Somewhere Beyond the Sea (Part 3)

I like the most the back roll entry in scuba diving. It’s generally because I don’t have to bear the 15-something-kilos burden of the air tank and BCD and octopus and extra weights on me too long. I’d just sit by the edge of the boat and let may body roll backwards. Nice.

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Everything you need under water. Plus a good wet suit. Plus courage and determination.

Speaking of heavy burden, giant stride is obviously the method I’m most nervous doing. I’m not a big fan of jumping into water. And even though we are not supposed to jump, the idea of stepping forward into the water (with that burden) from about a meter high is not really my thing. Therefore, the other “lighter” method of wearing the equipment on the water surface, is also not really my favorite as I still need to jump into the water for it.

In life, however, I jump a lot (including jumping into conclusion ha ha). I often make giant steps too. I call myself courageous, but in some cases it’s merely being frivolous. Isn’t it fascinating to just do, to just close our eyes and jump?

I think I’m turning crazy about this diving thingy. But this how love feels like, doesn’t it? It’s an amazing feeling, really. Knowing how I fear of the limitless sea, the unknown darkness, the dependence on equipment wrapped in my body, the doubt if my body could handle the pressure (both physically and mentally) under water… Yet just like any other love, it’s simply beautiful to be in it. It’s beyond words.

I’m in love.

Somewhere Beyond the Sea (Part 2)

The very first lesson you will learn in diving is to breathe slowly and continuously, never holding it. The theory sessions will remind you over and over of how important that is to breathe. Slowly. Continuously.

Before the first dive. Contemplating if I should really get in.

It’s kind of worrying, to be frank. They showed a wide range of risks related to breathing only. Be it the air quality in the tank, the failure in the regulators, the descending and ascending techniques, and a little bit of physics from high school that suddenly bothers you again, hehe.

Equalizing is a very important method you need to master. You will experience change of pressure gradually and repetitively when you go up and down underwater. Do it as often as needed, that’s when you feel even a slight discomfort in your ears. Don’t inderestimate equalizing. Ignoring this simple step could seriously damage your ear. It’s always wiser to be careful.

So that’s the story for today. When you’re not underwater, you could still apply the theory. Keep breathing. Slowly. Continuously. It surprisingly will calm you down.

Somewhere Beyond the Sea (Part 1)

I finally did it! After a long wait of around five years (and almost taking it two years ago), I eventually passed the Open Water Diver certification. I feel more complete as an Indonesian now, hehehe. I start to list the diving spots (and commit to save more money because apparently this sport is not cheap). I feel like I have the super power to explore the under-the-sea world. It feels wonderful.

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Not our best pose, but you don’t actually think of posing when you’re too focused, hehe. Photo is taken by our instructor.

I have so many questions before taking it, obviously. Like… can I do it? I’m not the most athletic person and I’m physically not strong. I’m skinny and short, with -10 myopia on both eyes (so I dive with contact lens). I swim only one style and I don’t do gym. My biggest fear was: how to breath down there, I don’t even snorkel fluently :p.

Another burning question was: do I need it? Well, technically, you do need it. Diving license is like driving license. Yes, of course you can drive without one, but you should not. After learning all possible risks of underwater experience, I won’t risk it. Seriously, you could die if you don’t pay attention on the smallest details.

Imagine you will be under water for an hour or so for each dive, in the depth of up to 18 meters (speaking of open water dive). Imagine how your life depends so much on the air tank on your back, the regulators, the BCD, the SPG, and the weight you add to your body. You need to master all the use of them. You need to know what to do at certain time and certain situation. As simple as you need to know how deep you are, how to clear your mask and regulator, how to descend without damaging your ears, what to do when your regulator doesn’t work, and so on.

Not very surprisingly, I’m not good (yet) at all those. I’m terrible at hovering in my neutral buoyancy. I’m bad at controlling my direction and fin movement. And I’m scared of the unknown when it gets dark down there. The sea is really vast, you know. But it’s amazingly beautiful also. I believe I will get better along my diving log.

I’ll write more later.

Fado and Keroncong

There was a beautiful aha-moment when I first realized some vague trace of my country in Lisbon, Portugal. Well, actually it’s the other way around. It’s how the Portuguese left their trace in my country hundreds of years ago.

It’s when I noticed some words similarity such us igreja (gereja in Indonesian), which means church. Also when I first heard its most famous music: Fado.

"Fado car" in the heart of Lisbon, playing Fado music all day long.

“Fado car” in the heart of Lisbon, playing Fado music all day long.

It was an instant “crush”. I’m loving its sound, its soul, and later I figured out that in fact, Fado influenced the original Indonesian music genre: Keroncong, especially in its melancholic spirit through traditional acoustic instruments. Keroncong itself began in Indonesia in 16th century when the Portuguese came in the country. It evolved to the modern Keroncong when ukulele (from Hawaii) was invented and became its main instrument.

What also excites me is knowing the most famous Fado singer Amália Rodrigues, who shares my first name :).

Krontjong Toegoe is the well-known keroncong community in Jakarta which lasts for generations. I found their practice session performing the classic keroncong song “Juwita Malam” on youtube. For your entertainment :).

Travel tips: momondo

Being acknowledged by CNN as the best search engine with the greatest coverage and speed, momondo is truly the best “travel search and compare” tool. I firstly knew this site about two years ago, and it became my favorite since then.

The beauty of momondo is its vast coverage. It compares many famous travel search engines like eDreams and skyscanner. It gives you rich selection with various parameters like price, time and duration of travel, with a nice time series graphic showing the fares fluctuation. It offers good fares, even compared to the famous KAYAK.

Different from other similar search engines, momondo doesn’t directly sell tickets. Instead, it will direct you to the booking site like eDreams, Bravofly, airtickets24, skyscanner or refer you to the airlines.

As a one-stop travel site, momondo also has feature to search for hotels, car rentals, even some holiday inspiration. You can save time from comparing which one is better between Agoda or booking.com, for instance. Momondo will do the work in finding the best price, you then choose from the booking site.

Searching for flights and hotels never been this fun!

The preview of hotel booking selection

The preview of hotel booking selection

Living for Today

I just recently came back from a a duty trip to Pulau Nyamuk, a tiny island inhabited by around 600 people in Karimunjawa archipelago, in the north of Java. This fishermen community have electricity only for 12 hours per day provided by 30kW diesel power plant and 25kWp solar power plant. With such limitation on energy source, the people live a humble and simple life, at least compared to the hectic Jakarta life. It’s the crew I went with also the people I met who really got me realized that all this time I was too busy thinking about “tomorrow”.

Hari is in his late twenty working as an electrical engineer while Andi is a technician who is a little older than Hari and me. Together we inspected the solar mini-grid installation in Pulau Nyamuk and trained the operators. They are really inspiring people. They have travelled a lot to remote islands of Indonesia, they live by the day, and they are happy. Yes, they are. It’s like nothing can make them upset.

The trip back from Pulau Nyamuk to Pulau Karimun was special. We were trapped in a storm on a small wooden boat of 12×1.6 m. It was seven of us with me the only female and the most inexperience one in the sea. The engine was dead at some point and the diesel leaked. Some guys shouted to the Captain, “Turn left! Turn left! You take the wrong direction!” I was quietly panicked and wished that the Captain could handle the situation.

“I don’t want to die now. I don’t want to die like this. Like… drowned in the sea where my body would never be found. Or is it better that way? Die quickly with a lung full of seawater? But no… not now, not like this. I have things I want to do. There are so many things I still need to do.”

Yes, that was my thought. Cliché :).

A couple of fishermen on board helped. Together they fixed the fuel pipe, pumped the leaked fuel out of the hull, turned on the backup engine, and tried to navigate the boat back to the right track. It was a very long one hour.

“I see the island!” Hari told me, “don’t worry.” I smiled a bit, I knew he was just trying to calm me down. I peeked, and yeah, vaguely I saw tiny grey bump in a far. That must be the island. Another two hours to go. But shortly, we survived. We were all wet from the storm and wave but relieved to finally reach the land. We smiled a conquer-kind-of-smile.

Back in the homestay, we relaxed at the terrace and rewound our experience, with laugh and thankfulness. I contemplated my past. How everything seems far away once we are in a potentially fatal experience. How every plan seems insignificant. And whatever you do, it’s a matter of how you do it that determines your happiness.

When in college, I was busy thinking of where I will work and how much I will make money. Now I’m still thinking the same (only with better financial situation). What an unwise way of spending time.

As a closure, although it’s slightly against my principle to always plan thing ahead, I’d like to tell you that sometimes you need to push the brake. Slow down and enjoy your ride.

 

Taj Mahal, the Super Symmetry

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What amazed me the most about Taj Mahal is not the exquisite translucent marble that elegantly glow and neatly “hidden” by its gates. It’s not the extremely long construction time – 22 years – either. Nor the calligraphy as its prominent decoration. Nor the beautiful love story behind its marvelous design.

I’m amazed mostly by its symmetry. Everything is so well thought of, well calculated, well executed. I was so triggered to measure all elements, parts, distances, and sizes. But oh well, I was just coming as a tourist :D.

Taj Mahal is located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, about 250km from Delhi. It took us almost four hours to reach this UNESCO world heritage site, via Yamuna Expressway which was helpful (it’s a long 190km high way covered in 2.5 hours). Renting a car costs INR 7,500 all inclusive. Taj Mahal ticket (high value) is INR 750.

There are actually two on both sides.

There are actually two on both sides.

I accidentally came across to this song from the movie “Her”. Perfect title.