Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sudan: My Happy Place

I know that most of you weren't on board with my trip to Sudan, and most of you still don't understand what exactly I fell in love with there, but part of my heart got left underwater in the Red Sea and I can honestly say that I have not been that happy in a long long time. So I uploaded the video just to show you all what I fell in love with.

Really though, watch it.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sometimes I really feel like Alice in Wonderland...

Prepare yourself for a potentially whiney post in which I actually say nothing, but insinuate a lot.

I swear nothing in my life ever works the way it is supposed to. I am the epitome of Murphy's Law. I can amuse my friends for hours on end with the latest story of what can possibly go wrong in my life. And those of you who know me, know that the question isn't "what's your life plan" it's "so, what's the plan this week".  Everything in my life is chaos. I know that trying to eliminate stress is kinda a life goal, but frankly everything ties together and seems like an endless spiral. I really really need a job and  frankly not having one is really the root of all these problems. I need to go, but I have no where to go, I have options, but no one willing to commit. I need a plan, but I am dependent on other people to make decisions first. It is a maddening place to be. I have never felt SO out of control of MY life.

As for the other things that contribute to the lunacy of my life....can someone tell me why sane men don't exist? They are all either creeps, or married, or stalkers, or any of 8 million other levels of crazy. I mean don't get me wrong, I pick up men in the funniest ways, but given that I'm usually the only natural blonde within miles in every given country I travel to, I guess it's not all that surprising. This is getting old though/ absolutely ridiculous.

I just honestly hate the definition of normal. Who up and decided what normal should mean? We think it means a house, a husband, a solid job, and a dog. But what if normal is really just where our heart is. There's a country song by Lady Antebellum that says,

"mamma said home is where the heart is when i left that town
made it all the way to West Virginia and that's where my heart found
exactly where it's supposed to be, didn't take much time"

Part of my heart will always be in California, permanently attached to Disneyland, no I'm kidding, but part of my heart will always be with my family, so that always will be home in a way, and for some reason a piece of it chipped off in Africa. I have known that for years and every time I am there I fall a little bit more in love with it. But for now I am perfectly content to travel. To meet new people and to change lives, and at the moment I can do that through diving. Maybe someday I'll get my teaching credentials or finish college, but I think for now normal for me is wandering around the world. But like normal I'm pretty sure life has a different plan that it doesn't feel inclined to tell me about.

The truth is I'm getting restless. I've never been able to stay with something for very long, and Rome has been great, but it's time for me to go. I would love to picturitize and gif this post, but my internet hates me at the moment (another perk of this damn country), so I promise I'll make the next one interesting!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shopping:the Italian Olympic Sport

But really…..when was the last time an Italian athlete won a gold medal. If you are anything like me you just googled the answer to that question. Apparently they're better athletes than I give them credit for if you count fencing and cycling. Personally I'm willing to chalk that cycling bit up to the fact that public transportation in this country is such complete and utter shit that they are forced at a young age to resort to desperate measures and buy a bike. Let's also be realistic, the amount of carbs these people eat could fuel a freight train for a couple uphill time trials. Option 2 is that through natural selection (aka those who have fast enough reflexes to dodge the idiot drivers) the nimble and quick have survived and inherited excellent dodging skills. Soooo when we piece it all together and you understand why the Italians are great fencers and cyclists…..but really I digress….I propose that we make shopping a new Olympic sport. The Italians are a shoe in! Honestly, I have every intention of working out on purpose one of these days, but frankly once I walk down the hill, do my grocery shopping and drag it all back up my hill I'm positively knackered. I would like to add as a side note that I am NOT in bad shape either. My body is used to lugging around scuba kit and tanks etc, but grocery shopping is going to do me in one of these days. And let me tell you, I cheat. I go straight to the supermarket, grab what I want, and go from there. The Italian moms go to the bakery, the fruit/vegetable stand, the butcher, and probably 12 other places I don't know about…DAILY!!! Because they buy everything so fresh it goes bad the next day. No wonder these people eat so many carbs, living here is so stressful and exhausting you can't help but to mass consume carbs…you burn them off immediately!

Oh that's another thing that blows my mind. Italians and gyms. I don't quite think they get it. Either they go to the gym and pretty much just walk slowly on a treadmill or lazily pedal a bike or they swim. But see when Americans work out we are proud of it. We wear our gym clothes and smell like a sweaty animal for the rest of the day because HEY WORLD WE WORKED OUT!!!!!! I'm sorry did you hear/smell me over there? I WORKED OUT TODAY NOW COMPLIMENT ME!!!!!! Italians however are the epitome of discretion. (I think it comes from the fact that something like 2% of all Italian marriages are single partner marriages) but they go to the gym looking like they just walked off a New York runway and when they leave the gym they look the same. This also applies to swimming. And we're talking makeup and all! So these women spend hours putting on makeup, then they go to the gym, wash it all off, go in the pool, come out and shower and reapply makeup so that they can then go home and take the makeup off before they can go to sleep…..I don't get it.

So after I just burned 500 calories lugging all that up the stairs, I'll be laying in bed, dying and eating suppli (never can get enough of those things plus I deserve them after that) dreaming of a better country where I have consistent internet, barbecue sauce, Heinz ketchup, peanut butter, and I can wear shorts and go diving daily.

Monday, March 18, 2013

In 250 meters please enter the roundabout....

Really this blog was going to be titled "Don't Listen to the Bitch" Immediately followed byt the comment that no I am not talking about Giuli....but I thought that it probably just wouldn't be the most  reader friendly title....ok so back to the purpose of this blog.

My observations this week:
1-Our GPS is bloody useless
2-There are WAY too many roundabouts in Malta
3-Our GPS has the most irritating British accent I have EVER heard
4-Our GPS like's adventures
5-We are running out of languages to yell/curse at the GPS in
6-She has been affectionately renamed "the bitch"

I realize we probably should have figured we were in trouble when she decided that she wanted us to drive circles inside the airport. Well we finally found our apartment and can I just say WOW what a great view, and a HUGE apartment. Needless to say me and Giuli are quite happy....well I mean we would have been except it's FREEZING! WE were hoping for at least a bit of sun and maybe some warmth, but sadly there is none to be found.

Ok so the rest of the day was pretty non eventful. We almost froze, apartment beautiful, don't even have pictures of dinner cause I practically inhaled it, and fell into an exhausted sleep...seems normal.

Day 2 we decided to go on an adventure. We walked around a bit, went bathing suit shopping, found the dive shop, and all sorts of other fun things! Honestly, we didn't accomplish much, except finding possibly the worst steak either of us have ever had. Side note if you ever go to Malta DO NOT go to "The Steak House" honestly worst food and service EVER.

Side note: because I have a picture and honestly our mind is blown....who the hell wears suspenders and jean shorts to the beach? And them proceeds to romp around in the water while wearing suspenders and jean shorts....Can we really please figure this out....

Happy St Paddy's Day!

The best adventure so far was our 90 minute sunset horse back ride. So their first question is experienced or beginner rider. Well me and Giuli have both spent a decent amount of time on a horse so we went for experience  Apparently this means that we will be allowed to control 2 extremely feisty horses. Literally this guy hands me this giant monster and goes ok soooo watch out, he kicks other horses, and if you kick him hell take off, and he kinda causes problems. Geez thanks! I always wanted a testy pony. Anyways, it was a beautiful ride and absolutely fantastic to be back on a horse again. After we got back we made ourselves food and popped on over to Huggins for a pint of Guinness in honor of St Patricks day. Par normal what happens when you stick me in a bar I had 2 Brits practically falling over themselves to flirt with me at the bar and offer to buy me beers.....just another normal day in my world. Headed home early as we were going diving the next day!!!! Wohoooo!!!!

Ok so diving. Let's just say I'm sick....started coming down with it the day we left Rome. I was really hoping it was allergies, but alas I am pretty convinced I'm dying. Ok dramatics out of the way diving today was fun. Granted we learned that Giuli does not appreciate cold water and that a few things are going to have to change for the rest of the course, but we are working on it and off to the heated indoor pool for the rest of confined water dives tomorrow. Ok all things considered though we got a bit done before she froze and totally had fun in the process. She'd a GREAT student!
How I feel about life right now.

Well as I'm sitting here dying and popping cold meds....yeah I know never dive when you're sick....now shove it....I am pretty much feeling just done with life right now. Can I just say European meds are so far superior to US meds its ridiculous.... Anywho off to the pool super early tomorrow morning and then we will see what the next two days bring. The plans to finish up this course are in motion and we will see what everyone comes up with. More on life in Malta later, preferably when I am more functional...

Oh did I mention only 10 days until Helen is in Rome!!!!! Prepare yourself world....I seriously CANNOT wait!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Once in a Lifetime Adventure

Ok so honestly the best and most surreal night of my life. It started off as any other normal Jo/Amanda adventure. I packed a picnic dinner because Amanda had to go to the boys soccer game and I volunteered to go with her. We figured we'd have a nice picnic dinner in the rain and then the plan was to head over to the Vatican tomorrow night to see the black smoke. Well that plan quickly changed when one of our friends comes running into the office shouting "white smoke, white smoke...there's a new pope!!!" So me and Amanda look at each other and are like dude can we see the Vatican from school? Obviously the 4th floor balcony is our best bet. Now let me point out that these are Italian floors...so the 4th floor is really the 5th....yes, me and Amanda sprinted up 5 flights of stairs to see if we could see smoke. Sadly we could not. However, I was ok with it seeing as I totally just completed my cardio for the day. So we go back to the office and are watching the news and watching the smoke and they announce that the new pope will be appearing within the hour. We look at each other and are like welllll we have 30 minutes until the bus leaves, if no one shows up we go? Well 20 minutes later we run into our friend James and he's like "GUYS I'M GOING TO SEE THE POPE!" Once again me and Amanda exchange this all too familiar look and are like well guess we're in. After about 2 minutes of debate over bus vs cab vs walking we realize that it's going to be a complete crazy show trying to get to the Vatican tonight and decide to walk. Did I mention its 3 miles away? Wellll about halfway there all the Italians are running to get there in time. We decide to run with them. Thank you Catholic Church I have no completed my cardio for the week AND I intend to have a cookie or 2 tonight. Side note sorry this wasn't really in the whole life plan so I definitely only had my iphone.

The Cardinal giving the announcement
that we have a new pope. See you can
see his little red hat.
View of St. Peter's waiting to hear
that we have a new pope.
Ok so we get to the Vatican and it is packed! We push our way through the sea of people into the main piazza and are just awed by the sheer amount of people, and maybe a little bit by the fact that all the Italians are being so polite. Anyways, there are thousands upon thousands of people standing in this piazza anxiously waiting to hear who the new pope is going to be. Everyone is holding their breath as the curtains start to wave in the wind because that means the door is opening. And as the cardinal steps out and announces in Latin "Habemus Papam", which means there is a new pope, the entire crowd takes a deep breath and as he announces the new pope's name the crowd erupts, with everyone asking their friends, who is he, where is he from, etc. Then 10 minutes later the new pope finally walks out on the balcony. And the crowd just erupts. The excitement of everyone there was amazing. He begins with the Lord's prayer, which for the record I definitely don't know in Italian and then blesses everyone. He then proceeds to say thank you to all the Cardinals who elected him and tells us all thank you for coming and blesses us. Then he asks for a moment of silence to say a prayer of thanks and blessing and afterward tells us all to go home and sleep. Practical man, I like him. I have to say though the entire event was surreal. I cannot believe I was there when the new pope was revealed and walked out to adress the masses for the first time. It was truly a once in a lifetime event that I am so proud to have been a part of.

Pope's first blessing. You can tell that
it's the pope talking because they have
that thing (white square) hung out the window.
Anderson Cooper
Right so now that the pope has given his blessing the crazy mass exodus begins. I know the Vatican isn't technically Italy, but they all speak Italian and the Italian police are to blame for this mess so I'm willing to go right back to blaming Italy. There is literally 1 gate that is all of 3 meters wide for all the thousands of people there to exit. Brilliant right? Let's ignore the fact that all the other gates COULD open, but no, we only want one open. I want to know what they do in case of emergency....but I digress....So as we are pushing our way out of the gates Amanda goes now if we could only find Anderson Cooper. I feel this requires a bit of a back story. See we have been joking for days that we are going to go on a hunt to find Anderson Cooper. Well we are walking out the gate and Amanda makes that comment. Right as she says that the crowd parts a bit and OH MY GOD IT'S ANDERSON COOPER!!!!!! Ok so there were definitely a few illegal gate hops to get to him and we all shook his hand and talked to him for about 3 minutes and of course took the obligatory photos with him. Ahhhh it was all just amazing. And as we were walking away me and Amanda were just like in shock. We just saw the new pope make his first address in person in Rome, and we met Anderson Cooper. You can obviously tell which one I'm more excited about. Dang it there we go again, I'm going to hell, I know. But, I truly just wanted to share this moment with you all because frankly it was so surreal and such an amazing night.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hobbits, Harry Potter, and the Mad Hatter

It's one of those days where you tie your hair back, forget the contacts,
and start cleaning random things....
I realize that the title is pretty shoddy alliteration, but you know I do what I can. Well as I sit here on this cold raining day, with my windows getting pelted by golfball size balls of hail, eating fries that I have miraculously managed to cook (more on that later), waiting for yet another load of laundry to finish, and watching the Lord of the Rings for probably the hundredth time I have had a collection of thoughts that I feel you might all find at least slightly amusing.

Lovely and wonderful Italian internet just wiped out take 1 at my entire blog post soooo let's see how well we can do this time. Basically, I have realized that I spend my life cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and then repeating that over and over again. Who decided we needed 3 meals a day? Anywho, I generally wouldn't be opposed to this, I mean such is life, except being in Italy this is all complicated by this tiny itty bitty little fact that I cannot run more than one appliance at a time. That means when the over or washing machine is on, EVERYTHING else in the apartment must be unplugged. Again wouldn't be an issue except for the fact that I cannot cook, clean and do laundry all at the same time so I actually have to time everything so it all get's done. Oh also should just point out that there's no dryer so I have to make sure the last round of clothes is dry before the next round comes out. Ok so due to the fact that I spend copious amounts of time cooking and cleaning I've come to the conclusion that I really might as well get married and do it all much more conveniently, plus you get someone to keep you warm at night. Can someone find me the downside here? Right so As I'm sitting here waiting for another load of laundry to finish I decided to have one of those oh so brilliant reflective moments. Prepare yourself....this involve Lord of the Rings and lemur memes....no not together...DO YOU THINK I'M INSANE?!

At some point, for me it's right around the middle of the Two Towers, you realize you could not honestly give less of a shit about what happens to Sam and Frodo. Yeah I know I get much more interested too when Faramir gets involved, but let's be honest I'm slightly more interested whenever there's a hot male around regardless of the situation. I started thinking though, what makes Merry and Pippin more interesting than Sam and Frodo? Sam and Frodo have a goal, a singular goal I might add, they are no to de deterred and they have a very clear direction. Merry and Pippin however, end up tagging along on different adventures and while they are apart for a while they always manage to find their way back together, because they're friends and that's what friends do. But my point is Merry and Pippin are more interesting because they see more, do more, meet more people and have more adventures! Sure the world would fall to ruin and we would all die without Sam and Frodo, but isn't that life to begin with? I sure as hell don't want to be an accountant, but without the people who do, the world would go to hell pretty fast. Everyone has something they love, because without it, the world would cease to function. I am not nor do I want to be Sam and Frodo. I don't have a singular goal nor do I want to plod along my entire life trying to get the ring to Mordor. I want to explore Gondor and Rohan, I want to stand on a table and sing a Shire drinking song (ok maybe not). I want to learn how to defend myself, I want to fight for what I love,  and I want to commit to something I am passionate about, no matter where that takes me. I know what I want and frankly it's something that frightens most people. I have decided to move to Africa. Whether that be as a dive instructor or with an aid organization or anything else, this is something I want to do more than anything. I fell in love with these types of countries when I first went to Haiti, and frankly each of my trips to Africa has just furthered my absolute love for these people. Granted the most recent visit was for diving and I definitely fell in love with the Red Sea, but frankly it is all about the people. They are so kinda and happy, and even though I'm American (different rant for a different day) they welcome me and just want to let me know what their lives are like.

As for the Harry Potter reference, to say I've had a lot of time on my hands lately would be an understatement. I am at that point where I am inevitable Murphy's law. And as I was watching Harry Potter today I started laughing at this part. When McGonagal asks Harry, Hermoine, and Ron why it is ALWAYS the 3 of them. And they all just give her this blank stare and are like tell me about it. Honestly, everytime I go somewhere or do something (not limited to adventures, this even includes taking the bus home at night) things tend to happen to me that leaves people shaking their heads and laughing. Such is life I suppose.

Ok now lastly for the Mad Hatter reference. I think most of you know that Alice in Wonderland is by far my favorite book ever. PS if you were wondering the Italian translation is abysmal. But I digress....My favorite quote from the book, and trust me this was a hard one, is what Alice tells the Mad Hatter. You're entirely bonkers, but I'll tell you a secret...all the best people are! I'm holding onto that hope because let's be realistic....I'm crazy and a half....

Right and now back to the more serious sorts of topics....I am having a really hard time right now with people and their opinions. Someone gave me some great advice last night and said come up with a plan and stick to it. You know what you want to do, so stop taking about it with people until you know something for sure. I think that's bloody brilliant. So from now on I'm keeping my grand ideas to myself. I've gotten to the point where people's opinions are about as welcome as a Jehovah's Witness at your front door. In the spirit of that and the ongoing LOTR theme in this blog I found this meme highly humorous. I'm laughing anyways. Oh I also decided you all needed a video of Sam and the potato song....This blog is definitely rating up there with my most random blogs ever. I like to think that you have all learned something from this....even if it is only how to rap about potatoes. Right so on that note I leave you all to watch the potato video. Arrivederci Amici!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yalla!!!! <-the only arabic word I know

The Andromeda
Oh my god. What an adventure this has been. Don't get me wrong it was well worth it, but wow what an interesting week. So first off we leave at 9 Friday morning. I was baffled about why we would possibly need to leave at 9 for a flight that didn't leave until 1340 but I was clearly proved wrong. We arrived at the airport in perfect time. It was actually pretty tragic how many times we stopped for coffee. So we get to the airport and you know after the compulsory 3 coffee breaks get on the airplane. Right so finally at about 630 that night we end up in Cairo. I am terrified to even be in this city and within about 20 minutes of being there I've already been picked up by like 5 guys. Get to the hotel and realize I have internet!!! Yay mom can now be informed that I'm alive. Ok so dinner that night was pretty non eventful but we got to see pyramids the next day! Honestly pretty awesome. I was still in that whole "I'm terrified to be American" phase so it was interesting for me, but we pulled through ok. Ok so the next day we manage to make it through the Cairo airport and to Sudan!!! Made it through customs and everything else no problem and we go to get on the buses. Well these aren't really buses they're more like vans, but like pimped out vans. Don't worry I've included pictures. Ok so we get to the boat around midnight. Really someone please kill me it's sooooo late and I'm just DONE. Please note I have had my own hotel room and now have my own cabin so I am holding it together pretty well all things considered. Well let's just say they had NO idea what hit them as soon as I set foot on the boat. I think after that night though they knew they had a bit of a whirlwind blowing through. Can I just say that the best part of a live aboard is the fact that there's no shoes allowed on board. It's so great! Ok right soooo I got pretty seasick the first day. It was like 8 hours of sailing and I didn't puke or anything, it was a rough day though. The diving in Sudan was mind-blowing. I saw hammerheads and white tip sharks and cute little blue rays and Nemo and Dorie and ahhhh it was so amazing. I have honestly never been so happy in my life.

Ok but obviously what trip would be complete without a truly special person or 2. The one guy on the boat was literally the stupidest human I have ever met in my life. He refused to dive with a computer. We are doing up to 4 dives a day! Ok so diving nerd moment here but  the profiles are max depth 40m on dives 1 and 2, max depth 30 on dive 3, and the night dive is always between 12-25. Well he refuses to take a computer and is constantly fighting with me and the dive guide and so basically the dive guide says look either you stay within a meter of me the whole dive or you don't dive and he says fine. So we are on the Toyota wreck, awesome wreck btw, and we tell him he can't go down to 40 meters to do a swim through. Insert 30 something year old man throwing a temper tantrum. He plops himself down on a coral and refuses to move for 10 minutes....funniest thing I've ever seen....I couldn't stop laughing.

Ok so let's focus a little on things I saw underwater. First I saw grey tip sharks and hammerheads for the first time...AHHHH so amazing!!!I also saw Nemo. The pilot fish that I've included a picture of was super cute too. He latched onto my leg at the beginning of the dive and refused to leave me alone! He was surprisingly adorable though and he let me pet him. 

The thing that is amazing about diving in the Red Sea is that every dive is just amazing. Sure fine its "just another reef" but it isn't each dive the amount of fish you see and the colors is just mind blowing. 

grey tip
Pilot fish
 I can't explain it to someone who has never been, but surely a part of
my heart got left behind in Sudan or at least underwater in the Red Sea. Part two of stuff to be seen underwater, THE UMBRIA!!!!

Night dive at Precontinent
3 Rolls Royce's in the Umbria
Ahhhhh the Umbria was amazing. It is a 150m merchant vessel that was sunk the day before Italy entered WW2.  On its final voyage in 1940, bound for Eritrea, it was in the hands of the Italians who were transporting over 350,000 bombs amongst other items. The British impounded the Umbria at Port Sudan as the Second World War was imminent and the Brits weren't about to let a boat pass them by who would be carrying weapons for the enemy. The Umbria was ordered to be handed over, but rather than let this happen the Italians scuttled their own ship. It carries a full load of bombs still and was a super fun wreck to explore. The other awesome thing we got to dive was Jacques Cousteau's pre continent. Precontinent was a set of projects by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his team. The aim of these projects was to show that people could live underwater for prolonged periods of time, while being subjected to the harsh environments of the deep sea.
Typical day on the boat...

Ok so in light of the people I met....I absolutely adore the boat crew. The 2 dive guides made my week/kept me sane and the crew was awesome. Well the last day we decided to go explore Port Sudan. I'm sure my mother just died a little right there, but it's ok she'll bounce back. So I'm including all those pictures too with captioned explanations. Uhmmm and I'm sure there's much more I missed that you will all hear about some other time....

What happens when you get a second degree sunburn in Sudan......
Did I mention they still make twinkies in Egypt?

The main market in Port Sudan.

The boys messing around.....I'm still laughing...you gotta admit it's not a bad view....

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Why I am a Diving Instructor

As most of you know I went to Sudan for a week for work/diving. That's a long story we can talk on that later there's lots of pretty pictures. And as most of you know I dropped out of school and really since I have no definitive life plan I intend to work as a diving instructor until I figure my life out. Ok right so that being said lets focus on the important thing. Why I made the choice to become a diving instructor and why I am choosing to make it more than a hobby.

From my perspective there are 3 parts of being a dive instructor that make my entire life worthwhile and honesty it does divide quite well into thirds. First off I love meeting and interacting with new people. I love the fact that new people come and go every week. I love the children who are thrilled with learning how to dive for the first time and the looks on experienced divers faces as they come out of the water after an amazing dive. Second, I adore the peace and quite underwater. Even when the world is going to shit because of some idiot diver there is silence underwater. I do so love that peace and quiet and watching the little fishes swim by, there are few better things in life. And lastly I love the last third of my job. The time where I get to sit and do nothing but talk with friends, watch a movie or just screw around. 

The other upside is teaching. I adore teaching people. There are few more rewarding moments than the person on a dive for the first time whose eyes light up when they see their first fish, or the kid in a pool chasing toy around and loving the feeling of being underwater.

I love the water and the feeling of weightlessness when your have perfect buoyancy and most of all I love the people I meet while diving. I just thought this moment needed to be had because I know most of you don't understand why I love it. And honestly I'm ok with that. If everyone loved the same thing, the world would cease to function.