Friday, March 30, 2012

Guinea pig

I've found some interesting ways to fill my days before joining the employed masses again. I've written about hiking and paperwork.  I joined a study being conducted by the University of Washington.  I can't discuss the specifics but the general premise is to study women and alcohol, specifically relationships between women and men when alcohol is involved. For the rest of this longitudinal study all I do is fill out surveys online about what I do when I drink, and for my troubles I get amazon gift cards.  How easy is that!?!

Yesterday I participated in a lab session.  I was in the control group so no booze for me.  Instead I drank a whopping 20 oz of oj in nine minutes.  I will never EVER do that again.  Especially on an empty stomach.  I can't say I've ever really experienced a sugar rush . . .until yesterday. Man did I feel awful by about 1pm. My stomach was like the Gulf of Mexico during a hurricane; sloshing back and forth.  I crashed after I got home for a nap at 2.  There have got to be easier ways to make $34. 

Oh how I'm looking forward to going back to work, mostly because I am broke as a five dollar saddle under John Wayne.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Job ahoy!

I had a fun, fun day.  I spent it at an employment office. Woo hooo!!!

Part of the reason I was ready to leave Jakarta was an opportunity here at home.  My mom is working in the medical records field and thought I'd love it.  It's a rapidly growing field due in part to a federal mandate that requires all hospitals and clinics to be using an electronic patient records program by 2014.  There's federal funding paying for some of it and the program I'll be learning is the biggest, most well known company in the US. Many of the trainers they're hiring on have education experience.  Its been shown that many IT folks aren't so user-friendly and teachers make more effective trainers.

I waited around and finally got a phone interview scheduled.  It was a piece of cake and I felt really good about it.  Then I had to submit a one to two page writing sample and a one minute demonstration video.  I sent in two pages from the science book I created for JIKS and sent in a video of how to separate an egg. Last Friday from someone at the hospital called asking if I was still interested in the job and offering me the position. YIPPPEEEEEE!!!

If only it were that easy.  Most of the applicants were not located here locally. They were already on with Kelly Services, a contracting company.  I am one of only two who've gone about getting the job backward.  I knew someone in the hospital, had the interview, got the job and then had to get hired by the contractors. That's what I did today.  In between the offer and today was a lot of confusion.  The communication between Kelly and the hospital probably isn't the best anyway but add in a medical emergency, lay-offs and vacations it's a shock I got the right information at all. Round and round, then I got in to the office today.  Lots of papers and signatures and I'm officially on with Kelly but I didn't see a contract specifically for my position.  Hmmmm.  Keep those fingers crossed for me folks.

That said, I'm set to start Monday! I am once again a productive member of society contributing to my own survival as well as the greater good. Updates to follow!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hiking high

I still have a little bit more to blog about leaving Jakarta but I wanted to write about something current.

Now that I'm back in the great Pacific Northwest (PNW) I'm trying to make the most of it and take advantage of being able to go outside.  Jakarta thwarts any attempt to be out of doors with heat, humidity, pollution and lack of sidewalks/parks/mountains/beaches. I knew being back in Washington would be a big adjustment so I'm embracing the difference.  The weather here is typical for the winter to spring change.  I call it Seattle Schizophrenia because the weather will change multiple times a day, including but not limited to sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowing, hail, drizzly, freezing or mild. If you don't like it, wait ten minutes. In spite of that, or because of that, Seattleites go out anyway.  If I waited for good weather, I wouldn't be out hiking until June.

I'm part of a hiking group.  Steve, one of the leaders, seems to know every trail and path in the area.  He is a great leader who doesn't push to go too fast. Tuesday we hiked on Tiger Mountain in rain and hail, in mud, slush and on snow, ice and rocks. It was a tougher climb than I expected with a painful pinch in my hip but it felt good to get to the top.

Thursday Steve led a snowshoe trip up Snoqualmie pass.  It's a big ski area that's close enough to the city to make it a part day trip. We walked up nearly underneath one of the ski lifts on a side of the mountain that was closed midweek. Six miles in snowshoes felt like more than the eight miles on Tuesday. I enjoyed it even more than the hike and was less sore after. Ive got to get some decent snow boots though, cold wet feet are not fun! It was such a rush.  Over a foot of new powder, blue skies and sunshine (surprise!!) and amazing views. 
Expect more hiking, snowshoeing, outdoorsy updates as the weather gets better and I get in better shape.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Diving head to head

Koh Tao is great diving for coral reefs, wildlife and a great first experience.  Pattaya is very different.  I would've hated the place if I hadn't been diving.

Pattaya is one of the original places in Thailand for sex tourists.  There were lots of bars that were full of single women at each table, waiting for men to come in "looking for company".  There weren't as many girly bars - topless, strip clubs, etc-as in Phuket. But the men were older, more desperate, creepier. There were men traveling in twos or threes picking up girls who looked young enough to be their granddaughters, although it's hard to estimate age in Asian women. Aside from my first part of a day walking around, I spent every other day I was there out on the boat.  That's the best way to pass time in Pattaya.

The best diving in Pattaya is the wreck diving.  There are three wrecks, two intentional sinkings that are mast upright and nearly identical except one has been down eight years and one has been down five. The third is a ship that was used as a cargo ship in World War Two after the Japanese took over Thailand. It's been down since 1945. It is on it's side with cargo spilled, holes cut in the hull when they salvaged the engines and oil barrels, and it's covered in sea life. After doing two wreck dives the first day I decided I might as well get my Wreck Specialty certification.  I spent two days doing four dives on the Hardeep, the WWII wreck. I mapped it, lined in and out and in general, thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Pattaya beach

Good eats at the night market.  And pork to boot!

Our departure point for diving

Hardeep wreck info
After Pattaya I headed to Aryutthaya, a city that used to be a royal capital.  It's a small city just north of Bangkok that is an island of sorts.  It's a couple square miles of land completely surrounded by rivers. It has more temples per square inch than anywhere I've ever seen. They're gorgeous. I took a riverboat ride at sunset that showcased three of the oldest and most beautiful. I stayed three nights, but didn't get as much time in town since it took me almost a full day to get there even though it's not far from Pattaya.
Temple from the river at sunset

Very old temple in a park

My least port of call in Thailand was Bangkok.  I didn't see much of the city.  By that point my ankle was still swollen and very painful.  It was limiting my mobility.  I even made an appointment with the doc from Thailand for the day I got back.  The cut on my left foot that I mentioned previously? It was infected.  I'd sought assistance at a pharmacy in Pattaya but with all the time in the ocean I think it never dried or I got a bug from the sea in it.  I was almost as painful as the ankle.  I was exhausted mentally and physically so stayed pretty close to my hotel.  Consequently I only saw two markets and a mall.  Two of the three were straight across the street from where I was staying. I did get to see some pretty great public art.
Street art.  This is one of three giant tigers

Happy year of the water dragon

Treasure is where you find it.
I arrived in Jakarta at 1am, picked up a key to my friends place from her at a bar, and collapsed into her guest room. The weekend led to a debridement of my cut, a wrapping of my ankle and then just rest.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thailand returns and the diving begins

I'm still trying to find my rhythm here in Seattle. Hence tomorrow being today which was actually six days later.

I left off at my arrival in Koh Tao. I showed up with a busted ankle but otherwise ready to get my Open Water (OWD) scuba certification. Koh Tao is a tiny island that is a diving mecca.  It's reputed to be the cheapest place in the world to get certified.  Koh Tao is the most northern of the three islands off the east coast of Thailand and the hardest to get to.  It has over 25 dive shops and more than a dozen dive sites.
Phoenix Divers shop patio

The pink beast

After talking to the shop I wanted  to do my cert with, we decided I'd wait a day to start.  Tuesday was a rest day, and most of it in a restaurant or in my hut to stay off my feet.  The dive shops are competitive and offer great packages. With my OWD I got four free nights lodging in a little hut.  Nothing fancy but enough room to spread out.  The fan was enough and the mozzie net greatly appreciated. The course was a half day the first day, all classroom work watching videos and doing worksheets. Day two was coursework in the morning and pool "diving" in the afternoon.  Its the first time we gear up and practice the required skills. Day three is the written test and afternoon dive in the ocean while completing skills.  Day four was a morning dive and then we were finished. There were only three of us in my class and Al, our instructor, said we were the easiest class he'd had in a long time.  No one failed their test or skills and we had a good time along the way.
Outside my hut
I was hooked from the first dive.  I grew up a pool rat, starting on swim team at age six and working as a lifeguard and swim instructor for nearly nine years.  If I'd grown up in a warmer climate I guarantee I would have gotten my certificate much sooner. The only downside, something learned since Koh Tao, is that the diving SO good that it makes everything else pale in comparison.
Last dive for OWD!!
I finished my OWD and the two guys in my course both left the island.  I took a day off and then went straight into AWD, Advanced Open Water Diver. No one else signed up so it was just Al and I.  No jump in price even though it was a private class, AND because it was my second course with them I got a discount. I'm now cleared to dive up to thirty meters, in low visibility/at night, using navigation techniques and a dive computer and I have perfect buoyancy. I also managed to put a gash in the outside of my left foot too.  Remember that for later.
In all I was on Koh Tao about ten days and was hard pressed to leave.  I didn't see much of the island except what was in walking distance of Phoenix Divers and I didn't mind. The food was close and good, or good enough.  At night the vibe was mellow.  There was a bar with a great fireshow, even better than Koh Phi-Phi.  And here's the kicker.  The performers are under 15 years old. Next time I'll rent a motorbike and see the peaks and other coves on the island. From Koh Tao I could have taken two boats to a bus or train to Bangkok.  Instead I spent a little more and saved myself a day of travel.  I took the local boat to Koh Samui, spent the night and then flew out to Pattaya in the morning.  Bangkok Airways gets a big gold star from me.  Free deli snacks and beverages at the airport, food on the plane, nice attendants and all for a flight that was just over an hour.

I'd booked a bed in a eight person room in Pattaya.  I got in and found Mermaid Divers on my first afternoon. After walking around the city for an estimated five miles and seven hours, I went back and found I'd lucked. I was the only one in my room. Mermaids picked me up in the morning and we went out diving.

An outline of diving in Pattaya and contrasting it with Koh Tao, Bangkok, Arutthaya and (hopefully) a wrap up of Thailand tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


Knowing that I was leaving Indonesia, I took full advantage of my last school holiday with a trip to Thailand. Luckily my friend Donna was also on holiday and decided to join me.  We flew to Penang, Malaysia on Christmas.  It was a very, very early flight and we'd both been up all night. I spent Christmas eve in a bar on the scrungy backpacker street in Jakarta surrounded by friends. It was a great night despite recovering from a stomach bug. Donna and I spent the morning of the 26th enjoying Penang and then caught a quick flight up to Phuket.
Phuket is one of the two big ports in Thailand. It's a large island off the west coast ringed with beautiful beaches. We elected to stay in Phuket town as opposed to the tourist strip.  I really liked Phuket town.  It has the feel of an artist community.  It has a smaller, quieter feel. We made the bus ride to "downtown" for a "transvestite extravaganza".  The ladyboys and shows are a big draw in Phuket.  It was fantastic.  The ladies were all so beautiful and the performance mesmerizing. The night life in general was completely a different world from Jakarta or anywhere else. We went to a ping-pong show.  Modesty and potential embarrassment prohibit me from explaining exactly what that was but I'm sure google will help you.A day boat trip to James Bond island was a nice day activity.
From Phuket we went to Koh Phi-Phi (pronounced pee-pee).  Koh is Thai for island. It is a party center for gap year kids with time and liver cells to burn. We were only there for two night but one of them happened to be New Year's Eve. We did drink and carry on but not nearly as long as some of the kids. We also got out on a longtail boat for a snorkel trip and saw turtles!

Reilay, near Krabi, would be the last place Donna and I visited together.  It's a small town that's a rock climbing mecca. The beaches are short and rocky for the most part, although there is a beautiful sandy beach surrounded by limestone boulders/cliffs. Unfortunately a good part of our time there was eaten up checking on bus and train availability.  After Donna left, I went for a half day rock climbing trip.  The rocks were busy but the belaying lesson went well.  I was the first one to go up.  Our course wasn't set for beginners as it zig-zagged up.  I was about a quarter of the way up went I had some trouble finding a handhold.  I slipped three times before I found my way.  The first slip was a big one.  The guide hadn't taken enough line in and I dropped about two or three meters (I was told) and whacked my right foot. I made it to the top  but when I got down and the adrenaline wore off I realized how bad my ankle was. It swelled up a lot very quickly and I had to call off any further climbs.  It made the transportation day I had planned seem long.

My next stop was Koh Tao.  It's the northern most of a three island cluster off the east coast. It's not an easy trip from Reilay to Koh Tao and mine was less easy than I'd hoped.  A longtail boat to Krabi, a van, a bus.  Upon reaching Surat Thani on the east coast I found out that the overnight boat to Koh Tao wasn't running due to weather.  I met Francesca who was in the same boat.  We elected to stay the night and catch the morning boat.  The bus picked us up in the morning for an hour ride to the port.  The boat was actually two. One that made a stop in Koh Samui and went on to Koh Phangan, then a change for the last boat to Koh Tao.  A day and a half later, I limped in to Koh Tao.

More tomorrow!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Hiatus Ended

I'm back! Back home even, though "home" means lots of things. I"m back in Seattle.  I'm sorry I've been away so long.  The last two months in Asia were very busy ones.  I'll be blogging about Thailand, Bali/Gilis and a Jakarta wrap up this week. Shortly after returning to Seattle I was on a plane again.  Off to Puerto Rico for a wedding. Hence the long delay in this blog.
I'm trying to get in a groove again.  It's a big change coming back. There's snow in the forecast for today and tomorrow. I'm wearing long underwear everyday.  I've got knit hats, gloves, scarves and I'm still usually cold. I'm waiting for interviews so I don't have a routine at all. I'm keeping very busy despite not working.  There's lots to be done around the house: painting, organizing, repairs. I'm happy to be a help to my mom. I've been away for so long it feels good to see her and my sister more regularly. I'm trying to take advantage of being back in Seattle in lots of ways.  I've joined several meetup groups.  They are activity or interest based ways to meet new people.  Concert goers, hiking, happy hours, and snowshoeing are a few of mine.  I went to my first meet up last week and have two more this week-hiking and biking. Outdoor activities were virtually impossible in Jakarta.  Now I can do heaps of things. As the weather gets better there will be camping, water sports, etc.  Woooo Hooooo. I almost forgot what it's like to live in a city where the air is transparent and fresh, not gray and polluted.
I'm also having a big adjustment in my social life.  As I said, I'm trying to get out and meet some new people.  I've only got about three people I still know here.  In Jakarta I had a great group of girls who I saw all the time. There was always someone around for a salon days, dining, drinking, etc, etc, ETC! Now there's no one.  Sigh.  I know there will be people, there just aren't any yet.  Baby steps right?
Thailand part one tomorrow.  Now, off to pack comforters, change sheets and make a drop at goodwill.
Hasta maƱana.