Monday, March 26, 2012

Underwater World

I have many fears, from needles to spiders and pretty much anything creepy and crawly, but water has never been one of them. Since I was a kid, I have been prancing around in pools, holding my breath, racing my friends, playing games and fetching golf balls whenever they were thrown. A large portion of my childhood was spent in the pool. Surprisingly little time was spent in the ocean considering that I grew up in Cape Town, but hey... the water was freezing and my mother was never fond of the sand. Still, I enjoyed swimming and enjoyed the beach whenever I had a chance to go to it. And yet, the idea of taking a dive course never crossed my mind.

Cue my university years spent studying, partying and, when possible, soaking up the sunshine. My love of swimming never faded and, despite dating a diver, doing a dive course still never struck me as an option. Each year, his birthday presents consisted of some form of dive gear (a BCD here, a weight belt there) and he would come back from trips with his family sunburnt and thrilled at the experiences he'd had. Nope, I still wasn't interested. And then, six years later, when planning our first real vacation away together, I started to consider the possibility. It wasn't an easy one to consider. Sure, I had never been scared of water, but the idea of breathing underwater still made me a little nervous. But we planned the trip to include some diving and I got going on my course mid-March.

First there were the lessons - the lectures, the reading and the knowledge reviews. These I sped through, trying my best to retain the knowledge contained within them. Words like neutral buoyancy and reverse squeezes floated through my brain and stuck there. The dive course book was extensive, but filled with fairly simple rules. Stay calm, breathe, don't hold your breath, breathe, look after your gear, breathe. It taught us the basics of how to dive without actually sending us underwater.

Then came the confined water sessions. This was it, the part that I had been both dreading and looking forward to all at the same time. Before we could start diving, we had to do some fitness tests. Fitness had never been my friend. I loved swimming, but lacked speed. We were given a choice - 8 laps in the University pool without a mask and fins, or 12 laps with them. Not one for holding my breath for long periods of time, I elected to swim with the mask and fins. Of course, I hadn't expected it would take so long getting them on! By the time they were on, some of the others were finishing their laps. By the time I finished mine and went to wade water for 10 minutes, there were only 3 people left wading. Ten minutes passed and I passed my fitness test, albeit slowly. Then it was time to gear up. This I was quick with. Having studied hard, I knew just what to do and managed first time without any trouble. Then it was time to get the gear on.

I was lucky with my gear. As my birthday present, Grant had bought me almost everything that I would need - wetsuit, booties, fins, mask and weight belt. The weight belt was the only part that I hadn't tried on, and the instructor assured me that I would only need six weights to go down. Unfortunately, my instructor was wrong. Everyone climbed into the pool, myself included (now caught up to the rest) and we started going down in pairs. Only, I wouldn't go down. I was positively buoyant and there was nothing I could do but get out and put more weights on while the others finished their first set of skills.

Already behind and feeling terrible about it, when it came to my turn, I was far from reassured about my abilities. I went under, with a little more shifting of weights, and started the skills. But as soon as I got one wrong, I panicked. What was that first rule that we learned about in the books? Keep calm. But no matter how much I tried to remind myself of that, I just kept panicking, which only made things worse. Eventually, I had to call it quits and decide to come back the next day and try again. Sure enough, the next day, I managed the skill that I had struggled with the first time (removing my regulator, retrieving it and breathing from it) without any difficulty. Perfect. Now for the rest of the tasks. Next came removing my mask, putting it back on and clearing it. Alas, another difficulty. No matter how hard I tried, the panic just kept taking over and my mind kept stopping me from completing the tasks in front of me. Without managing the skill, there was nothing for it but to leave for the day and come back later.

Thankfully, it was not only my lack of skills that stopped me from finishing the course. The weather decided to join me in my misery by stopping everyone else from finishing theirs too. It meant that the weekend that was supposed to involve open water diving ended up involving me in the pool with the instructor once again. We practiced and practiced until there were only 3 skills left unmastered. And then the weather gave out once again. Apparently timing was never on my side.

And so, here I am, three skills (controlled emergency swimming ascent, underwater weight remove/replace and underwater gear remove/replace) and two open water dives short of a PADI Open Water course and with a diving holiday practically booked for the end of the month, before I can finish the necessary dives. And  you may be wondering why I am writing this now. Well... any instructors out there willing to take me on (with all of my mental issues)?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Movie Review: The Princess Bride

I have always loved Princess Bride. I cannot remember the first time I saw it, probably because I was too young to remember, but it stuck in my mind for years afterwards and I have watched it many times in the last few years.

So why do I love it so much? Well, it has everything that you need in a movie – romance, comedy, action and adventure – and it does them all so well. Even though it was made in the 80s and the effects are absolutely terrible, the storyline makes up for it.

The movie starts off with a young boy sick at home playing videogames. His grandfather comes to pay him a visit and brings with a book (The Princess Bride) that his father used to read to him when he was sick. Begrudgingly the boy agrees to listen, complaining at points about how it sounds like just a gushy romance. But before long, the boy is captivated by the story and so is the audience. The story is about a beautiful woman and the farmboy who she falls in love with. The farmboy, Wesley, leaves to find his fortune early on and is kidnapped and killed by the dread pirate Roberts. The woman, Buttercup, pines over him for five years before agreeing to marry the prince of the country, Prince Humperdink. A few days before the wedding, she is kidnapped by a group of ruffians who want to start a war between two countries. What they don’t realise is that the dread pirate Roberts is on their tail and wants Buttercup for himself.

A few weeks ago we realised that two of our friends (Mike and Vicky) had never seen the movie, and so we invited them and Tom and Danika around to watch. Being the adults that we all are, we also decided to make the movie a little more fun by adding a drinking game to it. The rules of the game (similar to the rules of any other movie drinking game) are that when a character in the movie says a specific line, you need to drink. Some of the lines for Princess Bride include (but are not limited to) the following:

As you wish
Humperdink (the prince)
Man in Black
My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
True Love
Rodents of Unusual Size

You will find yourself drinking a lot in the beginning and at certain points throughout the movie (at some point, a witch says boo something like 15 times in quick succession). Of course, it’s up to you how much you drink and when, but these are just some guidelines if you feel like watching the movie with a group of friends and playing along.

Either way, drunk or sober, I give the Princess Bride 5/5 as a movie. It has got everything that you need and, even though it is a little bit dated, it is still a lot of fun to watch.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Man or Muppet?

I think I am a big kid at heart, especially when it comes to the movies that I watch. Every animation that comes out, I have to watch! It's like I never grew out of the phase, and luckily Grant is exactly the same. Only, while I grew up watching Kideo and Disney movies, Grant grew up five years earlier with the Muppets.

It's not that I didn't grow up knowing about the Muppets. I knew of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy and I'm pretty sure that I watched movies like The Muppets in Space and Muppet Treasure Island, but I was always one who was more into watching Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast hundreds of times over rather than watching live action. But, dating Grant, it was slightly hard to avoid the Muppet mania. It just pops up every now and then, like when I was introduced to the Manamana song, which got stuck in my head for months on end and is likely to get stuck there again now that I have even mentioned it. Or, when Grant rediscovered The Muppet Christmas Carol and we watched that a couple of times.

So it should come as no surprise then, that we have been in Muppet mania over the last few months, ever since we heard about the Muppet movie. Even I couldn't resist the hype. The advertising campaign was amazing, with them running ads for the movie based on trailers for various other movies. Confused? Try watching the trailer entitled The Pig With The Froggy Tattoo or Being Green. You'll see what I'm talking about. Oh, and did I mention that the movie stars How I Met Your Mother actor Jason Segel and Enchanted actress Amy Adams? What about special guest appearances from Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons (Sheldon from Big Bang Theory)? Mix that with the rave reviews that it was getting and Grant and I were practically jumping off our seats dying to see the movie.

We eventually managed to get a copy of it, and I suppose the real question is going to be, "Were we disappointed?" The answer is a resounding NO! Let me make something clear right now - the movie is a kid's movie. But it is a kid's movie that speaks to an older generation of kids. It is a musical straight from the 70's with the choreography and goofy moments that you have come to expect from a typical Muppets movie. And that is what it is - a typical Muppets movie in typical Muppets fashion, presented to today's children. Which they should be thrilled about! I don't know if they are going to be, but they should be.

The humour was great with moments of laughing out loud and moments of cringing, but not in the dodgy way that most comedies lead to these days. The songs themselves were hilarious and wonderfully done. The storyline is a little weak, but entertaining nonetheless. Basically it is about a guy named Gary and his girlfriend, Mary, who decide to take a trip to LA and bring Gary's little brother, Walter, along. Walter feels like he never fits in, which is not surprising considering that he is a muppet without actually realising it. Anyway, he loves the Muppets and they decide to visit the old Muppet theatre in LA only to find out that it is derelict and about to be torn down by an oil-digging Texan tycoon. So, of course, they go off and try to get the Muppets back together to save the theatre.

Who would I recommend this movie to? Anyone who loved the Muppets as a kid and is ready to see them with a slight (very slight) modern twist but with an old school feel. Also, anyone who is in the mood for a good clean laugh and anyone who has kids. Not Rudi. He apparently hated it. *Shrug* Anyway! 5/5 from me!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


It's hard to believe that we are two months into 2012! It's even harder to believe that in a month I will be 24, and if March passes as quickly as it felt like February did, that will happen in no time!

February was both a quiet and a stressful month. It was quiet in terms of actual things that were being done. Weekdays were spent at work, when I wasn't sick, and weekends were spent trying to find fun things to do like play squash or go and hit some golfballs at the driving range. But it was stressful at the same time because of the new job putting lots of pressure on me and finding out that my grandfather is not only sick, but seeming to be on a slippery slope of sickness. I would have thought that being in South Africa I would have felt more closer to my grandfather than I did to my Mom's dad when his slippery slope started, but I feel just as disconnected and out of the loop as ever. Grahamstown may be closer than Korea, but it is still too far for comfort in these kinds of situations.

On top of that stress, there was also the stress of my photography beginning to take off. Stress because getting it to take off involves making investments and sacrifices that I cannot necessarily afford and stress because I was expecting to fail at every step of the way. Thankfully I did not and am most pleased with the results of my wedding shoot, even if I still feel that they are not as professional as I would like. In the same week as the wedding, I was also hired to be the photographer for a world record attempt - longest game of pool ever played. The record is currently sitting at 72 hours, and thankfully I am not the one setting it, so I don't need to be there for most of the time. Still, the date for the attempt could not have been worse - on the first of the month, the billing day for all of our clients and the busiest day of the month for me considering that I have to be up past midnight to load the last of the usage and up before 6:30 to make sure that everything is running smoothly, not to mention soothing clients who feel that they have been overcharged, undercharged or just want to have someone to complain to.

So February has been a calm and stressful month all at the same time. Here's hoping that March will end up being a bit less nervewracking and a lot luckier. How was your month?