The Uncle has returned to his Nephew

I realized I hadn’t told the travel-log that I’ve returned home… 😛 It’s been eventful:

Went to Kuala Lumpur and had great fun with friends. Also got robbed in my room, and lost my eeePC and my iPhone.

Plane from KL to London got delayed by 3 hours, so my transfer from Stansted to Gatwick through London was in the middle of the night, after the last tube. Molto interessante…

Stayed a few nights in Oslo, first with cousin Gaute, his wife Beate and their son, my Godson, Filip. Next I stayed a couple of nights with Valdis, who visited me in the Perhentians a while ago. I stayed until Sunday, when my cousin Maya had her firstborn, Filippa, baptized.  Then I drove to Arendal with my grandparents, and then to Vanse with my father the next day. Visited little sister Johanne in uni in Kristiansand on the way, and saw her appartment.

Stayed a few nights in Vanse, then drove to Sandnes, or rather Johanne drove the car and I instructed. Got to see my nephew, Terje, and his parents Jenny and Tom. Terje now walks and talks. My sister Jenny is about the size of a small house. Technically she sort of IS a small house, to my niece-to-be who is due to leave her snug home in November to join the rest of us out here in the cold of Norwegian winter.

I am currently staying with Odd Helge in Stavanger, looking for an appartment with a couple of friends here, Trine and Annikken.
There. That’s a little update on what I’ve been up to lately.

Winter is coming…

Winter means monsoon time in the Perhentian Islands, so it’s high time to make plans to get out of here. I was nurturing a hope that I’d be able to go to New Zealand, but I have a student loan running, and need to keep up with downpayments.  I have enough to either go to NZ, or make my next payment, so my hands are forced in the matter,  I am going HOME! Do not get me wrong, I am very excited to go home to friends and family, especially since Uncle Travelling Gjerulf is becoming an uncle for the second time, come November, and I was not around for the first one, as I was out travelling!  I am NOT, however, looking forward to another Norwegian winter,  I would prefer going back in the summer…

For those who are curious about the details surrounding my repatriation, here’s the plan: Odd Helge, my friend from Norway who is here diving with me, will be my travel companion for the journey. We fly out of Kuala Lumpur on October 13, and will be touching down on Norwegian soil on October 14, in Gardemoen airport, Oslo. He will continue to Stavanger right away, while I will hang around Oslo for a bit to catch up with friends and family there. If you are in Oslo Friday October 15, I am thinking of going out for a couple of brewskis, so feel free to join me! Eventually I will make my way west from Oslo, through Arendal and Vanse, and visit loved ones on my way to Stavanger. My E.T.A. in the Oil Capital could be around November 1, and then I hope to meet up with as many as possible as well! Open up a spot

For those of you who are well connected in Rogaland, I could do with some assistance setting myself up with a habitat [ranging from mattress in a cupboard to rented apartment], a mode of transport [bicycle plus car with room for dive gear and/or larp gear] and a source of income [job for a few months to a year, my services are sold to he highest bidder :P]. I am also looking for dive buddies who are familiar with the wrecks on the south and southwestern coast of Norway, or who want to become familiar with them. 😉

Looking forward to seeing you again, Noddelands and other Norwegians!

Coconut 5 RM, 200 logged dives

There is a tradition in the diving community to celebrate dive number one hundred by diving naked. My hundredth dive was my instructor exam, so it was quite out of the question to let it all hang out… Since I didn’t do my hundredth dive naked, the idea was to do it for number two hundred instead, and that dive was this afternoon. I had two divers with me, Justin was doing his fourth and final Open Water dive for his course, and his friend Bryce joined us for a fun dive. When we arrived at the dive site this afternoon, and I saw that there were no other boats at the site, I asked the boys what their thoughts on nudity were, and whether they were easily offended… 😛 Being quite liberal and easy-going guys, they thought it sounded like good, clean fun. We started the dive with Justin doing his final skill practice. When we headed out for a tour of the dive site, I took off my board shorts, and spent the next 45 minutes diving in my birthday suit. At the safety stop at the end of the dive I put my shorts back on, and we ascended to the surface as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. 😛 Although it was a bit strange to dive naked with two other people who were not, it was an altogether liberating feeling, and an experience I wouldn’t mind repeating in a somewhat more private setting.

The coconut tree that grows up through the dive deck where we de-kit and rinse our equipment has been heavily laden with coconuts lately, and a few days ago one fell down as we, the Sunlight staff, were sitting around having a cold after-work brew, and crushed Mike’s can that sat right next to him… It became abundantly clear that the heavy nuts needed to be taken down before someone gut hurt or killed, and today we finally managed to convince Nick, one of the staff at Moonlight, to brave the tall trunk and the stinging ants that live in the top of the palm tree. Legend that he is, Nick spent the better part of an hour perched in the tree top with a cleaver, cutting down the bunches of coconuts and lowering them down with a rope. I’ve drunk my fill, and eaten so much coconut that it feels like it’s going to come out my ears, and that was just from one nut! We’ve probably got over fifty liters of coconut juice, and several kilos of delicious coconut flesh, so Nick, ever the businessman, has put up a cardboard sign on the huge pile of nuts on the deck:

COCONUT RM 5!

Patience, Prayer and Penicillin heal all wounds…

… even tropical ulcers.

I had a visit from my cousin ages ago, and we had a brilliant time together. It was magnificent to finally be able to show someone from home what I’m always nagging about… Since then, I have also been able to show my sister Anne Malene and her boyfriend Øyvin, and two of my classmates from primary school and junior high, Gunn Ragnhild and Valdis. I went scuba diving with all of them,  but Anne Malene and Øyvin had to wait for my heel to heal before I could teach them to dive.

I got a tiny little scratch on the back of my right heel about a month ago, so small that I didn’t notice it before it started to get red. It soon started hurting, and then my foot swelled up like a balloon. The assumption when I got to the clinic in the fishermen’s village on Perhentian was that I had contracted a tropical ulcer, and I was put on broad spectrum antibiotics. It still took a good week and a half before I was off the crutches and back in the water, and it still has not healed completely, although it looks very nice.

Seeing my friends from way back when was also really cool. We reminisced about the olden days (about 20 to 14 years ago), and caught up on more current events. I got to refresh old diving skills with Gunn Ragnhild, while Valdis got her first taste of scuba diving.

Days of sun, sea and salt water still have not gotten old, I enjoy every bit of it. I even have one more friend lined up to come here soon, to finally finish a diving course, after having started it several times with several people who for one reason or another had to back out. 😀 If anyone else wants to come and learn to dive, just give me a holler, and I’ll set you up! :)

In other news, I have crossed over to SDI, and now teach divers through that organization as well as PADI.  My SDI certification cards and teaching material arrived today, but my PADI cards that were supposed to be sent to Blue Season Bali, where I finished my course in the beginning of April still haven’t showed up… The course director there is now on the case, and is trying to get PADI to send me the cards here.

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First diving course, lunch in Thailand, visitor from Norway

I am currently sitting on a bus on the way to the airport in Kota Bharu. I’ve spent most of the day in buses, going to Thailand for lunch, and then back into Malaysia with another 90 day visa period. My cousin Gaute is arriving soon, and together we will race to Kuala Besut to see if we can make it in time for the last boat to the Perhentians!
In the last few days, I’ve been teaching my first courses, an Open Water course, an Emergency First Responder course, and started a Rescue course. My OW students were two sweet and laidback Danish girls, maybe even a little too laidback, as the course took 5 days to complete instead of 3 and a half… 😛
I am currently carrying too much cash for comfort, as I have withdrawn cash from six different cards, to bring back to people on the island. Fingers crossed that I don’t get mugged before I’ve handed off the cash, 7500 RM is a lot of money!
I’ve worked long days and had little sleep for a bit too long now, so today was a nice change, a dry day spent snoozing on various buses. When I say dry, I mean that only in the sense that I haven’t been diving, though, ‘cuz on the boat to Kuala Besut this morning I got so soaked with sea spray that I might as well have been… I dried off soon enough, of course, in this heat that’s just a matter of minutes, but I’ve spent the rest of the day caked with sea salt. 😉
Now I am really psyched to recieve my first visitor from the old country, can’t wait to finally show somebody from home how I live!

(Aargh, why is this bus half an hour late, at this rate we won’t make it in time for the last boat!)

Uncle Travelling Gjerulf to become uncle again!

The days roll by here in the Perhentians, and the FIFA World Championship is on. For about a week I’ve been coughing and coughing to empty my lungs of the stubborn phlegm that just won’t go away.  was really cold one night, and the resulting chest cold is as stubborn as is to be expected in a tropical climate.

Most of my days are spent sitting around the shop, or out chatting to people to see if I can recruit some divers.  It’s quiet here, so I’m not diving quite as much as I’d like to. I guess it’s a combination of the economic recession going on the third year, people’s irrational fear that all of South East Asia is unsafe due to the unrest in Thailand, and perhaps some apprehension about buying expensive air tickets to Asia and then getting stuck in an airport due to volcanic ash from Iceland…  Now that the volcano has calmed down, I have high hopes for July and August, the high season here in the Perhentians!

This is an interesting place for watching international football, because there are almost always someone that has some  connection to one of both of the countries playing. As you probably know, I’m not exactly a big football fan, to put it mildly, but I have actually watched a couple of games, and that says a lot about the mood surrounding the matches! It also makes for some rather bizarre experiences, like one night in the beginning of the group play when I got up in the night to go to the bathroom, and saw two grown men and a lifesize inflatable kangaroo in Australian supporter get-up in front of the TV in the lounge…

In more important news, the oldest of my little sisters is pregnant with her second, and I will get a niece in November!! 😀 Congratulations to Jenny and Tom!

I am also really looking forward to my first visitor from home, my cousin Gaute, who I’ll go to meet after my visa run to Thailand on 6 July!

We’re open for business!

It’s been waaaay too long since my last update, but we’re now finally up and running. Most of my time in the weeks since I wrote last were spent getting things ready, but it has now all paid off.  :) The new deck is beautiful, compressor works, we’ve got the staff we need, and we’re ready to go in the water! Our webpage is also up and running, although it needs a bit more work. Check it out at sunlightdivers.com!

Whenever I’ve not been working, I’ve been hanging around not doing much of anything… We got one more employee a couple of weeks ago, Becky from England, and yesterday Mike came over from the Perhentian Besar to be our manager, like last year. As I’ve been writing this we also got our first customer. :) Now I’m REALLY looking forward to finally getting in the water and start teaching.

I don’t know how often I’ll be writing while I’m here, because after the novelty wears off, it’s limited how interesting it will be to hear about my days: get up, eat, dive,  dive, eat, dive, dive, eat, socialize, sleep,  get up, and so forth and so on… However, I’ll go a little bit more in detail about the place here.

I live just upstairs, above the dive shop, so it’s not really a long commute to the office, in fact the office is closer than the toilet and shower… The toilets are the western “chair” type, not squatters, but they have no flush, instead you flush them with a scoop that’s placed in a bucket of water next to it. The showers have quite limited water pressure, and only cold water. Hot water is not something I really need, as the climate here is warm enough that only modesty and social norms create the need to wear anything at all. It is nice to have a hot shower every once in a while, though, because you feel a lot cleaner after a hot shower than a cold one. Thus, when I met a couple of girls from Bryne (near Stavanger in Norway) a few weeks ago and found out they were staying in the fancy Bubu Hotel, I made sure to borrow their shower before they left…

My meals are normally taken in Moonlight restaurant, which is just next to the shop, in the same building. The food is good, but I miss not being able to cook my own food. What I miss the most in the way of food, however, is Sørlandschips, the bes potato crisps ever… If anyone from Sørlandschips or their owners, Valora Trade Norway reads this, please send me a crate of Sørlandschips with sea salt! 😀

I work from 8am to 6pm, and we have a rotation between us deciding who gets up to open up shop at 7:30, and who closes up at 8pm. After a late dinner, I sometimes head up the beach to the shops for necessities, or the bars for a beer and socializing. Last night I spent some time with a cool group of people, a girl from Arizona travelling with her roommates gay lover, two girls from Brighton, two Swedish brothers and a couple from Norway, one of whom used to live across the street from my old house in Misjonsvegen, the other one in Våland! Small world…

My room above the shop is quite simple, but I have what I need: a bed, a fan, a mosquito net, a bookshelf and some pegs to hang my clothes from.

The climate here feels like what I was made for: temperatures during the day normally peak out between 32 an 35 degrees, and sink to 28-29 during the night, while the water is a constant 30 degrees. Most days are sunny with a bit of haze because of evaporation from the sea, and every once in a while we have a day or two of strong winds, torrential downpour and thunder and lightning. The greatest hazard around here are falling coconuts, but we also have some monkeys that can bite if teased (never even saw one) scorpions (never saw any of those either) and the occasional python. The mosquitoes here don’t carry malaria, but they are quite annoying around dawn and dusk.

Okay, now you know a bit about my life here. The everyday life sets in here too after a while, but then I look out at the white beach and the blue sea, consider the fact that I COULD be spending my days in some dreary office, and I’m fine again.  😉

Island Life

Life on the island is running it’s course, people come and go, the beach is white and the jungle is green, the sea is dark blue and sky is a lighter blue, the sun rises and the sun sets, the moon and stars spin their course above all of us. The past few days I’ve been in the good company of Mike, Briony, Jim, Sally and Terry. Mike has moved to the big island to work for Arwana, the others have continued their respective journeys, that will take them to Dubai, Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Thailand and other places near and far.

Today I went to Arwana because they’ve been servicing and storing our scuba tanks over the monsoon, and I got to see Mikey in the bargain. When I got back, Ramli, father of Sunlight’s founder and owner, Sunny, was here. We had lunch together, I got the keys, we sorted out the building of the new deck and discussed the arrival of our boat, scuba equipment and compressors. One of the compressors still needs servicing, and the boat needs to have the second of it’s twin outboard engines mounted, but now things are moving!

img_0170I sketched an outline for the new deck with the necessities we need to have on it, like basins for equipment washing, water supply and shower, tank racks, and drying racks for BCDs, wetsuits, fins, masks and snorkels. Carleed, the manager and co-owner of Moonlight will make a sketch of his vision, then we’ll review them and make the decision. He’s still vying for a solid concrete structure, while I’m more inclined to have a concrete base and wooden deck, for a more esthetic look. :) The solid concrete could work, as long as sufficient drainage is added, to counteract underwash and subsequent erosion, but it will break with the general look of the existing building mass. It might also be more susceptible to break under heavy wave action during monsoon, but Carleed doesn’t seem to think this will be a problem, and I guess he knows the effect of monsoon waves on the beach. At least we seem to agree that it should have as few levels as possible, to avoid people tripping on steps with their dive gear on and such.

Precious precipitation pouring over Pulau Perhentian

Deserted beachI’ve been in the Perhentians almost two weeks,  and I’m still hanging around waiting for equipment, boat, compressor and stuff. It’s been mostly lazy days, beach time, socializing and chilling, but we’ve also had some longed-for rain! The fresh water supply was dwindling, and for a few days we were almost without water for showers and washing. The downpour this week was therefore very welcome, at least for those of us who have more than a few days here!

Rumours are running wild up and down the beach about what’s happening with Sunlight Divers this year, so it’ll be good to get back in business, and settle all the speculation. :) As for the diving, I’ve reached the point where I’m about ready  to go and pay to get in the water…  Luckily Moonlight has this year invested in wifi, so I don’t have to go anywhere to get online. The drawback is that the ISP is a bit unstable, so while I sometimes get a near perfect connection, at other times it switches on and off like the old fashioned flickering disco lights in the beach bars. Someone told me today that they’ll be doing maintainance on the underwater cable in mid May, and that they’re hoping that’ll sort everything out, but mid May on Malaysian time I’d say is probably closer to September… 😛

Anyway, as my days are pretty much divided between eating, trying to go online and socializing, any more regularity in my updates would get rather repetitive. Mike is back on the island, and is trying to get a job at Spice divers, but has a job with Arwana on the big island lined up if that doesn’t work out.

Coconut 2On a final note, here’s me with a coconut and a straw. Recipe: take one coconut that falls out of a tree, hack it open, drink a little of the juice, fill up with ice, stick a straw in it, then sit down and enjoy a cold refreshing drink. :)

Return to Paradise

I’ve been nagging about this in my last three posts, but just to confirm it: I’m back in the PERHENTIANS! I came on the first boat this morning, and I’ve settled in above the dive shop, in one of the three rooms upstairs. Three of the people who were here with Sunlight last year were already living there when I arrived, Wan, his brother and another fellow I haven’t met before are sharing one room, Emma and Bob are sharing another.

On my way here from Bali, I had two nights  (or rather one and a half) in Kuala Lumpur. My plane landed at twenty past midnight, and by the time I found a guest house, Reggae, it was 2 am. On the first floor of Reggae Guest House was Reggae night club, but luckily they turned off the music by the time I turned in a little before 3. It was a little expensive (and a lot loud…) so I moved the next morning, down the street and out of earshot, to Wheelers guest house. The price was about half, but it was definately not worth it, as it turned out the place had bed bugs. :( My suggestion: never ever stay in Wheelers guest house in KL.  I had a nice day before, though, as I met up with Ali and Sundar again, same as last time I was in KL. We spent the day around Bukit Bintang where Ali lives, and went out to eat at an Irish pub.  (the Beef and Guinness Pie at Finnegan’s is brilliant!)

Yesterday my flight from KL to Kota Bharu was delayed, so I didn’t make it to Kuala Besut in time for the last boat and had to spend the night.

I went over to Panorama today, where Emma is working as a divemaster this season. She was out diving, so I was just hangin’ around until she came back. When she arrived, I was sitting with my back turned, behind a one of the pillars supporting the deck above, and one of the other Swedish girls there told Emma in a serious voice that some very weird guy had been asking for her. Her expression of utter bewilderment turning to recognition as I peeked around the pillar was priceless!

There seems to be a little challenge to overcome before I can get started in setting up here, but I hope it’s nothing big. Sunlight has three years left on the lease of the place, but there are some details of the agreement we need to go over with the owners of Moonlight and the owners of Sunlight divers, and then the real work sets in. :) I am itching to get started, so I hope it won’t take too long. I’m waiting to hear from Richard before I start contacting the people that need to be involved, don’t want to step on any toes and blow up possible deals in my first days here… 😉 It feels good to be back, though, and I do hope the good feeling about working out a nice deal here will prove to be right!