Sunday, August 19, 2018

Great Barrier Reef, Day 2 July 15, 2018

Day 2 was a 100% different experience versus day 1.  We were so excited we took a helicopter ride to the reef.  We'd never been on a helicopter before.
Was a little disappointed the pilot didn't give us more of a tour or history/point out scenes from the reef.  The big bonus was it only took 1/2 an hour (or less) to get to the reef.  It took 2.5 hours to get back by boat.

We were able to see the pontoon from the helicopter.

It was somewhat windy and damp when we got off the helicopter.  A small boat took us to the pontoon and as soon as we got on I had a bad feeling.  It was cold and windy and the boat was full of Mainland Chinese tourists.  It was a huge boat of about 500 people-like a mob scene-exactly what I was trying to avoid.  Even thought of not snorkeling since it was so cold.  The lunch was a very traditional Chinese lunch in a hot floor of the boat--reminded me of the Staten Island Ferry.

My instincts were wrong.  The day was fabulous.  There were so many activities on the pontoon we didn't get to do them all.  First we went on the semi submarine where we saw beautiful fish and coral.  Not many, but they were gorgeous!  Got a little nervous when there were barf bags all over the place.

Next we struggled to get heavy wet suits on to go snorkeling.  Here I am walking down the steps like an old lady.  You can see in the distance there are white square floats to hang on to.  David hung on but didn't want to swim further.  I felt awful leaving him there-- he really didn't want to let go of the float.  I just wanted to pull him away so he could enjoy the fish and coral like I did but he just didn't want to.

Snorkeling in a shallow roped off snorkel area in the middle of the ocean was weird.  I saw a dumb tourist standing on leaf-like coral and wanted to push her off.  That's how the coral die you idiot.

The fish were indescribable--beautiful is the under-statement of the year.  Each fish more beautiful than the next.  I swam with a school of purple fish for a few minutes.  They let me follow them.  When they dove lower into the rocks, I dove as deep as I could.  What a privilege to be one with my fellow Aquarians.  I had no concept of where I was-the snorkeling area was big, but not that big.  We got to the pontoon too late to sign up for the snorkel tour which was disappointing.  I felt like I kept snorkeling in the same place-tried to savor the beauty - -  the coral was big and small, different purple and green (+ every other color in-between).  Yet I wanted to swim where I hadn't been before so I could see more.   I loved it and didn't want to leave but went to go check on David over-run on a bench by the tourists.  There were no more lockers to rent so we had to leave our bag on a bench.  After resting I went in again--after all this was my dream trip and I had to spend every available minute in the water with my fish!

With about an hour to go there was a fabulous demonstration/lecture on the fish of the sea.  They also threw food in to the water and a million fish came to eat it.  We could see them from the level below that had a huge glass window auditorium.  The guides really knew their stuff.

Finally we boarded the boat for return to Caines--a 2.5 hour ride squashed with other tourists.  Less rocky than day 1 but still a little nerve-wracking.  Snorkeling was probably better on day 2 versus day 1, even though the boat/experience on day 1 was much better.  Oh the trade-offs.

We ate  at "Prawn Star" which we found on YELP.  OMG this was so good.  Casual dinner on a small docked boat.  A Chinese person's dream where we had bugs and prawns for the second day + fresh fresh oysters.  A local diner told us bugs are called bugs because they crawl on the bottom of the ocean.  They are like a tiny little perfect morsel of lobster tail.  See pictures below.  No other explanation needed.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Great Barrier Reef July 14-15 2018

Yes we did.  We took a weekend trip from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef.  Cairnes (prounced "cans") as in tin cans as a taxi driver told me.

Its always been my dream to go to the Great Barrier Reef, now even more so with global warming.  Its one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

all ok sign!

Hotel:  Hilton Cairnes.  Stayed right on the Esplanade which is near all the tour boats and restaurants.  This really saved time as the walk to the boat was less than 10 minutes away.  Thanks Teung & May for this advice.  Another friend suggested going on a small ship. Glad we did with more personalized attention, quick snorkel lesson, help with getting wet-suit on/off.

Day 1:  Seastar Cruise to Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef.  A cay is a small mass of land made up of sand.  Coral are living creatures with a shell on the outside and living algae on the inside.  The algae is where they get their color.

Arriving at 1st stop, Michaelmas Cay

David entering the water at Michaelmas Cay
That's David in the middle
This boat had less than 50 people. since David doesn't swim, they pulled him and others on a float so they could go on the snorkel tour as well.Image result for great barrier reef fish images

After lunch we went to Hastings Reef where it was a bit choppier but just as many fish/coral to see.  We even saw a turtle here.
One of the best parts of the day was a ride on the glass bottom boat.  Not only because you could see the coral up close (they grow up towards the sun), but because the guide, Sven gave such a good lesson on the GBR.  Bleaching has been going on forever, more or less an annual event as the coral regenerates.  However a few years ago there were two unusually warm/long summers which caused 20% of the coral to die.  Tour boats now actively monitor the coral for bleaching, destruction.  Hopefully the trend will reverse.
Poor David got seasick on the way back (as did many people).  One of the downsides of a small boat. I don't have an underwater camera so pulled these fish images off the web.  At both Michaelmas Cay & Hastings Reef I remember seeing these parrot fish.  See below, the aqua green one.  I told myself to remember this vivid color forever, and to smile and know how lucky I am to be one with the fish in the sea.  Each time I marveled at a beautiful fish, I said it couldn't get any better...........but it did, and another amazing fish just came along.  Hello.

Hastings Reef.  That's me in the middle with purple fins.  Low tide so you can see the reef right up in front.

There are so many different fish, just swimming peacefully it made me think of different human races.  If the fish in the ocean can get along, why can't people?  I imaged one school of fish being from America, and another from Spain, and another from China, and so on & so forth.  These peaceful creatures just floating around, picking at the corral, eating away, so happy.  What a life.  Hey humans, take a lesson from the fish.

Glass bottom boat.
Yes that's me.

Low tide & we could see the coral peeking above water

I kept trying to dive deeper for a good pix, but couldn't

We saw this turtle

I have no idea who this little boy is but it is the only pix I have of the ship

Day comes to an end.  We made good friends--even a family from PA!

I have no idea who this boy is but I admired how he was able to dive deep down to the reef.  I tried it...but you saw how deep I got.  

Image result for great barrier reef fish images

I highly recommend Seastar cruises .........It was perfect.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Japan from Your POV

Guest Contributer - Jake

We recently took a trip to Japan and by trip I mean an ADVENTURE. The wonderful country of Japan blew our expectations in so many ways. The culture there is very orderly and clean. The landscape sprawls with beautiful mountains, impressive shrines, and buildings that resembles sculptures. You begin to wonder how loyal you are to your own country as it feels like a nicer home. I had the opportunity to go Go-Karting around the city in Mario theme costumes, watch gigantic human beings go at it in a sumo ring, tour the largest fish market in the world - Tsukiji, make our own delicate sushi, and honestly so much more.

The most memorable experience in Tokyo was our last meal. We had Kobe beef in a do it yourself grill restaurant. You could taste the famous fat marbleization that the breed of cow is known for. The workers added the extra touch with their amazing service. Super friendly and could crack a smile on anybodies face. The small restaurant is what the home feeling is all about. So much so, that we could go back tomorrow and feel like we never left.

Guest Contributer - Gary

My family had such a great time in Tokyo. From the marvelous food to the incredible sights, it was a dream vacation for any family. However, I was not invited. I had to stay home and continue to teach the youth of America. This is my story of their vacation.

I had many great responsibilities: take out the trash and recycling, get the mail and newspaper, and most importantly, water the plants. The first night I stayed at the house there was a tremendous thunderstorm. Lightning was flashing and thunder was booming. The foundations of the house were shaking and so was I. Luckily, I didn't lose power, I still had Wifi to get all the of great pictures they sent me from Tokyo.

Over the next few days, I would come back to perform my duties only to find that our great neighbors had done my jobs. I watered the plants like a professional gardener, although one died (sorry mom!). The highlight of my stay at the house was one delicious meal that I brought from a local burger joint called McDonald's. The burger was tasty and the fries crispy, hot, and perfectly salted. It was a great vacation for them and a better staycation for me.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Fiction is Timeless

Years ago I was the Director of Print and received many comp subscriptions to magazines, including one of my favorites, The New Yorker.  I admit I only read the fiction--how I loved reading those short stories.  Never had enough time nor smarts to read all the other articles.  I've saved shopping bags of The New Yorker so I could read the fiction.  On  my latest trip I realized I didn't have a good book to read.  So what did I do?  Grab a handful of New Yorkers out of the shopping bag.  Surprise-they were from 2008 & 2009.  Here are the stories read on my last trip.  Each still having a lasting memory on my mind, letting me escape in to these dreamy stories, real issues of the human spirit that just don't go away.

  1. A story by Joyce Carol Oates about a lonely widower who invites a man from town in
  2. Yurt....didn't capture the author.  About teachers who are having affairs...& how
    one teacher encourages another to have a baby
  3. Awake, by Tobias Wolff.  Richard, a Columbia college student loves Ana a Russian waitress
  4. Wiggle Room, by David Foster Wallace.  A bored tax accountant.  Great prose
  5. The Daughters of the Moon by Italo Calvino.  A lovely magical Diane goes naked in NYC worshiping the Moon.  Nature vs. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade & consumerism.  The moon is captured by a large crane but set free by the women of the Moon.  This was my favorite story.
  6. The Boy who had Never Seen the Sea, by J. M. G. LeClezio.  Another magical story about a boy who escapes his dorm room to the sea.  His classmates secretly cheer him on as his life unfolds all around the sea.
  7. Clara by Roberto Bolano.  A man loves Clara on & off until she dies of cancer/dissapears
  8. Gorse is not People by Janet Frame.  Naida turns 21, a "mental defective" dwarf.  Goes to town on her 21st birthday, engaged to pig boy.
  9. Brother on Sunday by A. M. Holmes.  Roger visits Tom & Sandy at the beach.  Brotherly rivalry.
  10. The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris.  Husband is not liked by wife's friends--so much so they are not invited to their party.  All while they stand up the wife's dinner party after alot of effort in to the perfect meal.
As I moved from city to city I tried to read the magazines quickly so I could dump them--less weight to carry around.  I found myself reading the "Notes from around Town" and was happy to recount the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as several Obama stories (ah-the good old days).  I wondered if I should really trash these issues--weren't they collectors items from 10 years ago?  The cartoons!  The vivid cover color art!  The prose and language and current events I missed.  I left a copy in an airport lounge, wondering what (if anything) the finder would think--who would keep a magazine (hard copy no less) from 2009?

As I boarded my plane home I realized I had shed 10 issues of weight, but had nothing to read on the plane home.  I can't wait to attack the next few issues in the shopping bag at the back of my closet.  Or maybe in the basement.

Sunday, April 29, 2018


Do you believe in fate?  Or magic?  Or just plan technology?
I locked myself out of a rental car [rental car story for another day].  Was so impressed with myself that I had all my work clothes with me to go straight from PT to work.  Dressed, gathering bags up in the Summit Medical Group women's room and had that oh shit moment.  My keys are locked in the stupid rental car.  What should I do?  Call David?  Call Enterprise?  Call a locksmith?

Told the receptionist and asked her if security could help me.  Just then another old lady walked by and said "is your car a new car?" I had no idea.  It didn't look new.  "Does it have an automatic push button starter?  If yes, it doesn't lock if you leave the keys in the car."  Don't worry she said.

"How does it know I left my keys in the car?" I said.

Another old lady said, "technology"!

Sure enough I held my breadth as I pulled the door open.  YES!  It opened. How could it be this technology exists and I've never heard of it? Is it magic?  Fate?  Technology?  Or a combination of all? 

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Cardinal versus the Robin

Look, look, a cardinal!  Don't move, come quick, walk quietly, you'll scare it.  Darn-why did you walk here so loudly you scared it away.

I love it when a cardinal comes.  Their majestic stance and vivid red color bring me peace and good luck.  I get so happy when a cardinal comes to me when I'm working on an important work project, or am thinking about a tough issue.  I know everything will turn out all right.
My love of birds has strangely worn on my husband [of all people!!!].  He can't stand it when I put feed in the bird feeder.  He bought a squirrel trap to catch the squirrels who eat my bird food.  He complains that there's so much bird shit on the roof and he is the only one who goes up on the roof when there's trouble

He told me one day a whole family of orange birds were in the backyard.  What kind?  Which?  What did they look like? I got so excited.  I've never seen an orange bird in my backyard.  How exotic.  I imagined a little, little orange chick-a-dee, a cross between a parakeet, hummingbird and baby yellow chick with butterfly-like wings.  Graceful with soft vivid fireball orange fur.

Yesterday he said look at that orange bird.  There it is--a whole family of babies and big birds were here last week.  OMG-it was an every day robin.  I didn't know robins came in baby sizes.  What's exotic to him is not exotic to me.  How strange that he got excited about a family of robins.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I Secretly Fantasize About Throwing Away My Husband's Junk

Honey, aren't you supposed to go to Home Depot to buy x, y, z?  Oh and can you stop by the Asian Grocery Store to pick up some a, b, c?

Good! That gives me an hour and a half (maybe two) to dump your junk.  I can get the bicycle rims and the pieces of wood and other assorted tools bought, traded, taken, but never used.  Dear brother-in-law is famous for bringing over electronic items destined to sit in the dusty basement junkyard.

Once he went away for the weekend and I got rid of some big items, a Sears workbench (give away in the Community Forum to a grateful lady-good!  Let someone else put it to use).

I've once tried to calculate how many hours it would take to get rid of all the unused junk.  Probably months.  Funny thing is he's never noticed.  How long can this last?