12 January – Raphey’s Epic-Length Blog Post

Raphael blog pic 1

First, let me
just say, I know this was supposed to be your [Ed: Allison’s] blog day and I’m sorry for
stealing it.  I know your life is
extremely exciting because you can make an airplane blanket into almost
anything.  (awkward plane rides are the
worst) Level vibes mon.

“Raphey…Raphey!  Are you still coming with us?” I awake
startled and confused to Amber’s whispers. 
Her sound traveled through the room, passed by 4 other unconscious guys
still recovering from a hard days work and struck me right square in the
ear-drum.  “Huh – oh yea! Hold on, I’ll
be right there!” I nearly smack my head on the ceiling as I throw off the
covers and leap off the bunk-bed (In the act of being a gentleman, I was
unfortunately stuck with the top bunk). 
I was supposed to get up at 6:20 to be ready to leave the dock at 7:00
and it was already 6:45!  My excitement
and determination to dive this morning completely blocks out that dizziness
feeling that comes with just waking up. 
It also blocks out the pain of landing on my ankle sideways after jumping
from the bed, but I silently hop around with my teeth clenched, trying not to
wake anybody else up.  I threw on my loin
cloth [Ed: swimsuit] and ran out. Outside the room, almost tripping over a pyramid of empty bottles and banana peels (my fault), I sprint down the stairs,
down a glass of pineapple juice (or whatever strange, glowing-neon concoction
was in the juice fountains in the kitchen), and made it to the docks in time to
suit up and jump into the boat.  Amber,
Brad, and Alan (an awesome guy from New Zealand, who has a wicked accent) who
had recruited me to help out in Amber’s project (well…it was more like a week
of me begging them to let me tag along after I got certified for scuba diving
with the rest of the DITs) joined me on the boat.  We shipped out as the sun was just stretching
itself across the sky and every photosynthetic being in the ocean readied
themselves for another day (10 extra points Joe?).  [Ed: “photosynthetic being”  is too general an answer, partial credit only…]

With Brad and
the wheel, Alan took the time to explain my job as his diving buddy.  Every time Allan pointed out a specific
sponge species, I was to hammer a number tag into the sediment with a mallet,
while he took pictures and measurements.  
Sounded like a pretty sweet deal. 
As a plus, I would be scuba diving off the coast of Jamaica!  I know it seems obvious, but even a week and a
half into this trip I still have to step back and pinch myself sometimes to
believe the craziness of our situation – and this is our winter vacation!  It should
be snowing! 

 We cruised along the coast, approaching the
dive zone known as Dairy Bowl [Ed: actually the site is Dairy Bull] (considering this is a large dairy bowl full of
seafood, I don’t know why I even decided to go on this extremely un-kosher dive
in the first place).  Besides a few
early-bird fishermen (I’ve learned that some of these guys can free-dive to 60
feet without an air-tank), we were the only boat on the water.  Amber let us know that she had brought some
snacks for breakfast.  She had some bad
news: “unfortunately, I just brought a large bunch of bananas.” I assured her that
that was definitely not a problem. Cool-runnings.

Alan and I
dove into the water and began our descent into the depths of the sea.  Trailing my partner’s bubbles, with all of my
equipment, I felt like Sean Connery as James Bond in Thunderball.  The only difference was that I didn’t have a
cool harpoon gun, a tuxedo under my wet suit, or a beautiful Bond girl waiting
for me to save her (she’s safely back in Queens).  After gliding over acres of coral, he finally
spotted a sponge and pointed me to it (at first I thought he was pointing to my
head because of the species richness of my weave.  I have whole ecosystems in there, it’s scary).  I took out Thor’s mighty hammer, and instead
of the slow-motion effect I thought being underwater would have on my hammering,
it was in fact no different than hammering on land (although after the first
hit, the recoil sent me flying up in the water).  After an hour of tagging and nailing (and
avoiding a huge spotted eel), we were low on air and slowly ascended to the
boat.  Aboard the boat, Brad and Amber
jumped in and Allan and I chewed the fat (and most of the bananas).  We even spotted a gigantic-sized sea turtle
(which breathed fire and everything!) [Ed: no, it did not.]. 
We whistled at it, but for some reason it didn’t respond.  We went back down for one more hour to tag
sponges when the other team came up. 
During one hammering session, we heard the roar of an engine growing
louder and louder.  We looked up to the
surface just as a huge boat passed over. 
It had a glass bottom and a bunch of tourists were peering through.  Now I know what it feels like to be a fish in
an aquarium.  Sadly, they didn’t throw
any peanuts.

We returned
to land just in time to catch the end of lunch (Chinese noodles).  There was an awkward sharing of the dining
room between the mighty Seawolves (who had just recently dominated and then
exiled the C.W. Post kids) and a new group who threatened our newly gained
territory.  A bad case of inter-specific
competition.  Although I had left my
project partner El Chupacabre [Ed: Dan] to face the morning shift alone, he completed it
and even did the mid-day recordings (fighting off an eel and a ravenous
barracuda!) (yea, it’s a good song).  I
put on my already damp wetsuit and jumped in the water.  The wetsuit may be uncomfortable to put on,
but it makes jumping into the water 10 times better than just jumping in with
only boxers.  With our powers combined
(and the help of captain planet) we finished the evening shift no sweat (Dan
also spotted a scorpion fish.  What is it
about Dan the donutman that attracts the deadliest creatures out there?).  We came back, updated the powerpoint
presentation, and headed to dinner.   Dinner, like always, was great, but people
really need to learn to share the food and not block the aisles with their
seats [Ed: the irony of this last clause is unbelievable…].  I listened to Beefsteak (the
shake and bake gangsta) amaze us with his flawless movie-line memory and superb
impersonations.  On the subject of Brian
being flawless, I think although he didn’t have too much experience in
volleyball before this trip, he has surpassed us all in terms of consistency
and can lay the smack-down on every serve. 
By the end of dinner, Cassie, Anna, Alina, and Allison had succeeded in
transforming me into a crime-fighting rabja (a combo rabbi/ninja).  I battled Cassie out into the streets of Jamaica with
sound effects and everything.  It was way
more intense than Peter fighting the man-sized chicken (Family

On the way to
the computer room, I cautiously passed by the water tower, the most dangerous
part of the Discovery Bay Marine Labs. 
My good friend Tonto had been devoured by a 6 foot long venomous snake
only the other night.  At the computer
lab, we all presented the work we’ve done so far on our projects (yea, I
chickened out) and dispersed.  I had to write
this blog, because I needed to get some sleep for the morning, but the rest of
the gang all decided to do something different. 
So they played “catch phrase.”  To
some that play this game, it may be a joke, but to our group (ages 19-28) it is
serious.  People have yelled at each
other in frustration, thrown the game off the balcony, and some have lost limbs
(thanks a lot Cassie).  We don’t mess

A small chat
by the docks with my hommies Allison and Texas T and then it was off to
bed.  After a long, tiring day of
research in Discovery Bay, the reward of a few
hours of sleep is extremely appreciated and well deserved.  I put my head down to the pillow and let out
a grand sigh.  I drifted into sleep to
the sound of the wookies and turkeys that dwell in the trees (and on the BRANCHES)
of Jamaica.

— Raphaelii

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