Monday, January 25, 2010

under the sea again

Trying to fulfill my promises to myself before leaving Thailand, I finally went scuba diving again (you might recall I learned in April) , again on Koh Tao, taking an underwater photography class and fulfilling my Advanced Open Water certifications to boot. My instructor, a Brit my age named Liz, was absolutely fantastic in every way, and having her smiling, competent presence made me able to relax and enjoy the diving much more than last time.

I took six dives and did hours of bookwork and quizzes preparing for them: a deep dive (to 100 ft below the surface, where we all started acting a bit harmlessly loopy from nitrogen narcosis), an underwater naturalist dive (like birding but with fish), an underwater navigation dive (I was the only one in my class who could successfully simultaneously swim, read a compass, and follow a map: thank you, parents!), two night dives (spooky and with nocturnal sea-life and phosphorescence), and the glorious underwater photography dive. What was great is that I was able to learn photo-relevant skills on all the other dives, too, and carry the camera on two of them.

As it turns out, underwater photography is a very athletically challenging endeavor: you try to line up to take a shot, and like in space you drift away or float upside-down, or a swell sloshes you up onto the spiny urchin you're trying to depict, or you go deeper/shallower than you should in trying to get a good angle, or a shark comes along... (Yes, we saw four big sharks, black tipped reef sharks, three during our deep dive and one frighteningly coming out of the darkness on a night dive. They ignored us, as they usually do.) These photo difficulties were compounded by the fact that the camera I rented wasn't very good, and as usual I was distracted by the newness of the whole underwater vista and the physicality of diving. Hopefully I'll get to try again in the future, and will be better able to capture the riot of color, movement, strangely evolved creatures, and the fun of it all. As it is, you can enjoy these greenish grainy shots for the sincere attempt that they are.

P.S. I'll soon be adding new photos the island from this trip to the original folder here.

grad school applications

I'm hoping to go to grad school this fall (Sept 2010) so I can advance in this work I've been doing. What the programs call this work varies by the school: International Development, International Relations, Humanitarian and Development Policy, etc. All the schools I've applied to are on the East coast of the US, so hopefully we won't be too far from home.

For months, I've been researching programs, filling out forms, requesting letters of recommendation, writing myriad essays, and preparing for and taking the GRE. Erika has been a sainted help the whole time, making me do this work when I just want to curl up on the couch with my book, helping me weigh the merits and faults of each program, helping me navigate the complicated online application systems, double-checking my forms, giving me regular astoundingly effective pep talks and invariably helpful advice, helping me bounce around ideas and focus my topics for the slightly-different essays required by each school, drilling vocab and math skills for days, and generally keeping me kind, motivated, and effective. All but one of the applications were submitted on Jan. 15 (the one is due in Feb), and I took the GRE last week. While I conceivably could have done it without her, I wouldn't have been nearly as sane a person in the process. Deities bless good partners!

While we now have to wait months to hear back from the schools to see where I get in, I had the gratification of getting my GRE scores instantaneously, and I did very very well, much better than I expected, shockingly with a slightly better math score than verbal! Maybe this crazy grad school dream will work out after all. Keep your fingers crossed for me!