Living in the tropics we often have problems we couldn’t have imagined from the comfort of more temperate climes. Things like roads being washed away in rainy season, or our overwhelming joy upon discovering that our cats love to kill cockroaches (and then eat them, which we were less happy about).
Last week, a perfect example presented itself when Chris’ boss walked into the staff room and said, “Hey guys, I’m not sure how to tell you this, but I think a gecko just pooed in my coffee.”
We found this little dude/dudette in our yard this week and thought “well isn’t it crazy pretty!?” Yes, yes it is. But it is also employs one of the creepiest hunting strategies I’ve ever heard of. Check it out!
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.
Last time on Mobilis Divers: We brought you with us on our holiday to New Zealand. The rich aroma of creamy blue cheese still lingered in the air.
I’m not sure how it happened, but I’ve been here six months already. Happy six month anniversary to me!
I’ve now witnessed one full rainy season, with its regular afternoon downpours, and am currently enjoying the cool evening breezes the dry season has to offer. I’ve seen many of the famously beautiful sunsets while sipping many gin & tonics on the beach. I’ve been swimming with many melon headed whales, listening to them chat and watching them play under the water. I’ve gone to many early morning tai chi sessions and have worked may days my new job (though I still don’t know what I’m doing).
It’s been quite a fabulous experience so far.
We have a pretty ordinary existence really (we get up, go to work, come home, make dinner) – except we don’t. We drive home on a road full of cows and pigs and dogs and children. We buy our electricity from an electricity store (if they have any on the shelves, that is), and we often don’t have electricity, even after stocking up at the shop. We regularly drink fresh coconuts we’ve bought on the side of the road. Every weekend we watch movies on the beach, surrounded by friends (and beach dogs chasing beach pigs). We can dive and snorkel in some of the richest oceans on earth within spitting distance of our house.
We’re a little bit in love with the place. It’s weird and quirky and unpredictable and fun and full of fabulously interesting and endlessly supportive people.
It has its problems, of course, and those get old sometimes, but all in all it’s a very charming place to live. Neither of us want to leave any time soon. But, as was the case with us coming here in the first place, we’re at the whim of the universe. Both of our jobs are not guaranteed after the end of the year. The project Chris works on is contracted until December and the floor has been opened for other bidders to come in and place their offers for the next contract period. My job falls within an awkward organizational structure that is being reconsidered by the powers that be this September. It is possible I could be out of a job as a result of their decision before January.
In some ways, we wonder if that is the perfect sign that we should change gears and jump into our real dream of opening a dive center here. I mean, if we’re both out of jobs but want to stay here, it makes perfect sense to start our own thing instead, right?
Well, there are some fairly big things to consider.
Firstly, this place is expensive. Living here without any income would be rough. And a dive resort isn’t the cheapest of pursuits to get off the ground in any location. Then there is the very real concern that we wouldn’t have any customers. The flight situation is *still* not sorted out. In fact, it keeps feeling more dire by the day. With one route cancelled and another cutting back its services (a flight that is also, per mile, the most expensive in the world), we are left with only one route serviced by three airlines, all of which are owned by the same company. When Chris first arrived last January, ticket prices were around $120 each way (under $250 for a return). Now they are nearly $800 roundtrip.
This is a huge problem for people living here, but an even bigger one when you think about the tourism that it stops. Flights to the other side of the same island (in a different country) are about $70 each way. Go that little bit farther (20 minutes more by air) and you’re paying $400 for almost the same flight. Why oh why would anyone come here then, when they can get a very similar experience, both on land and in the sea, by cutting their trip a few miles short?
That’s all to say: if we do start a business, we have to be able to sustain it with a customer base already living in the country instead of depending on tourists. One risk there is that the country is on the verge of losing a fair bit of aid funding in the next year or so. As a result, the staff that would be here to implement those projects will no longer be in the country.
Put all these risk factors together and it starts to feel like there is no way we would break even on our investment.
So, start or not start? We aren’t sure yet. We made a choice after I first arrived here that we won’t jump into anything just because we *want* it to be possible. We want to wait for a moment when it feels right, when it makes sense and we can see some kind of possibility for it. We want to start small, take it slowly and build it up rather than throw our whole life savings at it in a financial hail mary. Perhaps that timing will line up with our current job cycles and perhaps it won’t. All we can do is wait and see (and keep you updated as we go, of course)!
In the meantime, we’ve been enjoying the fact that, in addition to cool evening breezes, dry season provides us with a chance to explore the country a little more. Now that the roads aren’t being washed away every other week, it’s actually possible to get out of the city. Over a recent public holiday, we ventured south for the long weekend. Nearly every minute of every day we kept looking at each other and saying “well isn’t this just wonderful!??”
Our adventures took us all the way across the country – along the rivers, over the mountains and down to the opposite coast. It was a weekend of contrasts. We swapped north for south. White sand for black. A busy, dirty city for clean, idyllic villages. Crunchy, dry plants for lush tropical ones. Dried out river beds for raging waterfalls. And our gravely backyard for the most wonderful swimming pool ever imagined.
Probably my favorite part of an already fabulous weekend was our stop at a simple roadside attraction. One village had the brilliant idea of walling in a mountain river to create a stunningly beautiful infinity pool just off the main drag. The water was cool, crisp and perfectly clear. We dangled our feet in the chilly water to cool off and, after my feet went numb, the rest of my body – hot from the tropical sun – was desperate for its turn. It took some convincing to get Chris to join me (he’s not a fan of cold), but we eventually jumped in and, much to our surprise, managed to stay for quite a while. Floating in the fresh water, surrounded by dragonflies, listening to the birds and the leaves, it is not an experience I will forget any time soon.
You may have noticed in that last photo that Chris is sporting a new piece of gear (one that I’m still getting used to seeing!). That’s right, folks. Since the last time we talked, we also managed to sneak in a quick trip to America where we officially tied the knot (more about that next time)!
Although we’ve been together for about seven years, this is the first time we’ve had a meaningful date to celebrate (as there isn’t really a day when that we officially “met” or started dating – it’s a long story). So this week, our one month anniversary was a perfect excuse to pop open some champagne, walk to the fancy restaurant on the beach by our house and gorge ourselves on delicious curries and even more incredible cheesecake (a homemade one with fresh passion fruit compote)!
It’s nights like that where we both get to pause and really appreciate how fortunate we are to be here. If you had asked me five years ago where I thought I’d be at this point, there is not a chance I would have said “living in an island paradise where things don’t always work as you’d want or expect but whose raw beauty and sincere humanity often blow you away in truly spectacular ways”. But that’s *is* where we live and where we are very much enjoying spending our days. Who knows how long we will be able to call it home, but for now we’ll keep soaking up every champagne-y drop.
After a long journey home and some unexpected clean-up projects when we arrived (one shattered wine bottle in our suitcase and a fridge we had accidentally switched off before we left three weeks ago – with a freezer full of meat, of course), we weren’t sure we could muster the energy for beachside cinema, our favorite weekly tradition.
We’d purposefully avoided watching the movie on our long plane ride so we could enjoy it at the beach (a real challenge with so much time at our disposal!), but when it started to rain about the time we would need to leave the house for the show, we figured it stood good chance of being cancelled anyway. Without any food left in our fridge, however, we decided to at least head over for dinner and some fresh air before we called it a night.
We were very pleasantly rewarded with not only a full screening of the fabulous Bohemian Rhapsody and an absolutely stunning sunset, but the warm welcome of too many friends to count. We soaked up all the hugs and congratulations along with our Bintangs and the soft sprinkle of warm rain that waxed and waned throughout the evening. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect homecoming.
Last time on Mobilis Divers: Chris was packing up and moving into the new flat while waiting for Noelle to arrive via London and Singapore.
I have officially been in the Possibly Perfect Place for a week now! A lot of people have been asking about my first impressions, so I figured I would jump right in and tell you some of my thoughts so far.
As a basic summary: this is a new country. A really new country. To put it in terms of those who aren’t super into history (such as I), imagine you are in America at a time when it is totally normal to see a retired George Washington hanging out at the local saloon. It’s that level of new. The man who led the resistance movement that brought about the country’s independence (it’s second independence, actually) and became its first President still lives in town and is often seen kicking about. So, that’s kind of bizarre and trippy.
Being in such a fresh-out-of-the-oven place feels both exciting and chaotic. As in the early days of America, they’re still trying to figure it all out. They’re constructing their foundational laws, their forms of government, their political parties, and their infrastructure. They have very little money to do this all with, so there is a lot of prioritizing going on. Is it more essential to have garbage collectors or teachers? Is it better to invest in agriculture or tourism?Even their driving system is in flux. A new one-way system was recently implemented, but the road markings haven’t changed as quickly, so you don’t always know if you are on a two-way street or a one-way street or which way the one-way goes. Couple that with driving on the left and you are in for quite an adventure!
All that to say, there are some significant challenges I have seen so far and certainly more to come. But there are also some pretty sweet rewards. I will enumerate a few below and let you decide to which category they belong.
Market limitations: This isn’t the type of place where you decide what you want to make for dinner then go get the things and make it. You go to the market, get what they have then put your imagination to the test. It makes for more creative cooking, that’s for sure. It’s kind of fun for now, though I can see there being a day when all I want is the perfect nacho and there are no tortilla chips in the whole country. That will be a sad day, but in the words of Aragorn, “it is not this day!” (I’m reading Lord of the Rings in preparation for our New Zealand trip and Hobbiton visit, obviously).
Regular G&Ts – Speaking of market limitations, a few weeks ago Chris tried to get tonic water for us to make gin and tonics, but no shops had it. The week after that it was back in stock, but you could only buy it by the flat. So we now have 24 cans we’re working our way through (using the very adorable bamboo straws he also acquired). Our first night here we also went to a beautiful beachside restaurant where we watched the sunset and drank our new signature drink. Bliss.
Airline Drama: The need for antitrust legislation came to light last week when an airline started essentially holding the country at ransom. There are three cities you can fly to from here, only one of which is really a useful connection for the majority of people. That route is served by two airlines across four flights a day. It is the country’s lifeline to the outside world in many ways. People use that for their visa runs, for long weekends, for buying things they can’t get here, and for going back to wherever they call home. Last week, one of those two airlines bought the other one and more than doubled the prices overnight. It’s a been a problem, to say the least.
It has affected us personally as my parents are trying to plan a trip to visit and now have to pay a hell of a lot more to get here. And it has had huge ramifications for NGOs who have to frequently fly people around and for tourist-based businesses who will see a massive drop in their clientele. As such a new country, however, there isn’t a lot of bargaining power to fix this with. The Ministry of Transportation is doing its best to stand up to the airline by imposing sanctions, or bringing in a new airline for the route, or increasing the national airline’s current routes from zero to one to fill the gap, but this could take a lot of time. Until then, no one can stop this company from charging extortionate prices with no consequence.
Internet not strong: Chris set my phone up with internet a couple of days after I got here and it’s sort of decent-ish (some things work and others have no prayer). It feels like we went back to the 90s a bit, but I am also kind of enjoying it. I have a lot more time to do things because I can’t be bothered to sit around waiting for pages to load. It makes banking pretty annoying (and I can’t imagine how long it would take to reset a password with all the emails and temporary codes and yada yada yada), but it means I don’t waste time with pointless crap online, so that’s nice.
Not many bugs: This one has surprised me a lot. I haven’t had one mosquito bite yet. I have seen one sort-of-chunky-but-by-no-means-huge cockroach, but nothing else gross in the house (or outside of the house for that matter). I really expected to have bites all over after a week and I don’t, so that’s a win!
Color!!!: They are not afraid of color here. There are gorgeous tropical flowers everywhere (long live bougainvillea!) and the local tapestry craft uses some incredibly bold and beautiful color palettes. I love it mucho.
Protests: A few protests took place this week over decisions made by Parliament and the police. This does belong somewhat in the “challenges” section as it causes minor concerns over safety, but it also feels like good thing. We recently lived in a place where this would simply never happen. I was hard pressed to find anyone there who said anything against the government in the privacy of their own home, let alone proclaim it on the streets with their feet and their voices and their signs. While I intend to steer well clear of these situations when they occur, the fact that they have the right to protest and to speak their minds publicly is quite significant to me. They are doing something right there, in my books.
It’s hot: It is only really in the high-80s F/ mid-20s C, but the 70-80% humidity really adds a whole new level of fun. It is not as hot as Arabia was, of course, but it’s more of a daily presence. In Muscat, if I wanted to run the AC all day every day, at the end of the month we’d have a bill of about $15 for electricity. Here, we have spent double that in a week with it on only some of the time. Because utilities are so much more expensive, we try to get by with a fan if we can, which means we are often pretty sweaty.It *is* the beginning of the rainy season, though, so I don’t think it will always be so muggy. On the bright side, my skin and hair are really feeling great!
Cold showers on hot days: In Muscat, our water tanks were on the roof, which meant that in the heat of the day (when you most wanted a cold shower) the water was scorching hot. Here they have quite cleverly put a roof over the water. Hot afternoon? Cold shower. Fantastic.
We’re social butterflies: In the week I’ve been here, I have already: attended a really lovely yoga class with our really lovely neighbour, gone on a splendid walk with a hiking group (then to a party with them that night where I met more new friends) and been to the beachside cinema where I made friends with a beach dog who can shake hands. In short, we’re very busy and important people, so do be sure to have your people reach out early if you want to schedule a time with us.
Kingboy: I’ve also made friends with the dog who lives at our house. His name is Kingboy, and he is, admittedly, pretty stupid. He likes to chew on rocks and plastic bowls and rags and arms and anything he can get his mouth around. I am in love with him already.
Piglet Rescue: Kingboy had an exciting moment this week when a piglet happened to wander through our gate accidentally. While he looked at it curiously to see if it was worth chewing (the mama pick snarling and cursing at him from the other side), I had the pleasure of distracting him long enough for the little one to get back to its (very angry) mama. It took all my strength not to try and cuddle it.
Chris is here: Last but not least, not only are Chris and I now on the same continent, we’re in the same country, same city and, if you can believe it, same house. We ride in the same car to shop at the same grocery store and watch the same movies on the same tv. In a couple of days we’ll go on the same boat to swim by each other on the same dive. It’s been delightful to simply share the same spaces without a screen between us.
So there you have it, a few observations from my first week in a brand new place. In the time it has taken me to write and post this (see: “internet not strong” section above), I have had even more interesting experiences and made more notes of more tales of woe and wonder to share with you soon. Can’t wait to see what the next week holds!
Last time on Mobilis Divers: Chris was getting chased by pigs and stung by scorpions between sunset visits to the beach, while Noelle made some changes to our end-of-year schedule to accommodate our upcoming nuptials!
All kinds of exciting news to share this month. First and foremost, we have purchased my tickets, and I officially have 62 days until I land in the Possibly Perfect Place!!! Yay!!! I can’t wait to get there. I’m getting bored of Chris sending me amazing photos of beachside sunsets and telling me about all the fabulous nights out he’s having with friends without me being able to join him. I am quite ready to be there so I can start exploring our new home.
Good news for me on that front: I only have 13 workings days left in Utah!
Now that I’ve officially given my notice at work I am feeling quite ready to be done and move on to our new adventures. I did have a few pangs of sadness when I turned in my notice, though. It’s been exactly the job I needed in a lot of ways; I’ve had a regular schedule (for the first time in about six years) and have been doing work that is relatively easy but still requires some mental with-it-ness. It’s helped me get back on my feet mentally and has introduced me to several really good new friends. And, my favorite part, it’s been stress-free enough that I don’t think about work for a second when I am not there. There’s a lot I have learned from this job the last few months, and some important skills and lessons I will take with me into the next phase of my life. Fare thee well, WGU!
On my last day, I will be leaving the office with my backpack in tow and heading straight for the airport to start my Mexican diving adventure! I’m getting really excited about the cenotes and jungles and ruins and margaritas on the beach (or by the private pool of the villa I’m staying at with my wonderful friends). It is going to be fabulous. It’s been a year (a YEAR!) since I’ve been diving for real. My pool dives just haven’t aroused quite the same level of excitement these past few months. I can’t wait to get back out to play with my fishy friends and explore some new puddles.
In other diving holiday news, Chris recently had a week away as well, investigating an area where we are interested in setting up shop. I say a week away, but really it’s about an hour boat ride from our house. This island off the mainland is surrounded by some incredibly healthy reef full of creatures big and small. Chris was as excited about the pipefish as he was about the grey reef sharks. From the accounts I got of his time there (jealousy-inducing photos of his logbook), it sounds like a pretty special place.
Not only is the diving fabulous there, but after his reccy, our dream is starting to feel like it might be a real possibility. The tourist industry is definitely still developing, but the whole time he was there it was full of visiting divers, which bodes well for an up-and-coming dive centre (the coolest up-and-coming dive centre, obviously). I definitely cannot wait to see it myself and do some exploratory dives with him. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be writing to you from the comfort of our own beachfront property!
Here are a few more shots from his visit, for your viewing pleasure:
A couple of other developments this week: we have a new car! and a new flat! and some news we can’t yet reveal!*
Firstly, the car: Isn’t she cute?! From what it sounds like, she quite comfortably seats 3.5 people, which could lead to some interesting negotiations. We’re in the process of choosing her name, so bring on the suggestions!
Secondly, the flat: It happens to work out pretty splendidly that a 2-bedroom place is opening up in the same complex just as I am arriving with Chris’ mum for her visit. Chris will shuffle our stuff next door before we get there and I will put up all the decorations to make it nice and homey after I arrive. Teamwork!
Thirdly, the rest: We have another bit of good news that, unfortunately, is not public yet. You will be the first (in a series of people) to know once it is though!
While I can’t promise this level of excitement and good news in every update. I can say that as I get closer to arriving and am learning more and more about the PPP, I find so much more I want to tell you about. It’s a fascinating country with some really interesting things going on. I’ll do my best to share it all with you along the way!
*Before you ask the question you’re thinking of there, consider Chris and my relative proximity and try again.
Last time on Mobilis Divers: Noelle was anxiously awaiting Chris’ arrival in Utah, while the two of them cobbled together some exciting plans for the rest of the year.
Summer is officially here in Utah. Triple digits are a far cry from the weekly snowstorms we were getting last time I wrote! My parents chose to escape the heat with a multi-month road trip around the country and a quick nip over to the UK. In the meantime, I’ve been tending to our yard and our Airbnb guests. I’m proud to say that this week I harvested my first crop of tomatoes from the vine! Nothing beats the flavour of a sun-drenched tomato. With my basil plant flourishing as well, all I need is a free-range buffalo and I could have all the caprese my Italian-at-heart heart desires!
We’ve had a few notable changes on the agenda since our last update. Perhaps the most significant is that our diving trip over Chris’ winter holidays is now going to be our honeymoon! I’m happy to announce that we got engaged on our fabulous trip to Arches in April (two and a half months ago already, if you can believe it!). While I think a proposal at Delicate Arch would be quite special any time, we got particularly lucky and had the place all to ourselves for the better part of an hour. It was a pretty spectacular morning.
In true Chris and Noelle fashion, we’ve chosen to eat our dessert first. We’re honeymooning this December, but not getting married until next April back in Utah. Due to some complicated bureaucratic requirements, we can’t get married in the UK, but we will have a party there next August. With all that accounted for, we wouldn’t have time for a honeymoon until December 2019. Far too long for impatient travellers!
Also, now that we’re adding one major event to the coming year, we’re removing another. I have decided not to take the diving Instructor course this year after all. Chris has attempted to do some teaching in the Possibly Perfect Place and the dive centres there charge a preposterous amount for access to their boats and gear. It doesn’t make much sense to pay for the course and license if I can’t do anything with it. We’ll wait to see when it makes more sense for our business plans for me to go ahead with it (more on that shortly).
Putting off the course until a more useful time also means I will get to settle into my new home with my new fiancé a little sooner than planned. I’m eager to be with Chris again, get a job and have a normal life there. Plus it looks pretty beautiful, right?
Before you assume the Possibly Perfect Place is the divine paradise those photos suggest, please note the following disclosures:
Behind the photo taker, a family of pigs is wandering around scavenging for dinner
Chris got charged by a (probably) different pig a couple of weeks ago while gathering his laundry. Said pig then charged the landlady (while the guard dog dove under the car for cover). She beat the beast off with an ironing board and climbed the tree to get away. Cleaning ladies there are badass.
Chris also rolled over one evening to find a crab staring him down from the hallway and was stung by a scorpion while packing up his bag this morning.
Still, they know how to do sunsets, eh?!
It’s definitely going to be an adventure there, to say the least. I must admit, despite all the animal encounters, the anxiety that has started bubbling up recently is mainly around not finding a job and being home bored and lonely again all day. I never understood the meaning of being “bored out of one’s mind” until I found myself having lengthy discussions with my potted plants in Muscat. Although I am sure the plants in the PPP are equally friendly and have many tales to tell, I’d rather they’re not my main source of company. While I can’t predict how the job hunt will go, I can say that Chris has got quite a cool group of friends around him already. Having a soft landing into an instant community of cool and caring people certainly eases some of my worries.
If I don’t find a job, however, perhaps it means it’s time for us to dive into this whole dive centre thing after all. We are starting to feel like we might be maybe at a point of perhaps thinking about getting this thing going…possibly…theoretically. It’s a big deal, guys! We’re totally freaked out but also really excited.
The first step will be getting the business registered. Chris’ boss has his own business on the side there, so it’s been really helpful to get a better idea of what is involved in that (Stamps, basically. Lots of stamps – as per usual). We’ll likely have to hire someone to help us get that going, and it’s a nice start to get recommendations from others who have gone before us on who to trust with that kind of thing.
Once the official stuff is out of the way, we’ve got some ideas for how we can start pretty small and run some dives or courses on the weekends when Chris isn’t working. It’ll be an investment, but not a fortune, and it will, hopefully, allow us to get a better idea of how viable the whole idea actually is.
When we start talking about our plans, we (I say “we”, but obviously I mean “I”) quickly go from the practical discussions of how many tanks and sets of gear we’ll need, to where we will hide all the nudis for everyone to find. I mean really, how cool would it be for guests to hunt for these around the shop??
Anyway. I digress. Sort of. It’s the little touches that make me most excited – like figuring out how to make cool starfish bean bags and how to best to stock the log book decorating supplies. I know those are a lower priority than getting a compressor, for example, but they’re also kind of not. Lots of people run dive centres and lots of them feel pretty much the same. I am excited about making ours a reflection of the things we love, particularly if that means it’s a cool, comfy place full of nerdy divers poring over fishy reference books to find the one obscure creature they found that morning. I sincerely hope you can come visit us there one day!
Last time on Mobilis Divers: Chris and Noelle tried to console each other from a distance over the loss of their sweet little kitten. It didn’t work very well. Noelle made a promise to appreciate life’s small joys in honor of her sun-basking, tree-scratching, bird-watching friend.
Only 9 days until Chris is here!
We’ve got a few things planned, but bringing him to southern Utah is probably the one I’m most excited about. I’ve made a list of all my favorite places to take him, and while most of them I’m keeping a secret (mostly to annoy him), I cannot hide the fact that I am so ready to share Delicate Arch with him. I spent so much of my childhood playing around this epic masterpiece. When I’m having a bad day, I often imagine myself there – basking in the sun, the red sandstone warming my back, lizards darting in and out of rocks nearby. I could really do with some of its restorative magic right about now. I can’t wait to get there. And I can’t wait for Chris to see it in person.
He is pretty ready for a break from his developing-nation life, too. This week’s Third World problem? He went to the store to buy some electricity (yeah, you read that right) and they told him, “No have electricity. Electricity finished. Tomorrow maybe electricity.” The power wasn’t out, mind you, they just did not have any electricity to sell. They also “no had” eggs, despite the fact that there are chickens literally all around you all the time. Oh Asia.
Good news though: this weekend, he’s moving out of the ghetto (with it’s yapping dogs, crowing roosters, screaming kids and booming music) and over to the other side of town, near the beach. It sounds like a great setup. He’s already got friends who live in the same complex, which is fabulous, and it’s a less hectic part of town. It’ll be a little more effort to get to the pubs and dive shops when he wants to, but it’ll be worth the tradeoff to have a place that feels a little more like a home.
Speaking of moving…drum roll please…it looks likely I’ll be moving to the Possibly Perfect Place in January!! That’s right, folks. The next phase of Operation: Let’s Get This Party Started is just around the corner.
I’ve thought about joining him sooner (the more snow we get here, the more jealous I get of him being on a gorgeous, tropical island without me), but I’m really looking forward to spending the summer with my friends and family here. There’s nothing quite like BBQ season in America. Plus I’ve got art festivals and first birthdays and weekend visits out-of-state I’m very excited about. Once I’ve had my summer fun and the leaves and snow have started to fall, I’ll pack up my bags and head out for the next adventure. As per usual, however, with our silly way of doing things, I’ll have to make a few quick stops in Mexico, London, and Bali (and maybe New Zealand and Fiji, of course) along the way.
Why all the hopping around? Well, I’d really like to have the scuba diving Instructor course finished before I settle into the new place. I was originally thinking of doing it here in Utah, but it’s really expensive (nearly $4000!). We have friends at two shops in Bali where we know the instruction will be top-notch and they both have courses starting in mid-November for about a thousand dollars less. It’s the perfect time for me to get the course done before Chris’ winter break starts but before I potentially start working and have to worry about getting a month off to study (side note: we’ve been looking a lot at jobs for me there – too early, but still fun to do – and it looks like there’s some great potential! More on that as we get closer.)
As for his winter holidays, he has about a month off, so we’re thinking of hopping over to New Zealand to see Hobbiton, visit a friend, do some hiking and maybe meet my parents for Christmas as they’d already been planning to visit about that time. And, you know, with Fiji being so close by…well we’re definitely tempted, to say the least.
Before I leave the Americas, though, I’d really love to dive the cenotes in Mexico. It seems a shame to be so close and not get to them before I go. A few friends and I are trying to get a little trip together in October, which I’m really excited about. I’m looking forward to the Angelita cenote, in particular. It’s a strange place with fresh water on top, salt water below and a cloud of white sulphur between. Because of the color difference and the small island that peeks up just above the sulphur, it looks like an underwater lake.
It’s felt good to see our plans for the rest of the year slowly take shape. We’re excited about the fact that we might both be able to work, which would make starting our own place a lot less stressful financially. We’re excited about the new place Chris is moving to, which is likely to be our next home together. We’re excited about the store having more electricity to sell now, which means we can carry on Skyping. But mostly we’re excited for nine days from now when we’ll both be on the same continent!
Last time on Mobilis Divers:Chris and Noelle accepted the reality that there is no Perfect Place. They started to see some obstacles on the road ahead but remembered that even though living their dream might not be easy, the adventure will be worth it.
Four weeks from today, Chris will be in Utah. And not a moment too soon. It’s been a really hard week for us. Our sweet little kitty passed away in a heartbreaking accident a few days ago and it’s been impossibly difficult for me to deal with on my own. It’s been awful and shocking and insanely painful. He was my constant companion and playmate for the last couple of years. I miss him terribly. All I want to do was put my head on Chris’ shoulder and cry on the couch. Instead, we are forced to sit face to face, a glass wall between us, trying to console each other with words at a time where there aren’t any that matter at all. We do the best we can, but Skype hugs just aren’t the same as real hugs, and the distance has felt all too real.
I’ve seriously contemplated packing up my stuff, getting on a plane and fleeing from the constant reminders of my beautiful kitten that are still scattered around the house. But it’s better, I guess, to be in a place where we were together every day and where I loved him endlessly as I come to terms with my new reality. It’s still too raw for me to work through right now, and, to be honest, I am not particularly interested in getting over it at the moment. Getting over it feels like letting him slip from my memory, and that is my biggest fear of all. All I want to do is cry in the shower and hug his toys as if touching something he touched will let me feel him again.
It’s ironic really, I came home to heal. I came home to be surrounded by family and friends, to bask in their love and affection, to feel the joy of belonging, to regroup, recover and get ready for the next adventure. I did not expect to experience a fresh new pain. I suppose, though, there is no better place to be when you find yourself in the midst of a profound loss. My parents have been deeply comforting, allowing me to be messy and raw and snotty as much as I need to. My friends have surrounded me with love, consolation, kindness and photos of their babies being adorable to distract me, even if it’s just for a moment.
A couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of one of Carl Sagan’s philosophies: living creatures are made of the same matter as the universe and are, therefore, the cosmos way of experiencing itself. There’s no soul I know who took this purpose to heart more than my cat. The world was his playground and everything was his toy. He scratched every tree, chased every bird, watched every squirrel, basked in every ray of sun. If there was something to climb, he climbed it. If there was a door he could open, he opened it. If there was a yoga mat to shred, he shredded it. He lived so fully, so presently, all day every day. And he lapped up joy wherever he could find it, whether it was on a sun-drenched bed or in a cuddle under the blankets.
Although I don’t feel up to it right this moment – and I don’t think I will for a while – the only way I feel I can truly honor his spirit and the joy he brought to my life is to try to live like he did. To embody his constant playfulness. To embrace his shameless indulgence in life’s smallest pleasures. To be cautious but brave. To be curious and experimental. To be endlessly sweet and comforting. To be choosy about who I love, but to love the ones I do with all I’ve got. And to live every day with the sole purpose of experiencing the world as deeply and thoroughly as I can in the time I have.
HG Wells once said, “Losing your way on a journey is unfortunate. But losing your reason for the journey is a fate more cruel.” I came here to heal and get ready for our next adventure. It’s awful that I’ve had to take a step back in that process to grieve the loss of a companion I loved so deeply. But Chris will be here soon and we have all kinds of adventures planned. And this fall, I will quit my job and move across the world to explore a new country, meet new friends, hike up new mountains and dive into new waters. Along the way, I’ll be sure to roll in the grass, splash in the puddles and bask in the rays of sun, because that’s what my sweet kitty would have done.