November is here, the heat and humidity is on the rise, and the roads are littered with the mangled bodies of cane toads - I counted five on the 200 metre stretch of road from the cycle path to where I am staying, along with a squashed bandicoot . . . like a giant rat, but cuter.
Well it's been a month or so since I wrote last, and a busy one at that, though there's been some ups and downs. The boat was pretty quiet for a while there, so Keri, Ghigo and I thought we'd take advantage of that by getting a day out on the boat doing some fun dives - talk about a busman's holiday! I was also pretty keen to have a go with the company's new toys, a couple of digital underwater cameras. The company agreed to let us all go out for free, and it was all good.
Although I am a keen photographer on land, I've had limited experience underwater, despite the fact that I bought myself a film u/w camera before going to Africa. I've taken less than a dozen rolls of film whilst diving, and part of the reason for this is that I've been largely disappointed with the results. On getting each film developed I've had maybe one or two half decent shots and a load of crud. Being a bit of a perfectionist I have found this quite annoying, and before coming over here decided not to even bother bringing the camera with me.
Since getting my digital camera, I have realised that this is definitely the way to go underwater; you are not limited to 24/36 shots, the results are immediate, so you are able to improve as you go, and you can delete the crap ones straight away. Although I love my little camera dearly, I have been kicking myself over the last couple of months for not getting one with an underwater casing available.
Predictably on our diving day off I hogged the camera, with Keri and Ghigo spotting any good stuff. I brought my Libretto laptop out on the boat, so was able to download the images immediately, although the company downloaded them too onto their laptop, as they normally do with passengers who hire the cameras for the day. We had a great day out, and I was very happy with the photographs that I had taken.
That evening and the following morning - being off again due to low numbers - I spent going over them, trimming here, adjusting the colour there (water filters colours out of light, red being the first to go, blue the longest to endure). Once I was happy with the results I headed down to the internet café, and posted a number of pictures on my website. I also emailed the company, thanking them for letting us come aboard and for using the cameras, giving them a link to my site (where I had bigged up their company and included a link to their website - free advertising). I mentioned that while the copyright was obviously mine (as is mentioned on the pbase website), if they wanted to use them for promotional purposes they just had to let me know.
In my head I eagerly planned that if things remained quiet, and I was only getting three or so days a week, maybe I could go out and play with the cameras on one of the days I was off every week. I felt really quite excited, and was looking forward to speaking to the boss and his wife, hoping that they would be as pleased as me with the results - especially after some tweaking, the pictures I had posted were improved from how they had looked when taken.
That evening I received the message via someone else that I would be off the next day. Cool, I thought, maybe they'll let me come out and play again. I 'phoned the bosses wife up and asked. She sounded a bit odd on the 'phone, and said I should speak to the boss. There was a pause and the 'phone was then handed over. To my utter amazement I was being told how disappointed they were in me! How dare I mention copyright - which, he said was theirs, not mine - they had lent me the camera in good faith and now I had tried to betray them.
I was astounded, and started to tell him that I had so not meant to cause any offence by what I had put - I thought I was doing a nice thing, that they'd be pleased with the photos, and that I'd only mentioned the copyright thing because if they looked at the site (which he'd not done), he would see the word mentioned. If they wanted to use the photos they just - as in only - had to let me know. Talk about gob smacked! Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that it would not at all be out of character for me to stir things up, to make potentially inflammatory or contentious comment. Call me mischievous or a trouble maker, but it is not unknown for me to play devil's advocate and wind up management . . . but I really wasn't here. I had no inkling that my comments would warrant such a reaction. Karma, maybe, for all the times I've stirred the pot.
By the end of the 'phonecall it was obvious that I had pissed the boss off big time, so I asked whether I should collect my belongings from the boat in the morning. "Yes, do that" was my answer. I'd been sacked - although in the subsequent teary call home, my parents suggested that I'd sacked myself by suggesting that I get my stuff off the boat. My sister suggested that maybe this was a sore point because he'd had trouble in the past over copyright. Either way everything had changed over the time of the 'phone call. I went to sleep that night with my stomach in knots, knowing that I had to go to the marina the next morning to try and sort it out.
When I got there and spoke to the boss, I explained what my intention had been behind the email, and how wrongly it had been interpreted. I asked whether he had seen the site, looked at the photos and seen the link to their site and the nice things I had said about the company [since removed!] . . . was this the action of an employee trying to stab them in the back? He mentioned that 'something similar' had happened before - they'd used someone's photographs, and then the person had tried to get money out of them . . . well guessed Natalie.
The boss is known to employ some shonky business practices, and is not adverse to a bit of back stabbing himself. Interestingly he is currently using a photo taken by a paying passenger who rented the camera - putting himself on dodgy ground, I reckon. They keep a copy of any shots taken by punters, as well as burning the pictures onto CD, so any they like, they use.
Anyhoos, back to the morning after the night before. After I explained myself to G- - whereupon he did at least agree that they had not taken the email as I had meant it - I asked him where I stood, whether I should start to look for another job; he told me of one of the other companies in Port that were looking for instructors, so I felt I had my answer. He did say that I could leave my dive gear on the boat for the time being - fortunate as I had wondered how I was going to get the bag of stuff back to my digs a couple of k away on my bike!
The next development came a couple of evenings later, when I got a call asking me if I could work the next day. Somewhat surprised, I said I could. I decided to be philosophical about it, that the boss had obviously reconsidered and that was as near to an apology as I was going to get. Understandably though my feelings towards the company had changed, but as I heard nothing back from the rival company that I'd been advised give my CV to, I'm still at the same place.
As we had been quiet, and I was only getting three days work a week I got an evening job in a pizza place - only a couple of hours a night, £4 an hour and a free pizza at the end of the night. I've since given that up as the boat has got busy again - I've just done eight days straight. Although it wasn't many hours it was just too knackering. An incident at work brought home to me the importance of being on the ball; the thing I'd been dreading about doing introductory dives happened . . . I had my first bolter.
We had a really busy day on the boat, and a dozen or so people wanted to do introductory dives. I did the briefing, in which amongst other things we tell the people some dos and don'ts . . . don't hold your breath, don't go up to the surface on your own. There was an Austrian couple in their forties or fifties due to dive, and I noticed in the briefing that the man was translating quite a lot to his wife. Afterwards I got them to one side and spoke to them for a while, stressing the safety issues until I was sure that they both understood.
Very briefly, air contracts and gets more dense as you go under the water and expands again on the way back up. The biggest change occurs near to the surface - a volume of air at ten metres will have doubled by the surface. If you hold your breath, the air in your lungs will expand, bursting your lungs, and in the most serious cases, bubbles can enter the blood stream causing an embolism - like a stroke - and death. If you keep breathing continuously, no drama, but you must never hold your breath.
When it was their turn, I got them ready along with another man who would be diving for the first time, and took them one by one under the water to do their skills on the mooring line. We teach people how to clear water out of their masks, an also out of their regulator - the thing in your mouth that you breath from. The regulator skill requires the person to take a breath in, remove the reg from their mouth, blow bubbles - to ensure you are not holding your breath - replace the reg and forcibly say "two", which blasts the water out of the reg and enables you to breath again.
Whilst I was doing this skill with the lady in a metre or so of water, she freaked, took the reg out of her mouth and shot up to the surface whilst holding her breath. On the surface, after claming her down, I told her how dangerous what she had done was - and would be if she had done it in any greater depth. I really stressed the point that if you hold your breath and go to the surface you can die. It sounds harsh, but is true, and I had to be sure that she understood and would not do it again. After talking to her for a couple of minutes, and reminding her that she did not have to dive if she didn't want to, she assured my that she did want to, and understood, so I took her back under, where her husband was waiting on the line.
She went through her skills again, and was fine, so I came up for the last person, went through his skills and we started to move down the line. We had got to around seven metres, when the third man signalled to me that he had a problem equalising his ears, so I moved back up the line to help him. To the side of me the Austrian woman started shooting up to the surface, her eyes wide in panic the regulator out of her mouth. I turned and grabbed hold of her with one hand, grabbed the reg with the other and jammed it back into her mouth.
Everything was happening in slow motion, and she spat the reg out again, as she continued to ascend. I managed to get it and again shoved it hard into her mouth and hit the purge button - this causes air to be automatically fed through the regulator, and so into her mouth. We reached the surface and I think I was as scared as her. I yelled for the skipper - notorious on our boat for not keeping watch. I screamed his name like my throat was being cut, and a number of heads poked over the side of the boat.
I inflated her jacket and pushed her around to the back of the boat, where the skipper grabbed hold of her, and told me she was alright. I was immensely relieved to hear this - an embolism would have caused instant death - but still really shaken up, and shouted back, "I'm not fucking alright". What could I do? I had two people waiting on the mooring line, so I had to go back down and continue the dive. I was sobbing uncontrollably - which they must have heard, as sound travels well underwater. I was together enough to know that I was capable of looking after them - I'd not totally lost it - and we did a twenty minute dive before returning to the boat.
Once safely on the surface first checked with someone that the lady was alright, then got another crew member to look after my divers while I locked myself in the toilet and got a grip of myself again. Once the shaking had stopped, and the crying died down I emerged to be greeted by the lady in question. She was wonderful, first reassuring me that she was okay, and that what had happened was not my fault. She said that when I had jammed the reg in her mouth the second time she remembered that she had to breath and started again. She also described in detail what had happened and how and why she had panicked. She'd got water in her mask and mouth at the same time, and not known what to deal with first and freaked.
Although an ordeal - for both of us - it was a great learning experience. It really was only a matter of time before something like this happened, and it is reassuring to know that I reacted correctly, and fortunate that in this instance my reactions made a difference and everything turned out okay. I am very grateful to this wonderful lady who was so kind in reassuring me and making sure I was alright, and made a horrible experience bearable by her reactions after the event. She had been told that she was my first bolter, and told me never to forget her, and that she hoped she would also be my last. I now mention during my briefings that if you do happen to get water in your mask and mouth at the same time, sort your mouth out first so you can continue to breath.
So those were the main events for me this last month. In other news, severe tooth ache led to me having a wisdom tooth removed - which actually didn't hurt at all, and only cost $110, £40 or so. I've now decided to travel to Oz anytime I need any dental work done.
My lovely friend Keri goes back to New Zealand tomorrow, so we'll be having a few drinks tonight. I'm going to miss her a lot.
I've decided to stay in Port for Christmas and New Year. My three months working will be up on 17th December, but I have cheap digs and friends here, so reckon I should definitely stay. I've also memories of five years ago, when I left a perfect beach in Thailand just before Christmas, realising my mistake once I'd arrived in Malaysia and heading straight back. Think that is one mistake I'm going to learn by! The boat I'm on goes out on Christmas day, and I think I accidentally volunteered to work . . . not quite sure how that happened!
I am planning to write again before the festivities, but in case I don't, Happy Christmas to all!
PS a brief morality test courtesy of Bob . . .
A TEST OF PERSONAL MORALITY AND ETHICS
With all your honour and dignity - what would you do?
This test only has one question, but it's a very important one. Please don't answer it without giving it some serious thought. By giving an honest answer you will be able to test where you stand morally. The test features an unlikely, completely fictional situation, where you will have to make a decision one way or the other. Remember that your answer needs to be honest, but yet spontaneous...
You're in Florida. In Miami, to be exact. There is a huge chaos going on around you, caused by a hurricane and all the flooding. There are huge masses of water all over you. You are a CNN photographer and you are in the middle of this great disaster.
The situation is nearly hopeless. You're trying to shoot very impressive photos. There are houses and people floating around you, disappearing into the water masses. The nature is showing all its destroying power and is ripping everything away with it.
Suddenly you see a man, steering a big van. He is fighting for his life, trying not to be taken away by the masses of water and mud. You move closer. Somehow the man looks familiar and important.
Suddenly you know who it is - it's George W. Bush! At the same time you notice that the raging waters are about to take him away, forever.
You have two options - you can save him or you can take the best photo of your life and career.
So you can save the life of George W. Bush, or you can shoot a Pulitzer prize winning photo. A photo displaying the death of a very powerful man. And here's the question (Please answer honestly): .
. . . . . . . . . .Will you make the photo black and white, or colour?