Ciao Qiao

Diving in the Yucatan

I had some extra days off before my trek on the Inca trail, so I decided to head to the Yucatan Peninsula to check out the Chichen Itza, (part of my attempt to complete the new 7 wonders of the world) and indulge in some cave diving.

For those of you thinking that the world will end in 2012, I'm sorry to inform you that Dec 2012 only marks the end of the Mayan Calendar - not the end of the world. In ancient times, this means that sacrifices will be made, and another pyramid/altar will be built on top of the existing one to mark the beginning of another calendar/era. (Facts to be checked!) Life goes on the way it has since the Millennium, the way we move from one calendar year to another.

Anyway, I digress. The Yucatan is largely a limestone slab, and rain over the years have seeped through and created huge caverns, making this area a haven for cave diving. (fact check!) I imagine the place to be an underground network of caverns, like the ants' nest.
I had the opportunity to dive in a couple of the cenotes, and it was an experience of a lifetime. Cave diving is somewhat different from open water diving, and my buddy and I were given a mini briefing by our guide before proceeding:
1. Swim where I swim
2. Do not swim above or below me
3. The cave is pitch black in some parts, stay within an arms reach
4. If you need to surface, let me know instead of wandering around and getting lost
5. Where the saltwater and fresh water meet, you may encounter a haze, this is normal. (Me thinking 'What is this guy high on?')
etc, etc. I lost interest and stopped paying attention. I nodded periodically and waited for him to finish so we can start the dive.

Despite the weather being hot and humid on the surface, the water was chillingly cold, and very refreshing. There are signs of some life in the waters, but nothing very interesting compared to tropical reefs. The caves however, were beyond amazing.

For people who have visited caves on foot, remember how you “Oooh" and “Ahhhhh”ed over the cave formations? The huge ceilings, stalactites, stalagmites, and columns. You were allowed to view them, but always from a distance, and never allowed to touch them? Now imagine you can FLY, and are given unlimited access to (respectfully) touch/inspect them from ANY angle. I was in heaven! I swam between columns with the tiny fishes, checked out the underbelly of a cave ceiling, swam from one cavern through a tunnel to another, saw rays of sunlight lighting an otherwise dark cave, and finally surfaced in a closed cavern with tree roots that have grown down the cavern for water. I was half tempted to climb up the roots to the ceiling of the cave, but decided not to due to the poor lighting from our torches and my equipment weighing me down.

That surface also helped us to re orientate as I kind of lost my bearing 'flying' through the caves. At one point we stopped and switched our torches off. It was pitch black and I remember now knowing which way was up. I figured it out only with the help of my bubbles after the lights were back on.

We passed a sign warning us not to go beyond that point as many people including experienced dive instructors have lost their way and died. My guide went straight through it (I'm sure he was high!) and I was in no position to protest, as I saw no exit to surface, so I obediently followed and prayed fervently that he knew what he was doing.

At one point, we came to the cavern where the saltwater meets the fresh water, and I finally understood what my guide meant. This effect is called the halocline. Initially, I thought I was seeing things, if not for the prior briefing we had, I'd be absolutely certain I was drugged. Everything looked hazy and out of focus, like what is showed on television when someone is high, and the temperature fluctuates between warm and cool depending on whether salt or fresh water is getting into your wet suit. It was a most bizarre experience. Eventually, I figured how to get out of this 'haze'. All I had to do was swim a little higher than the meeting point. However, I am now presented with another optical illusion of air space. I swear this is the stuff of dreams. It looks exactly like I am now floating in the air, and there is a lake (of saltwater) in the cavern, except I know I am still submerged because I am still breathing through my regulator. Wish I have a photo!

I also managed an open water dive off Cozumel where dolphins came to swim with us during our decompression stop. They were circling us and close enough to touch, except they'll always be just out of reach if I were to extend my hand. One dolphin even turned sideways to check me out when I swam along doing dolphin kicks, as if asking why I'm swimming funny. After 3 minutes, we had to surface as my buddy ran out of air and I didn't have a computer.

I went and bought a dive computer immediately after that trip.
Ciao Qiao

A warm up post

Not sure why it still affects me, only that it does.
I have no one to confide in, no dog to cuddle, or a bolster to cry into.
So I tell myself it is a feeling that will pass, and I listen to Jay Chou.
Will I be indifferent if my life were more fulfilling? I wonder.
Ciao Qiao

Mourning

2011 is yet to be over. But already it marks the year I lost my 3 first loves.

May: Death of Sky, aged 12y 11m. Sky taught me I am capable of unconditional love. I doubt I will ever quite love another like I loved him.
Aug: Demise of my beloved bolster. I wrote about it. The only reason why I wrote about this and not Sky is because remembering Sky is simply too painful. Even looking at photos/videos of him is too painful. So I will just push his memories to a far corner of my brain to deal with when I am ready.
Nov: The wedding of my first love, but the bride is not me. Its official - I will never marry him, unless he divorces and then marries me, but I wouldn't wish for that. The only guy I ever thought I could marry is no longer available to me.

I'm trying to look at all of this with a positive attitude. An end usually marks the beginning of something new right? That's something to look forward to, and with any luck, 2012 will be the beginning of the rest of my great loves!
Ciao Qiao

End of an Era

I did the unthinkable today.
I threw away my childhood bolster.
The one I've had for the last 30 years. (Yes, I've hung on to it all these time)
I still remember when, how and where I got it. My granddad gave it to me when I was 2, after I outgrew my baby pillow and bolsters.
He took it out of his special locked cupboard we weren't allowed to look into, and presented it to me as a gift. It is one of my earliest memories.
My bolster followed me when I moved across continents, and occasionally on short travels. It has always been my source of comfort and has absorbed a fair share of my tears through the years. When my grandma told me she threw it away 9 years ago, I cried like there was no tomorrow. She then relented and took it out of hiding- my parents were right, I wasn't going to take it well. I was pleased that it was just a rouse and so got to keep it for another 9 years - far away from grandma.
I've recently noticed that the stuffing has turned into powder form, and disintegrates on touch. So I tried to put another layer of cover over it (also from my childhood days), to protect the contents. I contemplated throwing it, but couldn't bring myself to.
Today, stuff that no longer resemble powder came out when I changed the sheets. I'm not sure what it is anymore, so have decided this is the end of its long and wonderful life we've shared together.
You will be dearly missed....


Excuse me while I go shed a tear .....
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BabySkyLimer

Sky needs a caretaker

Can anyone look after sky for 5 days? (8-12 Sept) Or know somebody who can?
He is very friendly and only needs to be fed and walked 1-2 times daily.
I don't want to put him in a pet hotel as he will be in a cage majority of the time...
Willing to compensate for inconvenience.
Ciao Qiao

Don't call me a liar!

Yesterday, (or maybe it was 2-3 days ago) I saw the sun rising from the West.

Its 0320 in the morning now, and I'm getting ready to take a 4-5 hour drive to Oman. Alone. I've never been there before, never driven long distances alone before in the middle of the night.
Should be an adventure. Just have to finish packing!
 


Ciao Qiao

2009 in Summary

2009 in Summary

1) Where did you ring in 2009?
In a plane LHR-DXB. Wasn't even sure when the new year started due to different time zones.

2) What was your status by Valentine’s Day?
(no change) Single- like I've been the last 7 Valentines or so. Lost count.

3) Were you in school (anytime this year)?
No

4) How did you earn your keep?
(no change) From faking smiles and pretending to be nice to people, I still need to better my art.

5) Did you have to go to the hospital?
No

6) Did you encounter the police?
No

7) Where did you go on vacation?
Hainan
Iceland
Cyprus
Munich - Oktoberfest
Turkey - Pamukkale, Lycian way from Fethiye-Antalya, Cappadocia, Istanbul
Italy - Florence, Pisa, Rome

8) What did you purchase that was over $500?
(no change) Ehhhh... loads of stuff. But nothing I can wear or carry. I think I may have put myself in debt for the next few years.... :(

9) Did you know anybody who got married?
KO! Dawn. My first bf got engaged - bummer.

10) Do you know anybody who passed away?
Ginger the cat. (See 2008)

11) Have you run into anybody you graduated high school with?
No

12) Did you move anywhere?
Moved to a studio now! :D No more sharing! I can be as messy as I like

13) What sporting events did you go to?
(no change) Ehhh.. Don't remember. Don't think I attended any. Not that into sports.

14) What concerts did you go to?
NIL.

15) Where do you live now?
Dubai.

18) Describe your birthday.
We trekked a portion of the Lycian way to the Cape Gelidonia lighthouse in Turkey. At night, went to the eternal flames on Mount Olympos where the Olympic flame supposedly originated, and tried to blow a few out - successfully! (temporarily)

19) What’s the one thing you thought you would never do but did in 2009?
Drink 1000 year old water.

20) What is one thing you regretted this year?
Not making enough effort with my friends. 

21) What’s something you learned about yourself?
I CAN live alone, eat alone, and be alone.
I can deal with problems if and when they arise, but I hate it.

22) Any new additions to your family?
Olivia, my niece. (See sister-in-law in 2008, they work fast!)

23) What was your best month?
Oct - my birthday month. Took 3 weeks off work and travelled Turkey. Wish I took unpaid leave!

24) How would you rate this year with a scale from 1 (shitty) to 10 (excellent)?
6. Some major downs, and not so many ups.
Ciao Qiao

Walking Away

I did a terrible thing. I walked out on my sole travel companion in the middle of our ski holiday in Vermont. Just paid hundreds of dollars in ticket changes, packed up, and left in the middle of the night in a taxi.
If someone did that to me, I'd never speak to the person again, and I really didn't want to resort to that. But I couldn't take it anymore. I try so hard to tolerate it, but its like serving a prison sentence - I just didn't want to be there in the same room as Milo is. I can't stand him. I can't stand his tone of voice. I can't stand the way he speaks, I can't stand the things he says. I can't stand his actions and behaviour. I tried so hard during the trip to be nice and tolerant, but we just weren't connecting - it was like baby-sitting a kid you are not allowed to discipline, who constantly tells you what a sucky sitter you are.

The moment I made the decision to leave, I started crying. I wasn't sure why. I suppose they were tears of grief over the likely demise of our friendship. They were tears of failure- that despite my best efforts, I wasn't able to salvage my vacation from spiralling downwards to the extent that I had to leave. Tears that Milo didn't care that I was leaving. Tears acknowledging the fact that I am the kind of person who will walk away from someone like that - I didn't think I'd ever do anything like that.
I was sitting in the snow in sub zero temperature, crying with tears that quickly freezed on my face, making international calls in the middle of the night to friends who supported me in my decision. I have great friends. I'm not sure if I'm one. A good friend never abandons their friends.

Despite my guilt, I instantly felt better when I got away. The further I got, the better I felt. I had 30 minute bouts of crying fits in the bathroom in the airport lounge and on the plane, but I suppose that made the 20 hour journey pass more quickly. I'm back in Dubai now, still reflecting on the incident. I feel like I should document it so I can remember, and read it again when I am less emotional, and hopefully learn something from it. But I dread reliving it again. The scenes keep playing in endless loops in my mind but I still fail to see a way I could have done better than I did. He has a way of pushing my buttons and making me a very unpleasant person. What kind of person does that make me? I need to figure it out.


Ciao Qiao

2008 in Summary - ripped from thymia

hehe.. because I like lists of questions. Like an interview!

2008 in Summary

1) Where did you ring in 2008?
I actually don't remember! I know I wanted to go to Toronto to spend NY with bass_reliefyellowskeen , and lil_miss_fickle</div>
2) What was your status by Valentine’s Day?
Single- like I've been the last 7 Valentines or so. Lost count.

3) Were you in school (anytime this year)?
No. Done with school. Thank goodness. Pure torture.

4) How did you earn your keep?
From faking smiles and pretending to be nice to people, I still need to better my art.

5) Did you have to go to the hospital?
Not that I remember... probably only to visit.

6) Did you encounter the police?
Don't think so, except traffic police taking down my license plate number for parking SLIGHTLY out of line.

7) Where did you go on vacation?
ahhhh..... Let's see....work/ road/ day/home trips not counted...
Feb - Harbin, China
Feb/Mar? - Shiraz, Iran
Apr - Yemen
May- Cairo, Egypt
June - Nepal
July - Lebanon
Aug - Malta
Sept - Istanbul, Turkey
Oct- Silk Road, China
Dec - Victoria Falls, Zambia & Zimbabwe; South Africa

8) What did you purchase that was over $500?
Ehhhh... loads of stuff. But nothing I can wear or carry. I think I may have put myself in debt for the next few years.... :(

9) Did you know anybody who got married?
So many. I went back to Singapore at least thrice for weddings, and I was being selective.
Oh, and my YOUNGER brother.

10) Do you know anybody who passed away?
Yes, but I cannot remember if its 2008 or 2007. Time is a blur...

11) Have you run into anybody you graduated high school with?
I ran into someone I went to pre University (Foundations) with, on the plane! But he was not FJ. :(

12) Did you move anywhere?
No, still stuck in Dubai, but I'm happy here at the moment

13) What sporting events did you go to?
Ehhh.. Don't remember. Don't think I attended any. Not that into sports.

14) What concerts did you go to?
NIL. Wanted to go to the Jay Chou concert in Singapore! But timing was BAD.

15) Where do you live now?
Dubai.

18) Describe your birthday.
I was travelling the silk road with my Dad, feeling very miserable because the guy I was supposed to be dating forgot my birthday. But my Dad bought me 4 bottles of ice wine, and we went for a foot massage, which kinda made me feel better. Teared a little before bed.

19) What’s the one thing you thought you would never do but did in 2008?
I don't think I'd never do anything. Never say never. Ok la, don't have. I've been good/boring.

20) What is one thing you regretted this year?
Too much procrastinating.

21) What’s something you learned about yourself?
PASS.

22) Any new additions to your family?
Sister-in-law.
Ginger the cat.
Yaya the cat.

23) What was your best month?
All the months blended together, I'm not sure. All about the same I guess. If I got one month off to do absolutely nothing, that would be my best month.

24) How would you rate this year with a scale from 1 (shitty) to 10 (excellent)?
hmmm.... 7. can't complain. could be higher, but I may be bankrupt now, so that really pushed the scale down.
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