3rd out. This game did not start off well, either. First time up to bat, I hit the ball towards 2nd base and the base, which caused the runner ahead of me to be out, which was the 3rd out. Second time up, I hit a wimpy pop fly foul ball that was caught, leaving my head hanging low as I returned to the “dugout.” I hoped that the team was not losing faith in me. Third up-to-bat, I whispered encouragements to myself. I. Had. To. Get. On. Base. Preferably not by being walked, but I was willing to accept any method.

I hit the ball right over the short stop’s head. I briefly expected him to jump up and catch it, but even as he jumped, it was out of his reach. Yes! I finally made it on base during a game. A few batters later I made it to “home plate” and scored. I returned to the dugout with my head held a little higher and shyly high-fived my teammates’ hands.

Right after the game was over, which was supposed to end at 11 but went a bit overtime, I left the field and rode my bike to church. I was late, so I saw the last few minutes of the sermon, but I did get to see the baptism of 5 christians, 1 whom I know.

pumpkin.pic_hdAfter the church service, I went to lunch with some of my favorite people from church. It was a great lunch. We ended up ordering battered and fried pumpkin in honor of Halloween. This was all on Sunday, November 1, but me and another American, David, mentioned that it was still Halloween in Hawaii, so the eating of pumpkin was justified. We enjoyed eating the pumpkin, which is a common dish in southern China, I believe. I first tried it in Southern China, in Rhea’s hometown, and I really liked it.
I took this picture of David eating pumpkin while pumpkin glasses he brought.

A couple of hours later, I went to Tsinghua University fields to play ultimate frisbee with a lot of members from church. It is always good exercise and a good time to connect with people from around the world. We all usually play for 2 hours, and eat dinner after word.

Overall, it was yet another good Sunday. I also missed this last Sunday, since I was on my trip to Henan. It was good to be back. It almost feels like they notice when I am gone, which has not happened in a long time.

Bible Verse of the Day:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8

Song of the Day:
Kill Em With Kindness
by Selena Gomez

高丹玉

From The Journal of a Traveler: 河南 (Henan Province)

Preface

Courtesy of the 2 staff members at the University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) Beijing Center (which is located at Peking University), a weekend trip to 河南 (Henan Province) was planned for all of the University of California (UC) students here in Beijing.

The passages below are what I wrote while on my trip. I mainly wrote in past tense, referring to what the previous hours have been like, then at the end of each entry, I wrote in present tense, describing the current situation that I was in. I hope it is not confusing to read, as this is my first time journaling while on a trip as well as posting those entries. If you have any tips for me on how to improve, leave them down below in the comments. Enjoy!


2015/10/24 Morning

I boarded the sleeper train and walked down the aisle to find my bunk 16车004号中. On the way, a little girl spotted me. She was on the top bunk, her legs were hanging off the edge, and she was playing with a hand-held game device of some sort. As I was passing by, she looked up at me, took in a huge gasp, and loudly said, “外国人!” (Foreigner!) Everybody started laughing, including myself. I responded to the girl, “对! 你好!” (Correct! Hello!) and I waved at her and kept on my path. Walking the rest of the way down the aisle got me even more stares, but I am used to it.

IMG_8678You may not know this, but a the length of a human’s arm span is supposedly exactly equal to the height of the body. If not exact, then really close. With that in mind, I measured the length of the bed I was going to be occupying for the night to come. It was about as long as my arm span, surprisingly. So, a 6 foot long bed, since I am 6 foot tall (do not let my dad tell you differently). The only factor that shortened the bed was that I kept my backpack right behind my pillow. This wasn’t too big of a deal, though, since I do not normally fully stretch out while sleeping. I do curl up somewhat, though, which was a movement that was very limited in the bunk. The bunk’s width was about the length of one of my arms, without my hand. The barriers, a wall and a rail, restricted me from bending my legs too much.

Regardless of all of these aspects, I slept pretty well.

Right now, I am sitting on a collapsible chair in the aisle-way about to arrive at our destination, 郑州 (Zheng Zhou).


IMG_87272015/10/24 Night

After getting off the train at 郑州, a lot of us, there are 8 people from the program in total, got CoCo’s milk tea, and then we drove about an hour to get to lunch. 少林寺 (Shaolin Temple) followed lunch. On the ride there, we noticed it was kind of cloudy. Adding to the skies was smog. I expected to be leaving the smog behind in Beijing, but that wasn’t the case. Regarding taking pictures, I knew nothing was going to turn out fantastic looking.

IMG_8699I anticipated 少林寺 to look similar to the setting of the movie Kung Fu Panda. 少林寺 did not meet this expectation. It honestly resembled the other Chinese temples that I have seen before. Sure, there are some differences between all temples in China, Asia as well, but 少林寺 was not extraordinarily special to someone like me. However, I did have a good time and everything went along smoothly.

Our dinner was quite elaborate. It included 8 cold dishes and 16 hot dishes. This banquet meal is known as 洛阳水席 (Luoyang Water Banquet), which is one of 3 national level banquets of China. 8 of us ate this meal. We did not finish. There was a lot of food.
I am currently in a hotel room watching Chinese television. I am sharing the room with 赵老师 (Miss Zhao), my teacher and friend from over the summer program. She also works as a UCEAP program assistant. I like her and I like spending time with her.


2015/10/25

We all woke up around 8 at the hotel and ate breakfast at a small buffet room on our floor, the 5th floor. It was probably one of the better Chinese breakfasts I have eaten. I am not saying it was delicious, but I was not struggling to find something worth eating. Around 9 we all checked out and hit the road toward 白马寺 (White Horse Temple).

IMG_8783Like 少林寺, 白马寺 was very similar to temples I have previously viewed. It claimed to be China’s 1st Buddhist temple, but I don’t know if I can believe that. There is probably at least one other temple in China that advertises the same proclamation. But one thing that was different with this location was that there was a Thai-styled temple as well as an Indian-styled temp
le. All 3 centers were bordering each other. A lot of the color gold decorated the Thai temple, and looking at the Indian temple made me feel like I was at Luke Skywalker’s home on the foreign planet Tatooine. I told my classmate this and he agreed while mentioning the fact that George Lucas drew inspiration for Star Wars from Indian culture as well as Buddhism.

IMG_8790Since the time of waking up, it had been raining, or at least drizzling. Towards the end of our visit at the temples, the rain had stopped. However, through lunch and time at our next tourist destination, the rain was continuous, with little wind, thankfully.

Our next and last sight to se was the Longmen Grottoes. It was a whole lot of Buddhas carved into the side of a mountain. Personally, I did not find this attraction that great. The Buddhas were not that grand and it was cold and raining. Of course, the Longmen Grottoes were not horrible, just not the greatest was to spend a rainy day. I generally had a good time with my companions, though.

To warm our bodies up after spending a few hours in the cold, we ate dumplings. Following that, we were driven to the train station. We bought snacks and hot drinks while we briefly waited for the bullet train.

On this 4 hour train ride, I listened to music and I am currently playing a round of the card game Monopoly Deal. These train rides go by a lot faster when I have people to talk to, rather than trying to entertain myself.

Overall, this trip has been pleasant. For one thing, I only packed and carried one backpack, so I did not have to manage too much luggage. As far as previous trips go, I overpack and become overwhelmed with both the weight and too much stuff to keep track of at the hotel.

Secondly, I enjoyed spending time with everybody on the trip. There were 2 other UC students from my exact study abroad program, 4 UC students from Beijing Normal University (which is where I was for my summer language program), 1 of the UCEAP Beijing advisors, and the tour guide and bus driver.

Another mentionable note is that this trip was, in a way, free for me. It was paid for by my program fee, which I had to pay for regardless of my choice to participate in these scheduled weekend trips. So, if I had decided to skip this trip, that money that I had to pay as part of the program would have gone somewhere else that would not benefit me, or at least not in the same way.

1st Slow Pitch Softball Game

Today I played my first slow pitch softball game in China. Or ever. I have played 5 years of fast pitch softball, so everything is very alike. The only thing that I still have yet to get used to is batting. And by the way, they use the same sized softball I am used to playing with. We do not play with a cantaloupe-sized softball like my grandfather used to.

One major difference that I have noticed playing slow pitch here in China is that there is no real strike zone. The only way to tell if a pitch is a ball or a strike is a mat that is located directly behind home plate. If the pitch lands on the mat, strike. Anywhere else, ball. I am not sure if this method is used in the States or not. My other guess is that they do not have a qualified umpire to referee the game. Based on the equipment and conditions these college students work with, I would not be surprised if the latter is true (somebody please inform me of the truth in the comments section).

The arc of the pitch is the factor I am not used to. That is something for me to practice on and improve.

About the conditions: we play ball on an astro turf soccer field. The neighboring university apparently has a baseball/softball field, but not us. The field as fences and nets around the borders, with two games going on at one time, with their outfielders overlapping a bit (softball practice squeezes two more games onto the same field). A majority of the players do not wear cleats, myself included. You can wear what ever pants you like. I, as many others did, wore denim jeans. I chose this apparel because my sweat pants are high waters on me now. But the pair of jeans I did wear were generally loose and allowed me to move freely. Before the game, we warmed up in a field of weeds and foxtail plants (I do not know if there is a more proper term for those plants).

Here is two differences I have found between slow pitch softball in China and what I am used to:

  • A foul ball can be the third strike
  • Not only do runners not slide, but they are not allowed to
  • Instead of exchanging high fives or hand shakes with your opponent at the end of the game, they bow. They also bow to the referee.

As for my performance in the game, it was poor (I did better during practice). I did not get on base once. I batted a total of 3 times, a caught pop-fly, strike out, and thrown out at 1st base. To be fair, the sun was in my eyes while batting. But honestly, that’s just an excuse for me being out of practice of this sport that I truly enjoy. That’s honestly why I play it. It is not to win, but it is to enjoy it. To enjoy learning about it. To enjoy playing it. To enjoy exercising.

The game score was 7-8. The other team won. It was a good 7 inning game.

IMG_0920 IMG_1040 IMG_1043

Bible Verse of the Day:
All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.
1 John 4:15
Source: Bible.com

高丹玉

Quidditch Tournament

The day started early at 7 AM in order to prep the field. Tye, our president, was painting the pitches last night, so we didn’t have to do that this morning. We had to set up the snack bar table, e-z ups, hoops, cones. Volunteers also had to be organized. From what I have gathered, there are 6 referees on a pitch at a time.

In our first game, we played against Arizona State University (ASU). ASU is known to be quite aggressive, so I was a bit apprehensive about being on the field. The word about ASU turned out to be true, and we lost that game. Sadly, one of the best players on our team, Stephen, sprained his knee in the first 5 minutes. He didn’t play throughout the rest of the day.

Our second game was against the Long Beach Funky Quaffles (cool name, eh?). We won that game! It was a good feeling for the team, being our first win for the season.

We played against the Santa Barbara Blacktips in the third game, and with them being one of the best teams at this particular tournament, we losed.
This next fourth game was the first game of bracket, meaning if a team losed this fourth game, it would be their last, putting them out of the tournament. Teams participating in this tournament were also guaranteed 4 games to play.

Our first bracket game was against University of Southern California (USC). We were tied throughout much of this game, but eventually our seeker, Jerome, caught the snitch and we won! We got to move on in the brackets and we put USC out of the tournament.

Unfortunately, we did not win our fifth game (2nd bracket game). We were put up against the Blacktips again. We did try our hardest but we still did lose.
At the end of Riverside Quidditch’s (my team) tournament participation, USC went on. I had to leave right after our last game, but I was later informed that the Lost Boys won first place in the tournament.

Overall it was a nicely planned tournament by our team president, Tye, and it was an enjoyable first quidditch tournament for me. I learned a lot about how quidditch games work and how clear communication goes a long way.
image

image

Not very exciting pictures, as I was mainly focused on quidditch rather than photography.

A Slightly Worried Rishov

Today I went on a beach trip with my friends from Rancho Cucamonga. The people who went were Taha, Rishov, Sumesh, Jaek, me, and we met Frank when we arrived at Santa Monica (Frank attends UCLA so he took the bus to the beach). We enjoyed some burgers for lunch on the pier, and Taha and I actually went in the water. The water temperature seemed to be normal, but the slight overcast made the air temperature feel colder. So, naturally (for me), I was cold for the majority of the trip. After leaving the sand, we all walked on the pier together, walked to the end, and watched the sun set. That’s a good thing about living on the west US coast- awesome sunsets. 🙂

Sumesh, being a Nepali, wanted to enjoy this beach trip. So he went on a walk along the beach. For two hours. One could say that Rishov was a little worried. Both Rishov and Sumesh are students (and good friends) at Pitzer College in Claremont, so he jokingly felt he was responsible for the 21 year old Nepali.

We are weren’t planning on me being the only girl going on the day trip, but the other girl who was planning on going backed out last minute. It did not bother me, though. The are a group of people who talk a lot about computers and science and such but I definitely felt engaged in most of their conversations. It is also interesting to hear them talk about subjects that girls don’t normally hear guys talk about; which is girls. It definitely was not a prominent subject throughout the day but it did come up once or twice. I even pointed it out to them that it is not a side of guys that is portrayed regularly, and they agreed. After their response to my comment, they just went on with their goofy conversations and outbursts of laughter.

20141109_134652 20141109_134700

It's not what it looks like.

It’s not what it looks like.

20141109_134811 20141109_134906 20141109_155416 20141109_155441-SMILE 20141109_164720 20141109_164731