Video: beneath the sea in the Philippines

“Every time I slip into the ocean, it’s like going home.” 
Sylvia Earle, marine biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer

There is something magical about being underwater. Gravity is much less relevant here. You feel the swell of the tide gently push and pull as you float along the reef. You hear the clicks and pops and alien noises of the deep, and you watch as your breath rises in columns of bubbles toward a receding world of air and light.

Here time seems to slow down. Here your spirit grows quiet, pensive, present. Breathe in, breathe out.

Float, glide, rise, fall.

This video was filmed in Dumaguete and Apo Island in April, but I just now got around to editing it together. Enjoy!

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We will not be herded: Bai Tu Long Bay

wpid-img_20150501_202155.jpg We really dislike organized tours.

Being told where to go, what to look at, when and what to eat, and being ushered around with a bunch of interminably obnoxious other tourists as a public spectacle is not our idea of a good time. We will not be herded.

Having said that, there are several instances when organized tours might make sense:

  1. When the intended destination presents significant logistical challenges that the use of privately arranged transportation can solve,
  2. When the site to be visited contains esoteric cultural information that would be difficult to decipher without a knowledgable guide, and/or
  3. When a guide is legally required.

For us, Bai Tu Long Bay fell into the first category. We had read online that the journey there from Hanoi requires several transfers, and the relatively undeveloped tourist infrastructure exacts a financial toll on a cornered market. We only had two days before we wanted to head into the north country, and we just didn’t have the patience to hack our way through the DIY process for a two-day boat ride.

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The City of Gentle People: Dumaguete

image

“Why are you going to the Philippines?” A Canadian man inquires of us at a bar in the Tokyo airport. I don’t know what time it is. Five o’clock, perhaps, or maybe noon. Regardless, the traveler is slightly drunk, slurring his words, leaning in a little too close.

“Why not? Beach time, some scuba diving, jungle hiking… doesn’t sound so bad,” Ben replies.

The man snorts, takes a swig of beer. “I don’t know. I spent the entire time there shitfaced. I planned that trip for the wife. And man, the food there is terrible.”

Fortunately, experience and perception are relative. After a week in Dumaguete, we’re placing The Philippines squarely in the win column.
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Unintended, expensive, lovely derailment: Saigon

image What is the value of a lesson learned? In this case, $832. When booking our flights to SE Asia, I was presented with myriad scheduling challenges. After many hours spent researching, I finally came up with an itinerary that would waste no full days, and left a comfortable 3-hour layover buffer at all stops. Denver to Tokyo to Saigon to Manila to Cebu, where we would catch a bus to Dumaguete. Such a good plan.

Except:

  1. Flights in Asia are rarely on time.
  2. Nobody is in a hurry at any airport, it seems.
  3. Customs and immigration is, expectedly, a laborious and frustrating process.
  4. Apparently certain budget airlines only operate their check-in counter for an hour every day.
  5. Bypassing this brief window by checking in online renders your ticket non-refundable and unchangable should you miss your flight.
  6. Not speaking a word of Vietnamese is not conducive to speeding things along.

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Oh, the tangled webs we weave

Only 11 days until we leave for Vietnam and the Philippines.

Philippine Visayas
Salagdoong beach” by Patrick120603 at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 

I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more preparation a trip like this requires. Ten years ago, when I left for South America on my first big solo trip abroad, there was little that needed attending to before I left. I simply saved up a thousand bucks, packed up my camera, and boarded the plane with a clear mind. But now…

Now there are dogs to recruit care for. There are bills to pay in advance. There are projects to wrap up at work. There is a yard to tidy before spring explodes in a forest of weeds while we’re away. There is insurance to verify, medications to refill, and gadgets to synchronize. Continue reading

On waiting and embracing: a somewhat apologetic return from a lengthy hiatus

At times it is folly to hasten; at other times, to delay. The wise do everything in its proper time.
– Ovid

Golden aspens near Buena Vista, CO.
Golden aspens near Buena Vista, CO.

More than six months have passed since we moved to Colorado and, regrettably, since I last wrote here. My extended silence has certainly not been for lack of inspiration; here we are surrounded by indescribable beauty, settled in the eastern shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Endless jagged peaks rise to the west as a seemingly impenetrable fortress of granite, snow, and ice. Aspen groves scatter like boneyards, their golden leaves long abandoned by the frigid night. Rivers, half frozen, wind tortuously through hidden valleys and intimidating gorges. From these mountains, the eastern landscape spills forth almost as an afterthought. Foothills kicking at flatlands. Waist-high grasses rolling in the wind like waves on a golden ocean. The eastern horizon interminably flat and unremarkable, save for a jumble of urban monoliths protesting the impending monotony. Beyond, innumerable fields of sunflowers, wheat, corn, and soy, waiting patiently for spring. The Great Plains, expansive and uninviting like the southwest deserts from whence we came. Continue reading

Now is the time: overland plans for 2014

The monastery in Arequipa, Peru.
The monastery in Arequipa, Peru.

It’s amazing sometimes how quickly plans can change. A month ago I was planning to attend graduate school next fall after taking 7-8 months to drive around North America with our trailer. I was excited to graduate this December, and thankful to have a period of flexibility before starting my MFA program.

But, thanks to university bureaucracy, I found out recently that I will not be graduating in December, and will instead be tethered to New Mexico until May. Needless to say, this discovery was more than a little irritating. In fact, it gave rise to a full-blown Hate Train, which then gave rise again to The Conundrum (see previous post). This, in turn, inspired our new and more awesome plan.

And we couldn’t be more excited about this unexpected change.

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