All the blog entries that I've managed to scratch down, while travelling around the world.
You can view these blog entries in reverse chronological order (below), or you can browse them in a monthly archive. You may find the monthly archive more convenient for catching up on older entries, or for finding specific entries or ranges of entries.
After a difficult and lonely afternoon of separation — hell, it must have been almost 5 hours — this evening, we the Open Water crew had a grand and long-awaited reunion. It's been a while, but it was good to see everyone again :P. To celebrate, we drank the legendary farang beverage of southern Thailand: the bucket. Buckets come in two sizes: huge, and f$#%ing huge. Their contents generally consist of whisky, Red Bull and Coke; but they also come in numerous other, more exotic varieties (and, should you drink them on Ko Pha-Ngan of a full moon, less legal varieties :P). Tonight was my first bucket-drinking experience: and please G-d, may it be my biggest. Because if it gets any worse than it got tonight, then I'll be dead.
Adam's one of the quieter and less permanently-drunk Irishmen I've met over the past year. Nevertheless, he's still a right good ambassador of his booze-loving homeland: he can down his buckets all night with the best of 'em. Adam's been in my Open Water course since Friday; although somehow, I managed to avoid meeting him properly until today. Once we met, it didn't take long for us to click — or for the glasses to clink.
Claire and Amy are two young ladies from the city of Leeds, in fair old Mother England. Claire has been doing the Open Water course with me for the past four days, so she knows me and everyone else in the crew. Her friend Amy declined to partake in the diving — "it's not my thing", she said — however, this hasn't stopped her from getting in on the social side of Ban's, so we all know her as well. Lovely girls, and they've been here in southern Thailand so long, and their tan is so dark, that they're looking less English every day.
Courtesy of Ban's, I now proudly possess a PADI Open Water certification. The goodies that come with this include: a diver's handbook (which, being certified, I ostensibly know from cover-to-cover); a diver's logbook; and a temporary PADI membership card. My permanent membership card, which needs to be processed by the PADI head office in the States, will be mailed to me within the next few months. Plus, one other very useful perk: I'm now listed in the PADI global online database, which means that should I ever go diving again, my certification can be checked online by any dive shop in the world.
I did my third and fourth dives this morning, and they're the final dives that I need to do as part of my Open Water course. Today's drill was pretty similar to that of the diving yesterday morning: on the boat by 7:30am; one dive at The Twins, then over to White Rock; and completion of the remaining handful of PADI-required underwater exercises. My group had Ber as our instructor today, instead of Flav, and we descended a bit deeper than we've done previously: we made it to 18m, which is the maximum depth permitted for an Open Water certified diver.
Abbie's a cheerful English girl, who's been travelling around the world for several months, and who's recently completed a long volunteering stint down in southern Africa. Abbie's currently undertaking her DMT (Divemaster Training) course with Ban's, which means that she's living and working here on Ko Tao for a few months. Abbie's been with my Open Water group over the past several days, and this is her first time as an instructor's assistant to a group of Open Water students. Great girl, and quite committed to her diving.
Ber's an English bloke, and he's another one of the devoted, dedicated and — let's face it — addicted diving instructors at Ban's, here in Ko Tao. As well as being a full-time instructor, Ber is also now the proud owner of the Hippo bar, which is just off from the main drag of Sairee. Ber took me for my second round of dives today; and like his colleague Flav, he did a great job of showing me around below the surface.
Ban's hosted a big party this evening, which they held on the beach in front of their bar-slash-restaurant. They put on a wicked show: live DJ; cheap drinks; and an awesome display of fire juggling. Alex and I were pretty exhausted from today's diving, but we somehow managed to stay up for a fair bit of the party. As well as the juggling, they also doused a large hoola-hoop in petrol, and ignited it to form a ring of fire: then, they tied it up in the air, and they invited anyone and everyone to try their luck at jumping through it. Check out the video.
I just received the shocking news this afternoon, about what happened to Dave. It happened on the 23rd, but it's taken some time for the news to spread, and finally to reach me. I don't want to say too much about it here, except that Dave was one of my best friends, and that like so many others I will miss him dearly. I wish I could make it to his funeral, which will be on Fri 1 Feb, but at that time I'll still be here in Thailand. I have no doubt, at least, that there will be no shortage of Dave's other numerous friends, family and colleagues in attendance, all to pay their respects. My deepest condolences to Ruth, Leslie and Debbie — Dave's mother, father and sister — as well as to Jo and Rountree, who were closer to Dave and who knew him better than most, and for whom I know the pain will be particularly strong. Sydney, AUJS, high school reunions, skiing, chess, Frisbee, action novels, playing Nintendo, talking loud, and losing count of girlfriends — these things simply won't be the same without you, mate.
We completed the theory component of our Open Water course this afternoon, with a final class (held by Lucy, another one of the instructors) teaching us about the use of dive tables. When you go diving, your body absorbs a higher-than-usual amount of nitrogen (depending on depth and time); and dive tables are used to calculate how much nitrogen you've absorbed (approximately), and to help you keep within safe nitrogen level limits. Lots of theory about such things as: pressure groups; nitrogen quantity; minimum surface intervals; and total bottom times. Once the class was done, we'd been taught all the required theory for the course, and so we were ready to undertake the final exam.