Ah, I now have to time to catch up on my blog as I fly over Mozambique, headed to Joburg. On Monday I came down with a stomach bug. It must have been the stomach bug of all time, because I have never felt so sick in my life. I was sick enough to call upstairs for a doctor, and the owner of Peri Peri was at the guesthouse with his wife. I think I have already blogged about how he tested me for malaria, and no, I don’t have it. My CPAP was out, and most people here seem to think it is some kind of oxygen or ventilator, I guess people in the rest of the world don’t have CPAPs or sleep apnea, mine gives me a solid night of sleep but isn’t a big deal. Where did I get the bug? Who knows, but for a month I shared regulators, fins, wetsuits, shower and bath facilities, water, and various other things. I also spent several hours with little children. It would be easy to pick something up. Either that, or I ate something. I slept the next day, and then Randy arrived. By Thursday I felt 110%, better than I have felt for years. However, the owner of Peri Peri saw me ill, and even though I feel great, I was not allowed to dive on my last day. I was quite upset, but I have put it in perspective. As I have already written here, the diving was extremely challenging, and the first two dives were very poorly done on my part. I did adjust, and dove for the rest of the 3 weeks without issues. My last dive would have been no problem at all and a wonderful finish to my trip, but I didn’t argue although I was deeply upset. I did everything on the trip I was scheduled or asked to do and more.
The dive conditions varied tremendously, from the worst current and visibility I have ever been in to maybe 30 ft visibility with surge. Not easy. The diving turned out to be a great disappointment as I did not see any mantas while diving, no whale sharks, leopard sharks, bowmouth guitar sharks, leatherback turtles…. I came on this trip for many reasons, but one of them was to see these animals. I have seen documentaries and read that Tofo is the epicenter of mantas and year round whale sharks. Perhaps it used to be, but I was there for one month, and the only one of these creatures I saw was a manta while snorkeling. I saw more dead sharks and rays than live ones, sadly enough.
In summary, I am quite pleased with my trip in most ways, and I really enjoyed being there, the scientific community is terrific, but I doubt I will return to Tofo. My son Wes would love it and do great there, and his girlfriend Carisa (who is an organic farmer) could teach or start farming in Mozambique. As for me, I’m thinking Thailand or Egypt or Indonesia…..on a luxury live aboard, haha.
This trip was a challenge I set for myself. Never in my life had I travelled so far, alone, never have I volunteered on such a project. I wasn’t trying to prove anything, not even to myself, but I was challenging myself and my lifestyle, and the fact that I have hit midlife. My youngest is a senior in college, and I am done raising my family (well, as finished as a mother can ever be). I enjoy my career immensely as I care about, and like, my students. I do not want to just “age gracefully” now and wait for grandchildren so I can bake cookies (hardly my style), this is the time of life for me and my interests.
Many of us do not really know who we are until we are older, and in some respects it is true of me. I have never really fit anywhere. When I was a child and a teen I tried to fit in. In my twenties I appeared to blend in, and by my 30s I was comfortable. All of my life I have admired those people who seem to have it all together, who seem to fit into groups with ease: everything is in its right place, it is all organized and planned ahead, things are not left behind, forgotten, or broken, they don’t forget their weight belt or to put the jacket on the tank before hooking up the regulator. Shit, I just remembered I forgot my prescription mask at the dive center. Sometimes I make myself crazy! I’ll ask Ben to bring it back to the US and mail it to me. Anyway, I do so admire those got-it-all-together people, but I have come to full acceptance that I will never be one of them, no matter what I do or how hard I try. I leave things, forget items, drop and break things. I trip on flat surfaces and go flying, I fall down on boats and buses as well as off of boats and buses. I am accident prone, ever since I can remember I have had cuts and bruises with no concept of how I got them. I am the true version of the absent minded professor of the old Walt Disney movie (it is an old one, I really cannot remember it except for the professor who barely knew where he was most of the time). We are who we are. All of those things about me anger me, embarrass me, and frustrate me, but really, I need to just accept it. I’m better when I take my Focalin for ADHD, but I didn’t know if it would be okay while diving so I didn’t take it. I do have many redeeming qualities. One of those is a commitment to service, to giving back, to helping others. My volunteer mission in Mozambique served 3 purposes: to challenge myself physically and test my endurance, to give my time and energy to a worthwhile project, and to learn even more about my passion for marine animals (any animals, really). So how did I do?
I was successful meeting physical challenges I thought were beyond me. After the 10 year debacle of my back surgery, MRSA infection, and other various health nuisances (nothing serious or fatal, thanks be) which included this awful weight gain, I doubted my physical endurance and capability. I have just spent a month walking miles a day, climbing up steep hills or stairs, pushing a zodiac into the water, diving in tough conditions, snorkeling in a sometimes choppy sea, and here is what I have to say: bring it on, I am ready to do anything. I have lost weight, gained strength, and found more confidence in myself than I have ever known. I’m ready to go anywhere, and I am really looking forward to my girl’s trip to Lake Tahoe in August, because I have no qualms now about climbing, hiking, or rafting. Of course, I’ll probably fall on my face doing it, but that’s ok, situation normal. I have always wanted to go sky diving….I wonder if it is as fun as jumping off a cliff to handglide or cage dive with Great Whites? I think I’ll put it on my to-do list.
I wish I could have contributed more to the whale shark project. I actually do more surveys and logging for REEF on my own than I did at this project. I enjoyed learning about the databases for whale sharks and other animals, and I always have confidence in my mental ability to do those kinds of things well and in a very thorough manner. Once you learn the old Scientific Method in grad school, you never lose it. I did learn some new information, but really, not a whole lot, and that was a bit disappointing too. I had hoped for more real research activity.
So, the success of my trip was personal success, and I am happy with that. I didn’t complain about anything, though a few times I wanted to. I kept my mouth shut, another amazing feat for me since my foot is usually stuck in my mouth (or as my dad used to say, “don’t let your mouth get your ass in trouble”.) The other major success of this trip is due to my housemates and fellow volunteers. They were wonderful to me, and I enjoyed my time with them very much. It is amazing how quickly bonding takes place! I am old enough to be the parent of some of them, but I will consider them as friends for the rest of my life. I hope they all come and visit me in Cozumel or Dallas! I’d love to dive with them in a relaxed holiday environment. Of course, I am always planning a trip to Europe, and now I have even more reason: Daniela in Munich, Leslie in Basel, Marcel in Zurich, Felix in London…..) Age is really just a number, it does not define who you are or what you can do. Besides, 50 is the new 40!
SO. I am on my way to Joburg with Randy, who had a bit of trouble with the walking and hills in Tofo, and tomorrow we will set out for Arusha, Tanzania and a new adventure! BRING IT ON.