Sunday, June 20, 2010

What's that stinging feeling?

I woke up at 5 a.m. today.

Not because I wanted to. I wanted to wake up at about 5:40 a.m. That would have been plenty of time to get my stuff together. But the sun wanted to have its way, so I gave in.

Don't worry, I had a purpose for getting up so early. I went back to Fulong to finish up my certification.
I'm pretty sure this course was cursed from the very beginning.

First it's too cold. Then I get into a scooter accident and can't go in the water until I heal. Then my buddy gets a few cuts at the gym after he smashes a window (not as adrenaline-pumped exciting as it might sound). Then we go out and only get to do pool dives because the weather is crap and I had a lot of trouble with the whole mask clearing bit.  Then I we had more crappy weather where we couldn't even go at all. Then there was my Jade Mountain adventure.

So believe me when I say, I'm not really complaining about the early wake-up call from the sun.

I soaked up as much sun as I could before we got in the water today. My skin is in desperate need of melanin if I plan to spend hours on end in the sun in a couple of weeks.

Anyway, the dives today were fun. I'm super tired now. It was really weird going in off the shore and I have to say a bit disconcerting. Taiwan has very rocky beaches which can be very dangerous even when you're not blind as a bat and carrying a tank full of air on your back and seven kilos of weight around your waist.

The first dive was short and shallow and it was amazingly clear. I honestly didn't expect visibility to be so great in Taiwan.

This makes me super excited to get to Koh Tao.

We did a few exercises and then went in to change tanks and get back in the water as quickly as possible. The plan was to do two dives in the morning in the bay, eat lunch and then do two more dives a quick drive down the road near some oyster farms.

We jumped in to do our second dive, started descending and were immediately greeted by a bajillion jellyfish! Needless to say they weren't exactly happy to see us.

We tried to swim underneath them but they were everywhere. I don't think I could possibly help you imagine just how many jellyfish there were everywhere.

It was beautiful though. They come in so many different colors and I love watching them swim. There's something graceful and ethereal about them.

I will take this time to say I have never been stung by a jellyfish before. I had never seen one except in an aquarium. They hurt less than what I expected (these weren't the crazy, super poisonous ones). It was only just more irritating that anything. It stung almost in an itchy way.

Anyway, when it became apparent we were surrounded and severely outnumbered we decided to surface. Since we were wearing wetsuits we just needed to get our faces and hands out of the water so they would stop stinging the exposed parts.

We basically did a big circle around the bay looking for a spot that wasn't jellyfish infested, but had no such luck.

We ended up giving up on that dive and decided to do three dives in the afternoon.

The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. I feel pretty comfortable with my buoyancy when I'm swimming and I'm getting better at my buoyancy when we are just hovering. I had a few issues with clearing my mask when it was fully flooded, but I managed. All in all, successful and no one was terribly injured.

I use the qualifier because a jellyfish managed to work its way onto my buddy's regulator while it was floating on the surface and he didn't realize it before it touched his lips...

"My mouth feels like I ate a taco with about five bottles of Tobasco sauce on it..."

So we have less than two weeks until Thailand and thankfully I'm semi-officially (waiting to have papers in hand) an open-water certified SCUBA diver. 

I think I'll do an advanced course on Koh Tao. Never hurts to keep learning.


  1. Hey Jimmie, I like your blog. Nice to see other aspiring journalists around. I'm living down in Tainan blogging and freelancing. Check out my website, Want to swap links?

  2. Congratulations on getting your qual done.

    I remember floating under a GIANT man-o-war while doing a drift dive out of Phuket, that was amazing. Getting a line of fire in my arm from that very pretty little blue bastard in Fiji was less fun.

  3. Hi, Jimmie,

    This is John Wilpers from GlobalPost. I have taken over as the Study Abroad coordinator and I see your blog on our Study Abroad page. From your profile, I gather you are no longer studying abroad but actually working now. Is that correct?

    If you are no longer studying abroad, we will remove your blog from our feed as we want to reserve space for the students who are actually doing their semester abroad.

    Let me know what's up. Thanks!


  4. Matt: I would love to swap links. I hope that as I move on I can learn enough about Web design to make a clean looking Web site like yours. Unfortunately, I haven't really learned much about design since I made my first Geocities site back when I was 12-years-old!

    Alan: Thanks! Also, I hope like hell I don't see a Man-o-War in Thailand. Seeing (and getting stung by) swarms of tiny jellyfish was plenty for me.

    John: Thanks for writing. I was actually never studying abroad in the first place. I had just graduated from university last summer and taken a job teaching English abroad when Katherine decided to take me on to write about Taiwan. I understand that you want to save the space for students and appreciate having been featured in the past. Let me know if you ever want to feature any articles about my corner of the world (I will soon be in Prague) or about teaching abroad. It's not glamorous, but it's certainly interesting.