SCUBA. part 3 – my final dive.

2 02 2011

We’re not even going to talk about how long it’s been since I’ve posted a blog.  Eek.

I left off with me getting the bends.  I had them, they were not fun, and I’m glad to report that my new fancy international health insurance covers scuba related accidents.  Too little too late?  Some might say, especially after reading this next (and final) part of my scuba adventure…

I had decided that the bends incident was a one time thing.  Beginner’s (bad) luck.  I learned my lesson, I would do better next time.  To prove my point, that this was a one time incident, I asked Cynde to go dive with me again at the same place.  Maeda Point is a beautiful area of Okinawa and a great place to dive or even just snorkel if that’s more your style.

It’s always crowded, but once you get in the water, you hardly notice the other divers.  The water is that color of blue and aqua and turquoise that mixes together and you don’t really even know what color it is anymore.

Cynde and I once again suited up and got going.  We decided to dive along the reef wall which is a pretty safe area.  She knew I was nervous after the last time, and I fully appreciated that she was willing to ease up a little bit.  We were diving down to depth, and for whatever insane reason, I decided it wouldn’t be a big deal to go below 60 feet.  Again.  And it wasn’t a big deal until right around 70 feet when it started to feel like my eyes were being sucked out of my head.  I cannot even begin to find the words to explain the feeling in my face, in my sinuses.  I was terrified.  It was a battle to blink and reopen my eyes.  The pressure that was pushing against my eyes was unbelievable and was growing with every inch that we swam deeper into the ocean.  I had been trying to chase Cynde, she was leading our dive, and finally I just stopped knowing she would turn around eventually.  Once again, I was in panic mode – holding my regulator to my mouth, forcing myself to breathe and to keep blinking.  Even after all of these months have gone by, I remember at the time thinking I should try to clear my mask, but could I somehow blind myself by doing that?  Now let’s be real for a moment.  Could I have actually blinded myself?  Doubtful.  But at that point I was scared to mess any part of my equipment.  I can’t imagine the insane fear I would have felt if I had tried to take my mask off or what it would have felt like to have cold saltwater rushing to and burning my eyes.  But imagine if you will, having those kinds of thoughts while being 80 feet underwater.  Somewhere in the madness of these feelings I remembered that we had to do the safety stop this time around so at least I wouldn’t have the bends along with being blind.  I didn’t even bother putting air in my BCD, I just swam myself to the top with one hand on my weight belt (in case I freaked out and needed to throw it off) and one hand on my regulator so I didn’t spit it out.  When we finally broke through the top of the water, I’ve never been so happy to be breathing in fresh air.

Cynde was great through all of this.  I told her I was feeling weird, explained about my eyes and how my sinuses were feeling crazy and she said it was totally fine not to go back under.  She kept saying this is supposed to be fun and I kept thinking, when are we going to get to THAT part of this so called “recreational sport?”  We continued snorkeling around for a little while, seeing beautiful tiny fish, half of their bodies sky blue and the other half neon pink.  We saw a school of angel fish and a few Nemos.  I wasn’t enjoying this at all, none of it, and I decided that that was enough for the day.  We finally went back to shore after what felt like a lifetime and I truly can’t remember ever being so thankful to get out of the water.  I had sinus problems when I was a kid (I’ll mention here I checked “no” to the box that asked that specific question in dive class – the questionnaire that if you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you should not scuba dive) and I chalked it up to a mixture of that and the weird weather on Okinawa.  I was going to live to dive another day.

I had to work the night of that fateful dive.  No big deal.  I got home from Maeda, took a shower, ate some lunch, went to work.  Work was fine, went off without a hitch.  Got back to the apartment and Jesse was still awake, I remember he was brushing his teeth.  He was just staring at me from the bathroom.  I thought he was upset with me about something from the way he was looking at me.  He spit out his toothpaste, rinsed his mouth as usual, took another squinted look at me and said, “What the hell’s wrong with your face?” and grabbed it between his hands.  I suppose I should have been offended, it’s not usually smiled upon when your boyfriend asks what’s wrong with your face.  But I figured I already knew what the hell was going to be wrong with it before I ever looked in the mirror.  Hello fear, old friend, welcome back!

Earlier in the day I had talked to Jesse about the dive and how bizarre my eyes and face had felt.  He had told me that that maybe it wasn’t a good idea if I continued diving.  I thought he was being a sweet, overprotective boyfriend, and I reassured him I would be and was completely fine.  I was just having a few strange dives.  I was thinking about our conversation right before I turned to look in the mirror.  I don’t know if it was the lighting in the restaurant or that people were just being nice by not saying anything, but I looked awful.  Tiny freckle sized blood bumps had appeared all over my eyelids and under my eyes.  From a distance, they truly looked like freckles, but up close there was no mistaking it.  Again, Jesse politely said, maybe that’s enough for your diving career huh?  We started googling dive injuries and found some really awful pictures of far more unfortunate people than I.  Here’s a good example.

Looks pretty awesome, right?  This guy had apparently gone so far as to pop the blood vessels inside his eyes, at least I managed not to do that.  I went to bed that night feeling sad and discouraged, scuba diving was NOT supposed to be this much of a buzzkill.  And oh it gets better.

By the time I woke up the next morning, I had what’s known as raccoon eyes, you can imagine what that looked like.  Now added to the blood bumps were bruises all around my eyes and  on my cheeks.  Again, thank goodness, they weren’t so awful that you would think I had gotten into a fight with a butch Marine.  Jesse just shook his head and on his way out the door to work told me, more or less, I should NEVER dive again.  I was finally starting to believe him.  If you’ll remember from my previous blog, our kitchen manager Dana-san had been a rescue and master diver.  He took one look at my face at work the next day and basically repeated what Jesse had already told me.  Stephanie-san!  No more diving, ne?  Hai Dana-san, yes.  No more diving.  He told me in broken English and a little Japanese that I was lucky.  The blood bumps I DID have were a sure sign I was on my way to popping the blood vessels in my eyes.  Can you imagine doing that ever in your life?  Let alone underwater?  Ugh.  Jesse was relieved this hadn’t happened because he was afraid people were going to start thinking he abused me.  Given my clumsiness and my affinity for developing bruises by barely bumping a chair, it was a legitimate concern.   I refused to let him take any pictures of me with the blood bumps and bruises, but here is the one picture I have from my short lived diving adventure :


yes, it's really me under all of that mess.

Needless to say, I haven’t been diving since all of this happened.  I wouldn’t just come out and say I would never dive again, so Jesse and I made a deal.  I promised I wouldn’t go diving while he was away with work.  That way if something serious did happen, at least he would be on island and would be able to know immediately instead of finding out two weeks later in some incredibly underdeveloped country and not being able to do anything about it.  I figured fair enough.  Given that my success rate was now somewhere at 33%, I couldn’t really push the envelope with that one.  And if we’re being honest, I wanted nothing to do with it anymore.  Of course I couldn’t just say that at the time – no way.  I had to be proud and stubborn and a little bit annoyed that my loving boyfriend asked this of me.  But truth be told, I’m glad he made me promise and he really didn’t have to twist my arm to do it.

And here we are again, as spring is fast approaching in Okinawa.  I’m hoping to dive again – someday.  For now though, I’ll stick with the snorkeling and the life vests.  What could possibly go wrong there?  Trust me, if something can, I’ll find out soon enough and you can expect a report back.  Thanks for being patient with my lack of writing.  While you may not care for an explanation, one is coming.  I’m just trying to figure out how to word it without being whiney or obnoxious woe is me.  Love you guys, thanks for keeping up with this.



and alas, an update.

2 09 2010

So….. I suck.  I suck at updating.  I know this, I have embraced this.  I was so good for a while! And then, nothing.  There are so many updates I don’t even know where to start, but I’m going to give it a go.

For starters, I’ve moved.  I loved my house, absolutely loved it and I had finally even embraced the random animal noises at all times of day and night.  I liked my neighbors though I’m not sure they would say the same about me.  There was a little old man who always managed to be around when I got home from work in the middle of the day.  I never did figure out where he came from, he didn’t live in the house next to me nor the apartments on the other side, but I did finally figure out his name – Tomoya.  I know it’s silly but I miss seeing him when I get home from work.  When I first moved into that house, he was the constant in my life – always there with a smile and saying hello.

But now, I have a new man in my life.  While his actual presence on this island is far from constant, his smile and greeting are both far more important than Tomoya-sans.  TB and I have been together for going on 6 months now.  Things are great with us.  We have managed to fall into a routine…well, make that two routines.  One while he’s on island and one while he’s away.  And while that was not an easy adjustment, the constant travel, it was a necessary one.  At some point it became ridiculous that we were living in two different places.  We were together constantly, shuttling back and forth between two places in two different parts of town 20 minutes apart.  The yen rate was and is awful – I was losing about $200-$300 dollars in the exchange rate every month when I was paying rent.  I was talking about moving anyway and over enchiladas and pilaf, TB asked me to move in.  I was a little shocked and taken aback but quickly realized, OF COURSE.  You love me, I love you, let’s do it.  So here we are.  No more driving between two houses to turn on or off the dehumidifiers, leave money for the lawn guy.  No more 4 am PT wake up calls because the base was so far from my house (instead it’s an alarm going off at 5am…).  It’s cooking dinner, drinking wine, and hanging out on the balcony.  Watching an episode of Modern Family and going to bed – at 9 pm.  And I love it.

Alright, alright.  Enough of the sappy, moving on.  I have recently (and by recently I mean yesterday) survived my first typhoon.  It was a harrowing experience, one I never want to live through again, one I don’t think I could survive…. Wait, what?  Lies, all lies.  Lots of hype, not so much on the actual event.  TB is, as you can probably guess, on another trip, which means I really was home for this experience by myself.   I don’t know about you, but when I hear typhoon, my brain hears hurricane Katrina.  We found out about it on Sunday evening, heard we were probably going to get some activity on Monday night but that it would be a small one.  And it was, right up until it wasn’t.  Turns out if a tropical storm is moving fairly quickly and then hits a huge patch of warm water, it will essentially stop and double in size.  Our tropical storm (soon declared typhoon Kompasu) did this – not once but twice.  It slowed down so much that it arrived almost a full 24 hours later than what was first reported.

Was I scared?  Yes.  Of course.  Again, I’m thinking Katrina! Katrina! Katrina!  We live on the 6th floor of an 18 floor apartment building that’s on the ocean.  I was convinced the glass was going to shatter out of every ceiling to floor length window in the apartment, thus allowing water and wind to just blow wildly into our house, destroying all the electronics, making flying projectiles out of the coffee machine and laundry basket.  I was about to die.  You could say my imagination runs a little off track in a possible disaster situation.  I moved my giant egg chair, a satellite dish, a beach chair, 3 pairs of shoes and diving gear in from the balcony.  The egg basket portion of the chair ended up in front of the fridge so that when the windows violently exploded, it couldn’t fly.  The TV, xbox, Wii, and all other electronics were promptly removed from the living room.  I unplugged all other electronics and strategically placed them behind objects that couldn’t be moved by 70 knot winds.  Essentially, I overreacted.

By the time we went into TC-1E at 6 pm, I was more annoyed than scared.  We had been hearing about this “typhoon” since Sunday.  One would think awful weather, at least a little rain and wind, but no.  It was beautiful all day Monday and most of yesterday.  There were people out riding bikes, people at the ocean.  It was a sunny, beautiful day.  Because of my fear, I had now been cooped up inside this apartment with barely a light breeze outside.  Without going into the huge explanation of the typhoon condition system, TC-1E is the emergency level of the system.  It means yo, keep your butt inside, this mess is here NOW.  All of a sudden it was BLACK outside.  Huge, scary dark gray ominous clouds were rolling in off the ocean, I was literally watching this storm hit.  I literally watched the sea level raise about 5 feet and waves were crashing in the fishing port across the street.  Steps that usually lead down to boats had disappeared.  Something fabulous I discovered about the apartment last night was that somehow the architecture allows no wind to hit our balcony.  It was amazing.  I had a front row seat to this thing, clearly all of my fear had left me.  And what’s that?  Okinawians are still out driving around?  Yes.  Typhoons are like a joke to them.  They make fun of the scared Americans, put away the sun umbrellas, bust out the golf umbrellas and go to the grocery store.  Go surfing, go to the bar.  Activities as normal.  And while I wasn’t that brave, I was still going stir crazy.  I had now been in the apartment for 18 hours waiting for this thing.  I wanted a better look.  I opened the front door to go downstairs and get an ice cream cone….except, I couldn’t open the front door.  I checked all 3 locks, all undone.  I pushed all of my body weight against the door only to barely have it budge.  But that was enough.  The howling noise of the wind and the beating of the rain against the door was enough to make me give up and respect this thing a little more.

Eventually, the rain stopped and the wind died down.  The electricity never went out and thanks to our amazing builders, rain never even touched the wall-sized windows that were BOUND to shader at any moment.  TB made me promise to use his headlamp if anything happened and sadly, I put it away without ever turning it on (trust me, had I needed to use it, there would have been a self portrait for sure).

So now the apartment is back to it’s normal state of disaster – clothes everywhere, dishes to be done, my organizing projects strewn across every surface.  All outdoor furniture has been returned to it’s balcony home and the electronics have been plugged back in.  The coffee machine is back on the counter along with the  all of the picture frames.  Herbert the beta fish was lucky enough to sleep in our room last night but has since been returned to his normal space.  I have to work today after having an extra day off thanks to our typhoon, I had my morning skype date with TB and will have our nightly Google chat here in a few hours.  The laundry machine is up and running again regardless of not being able to read what cycle it’s really on (all Japanese appliances = instructions in kanji) and I’m back to typing on the couch staring at the ocean.  I appreciate that the only thing that shows there was a typhoon yesterday is that the ocean is a hideous color of green and brown from everything being churned up on the bottom of the ocean.  If nothing else, Okinawa is disaster prepared (need I remind you about the earthquakes?  NOT fun in a 18 story building).

I think that’s going to be all for now.  I won’t guarantee another update this week, but I will try.  Thank you for being patient with me while I work out how to have a normal life here and still keep in touch with the States.  You would think a year would have been enough time to figure it out, but hey.  It’s all I got.