I finished. I’m a Divemaster, Emergency First Response Instructor and Provider, Rescue Diver, and Nitrox certified….and I survived to tell the tale.

Instructor and Divemaster!

Instructor and Divemaster!

As a right of passage into the “Darkside,” also known as the realm of PADI professionals, this is what my night was like last night.

It's hard to gulp when you can't breathe out of your nose

It’s hard to gulp when you can’t breathe out of your nose

Considering I had to snorkel-beer-bong 3 beers after having a total of less than 5 beers in the past 3 months, I was pretty proud of my performance. I survived that too. Finally. I’m DONE. And to the jellyfish out there, reading this:

I’m impressed. We’ll call it a draw. Love, Anoush

I’m on my way out of the Philippines, and I can’t freaking wait. This country is the worst. Don’t ever come here if you don’t want to be treated–by the government and the people–like you are filthy rich because of the color of your skin; “Tourism tax,” “terminal fee,” “environmental fee,” “multiple visa fees,” “import tax,” etcetera. It’s the fucking worst. And the country itself is filthy and tasteless.  You couldn’t pay me to come back here. Right now I’m sitting in a horribly overcrowded airport in Kalibo, wondering how it’s possible for a place to suck this much. It’s amusing me to look around, as I’m dripping sweat and listening to some Koreans fighting.  Maybe they aren’t fighting  actually, I can never tell because they sound like they’re shouting at each other but they’re still smiling.  Weird.

I think they need to build a new airport

I think they need to build a new airport

Anyway, now that my bags are packed and I’m fleeing this country like a bat out of hell, I’m having a hard time remembering how to travel. It’s been a while.  I’m back to the life of navigating my way through airplanes, taxis, tricyles, and sleeping in strange places in unfamiliar cities for no particular reason, after spending hours bouncing around on unpredictable and largely unsafe modes of transportation. I don’t know if I’m looking forward to it or not, honestly. Asia is a tiring place.  The Philippines took a lot out of me. We’ll see. But you know something, the universe works in mysterious ways. Even though I am happy to be leaving, and certain I will never return, I can say that the experience was–overall–fine.  At least, it ended in the best way possible, so I can say that now with the comfort of hindsight. After resigning myself to counting the hours until my freedom from the Philippines, I was certain there was no way I could possibly have any change of heart in the last couple of days.  I was stuck there, walking around with my head tilted primarily to the left at most hours of the day. I had been manning the desk at the dive shop during the day as a good DMT should, and watching the divers go out into the water with big smiles on their faces as I sat in the shop being eaten by mozzies. I was dancing in my free time at home, and had gotten used to the idea that I had to just wait.   Dance, and wait, and try to stay positive.  But then, four days before departure, the universe stopped shitting on me.  Maybe it figured enough was enough. Here’s the story: A guy walks into the dive shop, and I greet him from behind the desk. After checking him into a room, I get back to looking my computer screen. Moments pass, and I look up over my screen to see that the guy has sat down on the barstool in front of the counter, with no apparent purpose. He starts looking around and just sitting there.  I become rather perplexed by this behavior, because no one ever just sits there.  Really, no one does. 1-DSCN7168 Then, he picked up a shirt that had been lying across the chair for a few days. “Can I have this shirt?” he said. “Um, I don’t know who it belongs to,” I said,  ”but it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.” He put it on and commented about how badly it smelled as he fastened each button and wiggled his shoulders.  A conversation began. It became immediately apparent that this dude was a total weirdo, but not in a bad way. I was having trouble understanding what exactly was strange about him, as I tried to explain our diving programs to him while he didn’t seem to have any clue if he even was interested in diving or in anything for that matter. It’s worth noting that at some point, he tells me I have to speak up, because he is deaf in one ear. This is probably when I took a liking to him, because I had been the one-ear wonder for the past week with no one to relate to. It turns out that this person is, in fact, quite interesting. And my first impression of him, which is that he was rather strange, ended up persisting and becoming reinforced with hard evidence as I talked with him even more. But he is very much like I was before getting trapped on the Philippines, in the sense that he is rather unencumbered by time and destinations and things to do. He is the type of person who says very bizarre things, at unexpected moments, and who seems to have no clear idea of what he is doing at any given moment. He is a 45 year old farmer from Michigan, who recently got fired from his job as a CSA manager for having the sense of humor of an 8th grader.  He doesn’t quite know what he’s doing in Asia. Me either, buddy. There’s a moment in conversations with new people when you cross a barriers that determines whether or not you will ever want to spend time talking to that person again. Most people I have met traveling have been people I want to talk to for a bit, and then move on. I love meeting new people, but at the same time, I always get to that point in conversation where I end up losing interest in the other due to certain limitations. It’s usually because they think that Kho San Road in Bangkok was amazing, or because they wittily recount that one time on the Mekong when they got so drunk they puked on a local. Conversely, I notice that people lose interest quite quickly in me when I start talking about how wifi works and how I wish I could travel through the galaxy to meet the aliens that I know exist, but instead I had to settle for Southeast Asia. It’s the determining moment where the other person becomes either totally involved in the conversation, or completely disinterested and confused, while secretly affirming in their minds that they’ve met a crazy person. When, after only a couple of minutes of banter, the conversation with Scott promptly crossed into the realm of fictitious realities, multiple dimensions, perceptual limitations and possible future evolutionary scenarios for mankind, it became apparent that we would be having more conversations soon. It seemed we had both been hoping to talk about these things at some point or other to another traveler or perhaps a tree, we just hadn’t been able to find a mutually interested other. Neither thought the other was insane, and this was, I guess, a good starting point for a friendship. He visited me the next day, and the next, and each time, we swung quickly into full blown discussions about technology and artificial intelligence, guilt and shame in American culture, how he one time became a bush, and how it is possible to fulfill the urge for shopping by going through the whole ordeal of picking things out and going through the checkout line, but then not being able to pay because you intentionally didn’t bring your wallet. I especially appreciated his brief story about the time that he was confronted in a grocery store back in the U.S. for not wearing shoes. The manager explained to him that he’d have to leave, unless he had some shoes. He explained that he didn’t own any shoes. She reiterated that he must, then, leave. He asked why, and after a poorly thought-out explanation  she concluded that it was because he could potentially step on something that would hurt him, in which case the store would have to take responsibility for his injuries (which couldn’t be more life threatening than perhaps a small shard of glass). She explained that when he is in the store, the store is responsible for him. He took a moment to let her explanation sink in. He then pulled out a knife, and–to her surprise, I’m sure–started making exaggerated stabs at the air. “So you’re telling me,” he said, twirling his knife in eccentric patterns through the air around her, “that if I go around…stabbing your customers, it would be your responsibility because I’m in your store?” The manager walked away, confused, and never returned. What he was getting at, of course, is the manager had not the slightest idea for why the no shirt, no shoes, no service policy had any valid reason. And the only reason she could think of–clearly–was ridiculous. I told him I similarly confused some managers the other day. I was walking down the street at Station 3 and I saw a big building with an enormous sign out from that said Jesus is the answer. I stopped and gazed at it for a bit. I realized that this sign was pretty much the most important thing about the building, and it seemed that it must be a Christian school or something.  But I started thinking about it for a second, and realized I was confused about something.  So I went in the door and found a woman at a front desk. “Ehrm, excuse me…” I started. “Yes?” she asked, looking up with a smile on her face. “I was just wondering, um…” I gave her a look of true wonder… “um…what exactly is the question?” After many minutes of back and forth confusing conversation, she understood what I was asking. I just wanted to know, if Jesus is the answer, what was the question?  But she couldn’t tell me. She concluded that “everything” was the question, to which I replied that “everything” is not a question, and the conversation began to circle all over again.  So I was left assuming, based on the information they were able to provide me, that “Jesus” must be the answer to my all my questions, including the question of what is the question. I remembered that that hadn’t made sense to me before, and I walked away unsatisfied and feeling like it made even less sense than it had before.  The manager sat back down and stared off into space as I walked away. Anyway. All of the sudden, being on Boracay wasn’t the worst, because I met this wonderful new friend who was simply able to engage me in conversation. It was just delightful. I was finally able to just laugh with someone about the state of things in the world, as things have come to be.  We spent a lot of time together, just laughing at things and pondering others. “Hey we should travel together,” he posited, after our first meal together at Cowboy Cochina, “you speak English better than most people around here and also you have some interesting things to say.” I thanked him for the kinda compliment, and agreed. I would love to travel with him. But then we talked for the first time about our rough itineraries, and soon discovered I was going where he had just come from, and he was going where I had just come from. He was running from the dry “shithole” that he calls Cambodia and Thailand, and I was running from the wet shithole that I call the Philippines. So we crammed our friendship into those four days, questioning reality and challenging comfort zones. I quite enjoyed sharing meals with him, making a scene of sorts, and then explaining to people staring confusedly that we’re only acting that way because we’re dying. We all are. It’s an interesting way to be excused of unacceptable behavior, when you think about it, though. Suddenly people have compassion for you, even though they are in the same boat you are. I took a break from the catfood and rice that I’ve been eating regularly and splurged for some Western food. Walking away from the dive shop this morning, I bid my farewells and walked off.  I walked with Scott up to the main road, stopping at my old house to say goodbye to Bruno, Cora, Jose and Bantai.  I got to the road and was off, riding in style in a filthy rickety tricycle.  Boracay, my house, the dive shop, and my new friend Scott faded away behind me.  For a moment, I was sad.   am so glad I was, because it means it was all worth it.  Of course it was.   I came, I dove, I conquered.  And in the end, everything was beautiful and I can’t remember exactly what hurt.  When I crossed through immigration, and got the final stamp indicating my freedom from the Philippines, I’m quite certain I nearly gave a septigenarian a heart condition as I screamed at the top of my lungs, “BOO YEAH!  UP YOURS, FILTHI-PINES!” Maturity is overrated. 1-DSCN7120

6 Responses to Divemastered.

  1. Megan

    congratulations, love! i continue to admire you and be inspired by you. <3

    • Anoush

      I love you Megan! I hope you’re well! I’ll be in MA soon…this means we MUST reunite!

  2. Fiona

    sense of humour of an 8th grader..oh god I died from laughter.
    he’s like a ball of fun tell him to come to Sabah haha although it’s rather hot here.

    • Anoush

      you’d love his humor–i will let him know he’s got a place in Sabahhhhh to stay :)

  3. jonathan

    boo yeah!! i think this is my favorite post. i laughed very hard, in public, and there are several extremely insightful truths about being/existence embedded in here (although that seems to be your norm ;) . take care!

    • Anoush

      tehe, thanks Jonathan :) I hope you’re well. I’m trying to not become “jaded,” as we talked about. I’ll let you know how that goes :)

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