So you want to Scuba Dive?

open water, padi, scuba

Open Water Dive

I’ve kinda never really thought about it, until some really awesome videos hit my Facebook feed. After that, it was constantly at the back of my mind until ADEX (Asia Dive Expo) rolled around and I saw SimplyScuba’s PADI Open Water Dive Package retailing at $370+. Yea… before I knew it, I had a registration sheet on hand and the rest was history.

The knowledge development (theory lessons) and confined water (pool session) were done with Simply Scuba, but because I ended up doing my actual dives in Singapore (Pulau Hantu), they attached me to Marlin Divers. Don’t get me wrong, Simply Scuba was nice … but Marlin Divers were fantastic and professional.

It hasn’t been exactly easy – but for sure, most of it is psychological. Some tips that I would have found REALLY helpful:

  1. You know how instructors say think about what you got to do (especially during the dives)? Well here’s a little bit more. After you’ve visualized what you need to do, STOP thinking about it. Next, focus on your breathing. In, out, in, out. As long as you’re breathing, things will be fine. Then just take your mask off or regulator out (or whatever you need to do). I thank my yoga classes for this. Despite everything, I just kept breathing!
  2. When it comes to full mask removal underwater, what happens to most divers is that the bubbles emerging from their regulator sends water up their nose. A good way to avoid this is to tilt your head slightly while removing your mask.
  3. A few times during one dive I almost wanted to give up because I had so much trouble equalizing my ears (probably because of the evil alcohol from the night before!). Again, just stay calm and ascend a few meters – and try to equalize again. My dive group ended up having to wait for me for a bit – but I was glad that I didn’t give up in the end.
  4. In your logbook, record the weights, wetsuit type, and cylinder type you used as well as in what conditions (salt or freshwater). It will come in handy for future dives.
  5. Did I mention, stay calm? Cos yeah, Keep Calm and Scuba On.

Last but not least – remember, if you gotta go, you gotta go (try to do it somewhat discreetly and not announce it to the whole world, though…).

And that’s one more off the bucket list, folks!

Pulau Hantu

Pulau Hantu

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At last I see the light

I’m 3 quarters way through my practicum. Just 18 more days left, less if my CTs take over their classes for the last week. I’m stoked and just want this to be over. I love what I do – but honestly, the stress of having people constantly watch my lessons and behavior all the time is almost more than I can bear. I guess this is the cross that Type A personalities have to bear – even though I know this is part and parcel of the learning process, I am altogether too stressed to submit half assed lesson plans or do shoddy work, and am rather upset and stressed when I do so. Cue 4 hours of sleep per night, which makes for an irritable person. I’m thankful for the amount of support my CTs, family and Ju has provided to be honest.

Batam Cable Ski Park

Batam Cable Ski Park – Julien managed to complete several circuits! So proud of him 🙂

I had a particularly restful weekend. Mostly owing to the fact that I was sick as a dog and really needed to catch up on the rest after the two observations on Thursday and Friday. I’m not sure why teaching Science is being particularly tough on me this round – I normally love teaching Science!

Anyway, for my weekend I accompanied Ju to Batam. He booked a full day cable skiing package at Batam Cable Ski Park (Waterfront City), which went for S$108 (inclusive of ferry tickets from Harbourfront Ferry Terminal to Sekupang Ferry Terminal). I brought along my work and completed it in the midst of having short naps in the sun.

We also ended up attending Ju’s friend’s housewarming and sleeping over at his friend’s place. It was rather spartan but to be honest (and as cheesy as it sounds), it was still heavenly to be able to fall asleep next to J and feel his arms around me. Irregardless of the fact that there was no air conditioning and we were pretty much sleeping on the floor. I was dead tired after my sun exposure though, and there were instances where I was literally falling asleep on my feet. Sometimes I think I really must suffer from narcolepsy.

Also, when we got back to Singapore and were talking in bed, I got invited to spend Christmas in France! I can’t wait 🙂 This really provides incentive to sign up for those Alliance Francais Conversational French lessons after my practicum is over as well. One more thing to look forward to. This weekend was one of those instances when I felt really blessed to be loved by J. There were a few moments I was annoyed, but I realized there was no point – I would have just been weirdly high maintenance. I really want us to work out. It makes a lot of difference from my past relationships, strangely. I’m learning when to take and when to compromise a lot more nowadays than in the past.

To get to Batam from Singapore, you may go to Harbourfront Ferry Terminal (closest MRT station: Harbourfront Station) and look for a ferry.

Batam Center station is the ferry terminal closest to Batam city, Sekupang is the ferry terminal closest to Waterfront city (for water sports), Nongsapura is the ferry terminal close to beach resorts and golf courses and Harbour Bay is located in the central business and commercial district.

Here are some ferry timings for your perusal – Batamfast Ferry Company | Sindo Ferry Company

Daily Snapshots; Perth my Second Home.

The memory is not infallible. Already, images have blurred and taken on a sepia tinge. Rose coloured glasses have been tossed aside in favour of donning a (sometimes heavy) coat of Practicality.  Some days, I wake up and expect to see the morning sunlight slanting in through my balcony and spilling onto my sheets of my Queen sized bed in Terrace Road. Sometimes I stand there, stop and breathe in – and I can almost feel the minuscule coarse particles of salt against my skin, the air carrying a hint of sea salt. And other days I can recall the feeling of never being able to warm up again, despite being bundled in flannel pyjamas and blankets, my feet in woolen socks and curled up under myself. Perth is, was, and always will be these icons to me.

The Black Swan

The Black Swan – an emblem from the seal of University of Western Australia.

London Court, Perth City Centre

London Court, Perth City Centre. I never shopped here myself but it never failed to stop me in my tracks to study the colours and contast of this place.

Where it all began - PLC

Where it all began – Presbyterian Ladies’ College. I will always recall letting off school and crossing the busy Stirling Highway to take the bus home.

Ye Olde Swan Brewery

Ye Olde Swan Brewery

Crawley Bath House

Crawley Bath House. Cycling from my apartment in the City to the University, this icon was a part of the cycling route I took.

Swan River

Swan River – the blueness is amazing.

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Broadway intersection

Broadway intersection. So many times I’ve passed by here, when walking from Broadway shopping centre to the apartment that I shared with Yan Hong.

Fairway

Fairway. I used to live here and walk by here everyday in High School.

Walking down these roads take my mind down memory lane. I remember hot summer days where the heat would rise up the pavement and turn it a rusted brown, that was how intense the heat was. In contrast, there were those rainy winter days where the rain would seep down my stockings and by the time I got home, my toes would be wet through – and cold like little blocks of ice.

Also, I remember walking down and talking to neighbours like friends. There was no such thing as strangers in Perth, only people you’ve yet to meet.

Reid Library

Reid Library

Winthrop Hall

Winthrop Hall

Winthrop Clock Tower

Winthrop Clock Tower

Perth is one of those places that will forever hold most of my heart and mind. No matter what, I’ll still maintain that the bluest skies, the fluffiest clouds – nowhere does them like Australia.

Chocolates in Colmar

Colmar, timber, timbered houses

Colmar’s Half Timbered Houses

If you think that the above picture is from the set of Hansel and Gretel, well… you’re not alone. Cobblestoned roads, half-timbered houses, meandering streets that wind in between houses that looked that they might fall on you at any moment… Colmar was a page of a fairytale novel come to life.

St Martin's Church, in Colmar is entirely made out of pink stone (or shades of pink).

St Martin’s Church, in Colmar is entirely made out of pink stone (or shades of pink).

Wandering around its windy streets, we came across St. Martin’s Church, which was built in pink stone. I know it doesn’t look really pink here, but it’s most likely a product of the lightning (or lack thereof, in winter).

La petite Venice

La petite Venice

Enchanting Colmar is known as La Petite Venice (or Little Venice), as it bears a resemblance to the city of canals. Maybe with much imagination 😛 Colmar is beautiful on its own, but to liken it to Venice is to compare a domestic house cat to a majestic Tiger. Parallels exist of course, but nothing will ever touch the beauty and promise of Venice. Instead, Colmar should be appreciated for what it is and as it is rather than be dubbed a second Venice!

Route des vins d'Alsace (The Alsace Wine Route)

Route des vins d’Alsace (The Alsace Wine Route)

Before visiting Colmar, we drove along the winding roads that form the Alsace Wine Route. This is one of the oldest wine routes in France. The Alsace region produces a variety of wines, primarily white wine (that I determine from my very brief encounter!). The white wines are typically dry, but with a slight sweetness to them that I don’t encounter very often. Anyway, moving on.

My handsome chauffeur!

My handsome chauffeur! 😉

Wine Tasting!

Wine Tasting!

We stopped by on the way for a wine tasting; I tried Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling and a Muscat which are typically produced in the Alsace region. I also found out (as educated by JJ, who laughed at me when I compared a Muscat to a Moscato) that Moscato is an Italian wine. Pffft. They all come from the same family of grapes anyway, surely!

chocolatier, france, alsace

At a chocolatier

And of course, our first stop was at a chocolate factory to satisfy JJ’s sweet tooth.

It’s strange, I suddenly recall how Andrew always steered away from chocolates and desserts. I always found that sad – although I guess doing so would be quite good for me 😛 Still, give me a man who loves his sweets in life.

Southwestern Serendipity – a Singaporean female in Exeter

I awake slowly, my eyes opening incrementally in millimetres every minute. My forehead and nose is telling me that outside is cold and no sane person would consider leaving my (third level) bed at 6.45 a.m. But then again, not everyone finds out a day before their trip to the UK that their ex-colleague and dear friend from Singapore is now studying in Exeter, a 3 hour train journey from London. So yes, amidst much whining from my snug-in-a-blanket warm body, I pull myself out to have a cold shower (my hostel didn’t believe in hot showers in Winter…. tragedy). 30 minutes later, I am at Waterloo Station all excited to travel down to Exeter to meet Netti!

As said, UK really put on its best dress for me. Here was a picture of the sunrise that I was treated to on the journey down to Exeter.

The beautiful sunrise that greeted me enroute to Exeter

The beautiful sunrise that greeted me enroute to Exeter

Exeter Cemetary?

Exeter Cemetary?

Some berries spotted on our country walk

Some berries spotted on our country walk

Not sure what berries these were, but I HAD to stop and snap a shot of them. Pretty, aren’t they? Originally, Netti and I had planned to visit a Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth, Devon. However, we had overestimated the capabilities of Sunday public transportation. In the end, we were (somewhat) stranded in the country at 2 p.m. and took a leisurely stroll down the countryside.

Netti & I

Netti & I

Came across this small stream and had to stop to take a wefie. I’ve missed this girl. She was a bedrock for me when I started my contract teaching in CHIJ Katong. We started together and although our paths have diverged, it felt so good to get the opportunity to meet up with her again and see the many blessings that life has brought her after a tumultuous period in her working life.

Exeter Cathedral

Exeter Cathedral

High Street, Exeter - reminds me of Perth's city centre!

High Street, Exeter – reminds me of Perth’s city centre!

Netti & I at High Street, Exeter

Netti & I at High Street, Exeter

We ended up having a hot coffee at Costa and taking some pictures along High Street. In many ways, Devon reminds me of Western Australia and Exeter, Perth. The public transport, the buses, the weather, the long leisurely walks, beautiful scenery and the city centre structures. I’ve barely been here a day and I see the many ways I could fall in love with Exeter. Oh, to leave parts of your heart everywhere you travel. It is both a blessing, and a curse.

Trains from London to Exeter depart from both Waterloo and Victoria stations. More details may be found on Southwest Train’s website at http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/exeter-guide.aspx.

Accommodation Review: Smart Russell Square

Overall Rating: 2/10

– Stay Away unless desperate and the only option is to sleep out on the streets.

Alright, alright. So I booked into the hostel of hell. To be fair, I’ve visited my share of hostels and I expected to be slumming it (the one in Naples was scary enough – I thought I was going to wake up raped or sliced up in bed). But still, this one was one for the infamous lists.

Let’s start with the Positives.

1. Staff were friendly. The doorman always greeted me with a smile, and the baggage check person (Ryan) had a nice conversation with me.

2. Location was very convenient. It was within walkable distance of the tube station (Russell Square) and a supermarket.

3. Beds had a curtain to draw which hid your bed from the room and allowed me to change in privacy.

Moving on to the Negatives.

1. Toilets were only located at Level 1 (separate from bathrooms) and Level 3 (with some shower stalls). If you wake up with a near bursting bladder and had the misfortune to be located all the way up top of the bunk beds, let’s hope you have practiced your kegel exercises.

2. Charging points – only 2 charging points were provided in my room of 9. The math doesn’t compute.

3. Common Room was crowded and there was nowhere to sit (except for the tables). This was caused mostly by the lack of charging points in the rooms – people started bringing their electronics to the common room to charge.

4. The kitchen was dirty and had unwashed dishes in the sink. In these type of 9-bed and 18-bed hostels, it only takes one to set off a chain reaction and I suppose I was there during those bad days.

5. Organization of Room – the beds weren’t bunk beds, they were set into the walls. Which were both good and bad. There was sufficient space (in my 9 bed room) for luggage. However, they had 3 beds on top of each other – which kinda sucked if you have vertigo and are stuck on the top bunk (moi!). I was convinced I would fall off every time I climbed down the hell long ladder.

6. No free lockers (I even brought a lock). Either way, a group of 7 checked out the second day I was there and hostel staff also removed my linens and towel by accident (which I had paid 5 pounds and a deposit of 10 pounds for). This was in spite of me putting in my check in and check out dates in the little dongle provided. No effort was made to replace my towel. My slippers also went missing, I assume it was thongnapped by one of my hostel mates.

7. I had two showers here. The first time, I tried the shower stalls in the basement. The basement showers were worse than communal gym showers. Curtains that stuck onto you. To turn on the water, you had to press down a knob otherwise the water stopped running after a few minutes. This would be alright if the water wasn’t so BLOODY COLD. IN WINTER.

The second shower I had was up in the 3rd level showers, which at least had nicer shower cubicles. However, the water was still cold. My first few showers in Europe in winter were yes, cold showers. I nearly froze to death.

If you would like to sleep in discomfort, there are probably better places to do it in London.

Website Link: http://www.smartrussellsquare-london.com/

Tripadvisor Reviews: http://www.tripadvisor.com.sg/Hotel_Review-g186338-d1233082-Reviews-Smart_Russell_Square_Hostel-London_England.html

Hostelworld Reviews: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Smart-Russell-Square/London/29412/reviews

London; Here comes the Sun.

As I step off the plane, a shiver of anticipation rushes through me. The air of London at 5 a.m. is refreshing and crisp, a stark contrast to when I left Singapore at 11 p.m. the night before. In fact, the wind is bitingly cold as it freezes its way down my lungs.

First order of business was a cup of heartwarming orange chocolate from Costa at Heathrow with Stuart. What followed the next few days were several deja vu type moments. Names I’d heard of from reading way too many historical romance novels and playing Monopoly now have an image to go with them, etched in my brain.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit the Tower of London. I also didn’t take a touristy picture in the red telephone booth (sheesh). Last but not least – I kinda wished that I had the time (and energy) to visit Fabric Nightclub or Ministry of Sound. Unfortunately, I booked into the Hostel of Hell (review posted here) which kind of annoyed me everytime I returned back and sapped my motivation to head out.

Highlights of London: A really nice cozy pub lunch (Bangers & Mash) with Stuart, Sightseeing with Stuart, meeting up with Longzhao and having a stroll around South Kensington & catching Wicked at London’s West End (one item off my bucket list!).

The Tube - uniquely London

The Tube – uniquely London

The London Underground (or Tube) – people here seemed to always be in a rush or walking really quickly. Definitely none of that face stuck in their mobile phones stuff here.

Big Ben and the Red Bus.

Big Ben and the Red Bus.

Big Ben / Clock Tower – apparently this tower holds the largest four facing clock in the world. Also saw the Parliament close by and the Palace of Westminster. Of course I had to take it with the red double-decker bus in the foreground. Gahhhhh I’m such a tourist 😉

The London Eye

The London Eye

Life Guards of the Household Cavalry

Life Guards of the Household Cavalry

We were lucky enough to come by at exactly the right time to catch the changing of the Life Guards. The Life Guards are a regiment of the Household Calvary of the British Army and since their first action in the Battle of Maastricht in 1672 the Life Guards have won numerous battle honours, including Waterloo, Marne, Brussels and El Alamein. The changing of the Queen’s Life Guards take place daily at 11 a.m. on weekdays & 10 a.m. on Sundays at the Horse Guards Parade.

On the tube with Stuart to Croydon

On the tube with Stuart to Croydon

Christmas Lights a la London

Christmas Lights a la London

At the Natural History Museum of London, no dinosaurs came to life.

At the Natural History Museum of London, no dinosaurs came to life.

Yep – this is where they filmed Night of the Museum. No dinosaurs were harmed in this process.

A Major Highlight, Watching Wicked at London's West End!

A Major Highlight, Watching Wicked at London’s West End!

Definitely a major, major highlight. I would have loved to catch Book of Mormon – however the agent who was meant to book it mucked up the dates I was in London and this was the replacement he provided me with (nice discount too!)

For sure, London put up its best shot. The weather was magnifique – sunny wintry days, no rain at all (am I in London, really?). Au Revoir London. Maybe I’ll be back one day.