Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hurricane Katrina : 2 Year Anniversary

I can't believe that its been 2 years... it seems like 10. I think about what has happened since Katrina hit and in looking back at all the events that took place, 10 years at least should have passed. Then I think about actual moments of evacuating, then coming back into the city that looked like a war zone and when I close my eyes to remember what that was like, it seems like yesterday.

August 29th will be a day that will stick with me forever. Last year, I wrote this post -Hurricane Katrina : 1 Year Anniversary - and after re-reading it, it again struck me how far we have all come from one year ago.

This year, I don't want to post any pictures of the past because its just too hard to look at still and from here on out, I just want to focus on all the good things that have happened because of Katrina. I am so proud of all of my friends and family who used Katrina as a positive to follow their dreams and for some of us, we needed a "Katrina" to help give us the courage to do some of the things we are doing.

Some of us reacted right away, some of us left months or a year later, some stayed to try and rebuild and some of us are still trying to figure it out (actually, aren't all of us?) but no matter where you are mentally, emotionally and physically- everyone who has been affected by Katrina has a special place in my heart. Here in LA, I find myself looking for signs on whether I should be here or not, but when I think about all the people here who have some connection to New Orleans that have come into my life and have helped me tremendously, I am just happy and grateful to have them all here. Some may not know that they have helped me as much as they have, but maybe I just need to do a better job telling them. I actually don't know what I would do without them all- my support system here.. and you know who you are.

I am sure that there are going to be a ton of specials tonight on this second year anniversary of Katrina and I haven't decided on whether I am going to watch or not- I have a feeling it will be inevitable.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Diving the Channel Islands

On Saturday night after the Sunset Junction street festival, I headed over to Paul's house in Atwater Village and then we drove together to Ventura harbor that took us about an hour from where we were. We unloaded all our gear and put it on the boat- the Spectra above- and picked out our bunks before heading to the restaurant to get something to eat. Since it was about 10, our choices were a bit limited so we finally decided on this Greek restaurant which was pretty good-- just REALLY loud with belly dancers and lots of singing. The boat held 30 divers and for the entire trip with the night on the boat, 4 tanks and meals on the boat- it was totally cheap.. $100 per person! That's a steal. We went to Santa Cruz and Anacapa although the visibility wasn't too good in Anacapa so we did all of the dives in Santa Cruz. The visibility in Santa Cruz was around 60 feet, the water temp was 70 and there was basically no current at all... perfect diving conditions for California. Not to mention that it was yet another beautiful day with bright blue skies and lots of sunshine. We saw a ton of really cool things in the water like colorful nudibranchs like below, that looked almost like they were glowing underwater. As tiny as they are, about the size of the tip of your finger, they were easy to spot because of their beautiful colors.
There were also some really cool sponges and anemones that I don't know the names of... but I love the middle picture below of the black coral that looks like it has a red metallic center-- it looks like a piece of art under water. There were tons of sea urchins (like below) and one time Paul cut one of the urchins open and all the fish would come eat it. It reminded me of being in the aquarium and being surrounded by fish! I miss those days! There were also some really neat starfish like below. I love the massive one on the left with about 20 or so legs. If you could just sit and watch it for a while, you could see it moving so fast across the floor.
The whole trip was just great. We lounged in the hot tub they had on board on the gorgeous drive back to the harbor (ok, as long as we could take it!) and then fell asleep on the top platform heading back in. I wish I could spend every weekend this way!! If you dive out here in Southern California and haven't done this trip, you have to go!

Friday, August 17, 2007

My visit with Cory : Seattle

I just got back from my Portland/Seattle trip and was fortunate enough to go see my old friends Cory and Jason and their adorable daughters Maygan and Anna Corrine who was such a cutie and it had been so long since I had last seen them. Cory and I worked together at NOLA.com and was one of my good friends in New Orleans. We reminisced about how weird it was that us and a lot of our other friends and family are spread all over the country and not even two years ago had this completely different life. Cory talked about her last memory of us right before Hurricane Katrina when I went over to her house with our friend Sarah and it was the first time she had left the house since Anna Corrine was born. We went to the Jasmine Cafe, this little Vietnamese restaurant on Carollton which I frequented for its delicious chicken noodle bowl and cheap prices. Oh, and who could forget the green tea bubble teas that were to die for (and every other flavor too). We had a long dinner, talked about just every day life kind of things and who would have thought that soon after, we would be displaced and now all 3 of us live in totally different cities. Two years later I reside in Los Angeles, Cory in Seattle and Sarah in Washington DC. My how things have changed. It was the first time that I have seen Cory since I left the city and it was so nice to see her, her husband Jason above and her two precious girls. I was so happy to see such familiar faces but I was also so sad to know that we are all so far apart. All my friends from New Orleans will always have a special place in my heart and I hope to keep in touch with them always and often. If any of you are reading this and we haven't spoken recently, I hope to catch up soon.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Diving in Cebu : Day 2

The next day, Cecilia and I had to get up at 5:30am to be at the dock for 6am for the shark dive. The name of the spot was Tingo Point and we went down to 120 feet and stayed down for about 45 minutes. Ok, so no sharks but we saw a ton of other things! Check out these little critters... You are looking at pipe fish, nudibranch and a sea worm.This is also the smallest nudibranch that I have ever seen! This trip, Mikey and Dindo accompanied us on these 2 dives (the pic above we are eating some yummy empanads). Actually, Amando came with us on the second dive and we were honored to have him come. Here is a group shot of Cil, Amado and me in the water!He was hungover from the night before but we managed to talk him into it. It was a great morning of diving. The 2nd dive was on the house reef- Punta Ergano Point. Here you can see every color of frog fish- and big ones too! They are crazy because they look like frogs, will disguise themselves in the coral and they can't swim- they have webbed feet and literally hop from place to place... very slowly of course. Here is a big yellow frog fish!
We also saw some cool scorpion fish and TONS of lion fish. One coral head that I saw had 6 of them all hiding in it... very cool. They are so neat to watch under water but they can be very dangerous so I had to keep my distance. Look at what amazing fish they are... beautiful.
There were also all sorts of puffer fish.. I still have to look up what exactly they are called but in any case- they are cool looking fish. Later that afternoon we went kayaking which was very comical. It was Reyanne's first time ever kayaking and we also attempted to take her snorkeling along side the kayaks but had trouble getting back on the boat! It was hilarious... Cecilia and Dindo's kayak had a tiny leak and their boat ended up filling with water so they had to go back on shore to empty it one time. The second time, they barely made it back and ended up capsizing right before getting back on land! Good times...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cebu Island : Diving Day 1

This morning we woke up at 6:30am and I went for a quick run in the gym which was really nice and I am so glad that I got some sort of exercise in. They had a full breakfast buffet and right after we walked over to Scuba World to check in for our dives. This shop was "affiliated" with the hotel and was right next door so we just walked on over. We met Mikey (dive master), Paul (dive master), Jordan (Fleet Manager), Dindo (Dive master), Tony (worked in the shop) and Amado (Store owner or manager?). They were all really nice and helpful and we had a great time hanging out with everyone in between dives.
We met Bill (originally from NJ) and Suki (Hong Kong) who were a couple living in Hong Kong currently and were so nice. We did both dives with them and will hopefully keep in touch with these two and visit Hong Kong one of these days! Or maybe if Bill and Suki comes to the states, they can come visit in California. It was very nice to meet these two and if you are reading this... Cecilia and I had fun with you guys and the pictures are coming soon I promise!The first dive was Naluswan Island-- 80 ft. dive and it was a beautiful dive. Right when we got in, we saw baracuda and a bunch of trigger fish, clown fish and a ton of cool tropicals that I don't know the names of. There were some very unusual looking fish that I have to look up before I blog about them. One thing that totally startled us while we were diving were the sounds of bombs going off in the distance (we were told about 20 km away) but it felt as though they were right next to us. This happened to us in Boracay as well and its so sad that it is still happening- but the fisherman bomb the reefs to catch the fish. In the PI (Philippines), they can't troll the waters for fish because of the reefs so then they bomb the reefs and the dead fish will float to the top and the fisherman will gather the fish that way. And I did say bombS because this happened 3 times while we were under water. That's no joke. By the 3rd one, I looked over at Cecilia and she made fists and hit an imaginary wall under the water. I totally felt her frustration... I wanted to find those fisherman and hit them over the head. Below is a picture of a nice, pretty, healthy reef and some other cool coral and starfish.
We stayed down for about 45 minutes and then had a one hour surface interval so we headed to the next dive site... Hilotongan Island- a 60 ft, dive. But since we had some time to kill, we played around in the water and snorkled around since the water was as clear as a swimming pool. The time passed pretty quickly though and we geared up for this next dive and got in the water in no time. Again, another beautiful dive.
This time, the dive masters took down some bread in their pockets and gave it to all of us to feed the fish. Here is our attempt for a group photo underwater (we didn't do such a good job) and me feeding some fishies! We didn't make it back until about 3 or so, so we showered up and took a jeepney over to Sutukil to meet everyone else. We did a little bit of shopping and then they picked us up and we headed over to the Mother of Perpetual Health church since they were having a mass at 5:30 and it was the celebration of Saint Ann and Joaquin. During mass, we thought we were getting shot at and mom and I both jumped... I was so scared! But as it turns out, during celebrations, they light firecrackers during certain parts of the mass out of respect for these Saints. At the end of mass, there was a ceremonial procession and again, the firecrackers were going off and lots of them! We watched for just a moment and then headed to the van.
The night ended with a huge meal at a chinese place called Majestic Seafood where Cecilia and I just ordered a bunch of dishes and we all shared. At the end of the day, everyone was super tired and after dinner we went back to the hotel, which was only about 20 minutes away.