Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Togian islands days 8-10

2-24 Friday
Good morning! Half the night was at anchor, the other half under way to the next site. I slept SOO good. Ready to go! First dive, at 7 am, is another beautiful wall. I have been diving with a small tank, (60?) but I didn't like running out of air so I switched to a larger (80?) tank today and I'm very glad I did. Current came up at the end and I had to struggle a bit, but I didn't have to worry. I had 1200 psi at that point. Plenty to last thru some struggle,and a safety stop. 
Love these schools of Banner fish

I did it! Four dives today. A second morning dive on another wall, an afternoon dive on a slope, and a night dive on a shallow reef. All warm comfortable, beautiful. Nothing particularly remarkable. Except maybe the large turtle on the night dive. 
Dali sponge - fabulous wall. Photo by Anna Barnes

For every dive there are crew that get your heart ready for you, help you on with your wetsuit, and help you on to the dinghy. I'm really getting spoiled. Then the dinghy takes you to the dive site. We're all sittingj on the gunnels of the boat with all our gear on. When we are at the dive site our guide, Wayan , says 1-2-3-go and we all fall over backwards into the water. 

2-25 Saturday 2dives
What did you do today?  We started with a dive on a wall that goes down over 1000 feet. We stayed above 80 feet! The water is warm and wonderful. The experience of flying over, under, beside, and all around the reef, is pure pleasure. Not a whole lot to see on this dive, but that was fixed on the second dive.
Second dive is a sea mount. I've always said my favorite type of dive is a wall. I might be revising that to say a Sea Mount. The prettiest stuff is often at the top and here the "top" started at 40 feet so we spent a lot of time there. Lots of Nemo's, cabbage coral and other fish. And a Cuttlefish! Jim got a good video of it

Back on board there was great conversation with Ana and Witt about Hawaii. Then we all took naps. Gathered again at happy hour time and were treated To a pod of dolphins at the bow - here's the quick video.
One of those days you feel so glad to be alive and experiencing the best life has to offer. 

2-26 Sunday 2dives, I sat out the 3D
First dive I called sea fan hill. It was covered with gorgeous sea fans. A bit of current made us work. 
I chose to stay on board and read my book, to kill a mockingbird, during the second dive.
Third dive was just gorgeous. Coral upon coral upon coral. There must be 100+ varieties.
We were supposed to visit a village in the afternoon, but weather didn't cooperate. 
The only thing I didn't like about the boat was the dinner schedule. You eat, then go to bed. Not good. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Togian islands, days 5-7

Tuesday 2-21 
It's day 5 of the trip and I'm getting into the swing of things. I'm up and ready to go when I hear the singsong "Good Morning" at 6:30am. "Little breakfast is waiting for us: yogurt, fruit, bread. Then comes dive briefing and first dive. We are anchored by the volcano island called Una Una and the first dive is on a pinnacle. You can swim all the way around it at a depth of about 75 feet. We go slow and take about an hour. The site is called fish mania and you could see why. All the same corals we saw at the other sites but add an explosion of fish. Alvin put it well when he said " I never thought my visibility would be compromised because of so many fish."

After the first dive is "big breakfast" - eggs prepared to your specifications, fruit, bacon sausage and more. Then the second dive was right next to the first and with a similar profile. 
I skipped the afternoon dive with the thought that I will go on the night dive at 7.
I finished my book, City of Girls, and decided to read it over again from the beginning with an eye on the authors technique. I liked the book so much I want to pay attention to how she did it. Maybe I can emulate her to write a book about Mom.

I did go on the night dive. It was pretty boring, just over sand, but I was warm and comfortable. Good to know since it has been so long since I've done a night dive. 
Dinner at 8:30? I don't think so. I'm staying in my room and reading.

Wednesday 2-22
The morning dive was a deep dive. I skipped it. Jim and Alvin went, saw some barracuda. I did the second dive. We're still at Una Una. This was a pinacle and it was beautiful. Name of the dive site was Hong Kong.  So many coral, lots of anemones with their Nemo's. Jim got a good photo of me next to one. We learned about an app called Dive+. It knows just how to edit underwater photos for color correction. Wow. It does a great job of getting rid of the green and/or blue cast making the photo look so much better. 

We're leaving Una Una so I made sure to leave some of mom here to dive in this beauty.  
Next dive was a wall at Togean island and of what a wall it was. Taipei wall was the name. Sheer vertical wall down to forever with beautiful gardens on top. I was impressed with the tunicates. 
I'll bet the night dive tonight will be good. Just a feeling. But I'm skipping it. My knee hurts and I just feel the need to pace myself. I am an old lady now y know   I do believe I am the oldest driver on the boat. Not sure how to feel about that. Proud? Sad?

Thursday 2-23 , day 7
Jellyfish Lake. We've done a jellyfish lake before, on our Borneo trip in 1999. I was not expecting to be impressed, but I loved it! The water was 88 degrees, no wetsuit, no fins, just snorkeling. I felt so warm and free. Then looking at those jelly fish and feeling that I must be on mars because they look like little spaceships where the whole ship is involved propulsion. Then, noticing the plethora of them moving  this way and that made me think of the Jetsons and their flying cars. I started looking for George, Jane, and Leroy-I don't remember the daughters name. But they were still little spaceships, not flying cars, so I figured they were on vacation on mars! 

A screenshot from Epcot "Spaceship Earth" - just seems appropriate here!

I understand that jellyfish get nutrients directly from the sun thru photosynthesis. Such evolved creatures, we should learn from them. I thought this would be a quick dive-once you've seen some jellyfish there's nothing more to see, but I loved it. I was one of the last people to get out of the water and I could have stayed longer. 

Second dive was another beautiful wall on an atoll. We went straight down to 75 feet and could have gone to at least 200! I got low on air after 45 minutes. I wanted more time, so I think I'm going to change back to the full size tank. I've been using the smaller 63 cubic inch? Tank because I like the smaller size and I'm good on air. I'm used to coming up with 1000-1200 psi when everyone else is at 500. With this tank, I'm right with them and maybe even less.
Third dive was the wreck of a B24 bomber that crashed in 1942 during world war 2. Awful visibility but still a cool experience.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Book report

A live aboard dive trip is a great place for getting some reading done. When you're not underwater, there's not much to do. You can only chat with your fellow divers so much!

I love to read but not enough to make much time for it, so I take advantage of the boat time. Also there was no internet connection half the time so I was not distracted by Facebook, twitter, or current news items.
I read 5 books
That may be a record for me - 5 books on one month.  It makes me happy to know I can still read books. How did I fit all these books in my luggage? Yeah, right … you know better! I use Kindle, but not even a separate kindle device. I use my phone that I always have with me, my little iPhone SE with the kindle app. It fits in one hand. I can turn the page with my thumb on that same one hand. I can read it in bed. I can make the text as large as I want. I make the screen black with white text so it's not too bright at night. I have a book at the ready at any time! Just take it out of my pocket. And I can highlight passages and take notes. I buy my books rather that rent from a library or other free service. That way I can go back and find important passages from any book I've read. 

For example, from AI Superpowers

A discussion of AI in the classroom really piqued my interest, I highlighted it so I can find it later and remember. Here is an example:
During in-class teaching, schools will employ a dual-teacher model that combines a remote broadcast lecture from a top educator and more personal attention by the in-class teacher. For the first half of class, a top-rated teacher delivers a lecture via a large-screen television at the front of the class. That teacher lectures simultaneously to around twenty classrooms and asks questions that students must answer via handheld clickers, giving the lecturer real-time feedback on whether students comprehend the concepts. 
During the lecture, a video conference camera at the front of the room uses facial recognition and posture analysis to take attendance, check for student attentiveness, and assess the level of understanding based on gestures such as nodding, shaking one's head, and expressions of puzzlement. All of this data—answers to clicker questions, attentiveness, comprehension—goes directly into the student profile, filling in a real-time picture of what the students know and what they need extra help with. 
But in-class learning is just a fraction of the whole AI-education picture. When students head home, the student profile combines with question-generating algorithms to create homework assignments precisely tailored to the students' abilities. While the whiz kids must complete higher-level problems that challenge them, the students who have yet to fully grasp the material are given more fundamental questions and perhaps extra drills. At each step along the way, students' time and performance on different problems feed into their student profiles, adjusting the subsequent problems to reinforce understanding. 
In addition, for classes such as English (which is mandatory in Chinese public schools), AI-powered speech recognition can bring top-flight English instruction to the most remote regions. High-performance speech recognition algorithms can be trained to assess students' English pronunciation, helping them improve intonation and accent without the need for a native English speaker on site. 
From a teacher's perspective, these same tools can be used to alleviate the burden of routine grading tasks, freeing up teachers to spend more time on the students themselves. Chinese companies have already used perception AI's visual recognition abilities to build scanners that can grade multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank tests. Even in essays, standard errors such as spelling or grammar can be marked automatically, with predetermined deductions of points for certain mistakes. This AI-powered technology will save teachers' time in correcting the basics, letting them shift that time to communicating with students about higher-level writing concepts. 
Finally, for students who are falling behind, the AI-powered student profile will notify parents of their child's situation, giving a clear and detailed explanation of what concepts the student is struggling with. The parents can use this information to enlist a remote tutor through services such as VIPKid, which connects American teachers with Chinese students for online English classes. Remote tutoring has been around for some time, but perception AI now allows these platforms to continuously gather data on student engagement through expression and sentiment analysis. That data continually feeds into a student's profile, helping the platforms filter for the kinds of teachers that keep students engaged. 
Almost all of the tools described here already exist, and many are being implemented in different classrooms across China. Taken together, they constitute a new AI-powered paradigm for education, one that merges the online and offline worlds to create a learning experience tailored to the needs and abilities of each student. China appears poised to leapfrog the United States in education AI, in large part due to voracious demand from Chinese parents. Chinese parents of only children pour money into their education, a result of deeply entrenched Chinese values, intense competition for university spots, and a public education system of mixed quality. Those parents have already driven services like VIPKid to a valuation of over $3 billion in just a few years' time.

The AI Superpowers book was some thought-provoking stuff! Check out this Ted Talk by Kai-Fu Lee, the author of AI Superpowers.

But, my favorite book of these was hands-down City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love. It was in the style of a memoir. It was so well done that I determined to emulate the style if I ever get around to writing that book about my Mom. I figured the first thing to do is to re-read it and make even more notes the second time around. I got a start, but just couldn't do it - re-reading is not my cup of tea.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Day 4: Whale Sharks

We knew that whale sharks were a possibility on this trip, hey the cover photo for the trip is of a whale shark! But we were supposed to see them in the Maldives last year and didn't, so I wasn't counting on it. 
Well today was the day. We're at Garantolo What I didn't  realize is that they feed them here, just like the shark dives in the Bahamas, so it is pretty well guaranteed that we will see one of them.
This morning we saw not one, but two, majestic whale sharks. They obviously are accustomed to divers. There were 15 of us in the water and they paid us no never mind whatsoever. In fact, you had to work at it to stay out of their way. Their eyes are on the sides of their head, so when you're right in front of them, they can't see you. If you don't get out of the way they'll bump right into you. They are not scary at all. They are more like whales than sharks. They were being fed buckets of little shrimp. We could get close enough to see the whole process. They opened their huge mouths and let the ocean water pour in like a waterfall, or a whirlpool. Then you see their bodies flutter s the water is pushed out thru their gills while filtering the shrimp.

That's me!

Second dive was another gorgeous wall and reef. More of the rose coral. Lots of sweet pyramid butterfly fish, anemones with their Nemo's and other pretty tropicals in this 83 degree water. I figured mom would have loved these dives, so I scattered some ashes here and added a photo to her album.

Garantolo whale sharks and nice reef - Mom should like it here.

What we don't see is any bigger fish. No snapper, no grouper, no sharks, no barracuda. Overfishing has depleted the area.
I skipped the third dive and got a massage from Anita. She did a great job. The memorable part was being outside, on the top sun deck with a warm ocean breeze.

I'm in Heaven. I'm sure Anita wishes for a proper massage table - but she did sit down much of the time on the adjacent lounge. 

On the boat, days 1-3

2-17 Friday
We left Lembeh Dive resort and transferred to the boat which was anchored just offshore.  The Lembeh folks used one of their boats to take us over. 

The first order of business on board the Mermaid 1 was to take off your shoes. Get welcome drink-fruit juice because we're going on one dive later.

Dive still in Lembeh - hair ball. Nothing but black sand, muck. Supposed to see hairy frog fish here but we didn't, just muck. At very end Alvin spotted a mimic octopus. Here's a bit of Jim's video:

Jim and I shared one bottle white wine before and during dinner.
Night crossing a few hours west.

2-18 Saturday
Woke up to see sunrise. We're the only boat around. Beautiful. 

Dinghy takes us to dive site. Gorgeous reef, clear water. Lettuce coral, plate coral, table coral. Anemones are so healthy. I'm using a smaller tank, less cumbersome but also less air. I'm used to coming up with 1,000 lbs, now 500. Using 6kg of weight: 12 lbs. water is 83 degrees. Just wearing my 2-3 mil wetsuit.

Second dive is a sea mount. Lots of surge. Same beauty. Saw  cuttlefish ! 

I sit out the 3d dive. Can't tear myself away from the book City of Girls. Knee is hurting a bit. Being very careful walking around. Aleve helped me sleep.

Only had one glass red wine.

2-19 Sunday
At 6:30 a crew member walks around the decks singing out Good Morning! This alerts you that it is time to get up and go to the main salon for coffee, little breakfast, and dive briefing. Todays first dive is Wonder Wall, and they weren't kidding. A totally vertical wall with an overhang at the top. Lots of barrel sponges, schools of bright blue fish, and a swim thru! Wow,wow,wow.

Photo by Anna Barnes

But wait, it gets better! The second dive was as full of life as I've ever seen. It could go down as my best dive ever. Or at least the best dive … today 😃 it was another wall. Saw a turtle, a monstrous school of gobies, several trumpet fish, moorish idols, anemones and Nemo's, and a Dali barrel sponge. but the pièce de résistance was the field of coral. Cabbage coral that looked like roses completely covering the top of the wall. I sure hope Jim got some good photos cuz I can't describe just how beautiful it was.

Third dive oh my another drop dead gorgeous wall.
We skipped the night dive, had a glass of wine, as the others went muck diving in Garantolo.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Muck Diving in Lembeh

 When I first heard of Muck diving I wondered why anyone would want to dive in the muck? Well, now I know, but I'm still not a fan. The Sulawesi area of Indonesia is known for it's biodiversity. There are more different kinds of critters here than just about anywhere in the world, and many of them are underwater. Also, many of them are tiny. They are sought after by people who like taking macro photography. You might find them in the corals, or sea fans, but you also find them in the black sand and the 'muck.' 

I was so excited to see a seahorse!! It is one of those critters that are often found in the "muck." I'd only seen one other in my entire 40 year diving career. On the next dive, we saw 3 of them! To see some of the macro photography from others in our group, check out Anna's shared photo album. - some amazing photography. Keep in mind most of the critters you see there are less than 1 inch in size.

We stayed at the Lembeh dive resort, which was heaven.

Lembeh Dive Resort - dive shop, camera shed, gear shed, right next to the dive boats waiting to take us Muck Diving.

Our room, down the garden path, up on the second floor

Inside our room at Lembeh Dive Resort

To give you some idea of where we are

It was a beautiful resort with delicious food. We each got a stall in the dive gear shed where we stored our gear in between dives. The staff would see to it that our tanks were set up and on the boat so all we had to do was put on our wetsuits and show up. The water is a wonderful 83 degrees. I was a little worried about climbing back up the ladder on these boats, but it turns out that they would let you take off your BC and tank in the water and they would haul that on board, so all you had to do was get yourself back on. Easy peasy.

Apres dive relaxation

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Your health is everything

You've heard it before,  you'll hear it again, and I'm here to add my two cents.  "Without your health, you have nothing"
We had a good sleep in the hotel in Bali, then grabbed our bags and headed back towards the airport to catch the 7 am flight to Manado. On the way we were walking on a shiny tiled corridor and trying to figure out which way to go. I was looking ahead, trying to read the sign by the next doorway and I didn't see the puddle of water.  I stepped right in it.  My feet instantly flew up and my butt crashed down. 
This is the second time I've fallen this year! And it's only February! 

I could get up and walk.  I was OK. But the fall definitely aggravated my already fragile knee, and it added a bruised hip. I determined to wear the knee brace I brought for an extra precaution.  
Our flight had an unscheduled change of planes in Makassar. While limping thru the terminal, you can bet that I scoured the floor ahead of me looking for any sign of slipperiness. And, I made Jim carry my little back pack for me.  
We made it to Manado in due time, as did our luggage, and a driver was there to meet us and take us to Thalassa resort. We were greeted with hearty smiles and escorted directly to a dining room because they figured we would be hungry.  Jim took one sip of water and had a strange look on his face.  There was nothing wrong with the water, but there seemed to be something wrong with him.  

The porch at our room in the jungle - Thalassa Dive Resort

We came here because Mom dove with Thalassa divers a couple times and made a video about her favorite tree in the world. That tree is no longer there, so I picked another and left some of her ashes there.
Mom's (new) Tree

We ate a little of the delicious food they offered but we actually weren't very hungry even though it had been more than 12 hours since we had eaten.  
Our room was down the hill.  I took it very, very slowly. I made it. As soon as we settled into our room,  Jim took over the bathroom and I heard all sorts of nasty sounds.  For the next 12 hours he was quite violently sick.  
So there we were, in the middle of the Indonesian jungle,  I could barely walk and he couldn't get far away from a toilet.  Why are we doing this? Why didn't we just stay in our comfortable home? What if he is really sick? What if I really can't walk? What will we do? 

Well, we made it thru the night. Jim still didn't feel well but the time between toilet visits was getting longer. I still couldn't walk well but, with the aid of the brace, and taking it slow, I could make it back up the hill to the dining room and had a little breakfast.  Jim didn't eat, and we went back to bed. 
I'm sure glad we had this extra day in advance to recuperate. By the time our ride showed up to take us to the dive resort, we were feeling nearly human. 

That was scary. It hit hard how important staying healthy is when you're traveling. Also I felt really bad that we didn't show up much because the resort staff and management were sooo nice. They wanted us to have a good time even though we were only there for one night. 

If you want luxury in the jungle - this is your place

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

To sleep, perchance to dream

We're getting ready to land in Bali after 2 long flights and one long layover.
Miami to Istanbul 11 hrs
Layover in Istanbul 9 hrs
Istanbul to Bali 12 hours.

I have no idea what time it is anywhere. I think it's Saturday
We choose to go with the flow rather than try to control our schedule. Shortly after the plane takes off they serve a full dinner meal and wine (regardless of what time it is). Then there are movies to watch and sleep to catch. They serve breakfast an hour or so before landing.
There was a time that I could sleep on a plane. That was many years ago. Last year we did three trips with long flights, Italy, UK and Maldives. We tried taking Tylenol PM, but it just didn't help. We also wandered around Dubai airport, thinking we could find a comfy lounge chair to catch some zzz's 😴. But that didn't happen. You don't want to start your vacation in a sleep deprived state. For Maldives I ended up catching cold that I mainly blame on the 15 hours in the airport. Lesson: it's worth getting a hotel room fort the night. I've seen info on 'sleeping pods' but they're rented by the hour but within certain ranges that have never made sense to me. 
Catching that cold meant that I stayed in bed for the first 3 days on the dive boat, missing at least 4 dives.
As we get older, I believe that sleep is more important than ever. Sleep is when your body heals itself. You can compensate for bad behavior, 🍷? With sufficient sleep. At home both Jim and I have become obsessed with our sleep stats provided by our watches. It's not just hours asleep, it's your heart rate, your blood oxygen rate, and something called ,'readiness'. I was hoping to get perfect scores for the two nights before travel but that didn't happen. Because of the problems with our tickets, we were a bit stressed and especially the night before. We could check in as of 10pm the night before. So we were up for 2-3 hours trying to get out worked out. We finally went back to sleep with Jim succeeding in getting a boarding pass. I had a certified ticket but still no seat. My watch told readiness was poor .
All this is to explain that this time we asked our doctor to prescribe some real sleeping pills. And I can now report, they worked! We're about to land after the second long flight. We took one pill each for both flights. We took it after the meal was served and we each got somewhere between 4 and 7 hours of real sleep YAY! 

My watch says my readiness is pretty good, I feel relaxed and clear headed. 

After landing in Bali, we do have a hotel room because our next, and last flight, is 12 hours away. It is just a 3 hour flight to our final destination, Manado.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

What a difference a space makes

On our passports, I am Christine L Guld and Jim's is James F Guld Jr.
Somewhere between our booking agent at Chase Travel and the airline records at Turkish Air, typos turned me into ChristineL Guld and Jim is James GuldJR

The lack of a space, apparently, makes us different people so that when we tried to check in, Turkish Airlines could not find any reservations. After a couple hours on the phone, Case Travel "fixed it" by cancelling our reservations and booking new ones. Two new ones, one for me and one for Jim. So now they are trying to seat us in distant areas of the plane. We were willing to pay more to choose seats next to each other, but the system would not process our credit card. "Try again later" it said. 
The flight leaves today, how much "later" should we wait?
And, this space issue is probably the reason why our frequent flyer numbers also don't match our travels. We flew Turkish air last year to Italy and we have no credit for that or the current trip. I'm afraid this will make us ineligible to use the Turkish air lounge in Istanbul during our 9 hour layover. 😞
My one remaining hope is that the sleeping pills we got will work and allow us to sleep on the plane. A good night's sleep 💤🛌makes everything ok.

Other than that, we’re all packed and ready to go. A kiss for luck and we’re on our way.

Blessed be the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.