Once again, I’m late on updating the ole’ blog. I know, I know—I was supposed to start writing more frequently, as promised by my last post. This island just makes it hard to stay focused on things! Like I’ve said before, I have no clue as to where the days and weeks go, but here I am….late on the blog…still on Utila….in early September. The good news? I am now writing you as Emily, the Dive Master! That only took 2 months (perhaps more). Long story short, I was out of the water the past few weeks due to some type of brutal sinus infection. Diving with a head cold is bad enough. Diving with sever sinus problems? Forget it. I was finally able to manage a couple of dives last Wednesday, then the magic #60 on Friday morning. Thus, I am now DM Emily. Tadaaaaaa! Even after sorting out my bill and fees here at the dive shop (ouch!), I can still say that this experience has been one of the best yet. Even when I’m broke in only my 3rd country, I am completely confident that I won’t have a single regret.
Since I last wrote, a couple of events have taken place. Let’s start with me jumping the gun on my graduation. Back in mid-August, I was only five dives away from finishing the course. That being said, I decided to do my snorkel test graduation with my fellow DMT’s who I had been through the course with. I didn’t realize that 2 days later I’d come down with the never-ending sinus infection that would keep me out of the water for weeks. Oops. But, what’s done is done and I must say, it was exactly what I hoped it would be and some. A little humiliating, but a lot of fun. Four of us joined hands and let the crowd degrade us until we couldn’t drink anymore. Luckily for you, we had a couple of kick ass photographers. Enjoy some of the shots from the night, at my expense. And yes, I did try to snort the beer through my nose in the mask photos. No, it was not a success.
First, they pick a skill for you to preform in front of everyone, and it must be of demonstration quality. Ironically, mine was “Fish Identification,” something I had juuuuust been focusing on days before. This means I had to I show all of the signs for the different fish we see here in the Caribbean, while “keepin it sexy to the beat of the music.” Yep. I believe the above photo is supposed to be an Angel Fish. Oh, did I mention that afterwards, the crowd (a.k.a.- your fellow staff) judges you and regardless of what you get– you have to chug a cup of the most horrendous booze you’ve ever tasted?
The second skill you perform is with a buddy – thank god. This is me and one of my most favorite Utilian friends, Mark (better known as The Teddy Bear). In the above photo, his arms become mine, which are somewhat strapped behind me. Again, you have to “keep it sexy to the beat of the music” while the crowd judges you. Oh, you better believe we won this battle- although that didn’t matter….we still had to drink.
Now here’s the kicker – mask clearing. At this point, the instructors fill your mask up with extremely cold beer…..and yes, you’re supposed to clear it by breathing it through your nose. It’s as bad as it sounds, but I had to give it a try. See how that played out below.
Group hug with the 4 of us and a couple of friends. Naturally, the night didn’t end here…out to the bars we went. It’s probably a good thing that the cameras stayed at home.
As if the snorkel test wasn’t enough debauchery for one month, my birthday also snuck up on me since I last wrote. My golden birthday, actually. Yep. I am 28 years young now. I love that number and that age. I am confidently predicting that this will be the best year yet. It will be tough to beat 27, but it’s happening. This year, it just so happened to fall on a “Tequila Tuesday” here on the island. In other words, tequila costs the equivalent of $0.50 at the most popular bar on Utila. Needless to say it was a blast….and perhaps a bit blurry. We had dinner with some friends at my favorite spot here (aptly named “Rehab”), then headed over to Tranquila for the madness. I received some balloons, a happy birthday song and one of the best birthday cards I’ve ever seen. No, I can’t show you it because it’s far too inappropriate for this blog…or for the Internet. Just know that it was amazing. Here’s a quick photo-review of the night.
Okay, that’s about it for now, friends. I so so so unfortunately have to start thinking about leaving the island. Ugh. Sad. I’ve met some of the most amazing people here and I’ve already had to say goodbye to too many. It’s bittersweet, as most of them are headed back to the gringo trail of travel, while others are headed home to reunite with family they haven’t seen in months or years. I guess I could compare it to saying goodbye to everyone at the end of summer camp as a kid. It seems impossible, but you also leave with lifelong friends. I will see several of them on the road in Central or South America, while others are already organizing reunions in various parts of the world, set for next summer. So, like I said—it’s bittersweet. I just renewed my visa yesterday—and that means I’ve been here for 3 months! Holy hell, I have no idea how that happened, but it did…and I’m okay with it. My new 30-day extension will get me through my next couple of weeks here, as well as my first 2 weeks in Nicaragua. That’s right—your visa doesn’t reset once you get into Nicaragua. It’s part of a confusing agreement a few of the Central American countries have with each other (and it kind of blows). The closest visa run would have been via Guatemala, but I’ve already been there. In addition, transportation fees alone would have cost me more than simply paying the USD $20 extension fee. So it’s done. I plan on leaving Utila on the 24th (less than 2 weeks), then will swing through La Ceiba on the mainland, where a few things await me at Starla’s parents’ house. This is pretty important because one of those “things” is my laptop. Guess who will be able to blog more! I will also be receiving some more clothes from home. This, for me, is equally as exciting as the laptop. Utila has done a number on my clothes. Everything smells like it’s been worn over a wet bathing suit (hummm) and most of my shirts are dirty beyond repair. Thanks to the “always there for me” Starla, I will be loaded with new threads and technology once I depart La Ceiba. From there, the “plan” is to meet up with 5 Utila-made friends in Nicaragua, then quickly ride through Costa Rica (only because it’s expensive), straight to Panama. Perhaps my favorite part is what happens next—a sailing trip that takes you from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas Islands. I know, my life these days is rough. As if sailing from one continent to the other won’t be enough of an experience, the Utila crew will be attempting a reunion here. Oh, then there’s this whole thing about my SISTER meeting me around this time as well. I can’t even wrap my head around all of it right now. At that point it will be..ooooh…about 5 months since Lindsay and I last saw each other—easily the longest we’ve ever been apart. If I can time it properly, this will be one for the books. Until then, I’ll keep you posted! Please shoot questions, suggestions, ideas—whatever ya got—this way! Thank you again and again for following! Hugs and love from Utila!
-DM, Emily (had to)