Freedom Under the Sea

Before sending us to pre-service training in-country, Peace Corps preps its volunteers with a pre-departure training. During training session, one learns many tools to breed cultural sensitivity including the infamous DIVE model (which is an acronym for something I forgot) which encompasses the idea of looking beyond the surface of an issue. You gotta dive deep to see the vastness of the situation, and I have quite literally dived deep into in the East Pacific Ocean now, exploring a whole new underwater world.

I love the ocean and I have over 10 years of serious experience in water sports, so one  would think that diving would be an easy sport for me to transition into, YET it was one of my biggest fears. The idea of being “trapped” underwater weighed down with heavy equipment and not being able to surface quickly if there was an emergency due to nitrogen poisoning, was not a sport I found appealing. Still, when the opportunity arose sooner than expected, I bottled up my fear, took a deep dive and kept my eyes open.

Anilao, Philippines

  • Dive site: Anilao Beach Buzz and Dive Resort
  • 3 dives:
    • LigPo Island (34)
    • Dive N Trek (32)
    • Anliao Pier (42)

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  • Instructor: Nel (local Philippine)
  • Highlights:
    • Night dive!
      • Able to stay longer under water, because our max depth was only 10 meters (~32 feet)
      • Saw mini coconut octopus and cuttlefish

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(Coconut octopus photo cred to Russian diver friends we made on the trip at Anilao Beach Buzz and Dive Resort).

  • Feeding the fish
    • Tropical fish swarmed us as we released bread from water bottles

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  • Kevin’s underwater camera!
    • Able to capture some pretty cool creatures even without the red filter lens

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Koh Lanta, Krabi, Thailand

  • 6 dives – Koh Bida and Koh Haa
  • Instructor: Whale (local Thai)
    • *rare instance, to have a Thai instructor – most are foreigners. I think because I spoke Thai, Whale felt comfortable to go out with us
  • Highlight: cave swim throughs
    • Swam into a cave and surfaced into an air bubble cavern
    • Swam through the infamous Cathedral and other caves around Koh Haa islands

*pictures/video to be added later

Diving is not a typical sport for Peace Corps volunteers in Thailand to try out during their service – although Thailand is one of the cheapest countries in the world to be certified, it would take over a full month’s stipend to pay for certification, not to mention transportation to and from, and lodging on the islands. If volunteers do choose to get certified, many wait till their COS funds kick in at the end of service or friends/family foot the bill.

Thanks to Kevin visiting twice, we are both 13 dives deep just 6 months into the sport (more like our grown-up expensive hobby). 4 dives to get certified on Koh Tao and 9 dives this past April in the Philippines and southern Thailand (I’ll be treating Kevin to dives in the Americas in due time after I get a “real” job;)

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PCV Group 129: Lessons Learned (So Far)

Peace Corps Thailand Group 129 This quarter our staff voted on the theme, “What have you learned from Peace Corps?” We reached out to all 49 volunteers of Group 129 and asked them for a quick response. After reflecting on their first year of service (and a barrage of messages on multiple social media platforms) […]

via Group 129 Yearbook: What We’ve Learned So Far — Sticky Rice // สทิคีไรส์

Actions to match the Heart

In this next year of service, it is time to really go at everything with a full heart. While my mind races in frustration at the waste of plastic I see around me, my own actions still contribute. Though I can do little to change the habits of humanity, I can start with myself and my small actions of the heart can inspire new habits for those who observe. I am already observed as an interesting specimen on the daily – might as well make a show of some environmentally friendly habits.

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This week, I finally bought a reusable cup for iced coffee at the shop I frequent – such a simple step took me this long! I’ve seen none of the locals buy or bring in any reusable containers – instead they leave with iced coffees and teas in plastic bags or plastic cups that I soon see on the side of the road or in the river. Now the Thais can watch the farang flaunt her refillable cup – maybe I’ll offer myself up for selfies for each reusable cup bought or used…

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I’m known around school for having this water bottle slung to my side; I bought the beautiful crochet sling from PCV129 Cat Nightengale – it is oh so durable and convenient!

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I already have a reusable bag, but this one from TescoLotus just elucidates my one small Thai phrase “rak lok” or “love world” so much more because of its adorable image.

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I carry these utensils around in my backpack on the daily to eliminate plastic fork and spoon usage from food being handed to me (which is quite often).

 

I really need to get better about lugging this nifty to-go container around. Most cooked foods at the market, or even cut up fruit, are put into plastic bags and wrapped in a rubber band, and then put into another plastic bag to carry – this carrier eliminates that waste and keeps the food warmer and securer than a plastic bag ever could.

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Of course, I am also lessening my carbon footprint by riding my bike daily. Although this mode of transportation is forced upon me, it has been a blessing in so many ways. The heat in the south is brutal, but on my bike with the wind in my face I feel refreshed.

Traditionally, rural Thailand is an environmentally conscious country – I love the use of banana leafs to wrap these delicious treats – no plastic packaging needed!

Small actions of the heart can flow into a river of change ❤