Episode 11: 5…4…3…2…1…

Last time on Mobilis Divers: Noelle was a few days away from short-term retirement, while Chris was breaking in our new car, packing up for our new flat and getting ready to announce his other big news. 

Since we talked last, quite a lot has happened! I quit my job, packed up my life, had a quick trip to Mexico (where I went diving in eerie caves, climbed crumbling ruins and laughed heartily with great friends) and flew to London, where I have spent the last two weeks catching up with more friends, family and favourite foods.

Diving in Angelita Cenote. It was as creepy as it looks.
A healthy sheen of jungle sweat on three lovely faces after we climbed to the top of the ruins in Coba.
The gorgeous courtyard at our guest house.
Matilda, the feisty kitty that let me harass her with endless cuddles and play sessions for a couple of days.
A perfect rainbow over the Dunstable Downs.
Cream tea, of course!
My favourite Tiffany. Another sassy cat I miss terribly when I am not in London.

Chris has also had some excitement in his life the last few weeks! We are finally free to share the big news I mentioned last time: he has officially been promoted to Senior Teacher, starting in January! He’s already begun doing some curriculum planning and other bigger picture duties for his new role and is genuinely loving it. He derives immense joy from designing good courses and materials for his students (nerds are the best), so it is a perfect position for him. It’s wonderfully uplifting to see him enjoying his work so much.

Although he’s been quite busy getting ready for his new job, he has managed to get in some good adventures too. Between his diving weekends and hiking days, he’s seen some gorgeous parts of the country lately. On his last trip across the channel, he saw a pod of 10 or so sperm whales and a super pod of 200+ dolphins!

Suspiciously whale-shaped bumps.
Not a bad cameraman! I shall keep him.
The view from his home-away-from-home on the island. Hammock, beach, sunset…it’s been hard for him.

He also witnessed an event (sadly without a camera) that illustrates quite clearly how life will be much different in our new home. A restaurant recently opened about a ten-minute walk from our house, and every Friday they set up a big screen on the beach while the standard, wildly colourful sunset blooms across the sand and sky. After darkness falls, everyone sits around sipping beers, watching a movie together. It all sounds desperately romantic until I receive messages like this:

Five days from now, I’ll be setting foot in this strange, beautiful, messy, hilarious, romantic, chaotic place. It will be a relief to be with Chris again and a joy and pleasure to learn what makes the country tick. It is also certain to be frustrating and irritating at times, and I may have to dodge the occasionally charging pig or skittering scorpion. It’s a real place, with some real beauty and some real complexity. Only time will tell what our lives will look like there and how we will fit into the scene. All I know is that it will be delightful to finally be figuring it all out hand in hand with my favourite adventure buddy.

Grey Reef Shark/carcharrhinus Perezi

 

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Episode 10: Let the Countdown Begin

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!

Hello again!

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.

sunset in again

sunset on beach

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!

My new job will be somewhere down in that pretty little city.

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.

Chris + frogfish. Can you see his little face? The frogfish, I mean.

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.

A mushroom coral pipefish in soft coral. I love how its face looks like a little dragon
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A funky nudi (but aren’t they all?)

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:

Market time on the island.
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I didn’t know Ferrari did a line in boats!
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The island airport: Terminal in the distance, runway and a plane small enough it is almost hidden by bushes.

A couple of other developments this week: we have a new car! and a new flat! and some news we can’t yet reveal!*

New Car

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!

pygmy seahorse

*Before you ask the question you’re thinking of there, consider Chris and my relative proximity and try again.

Episode 3: Strange Dreams

Last time on Mobilis Divers: The Possibly Perfect Place started to look like it could be a real thing, but with some challenges. Noelle got anxious about the challenges. We modified the plans. The universe ignored us completely. 

“Some people get a strange dream, then that dream opens a new future or new life or new connections with other people” – Dalai Lama

So there we were, making plans to take a little breather in Utah before jumping head first into this strange dream of ours. I was busy selling things off, packing what was left and getting the cat ready to go. My friends and family at home were busy finding spare rooms for us to live in, looking for job opportunities, and planning holiday parties.

Then Chris got an email.

You see, the first day after we returned from our Summer of Three Places, we started talking to people about our interest in the Possibly Perfect Place. We wanted to get a feel for it from those who have actually spent time on the ground, so we reached out to people who live there and people who have travelled and dived there. In the process, one of Chris’s co-workers casually said, “You’ll never find a job there!”

The idea of either of us getting a job hadn’t really crossed our minds. We were always focused on the idea of starting our own business, not working for someone else. But the suggestion of it made Chris curious. It could help us out a lot with some of the challenges we felt like we were facing. For example, getting a job would mean earning money instead of spending it while we check the place out. It would also give us more time to explore it in depth: looking into the logistics of setting up the business, finding potential sites, making contacts and getting a really good lay of the land before we jump into anything.

Chris hopped online to see if his colleague was right about jobs being so rare, and what would you know but a position had been posted that day in exactly his area of expertise? We certainly didn’t expect that! In a mad dash, he updated his resume and sent off his application. Then we heard nothing. For weeks.

I can’t say I was totally heartbroken that they hadn’t replied. The opportunity sounded great and all (you can’t deny the freakishly good timing), but I was really looking forward to us having some time together for a few low-stress months, something I don’t know if we’ve ever really had before. I knew he was probably the most qualified person applying for the job, but as the weeks rolled by without a peep, I relaxed more and more into the reality of our Utah plans.

When he got the email requesting an interview. I was not wholly enthusiastic. To put it truthfully, I dissolved into a snotty, teary heap. It felt like once again the plans we made were being ripped up in front of our eyes. I knew I could not go with him, I just didn’t have it in me. I still needed rest and that still needed to be in Utah because it’s simply the easiest place for me to go. A small, annoyingly excited voice inside of me did keep twittering that, despite my anger and frustration over the timing, this job presented a really great opportunity for us and our future. I wanted to punch that voice, but I was forced to give it the stink eye it instead.

freaks-geeks-stink-eye

When he got the email offering him the job, I would like to say I was prepared and excited and ready to accept this crazy twist of fate. But no, I dissolved into a snotty, teary heap. Now that it was a real possibility, I started thinking about how our day-to-day lives would look, and I didn’t love it. The Possibly Perfect Place is far from Utah, so far it is actually nearly an antipode. With the time difference (if we’re both working typical hours) one will be working while the other is sleeping, which means we’ll probably only be able to talk to each other on the weekends. And knowing the American system, I was keenly aware that once I got a job I would not be able to go visit him because I simply would not have the time to. His job offer felt like the last nail in the coffin of our relaxing, refreshing time together. Because it was. And it totally sucked.

On the other hand, when the emotions subsided and I let that small, annoyingly excited voice actually say its piece, I couldn’t deny the coincidence. What are the chances that we would say “Let’s go check out this place in January” and a job in that exact place (a pretty remote and unknown one) at that exact time would magically appear? Although it will be really hard for us to be 8,000+ miles apart (for we don’t know how long), in terms of our big-picture hopes it certainly makes more sense for Chris to be there, checking out the possibilities, than in Utah spending his days doing crossword puzzles while I’m at work. Plus, every relationship needs a time where you have to communicate through long-form letters in lieu of face-to-face time, right?

Once we accepted the new state of affairs, things continued to slot into place without us doing much. We managed to sell off nearly all of the things in our house and one of our cars without actually trying. And Chris got a surprise week off, which he was able to use to go back to the UK to visit his family (he had planned to in January but wouldn’t be able to with the new job starting then). All too easy… It feels like, after so many years of trying to land somewhere and make things work, this opportunity is simply – and tenaciously – presenting itself to us on a silver platter.

very-good-sir

 

I suppose the Dalai Lama is the renowned and respected man he is because he happens to understand how the world works. He simply accepts that strange dreams can lead to new futures, new lives and new people. We, on the other hand, didn’t have His Holiness’ wisdom to recognise that once we voiced our dream it might take on a life of its own and we’d just be along for the ride.

Exciting News!

One of the big ticket items on our Things To Do To Open Our Own Dive Centre list is: get industry experience. We’ve both been doing some guiding with our local shop, but since July, when he finished his course, Chris has been hoping to get some teaching experience under his belt.

Today, a couple of potential students reached out and are interested in booking. Woot! It is an exciting day at our house. Lesson plans are being made, learning materials are getting themselves organised and office supplies are being discussed. We’re both pretty happy about it, but Chris, in particular, is ready to get his feet wet as an instructor.

A couple of weeks from now we might be able to cross another big item off the list! Woot!!

Now what?

This seems to be a real thing, folks. We have looked deeply into each others and made a plan to stay in Oman for one more year and then head off into the great unknown and start our own thang.

Now what?

Where do we go from here?

It seems like such a huge project: find a place we want to live, buy or build our own business (in a foreign country), settle in and make it our home and our life for the next 10, 15 or 20 years (who knows?).

And what about all the other stuff before that? Will we have enough money? What legal realities do we need to be aware of? What will we do with our kitty?

We’ve got a lot on our minds these days. And while it’s all terribly exciting, we are also a little overwhelmed.

Today’s project:

Start this blog for real. We want to share our experiences, our ideas, our plans and our fears here, mostly as a way to get them out of our heads and onto “paper”. We’re hoping this will help us organise the project and keep us accountable for nudging things forward a little every day.

Let’s see where it takes us.

 

Underwater Photography – Tips from a Total Newbie (Pt. 2)

Last week we looked at some of the equipment you might need underwater as well as issues around light and color. This week, we’ll talk about underwater logistics – how to position yourself, how to manage your movement and how to avoid getting eaten while you’re immersed in your shot. Continue reading “Underwater Photography – Tips from a Total Newbie (Pt. 2)”

Underwater Photography – Lessons from a total newbie

Let’s just clarify something from the beginning. I am not a photographer. That is to say, I rarely take photos (on land or in the water) that I would see as sellable or of much artistic merit. I do love taking photos though, and diving into the underwater world has been a really fun adventure. It takes all the difficulty of photography on land and adds the elements of movement (of both you and the subject), unpredictable light and inconsistent colors. Yay!

Needless to say, there’s been a steep learning curve, but in using tips and tricks I’ve been shown along the way, my shots have improved a LOT in just the few weeks I have been doing them. In this series, I want to show you the progress from my first underwater shot to my best and all the tips I learned along the way. Hopefully it will help you with your practice too! Continue reading “Underwater Photography – Lessons from a total newbie”

Sharks: The Americans of the Seas

When people ask where I’m from, I usually say, “America” (unless we’ve recently done something terribly embarrassing, in which case I fall back on, “Canada”). The problem is, the moment that word leaves my lips, I can see the instant judgements, stereotypes and classifications flick into place behind the listener’s eyes.

Shark Illustrations-001

When pushed for more detail, I give my home state of Utah, which triggers questions about Mormons, polygamists and (from the more interesting stranger) land-speed records.

We all know that no matter what we call ourselves or how we choose to identify, we are thrown into a box by the person on the judging end. And none of us are plopped in a more restrictive box than sharks.

Shark Illustrations

Much like Americans looks like this in the minds of many outsiders,

Shark1

sharks are simplified to this: Continue reading “Sharks: The Americans of the Seas”

Tips for Newbies: Distract Yourself

I wouldn’t call myself a tenured diver, but with almost 38 dives under my weight belt in the last year, I am certainly not a total newbie. Still, I struggle sometimes with panic. It’s one of those things that gets in everyone’s head from time to time, and we all have to find a way to manage it.

It’s particularly important to find a way to deal with it underwater, where running to the exit is not always a great option. The fact that I shouldn’t leave often makes my panic double back on itself and grow stronger as I feel more and more trapped.

Mind games like this are frustrating, but they are, after all, just games, and they can be played from both sides. In the past I’ve tried a few strategies for the fear: I’ve tried talking myself through it. I’ve tried rationing with it. I’ve tried shouting at it. Nothing really worked, though, and I found another level of panic set in when I got scared my diving days were over because I couldn’t get my head around these moments. Continue reading “Tips for Newbies: Distract Yourself”