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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.


No-Sleep Island

Oh man… so much for the weekly post goal. I cannot believe I’ve been here for a month already! So much has happened, but it feels like time has gone so quickly. I guess I was waiting to feel “settled in” before writing again, but everything seemed so temporary at first, like a vacation I would be home from in a week with nothing to show but a sunburn and sand in my luggage. I kept feeling that everything would be taken away as swiftly as it came and that I would be left feeling like such a fool for believing that anyone would actually pay me to be in this place. Now that I have fallen into a predictable routine and decorated my room, I can finally relax and share.

Rain over (but not on) Carlson, the next island in the atoll

This routine I speak of involves getting up at 0500 (well waking up) getting dressed for work, and riding my bike to the mess hall. Someone told me it’s a three mile ride, but I’ll have to verify that. We ride on the paved road next to the air strip and we always seem to be riding into the wind. Some days it’s so strong I’ve had to get off and walk. If you think this means I’ll at least have a wind pushing me home at the end of the day, that’s what I thought, too, and we’re both wrong. Somewhere in the afternoon the wind switches to completely the opposite direction and I have to fight it back as well! I need to have grandkids so I can tell them how easy they have it; your granny had to ride her bicycle 3 miles, in the tropics, in 100 percent humidity, against the wind both ways!

The first diver is in the water by 0700 and we rotate every two hours or so. Then back to the galley for lunch, then back to the barge, back to diving, then back to the galley for dinner around 1730, then the long ride home. There are three beaches close to the man camp, so I choose one and go swimming. It stays around 86 degrees here so I try not to get too far from the water (as if I could if I tried haha!). I bring a couple beers or some wine and stay for the sunset; I swear each one is better than the last.

Clouds over man camp
The man camp neighborhood. Homely, but homey

I’ve had a really hard time sleeping here for some reason. The beds are comfy, work is going well, the air conditioning is strong…. I. Just. Can’t. Fall. Asleep. Or sometimes I wake up hours early and can’t fall back asleep. My thoughts race and get stuck in loops about certain things. They’re not negative thoughts, though, thankfully, just never-ending thoughts. Song lyrics, lists, plans, what I should write about in the blog, bizarre hypothetical situations, about how I really need some sleep… Things get so jumbled I almost think I’m dreaming, but I can still feel my exhausted eyes and limbs aching. And then it’s so hot in the afternoons that I can’t keep from feeling irritated by EVERYTHING and everyone. Which is not good. There are multiple yoga classes around the island and I know at least two focus on meditation, so that is definitely on the list of things that must be done. What helps you when you can’t put your brain to bed?

Laps in the saltwater pool also help a manic mindset

We’ve been looking for an old concrete pile that sheered below mudline during extraction for over two weeks now. Daaays of nonstop water jetting and air lifting. We knew it was down there, we just didn’t know where. I’m the hero for finding it today (just kidding! We were all digging the same hole, it just happened to be my dive) so my boss brought me a case of beer as a reward. We had to stand-by for a turtle in the work area as well. If you can’t tell, I’m loving my job.

Off to work!

I missed getting a picture with the turtle, but I think I found the thousands of jellies he was snacking on:

Thanks for reading! If all goes well I will get to go on a boat this weekend and see some of the other islands finally! I can’t wait to share what I find.