Episode 16: One Year In

Last time on Mobilis Divers: Chris and Noelle took a road trip and pondered the prospect of pursuing their plans in the Possibly Perfect Place.

Well if you can believe it I’ve officially been in the PPP for one whole year now. Crazy! This time last year I gave you a summary of my thoughts after my first week, so I thought it fitting to elaborate on what a year here has taught me (and where we hope the next year will take us).

As a jumping off point, I thought I would start by briefly reflecting on 2018 Me’s sentiments to see if she had any sense of the place yet. So in answer to this post from last year, I will now give the floor to Present Me to give her two cents.

A Quick Reflection

It’s a new country: It’s still a new place with a lot to figure out (but what country has all its shit together? Certainly not my motherland!). Having a job in development now, I have been very lucky to see some of the incredible work people are doing at every level to push things forward, despite some very challenging circumstances. It is frustrating and difficult to know it will be a slow march, but it is also comforting to have seen so much improvement in only the year I have been here. I have a lot of hope for what the country and people are capable of. Go team!

No good Mexican food: It is usually possible to get tortillas and sometimes possible to get tortilla chips (at exceptionally high prices), but Mexican food options are thin on the ground. We have one Mexican restaurant, but as their nacho base is Cool Ranch Doritos I visit only in emergencies. I make Mexican at home as best I can, but with cilantro/coriander being terribly hard to come by, my fresh salsa is suffering (with mango season upon us, however, we have some new opportunities). We did try to grow our own coriander/cilantro but it was eaten by our landlord’s dog. We will try again when the wounds aren’t so fresh.

G&Ts: We still drink a fair number of G&Ts, although I have veered deeply into fresh coconut with rum territory the last few months. Some twists on the standard G&T this year have included: elder flower cordial, fresh passion fruit and orange juice. We shall continue to experiment.

It’s pretty isolated: People here talk about flights the way Brits talk about weather. It’s a solid way to start any conversation and it’s safe to bet that your listener will be equally opinionated about the current conditions. Since last November one route was closed and then reopened and another that was closed in 2018 also reopened. So now we have four whole options for getting out of the country (or for getting ya’ll in). It’s better than the two options we had for most of 2018 though, so progress! The outrageous prices for the one flight (which skyrocketed this time last year) have not come down, but we have more options for boycotting that asshole airline now, so that feels nice.

Connectivity: The internet is still not strong, but at least it’s expensive.

COLOR!: I still love the colors and can’t get enough of them. Flame trees and garishly painted buses and street art and shockingly bright outfits…bring them on.

Animal friends: We have traded in one large (and getting larger every time I see him) dog for four small (and getting larger every time I see them) cats. Long story short I adopted a mama cat that I had hoped would not be a mama but, well, that happened. She had four (four!) kittens and we now have all of them. We moved to a new house to be able to take them in (as the fat dog doesn’t like cats). Very sadly the mama died after surgery to fix her (so she could live a happy life without making babies every three months). I really miss her. She was a very sweet kitty. But because of her we now have a house that we really love and are very happy in, so at least we will always remember her for bringing us here. The little ones are now six months old and the two girls are going to be spayed in the next couple of weeks. I’m super nervous and I hate that we have to do it, but it for sure needs to be done because good Lord can cats make more cats quickly!

Piglets: In other small animal news, there are no more pigs in the city at the moment. A wave of African Swine Flu tore through the town a couple of months ago and killed almost everyone’s pigs. It was very sad. We miss our beach pigs. Hopefully they will start to come back soon.

Good friends, good times: We still love the social scene here. It is so lovely to be somewhere where we run into friends all the time and we know we have a huge network of people who have our backs if we run into any problems. We help each other all the time to navigate the crazy things that can happen here and knowing that we’re in it together infuses hope and optimism into even the hardest days.

Right! Thanks, Present Me! It seems 2018 Me wasn’t too terribly off in her one-week-in observations. She’s pretty clever though, so I suppose it’s not much of a surprise.

The last year has been one of the best I’ve (and we’ve) had in a long time, and I think that a big part of that is due to where we are and the people who are here with us. We’ve had a lot of fun with our friends (cribbage nights, birthday trips to fancy hotels, a million nights watching movies on the beach…) and as a newly married couple (choosing paint colors for our new house, nurturing seedlings into a mini forest in our sun room, jumping hand-in-hand into the frigid waters of a crystal clear river…).

We feel very relaxed and at home here. We love the pace of life and the fact that most of our decisions on evenings and weekends are about the optimal way to chill out (should we go to the pool or read in the hammock? Do we prefer pizza night out or movie night in – or maybe a little of both?)

That’s not to say that we don’t have shitty days or feel stressed out. We do. We really, really do. This week, in fact, has been a particularly hard one for Chris at work. In case you are on the brink of thinking that we are “living the dream”, I would also remind you that:

  • Our electricity can be frantic, fickle or downright lazy
  • The garbage situation here can feel pretty dire at times
  • Ditto for the sewage
  • We live with four young, curious, meant-to-live-outside-but-can’t-until-the-garden-is-finished-and-their-baby-factories-are-turned-off cats
  • There is no good Mexican food

But our lovely home, our friends and our enjoyment of the culture and way of life more than make up for all of the above.

So What’s Next?

Henry Wellcome once said “Never tell anyone what you propose to do until you have done it.” Having previously announced many plans that never materialized (but managed to cause me ample stress anyway), I tend to agree and try to live by this philosophy, so I hesitate to share our very tentative and undeveloped plans for the next year. Setting any kind of expectation can be a recipe for disappointment and/or unnecessary pressure (both mainly from myself). However, as you have been with us from the beginning and know that we do have some big hopes and dreams for our time here, it feels only fitting to whisper some secrets into your loyal and trustworthy ear (if you pinky promise not to tell anyone else).

So sidle up close, get cozy and lean on in (and maybe bring some tea and biscuits while you’re at it?)

All settled? Ok. So……*leans in closely, preparing her best secretive tone; clears throat* It’s starting to feel like we might be able to breathe some life into this little dive shop dream of ours in 2020. *covers your ear for a moment while she squeals; uncovers your ear again* In fact, we have already started dipping our toes in the water, so to speak. I’ve now taught a couple of Discovery Dives here (people trying diving for the very first time), while Chris has completed one Advanced Open Water course for some friends and is in the middle of an Open Water course for some others.

In that process, we’ve thought about what we need in order to do things more independently and professionally. For example, right now all of the money we receive goes to other shops where we rent our equipment *acknowledges your kind indignation at this state of affairs with a quiet, what-can-you-do shrug*. We’ve also thought about the angle we might want to take if we start running this as a for-real business. With that in mind, we have set a rough goal of when we would want to be up and running *faces you with an excited but slightly apologetic smile* Of course, I can’t tell you what the date is because that is far too much pressure (baby steps to the dive shop).

Ok, you look like you’re getting a neck ache from leaning in so long. Feel free to relax and have a sip of that tea. These secrets are all yours to keep now. What a weight off my shoulders!

This is pretty crazy territory for us. Terrifying, of course, but also really exciting. We know we want to take a crack at this and see where it goes. We know there are opportunities to succeed if we take it slowly and let it grow naturally. We know that it will be a big investment of time and energy and patience and money.

We also know we want to be here a while, that we love the diving and that we love getting other people excited about it. So why not do as much diving as we can while we have the chance and make a little dosh while sharing our ocean love with others?

With our new house and new cats and new garden and new plans, it feels like we have made the decision to stay here for a few more years at least. Who knows what the future will bring and how we will feel this time next year, but for now we’re happy here. We’re very happy here. I just wish there were better nachos.