20 January 2018


On Monday, our second full day in El Nido, we took a tricycle to Las Cabanas beach, a few miles down the road. Whenever we asked anyone what to do, this is what they suggested. "Oh, go to Las Cabanas. It's the best beach." So off we went. 

It really is a lovely beach. The thing about Palawan beaches, and the reason we chose Palawan over all the other islands in the Philippines, is that it has beautiful sandy beaches, but then it also has all these little rocky islands and outcroppings out in the water. There's no here-to-eternity-of-water view until you get out past the smaller islands. 

We walked all the way down the beach to the end, and then we walked back, and on the way we asked about the zipline. The zipline ran from above the beach across to a small island. The tide was low, so we could have walked across the wet, slimy rock to the small island, but where's the fun in that?

Someone walked us up the steep hill to the zipline, and then we sailed out over the water toward the other island.

Unfortunately, there was a headwind, and no matter how aerodynamic I tried to make myself, I drifted to a halt most of the way over and had to be rescued by the guys running the zipline.

We had lunch on the beach, and settled into beach chairs. I read a book, and then I took a picture of the top of the book and the ocean behind it. I laughed at the picture, telling J. that I couldn't post it on social media, because I accidentally took a picture of a page on which a girl fended off advances by saying, "I'm engaged. To be married," and people might take it the wrong way.

We moved to open sand and laid on the beach for the rest of the afternoon, until we had to go do our fluo night dive. 

The next night, after a day of cruising the islands with a bunch of Russian 20-somethings, we took a tricycle back to Las Cabanas beach to catch the sunset. We found a little bench facing the setting sun, with a bench table in front of it. We ordered a ginger soup and some other food I've forgotten. I'd taken off my motion sickness patch, and apparently taking it off after a day on the water resulted in rebound nausea (I really wasn't made for boats). 

And after dinner, J. proposed. 

This was surprisingly surprising to me. I know that proposals are a thing these days, but I never felt like I needed one. I expected just to do what my parents said they did - have a conversation and decide that it was time. 

Spoiler: I said yes. 

We hadn't talked about rings, or wedding dates, or anything in other than general terms, and so J. did not have a ring. He tried to get an O-ring for the top of a scuba tank from the dive shop, but the person he asked seemed very skeptical, so he was ringless when the right sort of moment presented itself.

A few minutes later, he went to the bathroom and came back with a piece of toilet paper twisted into a ring, and I put it on and took selfies and he was embarrassed not to have had any kind of ring, but I loved the toilet paper ring. I loved the surprise. I loved the quiet moment between the two of us. I loved it all.

A day or two later, we did scrounge some O-rings from the dive shop, and we both wore those on our right hands until we got back to Gone West, by which time they had stretched out enough that they would not stay on our fingers (even my middle finger), and we ordered silicone rings online, in blue, which we are both wearing on our right hands while we wait for the jeweler to finish the rings she designed for us, which we will also wear on our right hands until our wedding day in August. 

It turns out that when you wear a silicone ring on your right hand and don't post an engagement announcement on the f@cebooks, no one knows that you are getting married unless you tell them about it. We may drop some more hints as time goes by. It's fun to have a little secret, although here I am blabbing it to the 8 or 9 people who read my blog. You're in the know, now.

And if we are friends on the f@cebooks, you can go see the photo of the book with the words, "I'm engaged," in front of a beautiful beach in the Philippines. 

08 January 2018

beautiful misery

We decided that it would be smarter not to schedule dives for the day we arrived in El Nido, because jet lag is a jerk.

So we scheduled four of them for the next day. (I said smartER, not smart.)

I had a grand idea a few days before we left on our trip, and I had my doctor call in a prescription for the motion sickness patch. This thing had some downsides - it didn't completely get rid of my motion sickness, you can't drink on it, and it makes you sleepy, to start - but it worked pretty well the first couple of days.

So we hopped into the water and dove, three dives. And then we went back to the dive shop, where I took the night diving class, and we went back out and dove again.

I'm not going to lie, I was exhausted. I was jet lagged and dopey from the patch and, actually, diving at night is a little scary. It's really, really dark down under water.

Fortunately, we had the next day to zipline from one island to another and lay on the beach.

That night we went diving again, again in the dark, but this time with fluorescent lighting. I'm not sure that I would have done this dive if I'd known what a fluo dive meant. I thought it meant phosphorescence, but no. 

What it meant was that we wore amber lenses over our masks, and we held blue lights, and the only thing we could see at any given moment was the living thing at which we were directly shining the blue lights, which then started fluorescing, and it was extremely claustrophobic, and I don't even get claustrophobic. It was the most claustrophobic I've ever been. 

During our safety stop at 15 feet, near the end of the dive, the dive master suddenly grabbed me and pulled me toward the surface, and on the way up he grabbed J. and pulled him up, too, and it turns out that we were surrounded by tiny, lovely, blue-fluorescing jellyfish that would hurt if they touched you, and a bigger one had been right where I was going but I didn't see it.

This was kind of the story of the rest of our dives: So many pretty, dangerous jellyfish. One of our dive masters got stung (by a little one, thank goodness). I got massively motion sick, because I managed to put the second motion sickness patch on wrong so it wasn't in full contact with my skin, and then when I moved it, I managed to get some of it in my eye, so my eye dilated way too much (a known side effect) and things were blurry up close. Two people got separated from the group on one dive, and I mistakenly followed the instructor when he went to look for them instead of staying with J., who was my buddy. The instructor and I got back to J. and the group, but we had to surface early to find the missing pair. (They'd gotten lost taking photos.) We had a strong current on one dive. The whole boat got so motion sick in the large swell that I had to stand at the front staring forward while other people lay in agony inside the boat. I got a little panicky about my breathing, even though I've loved diving since the first time I went under water. 

I make it sound miserable, and sometimes it was, because diving can be, with the wetsuits and the ocean swell, but then I would look out at the gorgeous green water with the gorgeous green rocks standing up out of it, and I wanted to stay forever.