Coconut Dreams

After a long week of downpours the sky has finally dried out (relatively). The worst day of the monsoon we all packed our work clothes in dry bags and did the bike ride in bathing suits. Palm trees were knocked over in the winds and coconuts scattered the parts of the road that weren’t flooded. Eventually, when it was apparent the storm wasn’t just passing through, work for the day was called off and we were shuttled back to the man camp in trucks for safety.

 

For some reason unknown to any of us, there are two machetes onboard the dive barge and I’ve been wanting to learn how to open a coconut with one. I kept forgetting to nab one on the way out, so when I was staring out over the water the other day, lost in thoughts of the future,  imagine my delight when one floated straight to me! I grabbed it out of the water and got to hacking. And hacked and hacked and hacked…

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The wrong hard way to open a coconut

The thing about coconuts that I’ve realized is that it takes patience, hard work, and perseverance to get to the sweet reward inside. Without getting too abstract or sentimental, I felt like this humble coconut bobbing in the saltwater was a sign from the universe. At the exact moment my thoughts were overtaking me about what’s next and what I want from life and how badly I want certain things to happen, a perfect symbol of   forbearance and tenacity floated over to remind me to be here now and sweet things will come my way at the right time. The smiling nut now sits on a shelf in the shack and we call him Cousin Nelson.

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Hard work pays off

Ever since the first one, I’ve been scooping coconuts into the basket of my bike for chopping practice. The inside of the husk is a thick, fibrous protection for the nut, but I’ve also found that the less mature coconuts haven’t formed the inner shell yet. It actually is a hardening of the fibers that form the shells we’re familiar with, and that I now use to demonstrate some of the best Monty Python moments for people who haven’t seen the Holy Grail yet.

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They also stain your hands black, I’ve discovered

We’re still doing six tens at work since we’re in a good flow driving sheet pile and Labor Day weekend has been pushed back (yeah, I guess they can do that). I managed to get my orientation cruise done for my captains license (not a real captains license) last Sunday, and on the ninth I’ll do my practical test. If that goes alright I’ll finally (after almost three months!) be able to rent the boats here and explore more of the lagoon and the ocean side of the island. I can’t wait!

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Brand loyalty

Just like the coconut, my new boots arrived at the exact moment I needed them most. The old ones tore yesterday and I thought I was going to have to tape what’s left of them onto my ankles to dive. My new coveralls were not such a blessing as it turns out I am about two feet smaller than a mens medium. I’ll have to break out the sewing kit I guess.

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Waiting out the storm

Thanks for reading! My world revolves around work at the moment and it’s the small pleasures like learning about coconuts, honing machete skills, and daydreaming that keep that world from feeling too small.

 

The Rains Win

I know I said I would post the World War II tour of the island, and I tried to wait out the weather, but between a monsoon trough lingering in the area and construction blocking some of the markers it’s been taking too long. Soon, I promise!

After a freak beer-cap-to-the-retina incident we’ve got a new supervisor out here (no, apparently you never stop being a stupid diver even when your time in the water is done). Things are progressing on the job despite many setbacks and sheets are being driven thanks to hard work and innovation from the whole team. Tomorrow we start burning holes for tie-backs to go through and, I have to say it, burning is one of my favorite things to do underwater! When all the electrons line up just right between the rod and the ground the water starts roiling around you and the sound is like another dimension opening up and molten metal is blown away at the squeeze of a trigger. I’ll try to get a video to put up here. It’s pretty cool.

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1943 Coke bottle: much smaller serving size

The close rival of underwater burning is underwater amateur archeology. We’ve found hundreds of discarded Coke bottles, old shoes, plates and coffee mugs from ships, a rifle shell, gigantic tires, and coral-encrusted spud-wrenches. Although it’s amazing to find this stuff from bygone days and wonder about the young soldier who tossed this bottle off the pier, I am grateful for the on-site environmentalist who makes sure no one adds to the pile.

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Someone keeps drowning the mics

I used to dread maintaining and replacing equipment, although I always was able to see the value in the experience. Now that I’m on such a small team and we all rely on the same equipment to perform our job it seems so much more like a team effort. No one is barking orders or demanding that we do it to look busy: we want to have everything functioning for our own safety and the safety of the three other people using the equipment. It’s not that I didn’t wish for everyones safety before this, but it’s so much more real to me now that I constitute 1/4th of the team and it’s a great experience to have a sense of responsibility to take things upon myself.

Anyway, enough with the work stuff.

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Is it even your birthday if you don’t have a crown?

We celebrated Brian’s birthday by the beach, of course (it wasn’t as wild as it looks). We go to a beach called Hamilton almost every day to swim and watch the sun set. We have a whole group of people we expect to see there even though we don’t have contact information for them. It’s just a crew that instinctually meets up to enjoy each others company. There is such a great sense of community here that I really enjoy. Case in point, Brian went to the bar after this picture with no dollars in his board shorts (and refused to wear his tiara to notify people it was his birthday), but did not thirst for a drink all night.

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Our spot at Hamilton from the water

Another thing I like about this place is that stateside, once I hit 30, I felt like the old maid anywhere I went (even though I never felt old at all). The 20-somethings I met recoiled when they asked my age, not understanding yet how quickly they’d be here, too. In the man camp as we ride in or out it’s always “hey kiddo!” and “the kids are home!” and “be careful, it’s dark!” Someone (a 24 year old) asked me where the fountain of youth was the other night upon finding out my age and I wanted to say “hanging out with people older than you,” haha!

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Pretending to Pooh-Bear (board shorts not pictured)

We work in close quarters on the barge and changing in and out of wetsuits in mixed company can be tricky (oops, back to work stuff!). I use a towel when I change and if the guys shout “decent?” I shout back “enough!” If I need to come in they respond to the decent call with “Pooh-Bearin'”, meaning they have a shirt, but no pants, I obviously wait. No one wants to see the hundred-acre-woods.

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Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub

Today was a scorcher, but it was a nice break from the rain. I didn’t understand the meaning of downpour until I got here. I mean really, if you’re outside for 30 seconds it looks like you jumped in the lagoon with your clothes on. After riding to work the other day we all changed into our wetsuits to work on deck and let our clothes dry.

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Trying to stay dry = futile 

Thanks so much for reading and sticking with me as I navigate Mother Natures’ limiting moods to my puny human endeavors! We’ll continue working six eleven hour days through August, but hopefully I will have more time and energy in September. I will get the rest of the battlefield tour soon! It’s such an amazing and important subject, I want to make sure I can present it in an immersive and important way. You deserve the best I can give.

-R