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Underwater world

03.05.00 3pm. Theory session. Alex from Germany would put on video after video (3) in this tiny air-con (thanks God!) classroom and leave me there to soak it all in while she chatted outside with her mates, the real divers. I was feeling like the apprentice of whom no one thinks much, surrounded by the experienced ones who are kind and understanding towards me. Coke after coke I learned the principles of diving watching all these silly looking people on the screen. Equipment names very confusing. In between, Alex would come, review the contents of each lesson with me and do a little test.
Next morning, waken up luckily by a ghekko singing, class started at 9am. The fourth video. Soon after we took a boat with other divers (French and German) who were diving for the day, Alex and another (German) instructor.
They dropped Alex and me off at Chicken Island and left.
There in the shallow water we put on the super heavy gear -while being eaten by small nasty creatures- and went through the different skills. Mask, no mask, breathing, no breathing, inflated, deinflated, weight, buoyancy and stuff. Not too painful. Then we went for a little dive. It was fun. We went down 12m for 45mins and saw corals and fishes of all colors and shapes.
We joined the other divers for lunch on the beach and went to another dive site. Diving, I was always next to Alex and every now and then we stopped to practice some skills. We were talking under water. It's quite amazing the new communication language that you learn to use. There are some standard signs of course but there's also some kind of instinctive very expressive body (or water body I should say) language which is also unique to each individual. She hadn't told me anything we would be doing during the dive so in the 55mins dive at 10m, everything we "discussed" underwater as we went along. The eyes! become so expressive, the hands also.

She pointed out to me all the different rare fish specimens and plants, many of them very well hidden or disguised. It was amazing. Weird shapes and colors, strange movements, mysterious life. We reached some kind of canyon between two colorful coral mountains underwater. The canyon was on a slope going upwards and very narrow. It looked as something I could have never imagined existing in the underwater world, it was also a bit dark and scary. As we got closer, a current seemed to suck me in towards the canyon. Instinctively I reached for Alex hand and she pulled me away from the current and around the corals.
Apparently I had been really good on my first day and they were shocked by my low consumption of air.

Back at the diving center, the cleaning up the gear ritual with one of the experienced divers taking the piss out of me. It's lots of work, diving. Exhausted, a bit more theory and home.
Next day we would leave at 8am. This time on a big boat and a big group of divers. There were two families of Japanese with five kids and two nannies. All very noisy and wearing their own hi-tech gear since they got up from bed. There was also a young Japanese couple and a Scottish bloke. The two German teachers plus a Japanese one and the Thai crew. It was almost three hours to the first diving site; I was trying to sleep on a mat on the top deck amidst crying, screaming and running around kids.
The first dive was a wreck and everyone jumped off the boat except the Scottish bloke and I. He'd done that dive already and I wasn't allowed because of the currents and inexperience. The Scottish bloke said there was no much to see anyway. He'd been diving for seven years and was a diving Master. He recommended Indonesia as the best place to dive ever. He's been living in Bangkok for five years building the underground, working with the Government. Before that he was living in Vietnam, and before, and before,...

After that we went to a really busy diving spot. There were quite a few boats. I had bigger fins than yesterday (which were tiny and not powerful at all) which I wore with booties. For some reason, I found really hard to move at all, I couldn't control my movements and I kept rolling on myself and going in circles. On this condition, Alex made me try to move according to a compass as a skill test we haven't done before. What a disaster. I couldn't control my direction and ended up in the complete wrong place with Alex thinking I've gone crazy and getting mad at me and screaming. Then, going underwater with the anxiety and trauma that changing worlds and changing bodies brings up on me, once I start descending, it feels right again. I feel great. I dive next to Alex and there's a Thai diver going just behind me at all times making sure everything is OK so it feels very safe. Every now and then he pulls me this way and the other and more times than I could possibly know I kicked him with my fins or punched him while swimming.
We went deeper and longer and saw many beautiful and strange creatures. At the most popular spot there was heavy traffic of divers in groups crisscrossing paths. I crushed into a few who seemed to be coming from nowhere. As we went along we stopped sometimes to practice skills.

Lunchtime on the boat. Rice with chicken and cashews, vegetables were finished. I was already exhausted and we had one more dive to go. I don't think I've ever had as many soft drinks as on that day. Prevents over-exhaustion and dehydration, so I forced myself into the bubbly bottles. I also kept drinking coffee to keep me awake.

Last dive we saw still more exotic water beings and we played with them. We stopped to do some compass skills -again, as always, using the no words underwater communication system- which worked out perfectly this time that I had my fins under control. Later on, right at the bottom of the ocean Alex gestured me to take off my mask. I thought "no, I don't want to, I want to get out of here!" but after a moment hesitation I did and it all became very blurry. Then I put it back on. It was completely flooded and I had to perform the exercise of clearing it of water while still on my face (the most painful so far). I tried a few times without success and I was getting really anxious. Not being able to see underwater feels a bit like being out of air. I couldn't see what Alex was trying to tell me either. After a couple of attempts more, I signaled to her I wanted to ascend to surface but she insisted I try again and I did. Please let's go up, I gestured. We ascended a few meters and stopped, me completely blind in this overwhelming underwater world. She repositioned my mask a few cms. down and then I was able to clear it. This mask was big for me and was sitting too high on my face, that had been the problem. I felt so relieved when I could see clearly again that I enjoyed the rest of the dive double and felt free and careless.
By the end of the dive we reached a coral rock with currents and because my tank was almost empty now, I couldn't stay low and the current kept dragging me away.
Alex made me hold on to a rock on the wall and told me to wait there. I had a hard time keeping hold on the rock, the rest of my body flying away in the direction of the current. Meanwhile, what the hell were they doing??!! I couldn't see behind me but then I saw they were a few meters away playing with a rope and a stone and unfolding a fluorescent orange plastic banner. What kind of skill exercise was this? Were they planning to tie me up with a rope to a stone when my tank was almost empty and leave me there to practice an emergency ascent with no air to see if I could survive???

When I couldn't hold on to the rock any longer and my anxiety was making me paranoid, I let go and Alex grabbed me. She put two more stones (1kg each) in my jacket so I wouldn't float away and started to gesture about what she wanted me to do. I couldn't get it, specially because I didn't want to be tested life of death and I was running low on air. She seemed to get angry at me and we went up. On the surface she explained I had to do an emergency controlled ascend. Go up 9m in one breath. So we went down again and I did. It was over.

Back on the boat, we ate pineapples, drank coffee and chatted a lot. Big release of the excitement and sometimes tension of the day. Everybody was talking about what they saw.
I was curious to know if there are many divers who are water signs, like myself. According to Alex, the majority she's met are Gemini the twins, air sign. I guess water and air make bubbles... Alex is an air sign (Libra-Libra) but not too well balanced, she says.
She also told me about the not so nice side of being a full time diver. Apart from being extremely exhausting, you run many risks. In the long term, breathing compressed air destroys your lungs. There's the nitrogen poisoning and other stuff nobody knows how it actually affects you on the long run. Plus being an instructor means you have to do double work for the beginners carrying weights in and out of the water, work on the boats, etc. And it's not good for your hair and skin!

I was chatting to two Japanese girls. One of them left Japan five years ago to go traveling for a year. In Thailand, she did a diving course and never left. She's a diving instructor now. I had just finished reading "Memoirs of a Gheisa" so I couldn't help asking them if gheisa still exist in Japan. Gion city, near Kyoto was the most popular place. They were amused by the question, with a giggling which I couldn't understand unless I was Japanese, I suppose. They still exist, they said, you can still see some in the traditional kimono and complicated make-up, but not so much anymore and maybe more as a tourist attraction than what it used to be. I'm not sure how accurate this is for they seemed to be embarrassed, as Japanese are in this kind of situation. I'll have to go and find out for myself one day although it would help a lot if I was a Japanese rich man.

The end of the boat trip back was fun. Everybody was happy and exhausted, uninhibited and making jokes. And the last last bit took a nostalgic turn, for we all knew another great experience was almost over and we were about to land in the real world of no-water again.
Back at the diving center I watched the last of the videos, went through the last theory bits with Alex and did the final test. I was exhausted and and at the same time hyper with caffeine and bubbled sugar, I couldn't keep still. I was feeling weird, the underwater world still hanging on my veins.
I passed. I was a diver, I got the card.

Next day I slept long and beautifully, relaxed in Raley beach and in the evening I went back to the diving center to complete my logbook with all the names of the fishes I had seen in the last days and also asked some diving tips. Maybe that strong link that happens between buddy divers was also calling me to go and see Alex again. Without getting too fluffy, I did experience something very special diving with Alex, new language of our own, unique communication, strong connection,...
Nice strange people, divers. I'll do it again.

From: "yoyoy"< yolanda@baxka.com >
To: "miles"< miles@baxka.com >
Subject: landed...
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 15:29:38 +0700

bananahow are you? plane was OK -except that one of the hostesses grabbed my painting and put it I don't know where (this time I didn't have front bit to put it) and I couldn't move because I was fast-belted. At the airport the ATM didn't take any of my cards ("problem of communication" or something) until I found the only other one which worked. Pheeeewwww!!!! From the airport I took a train (2hours wait) to Central Bangkok and a lady offered me some candy (aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!) even if she looked sweet I didn't accept just remembering what the book said. At the train station I bought a combi ticket train-bus-ferry to Ko-pha-gnan which was leaving at 19.15 so I had about 4 hours to kill. I was still at the station checking the guide and I saw people smoking, butts on the floor and no "no smoking" signs, so I had a cigarette. Soon after I finish it a man in brownish uniform asks to see my passport. I say "why?" he just asks to see my passport. I give it to him at the same time as I think, oh shit, this is wrong and this is bad you shouldn't just give him your passport. He asks me where I come from, where I'm going etc then he asks if I smoke cigarettes."yes". He asks me if that butt on the floor -even if there were some others around- is mine. I-stupid as ever- say yes. He tells me I have to come with him to Information. With my passport in his hand I follow him thinking I might be in danger. We arrive to a desk outside with some other uniform guys and they show me a paper that says that stamping cigarette butts on the floor (as well as some other stuff I can't remember because I was too nervous) is illegal and the penalty is 1000 Bahts. I am shaking, specially because it's so obvious that they are bullshitting me and I think it might get worse. I apologize, say I didn't know, there were no signs, etc. They say smoking is OK, it's stamping the butt which is a crime. They say for this time it will be only 300 bahts. I insist I won't do it again, etc. NO chance. And I have the feeling -I know it's only 6 quid at the end of the day- that if I let them get away with it it might get worse. I see my passport in front of me on the desk and I know it's mine and they have no right, so I get up, grab it and leave as fast and determined as I can, still shaking and I can hear them calling back at me more shocked than anything else. I get straight out of the station and onto a taxi and leave. God! it sounds even silly now, but I had a hard time, specially because it might not be finished, I had to come back to the station later. I ask the taxi driver to go by the river, not far, thinking of getting some lunch. According to the map the place was about 2km away. It took one hour in the taxi to drive me crazy and I finished the way on foot. The guy was either stupid or very clever (he pretended he didn't understand, then that he couldn't read, anyway) This of course brought peace to my troubled mind... I ended up in a shopping center by the river. In the restaurant everyone was horrible (fat, rich stupid tourists) and there was no Thai food. And I thought I might miss the train if it takes me another hour to get back... So I hurry and this time I get a tuk-tuk. It took 5 minutes to the station. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAh!!! that meant I had 2 hours to kill at the train station hiding from the uniformed monsters! I did. And I got on the train. And the train departed. Pheeeeeeeeeeeeew!!!! Then I thought maybe the uniforms were train controllers and they might be on the train, they knew where I was going, and my passport number maybe, and and and,... I decided to stop the paranoia. The train was fine. My companions some Thai girls, the seats big and comfortable (I got a second class sleeper non air/con) and at 9 they made the beds with sheets and pillow and blanket and curtains. I slept like an angel until a few minutes before arrival. The bus there was straightforward, some guys where waiting and guiding us. I had a "mature" German companion quite chatty and ended up being a pain. The first boat was 2 hours similar to the bus trip to Dharamsala but on the sea. I was getting really sick and I went up outside where a few people were completely soaked in water and didn't care. I did the same. The second boat was a big ferry and that was fine. On it I met a group of 5 Israelis who told me a cool place to go and offered to join them to have a look. We took one of this big taxi things and got to Jungle bungalows by the beach. We had a look. There were no singles. The cheapest was 400 bahts (not exactly as in the book). They were going to take 2 triples, 600 each and offered me to share. Finally I said yes. So I'm sharing a room with 2 of them - the less crazy ones -. The bungalows are very nice and it's on the quiet side of the cape. But it's only 5mins walk down (up) the road to the best beach -where the parties go on- where I had a swim earlier. Then I went to watch the Matrix in one of these restaurants. I hope I find some books, movies are good and maybe start my painting. I think it did survive! though it soaked on the boat (I almost left it there)

Sarah the spider and the Israelis
From: "yoyoy"< yolanda@baxka.com >
To: "miles"< miles@baxka.com >
Subject: hellococonut
Date: Tues, 29 Feb 2000 17:22:13 +0700

hellobunny how are you today? this morning I moved to another bungalow on my own. It's 300 baths and is just perfect. I found paradise! There's a bit of climbing to do, it's at the end of the 'party beach", on the cliffs at the edge of the sea, stuck on the rocks (not good if you suffer from vertigo). The Israeli guys took it OK. Last night it was the 5 of them smoking spliffs nonstop in the balcony and chillums and the water pipe thing and suffocating me with incense sticks and playing nonstop topvolume hard Israeli techno on their dvdisk thing with some big speakers and talking really loud in Israeli and dancing and stomping the hanging wood floor which I thought it was going to break! nice (I'm sure you'd have loved to be in my place, uh?), I was reading my book and trying not to get mad. They let me go to sleep by 1.30 and, exhausted, I slept like an angel. Nice people but happy to have my own place...

From: "yoyoy"< yolanda@baxka.com >
To: "miles"< miles@baxka.com >
Subject: hello papaya
Date: Wed, 1 March 2000 14:12:03 +0700

Yesterday after the beach I go to my bungalow to get changed. I go to the toilet and I find a HUGE spider on the wall. I'm petrified, I don't know what to do, it's about the size of my hand. It doesn't move. I close the door. After a while I check and it's still in the same place, oh God! what can I do? I can't kill it, how? anyway it's probably really fast and will escape. And what if it's dangerous? what if it bites me? I try not to think about it and go to have dinner and watch "Dogma" a funny movie about Christ, the devil and angels. I go back to my hut and climbing the rocks in the darkness is a bit scary. I go and look at the toilet. It's gone! I look better, no it's not! it's just moved down about 20 cm and it's just behind the toilet. Oh my God! I won't be able to sleep. What if it gets out of the toilet and into the room and crawls over me while I sleep? If the Canadian guys where there I'd ask them for help but they're out. At least there's one of these square mosquito nets above the bed so I tuck it in securely and it won't be able to get in. I convince myself that I'm completely safe there. Finally I sleep. The waves break really loud against the rocks just below, it's so close! at least the noise distracts me a bit from the spider. In the middle of the night starts raining like mad! nonstop I hear between my nightmares about huge spiders, Superstar and the prophet, I wake up sweating and go out to the balcony to smoke a cigarette and I see one of the Canadians next door sleeping peacefully outside in his hammock. The sight is comforting. We are in nature, isn't it? I should just go with the flow and make peace with the spider in my mind, we both have the right to live and I should respect her, taking into account that I might be the invader of her house! Go back to sleep and soon the crazy rain starts again. It's been on since. Now it's 18h. and it seems to have calmed down. I woke up at 10.30 and the bungalow was shaking or was I dreaming??? It was shaking! The rain was so heavy! I look out the window and it's just like a solid curtain of rain and the sky is completely white with clouds. I stay in bed till midday -I'm starving- when it seems to ease a bit I get courage to get up and go to the loo. The spider's gone!!! I check everywhere, half shaking, in every corner, between my clothes,... it's gone. But it may come back.

Part II
The spider is back! I keep asking Thai people about big spiders but they look at me a bit surprised and say "sorry, I don't know". I thought it was gone with the rain but it was devilishly camouflaged on the toilet door! Oh God, oh God! What can I do? I kill it, I don't kill it, I kill it, I don't kill it. Maybe I just poke her in one leg and she goes away. If it's there tonight I get someone to get rid of it! But that would be so ridiculous. It's only a spider! But I can't sleep! Now it's a personal question. I have to learn to live with the spider. Just walk in the toilet slowly not to upset her and not to get a shock yourself. She won't hurt you if you don't hurt her and you'll both live in natural harmony.
We did eventually

From: "yoyoy"< yolanda@baxka.com >
To: "miles"< miles@baxka.com >
Subject: hello pinapple
Date: Thurs, 2 March 2000 12:02:25 +0700

Yesterday on the beach I met Sarah. She had a huge hangover and she was going to have a swim, she almost drowned the day before but she was rescued by some surfers. I've only had a swim so far and it's very wavy but seems very undangerous also. But yesterday I saw a couple of kids drowning and some big guys went in on their rescue so it's not as undangerous as it seems... anyway she also told me about this illness she got in Nepal because of badly boiled water (jaundice?) which made her fart and burp all the time and the smell was terrible, she also felt very tired and was pissed off because she liked snogging people sometimes but in her state she couldn't, she didn't feel like it anyway. She's doing a similar trip to us but in 8 months and going to similar places on her own. She's been 4 months already (also went to India and Hong Kong) and says sometimes she doesn't know what to do and misses work and feels like a child who needs to be entertained all the time...

What it means

In Thailand boat trip around Koh Pha-gnan island, thinking of going to Vietnam next. I read the (all I need to do is) guide book as if gathering information points -in a big scale: how to get there, main areas to go to, patterns of conduct, what to do what not, life style and standards-, as if following straight forward instructions to camaleonize into a new different world. Repeating a pattern of steps 1, 2, 3 used in other worlds. That makes me think how this could apply in the future to all the different scary worlds of my known civilized world. Finding a place to live, going to job interviews, earning a living, finding a mating mate and other mates. No psychological obstacles. Just a set of straightforward instructions to follow. This trip is to make me invincible on the face of any circumstances.

Tibetan Philosophy Class

I've been to a Tibetan Bhuddist philosophy class for a couple of days (by my own will). The teaching is conducted by a very old good humored monk together with his interpreter, the old English witch woman with twisted scary eyes but very gentle and clear voice.

The class is disposed as a meditation room with very thin cushions on the floor. As the monk and witch enter the room, everybody stands up and go down to the floor and up again 5 times while they move their bonded together hands to forehead, chest and stomach repeatedly in energetic exhausting movements. Then everyone sits down on the cushions in lotus position and start a monotonous melody chanting which lasts for quite a while.

I hadn't been warned about any of those rituals so it was quite a shock to be in the middle of it all the first time. I felt quite absurd.

The class as such starts then. From my notes:

"It's vital to have a great power of concentration if we want to subdue the wild elephant which is our mind and have it at our mercy. Be the masters of our mind. This needs some practice in focusing the mind (meditation) and encounters quite a few obstacles. One of the biggest being laziness. Practice needs effort, effort needs strong will, strong will needs interest, interest is awakened when we see the value of the results.

There are different focus objets:

Category A:
image with conceptualization

Category B:
(5 antidotes to cure conduct problems)

Category C:
(for 2 emotional unbalances) next class

Category A:
Focus on image. Focus on image with conceptualization means we don't just look at the image but we have some analytical thought (i.e. going into the details). Sample images: a piece of text, the image of impermanence.

Category B:
Against desire: ugliness. Focus on the nasty ugly 36 bodily fluids.
Against confusion (understood as similar to ignorance): mind needs sharpening.
Against pride: think of the 6 elements (fire, water, air, earth, consciousness and space) and see how little we know.
Against hatred: focus on love.
Against attachment: focus on the real nature of the loved ones, understand it, and love them for it.

These 5 points of focus are used when any of the 5 conduct problems interferes in our meditation.
When we suffer from any of these, say, desire, terribly, it means in our past life we were in the habit of being driven by it without considering it as something negative. Thus, for any little thing our desire would arouse and interfere with our lives for a long time. And so on in different degrees if we suffered it but considered it as negative or didn't suffered it but considered it as negative.
We carry that behavior over to our present life

Class finishes with a shorter chanting and bowing as the teacher leaves the class.

The necessity of the own space in all levels (my part of the shelves, of the room, of the flat...). Necessity of order? Demarcation of territory? Assurance of independence?

Beginning of a journey

I was with Lucas in a cemetery ceremony. We were dressed up. Everybody was on one side of the cemetery (with trees and shadows), we were the only ones on the other side (sunny, empty, with no tombs). I asked Lucas to join everybody else but he didn't want to go there. He had more the attitude of someone who knows something nobody else knows rather than that of fear. He explained it was something about too much society (?).
I thought he was being silly. And then something like "look", pointing at some white plaster-like busts (of American politicians or people we know/knew?) coming out from the earth as from snow while he said it.

We crossed over to the other side. We passed through the crowd (it was packed) without being noticed, as if the entire set were a TV prop and we were the only real ones. Everybody kept chatting. Squeezing like ghosts among them, Lucas said "see, did you hear that?".
We passed without stopping by the same spot. With no effort from my part and very neatly I heard "I'm here. Hold me". It was perfectly distinct from the background crowd buzzing like bees. And again. "I'm here. Hold me". Different voices in different spots where different people had been trapped. "See?" This was the start.

After that I was with someone (?) who was showing me my life in manila envelope packages of photos. First package it was me, single, with poses, looking mysterious and interesting. I was Bruce Willis mainly in face profile close-up shots against an after-sunset sea and mountains landscape. Next package was me with long curly hair, sunny smile, radiant and happy or romantic and sad or darkly dramatic, always beautiful, in all my past love relationships.

Next and last package is me with blond hair -I'm Felicity Shagwell in Austin Powers II- with another blond hair girlfriend (she has longer hair than me) both extremely happy-jumpy in the sun, free, all intense emotional dramas are behind, and now that's no photo package showed by (?) guru anymore, but we're in real life and my girlfriend and I are going to travel around the world! We are in a sunny field laughing and screaming and we say goodbye to get ready for the big trip and meet again later on.

I arrive to the green tall iron gate that leads to my mansion to find that the gate guard (he doesn't look like anything in particular but rather neutral) has added a set of bars to it which means I can't climb it anymore. I look at him in anguish and disbelief ("how could YOU do this to me?"). He looks at me with some kind of strange love burning sparkling feeling new in his eyes ("I can't tell you. I have to do this, even if you hate me for it").
Our eyes cross for just a second before I get rebounced from the green tall iron gate back to the sunny field with my girlfriend. I tell her. Big exclamations.

I go back to the green tall iron gate. A second set of bars has been added by the gate guard. The scene repeats.
A third set of bars is encountered. I get rebounced again. For the fourth time I return to the tall green iron gate to find a fourth set of bars added to it. This time the gate guard holds my presence and in a breathtaking no-break no-warning discourse he says:

"Before you leave (or come back?) let me tell you that you'll be with me for the next 30 years until the Rabbi you are seeing at the moment tells you everything about me. Then he and I will go (?) (around the world?) together and you (?) (will stay here?) (will die?).
Now, are you coming?" I say "I'll be right back"

(end of dream)

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