Tuesday, March 18, 2008

i already miss shedd

I volunteer as a diver at the Shedd Aquarium.

I dive and give presentations in the Caribbean Reef Exhibit. I'm in a wetsuit, diving in the exhibit, and I have a crazy microphone/earphone contraption like a fighter pilot, so I can chat while I feed the fishies and take questions -- a floor programs employee walks around with a microphone, so audience members can ask questions directly. It's the coolest gig I'll ever do in my life.

In a 5 hour shift, you probably spend about 30 minutes underwater (but what a half hour!). When you're not diving, you're cleaning stuff and weighing food and chopping food. Anyone behind the scenes might have food, and the fish know it:

Apparently I should mention that this photo is not of carrots floating in water, as Dad thought.
Dad - "What picture of fish?"
Me - "The only photo!"
Dad - "You mean the carrots?"
These fellas are all mushed up against the side of their tank because they're hoping I'll have food for them.

I don't even know how many times I came to Shedd Aquarium growing up, or how many times Dad took me on the overnighters and we'd camp out below the alligator snapping turtle because I liked watching its tummy fill up with air when it'd breath. I remember seeing divers in the Caribbean Reef, and if I could go back in time and tell that kid that one day, he'd be the diver... boy, what a gig. It's the coolest gig I've ever done in my life. I've worked for NASA (SETI, no less!), I was a professional juggler for the San Francisco Opera, I've played ultimate frisbee in the finals of Nationals, I've done all sorts of lucky things, but by far being a Caribbean Reef Diver at Shedd is the coolest gig I've ever done. If I tell 100 people what I do at Shedd (and I have...), all one hundred, every single one, says "WOW!" It's something I'll never forget. Being a Shedd diver will remain one of the highlights of my entire life.

April 13th, 2008 will be my last dive.

Top 3 best questions folks have asked me during Q&A (after the presentation, while still in the water feeding whatever still needs to be fed, folks can ask questions):

#1 - Little girl, maybe 4 years old: "ummm... ummm.... where do you sleep?"
#2 - Tiny boy, maybe 3 years old: "Do you like my shirt?"*
#3 - Man, maybe 40 years old: "Yeah, um, how do you keep your hair dry in there?"

* - It turns out after the dive I saw that kid, and he had a green shirt with a ghost on it and one of those red no-smoking (\) things over it, and it said GHOSTBUSTERS. I really liked his shirt.

Cuda, alev hashalom. You were my favorite special feeding.

Nickel, I've never met someone so passionate about lettuce.

One cannot have enough
of this delicious stuff!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

feeling groovy

I've done enough planning cycles now that I feel pretty ready. I've also changed my mind a bit on what I need to plan. Example: word is India will be mighty hot in June (said an Indian friend on hearing when I'd be there, "well, there won't be many tourists around"), and Indian culture and mosquitos demand long pants. You know where I bet I can get lightweight, comfy pants that are appropriate for 100 degree weather? India! Easy peasy. I'm realizing that a lot of "planning" should be done on the trip. It's not like a two week jaunt where you unpack the same things you packed. I bet there'll be a lot of turnover.

Things that have been checked off the to-do list:
- all major flights
- backpack, moneybelt, and camera
- official resignation letter at work
- insurance (dive and travel medical w/ med-evac)
- immunizations
- credit card that doesn't charge for foreign transactions (Capital One)
- starting to learn more about the destinations
- moving/selling my things (who knew there was a $60 Atari game in my closet?)
- dentist appointment before I leave
- lots more little things

Immunizations were a bit of a trip. Dr. White had me list the places I was going, with her checklist of recommended vaccines between us. I start in Malaysia [check check], then through Cambodia ("where in Cambodia" "no idea" [check]) and by the time I tell Dr. White I'm going to Ghana, she audibly murmers "oh god" and checks off the remaining holdouts. Being a vegetarian is apparently great for avoiding lots of nasty bugs, so she said my main concern won't be food, but mosquitos. Given my route, she suggested repellent-infused clothes. Neat idea, if it works, and I bought two shirts and a pair of pants. (The pants I got are surprisingly comfy and cool.) So that's good. I had budgeted $300 for the shots, but I guess most RTW trips don't go to such a variety of tropical places. Total damage: $519. Yeesh. But that's a must-spend expenditure, and I need this to get into half the countries anyway:

Now, for the real reason I'm so particularly excited right now.

When I made plans for this trip, I was applying to graduate school. As Dad said many times, "How can you do this if you're not accepted to grad school?" Good question, which I don't care to answer. Graduate schools have responded overwhelmingly positively, and I'm now debating whether I'll head to UW-Seattle (current favorite) or Yale. That's big. That's really big. So now I feel 20 times better about spending the money and going on this trip, and I'm telling you, nothing could bring me down right now. Mom's doing well and going out to plays and living it up, Joshua's as active as ever and I get to see him a fair amount, Jeanne just got tenure (mazel tov!) and is feeling groovy, and Dad's happiest when we're all happy, so even he has stopped worrying so much and is calling this a good year.

It's a very good year.