25 February 2008

Love and Life

Here's a little something to start the day off. A lil' reminder that monotony in a relationship does not always translate to trickling of love. Perhaps we just have to look a lil' deeper into the unsaid meanings of everyday routine. Having said that, one does need work and effort to keep a relationship alive. To each his own ingenuity.
This story tells us something about LOVE & LIFE.

My husband is an engineer by profession, I love him for his steady nature and I love the warm feeling when I lean against his broad shoulders.

Two years of courtship and now, five years into marriage, I would have to admit, that I am getting tired of it. The reasons of me loving him before, has now transformed into the cause of all my restlessness.

I am a sentimental woman and extremely sensitive when it comes to a relationship and my feelings. I yearn for the romantic moments, like a little girl yearning for candy. My husband is my complete opposite; his lack of sensitivity, and the inability of bringing romantic moments into our marriage has disheartened me about LOVE.

One day, I finally decided to tell him my decision, that I wanted a divorce.

"Why?" he asked, shocked.

"I am tired. There are no reasons for everything in the world!" I answered.

He kept silent the whole night, seemingly in deep thought. My feeling of disappointment only increased. Here was a man who was not able to even express his predicament, so what else could I expect from him?

And finally he asked me: "What can I do to change your mind?"

Looking deep into his eyes I slowly answered: "Here is the question. If you can answer and convince my heart, I will change my mind.

Let's say, I want a flower located on the face of a mountain cliff, and we both are sure that picking the flower will cause your death. Will you do it for me?"

He said: "I will give you your answer tomorrow...."

I woke up the next morning to find him gone, and saw a piece of paper with his scratchy handwriting underneath a milk glass, on the dining table near the front door, that goes....

My dear, "I would not pick that flower for you, but....please allow me to explain the reasons further.....

This first line was already breaking my heart. I continued reading.

"When you use the computer you always mess up the Software programs, I have to save my fingers so that I can help to restore the programs.

You always leave the house keys behind, thus I have to save my legs to rush home to open the door for you.

You love traveling but always lose your way in a new city. I have to save my eyes to show you the way.

You always have the cramps whenever your "good friend" approaches every month. I have to save my palms so that I can calm the cramps in your tummy.

You like to stay indoors, and I worry that you will be infected by infantile autism. I have to save my mouth to tell you jokes and stories to cure your boredom.

You always stare at the computer, and that will do nothing good for your eyes. I have to save my eyes so that when we grow old, I can help to clip your nails and help to remove those annoying white hairs.

So I can also hold your hand while strolling down the beach, as you enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful sand...and tell you the colour of flowers, just like the colour of the glow on your young face...

Thus, my dear, unless I am sure that there is someone who loves you more than I do... I could not pick that flower yet, and die ... "

My tears fell on the letter, and blurred the ink of his handwriting...and as I continue on reading... "Now, that you have finished reading my answer, and if you are satisfied, please open the front door for I am standing outside bringing your favorite bread and fresh milk...

I rushed to pull open the door, and saw his anxious face, clutching tightly with his hands, the milk bottle and loaf of bread....Now I am very sure that no one will ever love me as much as he does, and I have decided to leave the flower alone...

That's LIFE, and LOVE. When one is surrounded by love, the feeling of excitement fades away, and one tends to ignore the true love that lies in between the peace and dullness.
Love shows up in all forms; even in very small and cheeky forms. It has never been a model. It could be the dullest and most boring form ..

Flowers, and romantic moments are only used and appear on the surface of the relationship. Under all this, the pillar of true love stands...AND THAT'S LIFE.

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13 February 2008

Gong Xi Fa Cai!!

.I'm home.

It’s the time of the year for all of us to reflect on all the good that we have done and learn our lessons from the bad.

I’d like to share with you a story once related by a friend/colleague.

“The Wishing Tree Dilemma”

An optimist once said... wishes, always come true...on hindsight. Well, he did make sense, in his own special way...

For many of us, we wish for things that we don't have, yet when we get them, we unknowingly look further, hence the birth of another wish, asking for more...and the cycle goes on. In the process of doing so, we live a life of discontent, blinded by all our wants, yet oblivious to what we already have been given.

In a theoretical world, where time, as a variable, can be made infinite, all of us will live happily ever after, once all our wishes have been fulfilled at a point in time.

In the real world, we don't live life as "points in time" and time is definitely scarce. Even if we did, we won't know when that "point in time" will be.

Rather, we live our lives, as a journey, and believe me; you don't want this journey to end soon.

Hence, we are faced with a case of the "Wishing Tree Dilemma" - To have all your wishes fulfilled, you'd need to cover much of your life's journey to find your "point in time", but we all don't want to reach the end of that journey so soon.

Well, pause. Think back. I'm sure all of us will remember those times when we made that little wish under our breath. They did come through, didn't they? Yes, on hindsight...they did.

So, as we approach this New Year 2008. Go ahead, list down your new year's resolution, make those wishes, pray for the folks you love and keep those hopes way up high. But, reflect, on hindsight, on all those wishes that have come through for you and your loved ones, and be thankful.

Saviour each and every moment from today...

Happy New Year and May All Your Wishes Come True!

They will...in time to come...on hindsight.

Goodbye Leyte, Hello Anilao

11 dives later, it’s time to bid Southern Leyte goodbye and begin the 2nd leg of our dive expedition to Anilao.

Angel, Andrew and I would like to thank Phil, Annalyn, Darla and her twin sister Darlyn for their great service. Every night, Darlyn will bring the food menu to us and ask what we would like for breakfast and lunch the next day. When we head over to the resort the next morning, breakfast is served soon after we sit ourselves down… whilst Darla and Annalyn are packing our lunch to be brought on board. Feels like we’re 10 again. Oh Clarke! Thanks for fixing my internet access though it’s painstakingly slow! Thanks to our Divemaster Pedro for showing us some good stuff and all the boatmen who were quick on their feet when it comes to helping us gear up.

And I’m gonna miss Dopey who has been following us everywhere!

Overall, we’ve had a good time in Southern Leyte, though I don’t think it’d appeal to seasonal divers. My unbiased opinion is other than the higher chances of spotting a whaleshark and the top-class corals, there’s no other pelagics or exotic critters to keep your spirits high. I don’t think I’d travel all this way to Southern Leyte again.

Now, it’s buttcheeks torture time.

3 hours van ride to Tacloban Airport for our transfer to Manila. The torture. The torture was quickly overcame by the sights outside my seat window. We cruised by the coastal line, past the town that’s made up of wooden plank houses roofed by dried leaves, go up and round paved roads in between mountains, gasped at shocking road signs - "DAMAGED BRIDGE AHEAD", "CHECK BRAKES", "ACCIDENT PRONE AREA".

@ Tacloban Airport

.Andrew: Dun friggin' cut queue!.

1.5 hrs later, we're back in Manila hunting for good solid nutritious food! I need good food. A lil' seek and hunt landed us at Green Belt's Casa Arinas, yummy glorious Spanish food.
I'm so looking forward to the 2 hr car ride to Anilao at 5am in the morning. Right!

05 February 2008

Friggin freezing waters - Day 4

Day 4
Dive #9: Sunok Points
Dive #10: Sunok Points
Dive #11: Adrians Cove
Dive Time: ~60mins each
Max Depth: 30m
Temp: 26’c

One degree celsius change in temperature makes it a whole new experience. It is so cold that i literally have to wrap my arms around me throughout the dive. And yet they claim it's not cold enough for whalesharks. Dive #9 was INSANE. The currents were sooooooo strong that Angel and I were practically REEFCLIMBING. Imagine a vertical wall covered with corals, i.e. a wall dive... with currents gushing down at us, threatening to push us out towards the open sea. At 20-odd metres deep, we were clinging on to rocks after rocks, attempting to ascend.

In a short span of minutes, I signalled to Angel that i've lost my legs from kicking. She then held my hand, and told me to let go. We began drifting out into the open sea, further and further away from the wall, the sandy bottoms turned from white sand, to blue to deep blue nothingness. You cannot gauge your depth without looking at your depth gauge. I thought to myself, "Oh dear lord babe, GOOD LUCK!" So we hovered for roughly 5 mins looking left, looking right. There's absolutely nothing around us except for the occassionally stinging planktons. It's a platter of freedom. THAT was quite an experience.

.My reflection through a bubble.

Andrew bought some fireworks from Mactan, that was meant to be lit on the eve of Chinese New Year. But the dingdong didnt realise we're taking a plane back to Manila which means no "explosives" are allowed to be checked in, so we have to light them all off. A group of 10 hongkie divers from Peter's Dive Resort joined us, and totally "WAAAA-ed" their lungs out.

Whaleshark Hunt - Day 2 & 3

Day 2
Dive #2: Max Climax (Marine Protected Area)
Dive #3: Santa Sofia (Marine Protected Area)
Dive #4: Tangkaan (Marine Protected Area)
Dive #5: Baluarte
Dive Time: ~60mins each
Max Depth: 33m
Temp: 27’c
Day 3
Dive #6: Napantao
Dive #7: Napantao
Dive #8: Apo Reef
Dive Time: ~60mins each
Max Depth: 30m
Temp: 27’c

We've completed our 2nd & 3rd of our 4 days in Southern Leyte, where’s our whaleshark? Andrew is losing his patience… He’s had his wide-angle lens on for 3 days and all he has been shooting are landscapes and diver profile shots which I think are excellent but he is losing his patience. One thing we’ve observed is there are NO, absolutely NO pelagics in Southern Leyte. So NO thousands of barracudas swarming around you, NO schools of jacks, NO sharks, NO turtles… oh hang on, we did see 1 green turtle, and even that it’s on the surface from our boat. It’s pretty sad.

During our 1st dive, our Divemaster Pedro briefed: “So, over here we have nice corals, many corals, soft corals, nice corals, many nudis (nudibranchs)… and we’re gonna follow the corals”

Everyone nodded.

During our 2nd dive, Pedro briefed: “So now we swim on the other side of the wall, we have a lot of nice corals, many corals, nice nudis, nice corals… “

Everyone nodded.

Did we come all the way just to see nice corals??? Kweng kweng kweng… Anyways, I have to say the wall dives and corals here are absolutely stunning. I have not dived at the Great Barrier Reef before, but those who had finds the diving experience in Napantao similar to that in Great Barrier Reef.
Mosaics from Downunder
.When you run out of things to shoot, you learn to use your imagination.

Today, I’m fitted like I’m ready for snowfall, swimsuit-rashguard-wetsuit and a friggin’ hood that feels like 2 hands constantly choking me… and yet my teeth are clattering underwater. It is so damn cold. We’re exhausted. No whalesharks. No pelagics. We tried to console ourselves by looking forward to a better dive tomorrow. We roasted under the sun, at least we know we’d get a tan for sure. I guess the highlight of our day is dining at Moose and Squirrel Restaurant, the one and only restaurant in this area. Mind you we have been having instant cup noodles for dinner the past 2 nights, so simple BBQ chicken and chop-suey veges with garlic rice actually taste like heaven. I miss Thien Thien chicken rice!

Andrew's Wide-Angle Shots

.Me in my red fins, and Angel in her pinks.

02 February 2008

The Southern Leyte-Anilao, Philippines Dive Odyssey

It has only been 3 weeks since I last unpacked my stuff from India, and now I’m packing up to leave again. I haven’t even completed my travel logs for the 2nd half of my journey in India, and now I’m starting a new chapter of another quest.

It feels good to be able to drop everything; family, work, friends and just go. But this trip has knocked some guilt into me. The opportunity came up when Kapal Selam, a dive club in Indonesia, organized this dive trip to Southern Leyte, where whalesharks are often spotted during this time of the year. When Angel, Andrew and I first showed our interest, we knew it would fall on the week of Chinese New Year. We thought ‘why not?’ Chinese New Year isn’t like how it was many years ago. The ambience is no longer there, there are so many restrictions, we spend more time gambling than with family members, why not? When I broke the news of my trip to the folks at home, they were rather disappointed. “On the eve of CNY, family members should be united, dine together and be grateful for the good that has happened last year and pray for a fruitful new year.” My heartstrings tugged. Where have my family values gone? It suddenly dawned on me that I’ve been selfish when making the decision to go. Nevertheless, I’m thankful to them for understanding and being absolutely cool about it at the end of the day… though, I can not really be sure.

This is 2nd time Angel and I are travelling on a dive trip together. =)

Our itinerary goes like this:
30 Jan: Brunei-Manila (by air)
31 Jan: Manila-Cebu (by air)
1 Feb: 5am transfer to Pier, 6am Ferry to Ormoc, 8.30am Van to Resort, 1 dive
2,3,4 Feb: 3 dives/day
5 Feb: Ormoc- Manila (by air)
6 Feb: Manila-Anilao (by road), 3 dives
7,8,9: 3 dives/day
10 Feb: Anilao-Manila (by road)
11 Feb: Manila-Brunei (by air)

When we landed in Manila, it was already past midnight. The only thing we could do was catch some good sleep for an early morning transfer to Cebu. For a measly $60/night, our hotel was pretty decent.

Manila’s signature Jeepney, a scheduled public transport.

.Talk about pimping your ride. Beat that! Each of them are designed so intricately and personally that I believe you can confidently judge the driver by his ride.

After 2 hours in the skies, we arrived in Cebu at noon.

For lunch, we figured the only way to be safe is to eat where everyone else is eating. Empty restaurant = lousy food. Packed restaurants, esp. with expats = good food. We ended up in Golden Casserie, a native restaurant and again ordered like hungry ghosts. I love love love their eggplant, gawd, it’s the most delicious eggplant I’ve ever had. Definitely deserves two thumbs up. We left the restaurant with contented stomachs. We left someone with a broken heart.
Waiter: “Errr.. *whilst clearing plates*, errr… my friend wants to be friends with you. Can he have your numbers?”
Angel: “Errr.. no.. we’re leaving tomorrow.”
Waiter: “Oh…”

We had an entire afternoon’s worth of S.H.O.P.P.I.N.G, though that’s exactly what I should refrain from after blowing my budget in India. But who in the right mind can resist, Cebu is a shopping heaven… in a couple of hours at SM Mall, I practically had a storebag hanging on each finger. I had to psych myself out of this horrid horrid temptation.

Time flies when you’re enjoying yourself. Friggin’ Andrew called us a million times to ask our whereabouts 'cos he hates sms??. You friggin’ waste my moolah, dude! He left Brunei for Mactan, Cebu 3 days ahead of us to dive with the notable Yoshi Hirata! I am soooo not jealous, believe me I’m not. I’m so not jealous of the amazing and rare critters he saw. I’m so not jealous of the home-made feast that Yoshi cooked him. NO! Why?

Because he signed my book! Muuhuuhuu…
.Oh well, I’m that easily satisfied.

.This book truly depicts a person’s love or rather Yoshi’s love for the underwater world. His pictures and brief captions capture the essence of that ultimate-never again second of life. It tells a story like no other.

It took me a limb and a half to get hold of this book. Goggling it failed. Emails to Yoshi were never returned. Finally, Ivan Cheong – field editor of Scuba Diver Australasia, with whatever stunt he pulled finally got Yoshi to mail it to him, and then to me… Never underestimate the power of good contacts.

.Andrew’s Mactan treasures.

.Photographed by Andrew at Mactan's dive sites.

.L-R: Yoshi da man with “Mui-chan”, Tomo, Andrew, Dhong dhong with “Manta”

1st Feb is the beginning of our Philippines dive expedition. We finally met up with the other 11 divers from Singapore, Indonesia and Shanghai. They seemed like great fun and have had just as many, if not more, dive adventures around the world.

.Bloody worried that we wouldn’t like the food so we stocked up on instant noodles… or more like karit? Haha.

Nobody likes waking up before the sun does, lugging a bag full of heavyweight dive equipments and another full of shopping, cramped in seats that even an anorexic can barely be comfortable in for 3 whole hours. My buttcheeks practically went on strike…

But that’s not the end of it… our peppy drivers were waiting for us at the jetty, ready to rock on another 3 hours ride to Southern Leyte. MY GAWD! Good things never come easily. So we cruised by stretches of straw huts called home to many locals, paddy fields that bring food to their mouths, and misty mountains they set their dreams on. It looks almost like Bali. It’s so calming that I was beginning to fall asleep when my buttchecks decided to just D.I.E.

Good things infact do not come easily, but hard work always pays off. The view at our resort is indescribably stunning. Barely ten steps away from our veranda lies blue turquoise waters. My hair got all tangled up by the strong breeze but who cares… It’s simply perfect.

.Top to bottom: Don’t you just envy Barbara’s life? Me with Dopey, there’s a rule that goes around Southern Leyte: “Don’t kick Dopey or Phil(resort owner) will get really angry”. Andrew stressing over his expensive gears, buy SLR for wut!?.

After signing millions of indemnity forms, Andrew, Angel and I were told that there weren’t enough rooms at the resort. Whatta… Instead, we will be accommodated at Phil’s house, a mere 3 minutes walk away. It isn’t that bad but we’ll definitely miss out on the nightly symphony of waves. Huu huu…

You know, it’s weird how things work out sometimes. The world is such a big blob, and yet some of us are brought together effortlessly. When Phil found out that we’re from Brunei, he yelped with surprise. He lived in Brunei 3 years ago when his wife was working for the Australian HighComm. He’s no stranger to the dive sites in Brunei. It’s the work of mother of fate.

Dive #1
Max Depth: 33m
Dive Time: 61m
Dive Site: Turtle Rock
Temperature: 27’c

We only had time for 1 boat dive today, i.e. a check dive. Basically, the divemasters will observe the way we dive, and make sure we’re not those crazy freaks that pokes around and molests every single thing we see. *ahem* At 27’c, the water is friggin’ cold. I had on a swimsuit, a rashguard, and a 5mm thick wetsuit. We had our hearts out and hopes up to see a whaleshark but today just isn’t the day. However, we still enjoyed our dive. This site has 4 huge rocks, each heavily dense with stunning corals and fish life. Visibility easily reached 20-odd metres which is fantastic for today’s rough sea. 10 minutes into our dive at 30m deep, Pedro our divemaster pointed our 2 pygmy seahorse. Gawd! It’s that pink dot above, barely the size of a pea. I couldn’t get a decent shot b’cos of a leak in my BCD… I sank like a rock, and had to kick my life out to stay buoyant. I’m burning calories… totally guilt-free for pigging out. Muuhuuhuu….

It’s 12am… Andrew and I are chilling out at Phil’s bungalow, Angel has konked out since 8pm. We’d better too.
Till tomorrow, Good night from Southern Leyte, Philippines.

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