Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Thursday, May 15, 2003: Fun with your depression!

Loy fixes me breakfast of toast with jam, tea, and mangos. It's Loy's breakfast time to so he joins me at the table. He's been working here 3 years. He talks about positive thinking and the way you view the world. he had been depressed for a long time before and read many books. Then it clicked one day. Life was hard because he viewed it to be hard. God didn't make life hard. Loy has a duwende look about him, an impish sparkle in his eyes, and a wide wide grin. When we took a picture together later on, I stood about a foot taller than him. He commented, "wow, when I see you, I don't see you as this tall person or that I am so short." But this is how Loy sees the world, each person coming into his life as a person. Oh, he says, he's attracted to beauty like everyone else but these differences like height and weight, he does not see. He tells me of how he was talking to a friend of his who has been depressed for many years. He told her "life is fun! You should have fun even with your depression."

I think to myself, "Fun with your depression."

It's fiesta season in Camiguin. The last fiesta ends in Catarman. The dance parties on basketball courts are rotating around the island to each of the towns and baranggays. At center court is the tower of disco lights, then the DJ sits atop a mountain of speakers that could broadcast to an entire stadium. I can hear them in the distance as I go to bed each night, the Spanish dance pop song echoing, "I said a-hay a-ho, a-hem..."

Loy is eating some dinuguan leftovers. He had gone out the night before with his younger brother who came to town from Cagayan de Oro. Loy borrowed a motor(bike). His younger brother wanted to drive the motor but Loy refused saying he didn't have enough practice. Of course, his younger brother sneaks onto the motor when Loy had his back turned and crashes the bike into a truck a couple of meters away. Luckily his brother only had a few bruises and he was able to fix the motor. After that, Loy was so grateful that his brother wasn't killed he bought rounds of drinks for everyone.

I hear Lolong on his motorbike coming up the hill. I meet Diggy and Barbie at Secret Cove. I've finished all the shallow water basics with Barbie. Today we will make two dives to 12 m to do some additional skills tests as well as look at more interesting things. I'm a bit nervous. It was only 3 days ago that I was getting wiped out by snorkeling and here we are diving to 35 ft.

The day is gorgeous! There are fishermen just off the cove. Those tiny silver fish are leaping in schools out of the water. There are several boats involved. The boats are basically large canoes with the side pontoons, otherwise known as bangkas. The bangkas encircle the area. Some divers in the water scare the fish to this netted corral. Tremendous team effort. The water between the boats are rippling with the leaping fish. It's a good catch today.

There are 14 different dive spots in Camiguin.

Diggy is a large stocky German guy, oh wait Bavarian, from a small town near the Austrian border. Fortunately, my year's worth of German when I was 14 has paid off and I have no difficulty understanding his English. Barbie tells me some people have trouble with it. He grew up in a place like Camiguin, small, close to the outdoors. He's dived in Egypt and Sri Langka and has lived in the Philippines for the last 7 years. They used to be based in Bohol and opened Camiguin Action 2 years ago. But because Camiguin is technically "Mindanao," there aren't as many tourists, even though being here the rest of the world seems so far away. April is a good month, but the other months are slow.

Diggy has been going back to Germany each year to do construction work and save money. At first it was 2 months, then 3-4, lately it's been 6 months to save enough to live out the rest of the year. I ask him how long will he be away this time. He answers hopefully not long, but most likely 6 months. Barbie comments, "too long." Teaching scuba is a nice life, but doesn't pay much. He has to pay to keep rice on the table, he says. They have three kids. Diggy looks at it positively. He says, at least I can still go back. He's met foreigners that for whatever reason can no longer go back to earn more money and so they are stuck here. "The good life for them," he says, "is over."

Diggy, his real name is Christian, has a interesting sense of humor, quite lively. Loves to tell stories. Quite animated when he does it. Some times he likes to mess with the German tourists when they ask him if he's from Germany, he replies, "No, I'm Bavarian!" Bavaria known for their suspendered shorts, are often made the laughing stock in German jokes he says. But now that tourism is booming there, the economy is Bavaria is better than most of Germany. It just riles the tourists up.

In some ways the foreigners who come to live in the Philippines are in the same boat. They rely on outside currency whether from work with international organizations or being a kind of contract worker themselves. This is repeated to me over and over on the trip, about the economic hard ships in the Philippines. Hard to find work. Hard to earn a living. It's difficult for me to do the math when my dollar gets me 50 pesos equal to a ferry ride to Camiguin, a full breakfast, 2 cups of coffee, or 2 liters of gasoline. Blue fin tuna costs 20 pesos a kilo here. At the same time, when there isn't rice on the table, who cares if you're living in paradise?

The boat tosses anchor. I learn how to put on the gear while on the boat and how to get into the water. I give the signal that I'm OK. Barbie will be my dive buddy, so I should keep track of where she is and not get too distant.

The bright sunny day translates to underwater. The colors here are vivid. I had only seen these fish before on Discovery Channel or at the acquarium in smaller tanks. But I can't even begin to describe this sensation of being within the acquarium. It's almost disorienting at first, there are fish everywhere. I'm not exactly sure which way is up. I don't know there names. There's a orange and black striped fish that dances in and out of the anemone's tentacles. There are bright blue fish, yellow fish, black fish, the striped blue/yellow ones. But colors so bright they look like they've been drawn with a fresh set of Crayola markers.

I make sure I keep pressurizing my ears. I can sense the pressure change even after descending a few feet. We explore the area. I'm still a bit awkward as I figure out how to move in water and what to do with my flippered feet. There's so much to see, I can't quite take it all in. I can understand why people are addicted to scuba diving. I've been in the water 10 minutes and I know I am.

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