Going Without

I have been in a streak of foul mood lately, and I can attribute it to the increase in workload that includes reviewing all 16 over-500-pages-each manuals, the need to fulfill my offshore-visit KPI, prepare another two sets of those manuals for the possibility of two new-build rigs: and each set must be peculiar to each rig. We are still a one-rig operation so hiring an assistant is still out of the question. The management does not think that I would be needing help at this time. My offshore-visit KPI stands at 12 per annum (10 acceptable) and I have only done 5. Apart from that I have to prepare more safety documents in preparation for the rig-down, the sailing from Sabah to offshore Terengganu, the rig-up and the pre-spud. In July I will be doing the same documents for our rig move from one field to another.

What does all the above mean? Lesser time spent with the kids, and definitely hardly any time to go diving. And for those who know me, I’ll be increasingly cranky with each week that I do not dive.

I have initially planned to go diving this weekend as it would be the only weekend available left for me to go diving for at least another month. However, due to company activities and also to my step-son’s sports day, the wife is unable to join me. Not a big deal? For me it is.

Our first dive together as buddies at Tukun Laut, Perhentian - August 2009
Our first dive together as buddies at Tukun Laut, Perhentian – August 2009

Ever since she completed her Open Water Diver and Adventure Deep Diver courses, I have never gone on a dive trip without her; and I have only had her as my dive buddy. What is more enjoyable than having your wife as your dive buddy? Furthermore, she has now become my spotter for me to shoot underwater subjects, and she is a good spotter.

I have thought about it. It would be so difficult for me to go diving alone. I imagined myself diving at the spots we always frequent and I know it would be so different if I were to be there without her, and it is always during those safety stops that I would look at her and she would give me that meow smile and I’d pinch her cheeks. I know she wants me to go, so I could decompress; but the thought of driving alone without her, diving without her…drags me down even further. But if I don’t go, I’d probably be crankier – or not; therefore, I would rather go with her than to go without.

I guess I’ll have to learn to be more patient, and plan another trip hopefully next month if I could, and do that trip with her. She’s my life buddy. So, being with her is worth the wait. Much like the words in Bobby Tinsley’s song:

livin in a world on my own
suddenly won’t do
’cause I found the other half of my heart
when I found you

My dive buddy with a turtle in Sipadan  - 22nd March 2011
My dive buddy with a turtle in Sipadan – 22nd March 2011

Jamaica Weeps

“Bro, who you calling an Indian? I’m a Jamaican la!”

That’s my brother, DJ Cva Quma a.k.a Blackbear’s trademark reply to anyone associating him with being an Indian. Don’t get me wrong, he was proud to be Indian, but was first and foremost proud being a Malaysian.

Cva and us on Sipadan Island, November 2007
Cva, Iszarizal, Zaide, Ajisan, self and Amin on Sipadan Island, November 2007

My first encounter with Cva was back in November 2007 when we attended the Celebes Safari 2007 at Borneo Divers Mabul Resort. He never spoke to me on the first day he was there and seemed apprehensive. He later wrote in the divers’ forum:

“I meet the legendary Sea Demon and tell myself “Buddha himself is here” Sorry SD couldn’t resist”

He had just return from Vietnam and had to quickly grab his stuff, party CD collection, catch the flight out to Tawau because he was required to DJ at the Celebes Safari. I could still remember the look of horror on his face when he realised much later that he had grabbed his entire collection of Siti Nurhaliza CDs. He frantically downloaded club songs and mixed them. Later that night, Cva burnt the house down with his music, and for those who don’t believe it, we saw the other side of Clement Lee, co-owner of Borneo Divers.

Cva Deejaying at Borneo Divers Mabul Resort
Cva deejaying at Borneo Divers, Mabul Resort

Soon after coming back to KL, we met up quite often. He bought a red Ferrari underwater camera and brought it to Kanna Curry House at Section 19 in Petaling Jaya, and asked me to teach him how to use it. Soon, we realised we had something in common: we were both divorced, and soon the friendship developed into more than just dive buddies. We would chat on Yahoo! Messenger exchanging notes, confiding in each other, and became brothers. One thing about him though, he would always see the lighter side of things, and made sure nothing would drag him down.

Cva enjoyed life
Cva enjoyed life (taken from Ravi Ravi Ravi’s FB album)

I got married, while he was still searching for the right person. I know that he fancied an Instructor whom I shall not identify here. He would make trips to where she was just to try and win her, but in the end failed. As he put it,

“Don’t worry, Bang. Bunga bukan sekuntum, and we Jamaicans are not losers.”

Then, one day, he met Helen who worked at a dive shop of a friend of mine. There was not a hint of attraction between them, not that I noticed, but a few months down the road, he called me up,

“Bro, I just want to let you know, I’ve finally found the person who loves me for who I am.”

I was elated, so very happy for him, and I went,

“You lucky Indian boy!”

To which he retorted,

“Hey, what Indian la bro? You think Helen would go out with an Indian? Jamaican la!”

Self, Nizar and Cva at a MIDE party in KL
Self, Nizar and Cva at a MIDE party in KL

Then one day, he asked me for advice, on wanting to open a dive shop. He said he had quit deejaying and wanted to become a full-time diver. I gave him the pros and cons of having a dive shop and so on, but he decided to carry on with the idea; and with some friends, he opened up Gila Divers located on the 2nd floor of the Endah Parade near Seri Petaling. Once in a while, he would lament to me about how slow business is, so on and so forth, and I would tell him the same situation cuts across the board, but he would have to hang in there. And he would say,

“Bro, when are you and Kakak (my wife) going to come to my shop?”

And I’d tell him once I was free I’d do so. But work and personal stuff would always get the best of me; I never got to see him alive in his shop…ever.

My last meet with him was when we went to Tioman in July 2010. I needed a break so I went diving. He, upon hearing that I was going there, quickly organised a trip to the same place. We never got to dive together much during that trip because he was always doing shore dives, but I remember during the last shore dive, I saw him going around the jetty collecting rubbish…and snapped a photo of him.

Cva collecting rubbish near Salang jetty
Cva collecting rubbish near Salang jetty – July 2010

After that trip, I became too busy and never saw him again.

He would YM me from time to time, and whenever possible, I would chat with him. He would tell me of his trips to Anilao in the Philippines, and of his other dive trips. His last YM to me was about a month ago, sent to me when I was in a meeting. It just went:

“Bro”

By the time I saw the message, he had gone offline.

During my previous trip to Sipadan, I thought of the good times he and I and the others had had there, and I thought to myself, I should call him up to see how’s he doing once I get back from offshore.

I never did.

Then this morning, I saw a Facebook message from Clement Lee asking me if it was true what he had heard: THAT CVA BLACKBEAR HAD PASSED AWAY LAST NIGHT.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then my phone rang. It was Amin. And soon it dawned upon me that Cva is truly gone, passed away in the ambulance on the way to the Serdang Hospital, accompanied by the love of his life, Helen.

For one whole day today, I felt devastated, wrecked. And after lunch today while lying down in bed, I finally cried when the fact finally sank in.

Gone is my brother Cva. No more Jamaican jokes, no more banters, no more taking the mickey out of each other.

And no more brotherly hugs.

I am going to miss you, my brother Cva Quma. You were among the kindest and honest people I have ever known. Rest in peace and enjoy diving in God’s beautiful ocean. God bless you for accepting me as your brother.

Rest In Peace - Cva Quma aka Blackbear
Jamaica will never be the same again – from Andrew Arokiaraj’s FB album
Cva Quma 22 May 1968 – 7 April 2011

I found this chat with him on Facebook two years ago:

#
Cva Quma dei bro!!! forgot all about this !!
30 April 2009 at 11:47 · LikeUnlike
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John F Seademon I never forget bro…had all my good brothers to dive with me. Good fun, good tanni, good pomble…eh, pomble irruka illaiya? Wah, I can speak Jamaican now!
30 April 2009 at 12:03 · LikeUnlike
#
Cva Quma oonahku pomble irruku maan!! bro dates for december dive?
30 April 2009 at 19:35 · LikeUnlike
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John F Seademon December 16th we depart for TWU/Semporna…come back 20th December…venumma vendama?
30 April 2009 at 19:47 · LikeUnlike
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Cva Quma on bro!!! damage? flight schedule to book?
30 April 2009 at 19:49 · LikeUnlike
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John F Seademon
RM1070 if room (twin sharing), RM1030 if dorm. All with air-con, free wifi, English breakfast (goes well with Jamaicans)…but staying in Semporna la bro. 9 dives in total, with 3 dives at Sipadan. Sipadan permit fees included. Excluding fl…ight and meals only.

I haven’t booked any flight yet. I’ll let you know once booking has been done.See more
30 April 2009 at 19:53 · LikeUnlike
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Cva Quma AA 340.00 / Mas 336.00… yethu?
30 April 2009 at 19:56 · LikeUnlike
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Cva Quma bro it aint about where we staying…. its about diving with u… cheers
30 April 2009 at 19:59 · Like

This Is April 1st, 2010

Yes, March 2010 ended as at midnight last night, and it is April Fools’ Day. So, for all you fools out there, enjoy.

April may have gotten its name from the Roman word “Aprilis” – “to open”, maybe to describe that it is the open of the planting season as it should be spring now (apparently it is not in some places that should have spring season by now). April, apparently, is also when people have weird holidays such as One Cent Day (April 1st), National PB & J Day (April 2nd), No Housework Day (April 7th), Winston Churchill and Name Yourself Day (April 9th), National Pecan Day (April 14th), and National Shrimp Scampi Day (April 29th).

For me, April is the month that I will be traveling to Mabul and Sipadan. Last year it was from the 17th through the 21st, this year it will be from the 16th through the 20th. And this will be the first trip to Sipadan for Wifey, who has been doing her last 24 dives in Tioman (following 5 dives in Perhentian). And we hope to do around 12 dives at least so that it would be worth the trip. Last year I only managed 8 because we were such a huge group.

15 days to go!

Last Kopek

Monsoon diving would normally remind me of this particular trip:

A normally 1-hour trip on the speedboat to Tioman took 3.5 hours

This was when the speedboats were still plying the Mersing-Tioman route three years ago. On this particular day, a journey that would normally take an hour, became a three and a half hour-journey.

Recently, Wifey and I, together with Hana, Fazira and Ali, went to Tioman with Renek and Dalie, and their whole family. It was a good trip as it would be Hana’s last trip before her SPM exams. I enjoyed that trip. It was also the first time Wifey and Hana dived together. It was also the first trip Wifey did a night dive.

Wifey and Hana at Soyak

A week later, Wifey and I went to Tioman again. And though the weather then was predicted to be bad, it turned out to be the last of the best weekend dives there. The sun was out, the fishes were big. And we enjoyed two full days of diving.

Wifey doing a swim-through at Chebeh

As for next year’s dive plans, I can’t really plan much. Come January 1st, my colleague, Azli, and I, will be transferred on promotion to our drilling joint-venture company. Although my boss shall remain the same, my colleagues will consist of mainly Mat Sallehs…totally different work culture. But at least, I no longer have to work on alternate Saturdays. But I will still be required to go offshore from time to time for inspections and audits. At least, I can start making impromptu dive trips again.

Having said the above, we will be returning to Tioman in February, and then Perhentian and Tioman in March, before the annual 5D/4N pilgrimage to Sipadan in April.

I know, it’s only November; but I can’t wait to immerse myself in sea water again.

Entahlah

Raya dah hari keenam hari ni. Not that I care la, kan?

Masa raya ke berapa entah hari tu ada la diorang tunjuk mini concert by stars yang dah faded ataupun dah jadi black hole. Di antaranya tu is what was a girl-group called ELITE. Masa aku tengok diorang menyanyi dan menari tu aku rasa sekarang ni elok diorang call themselves CELLULITE.

Hari ni pulak ada model yang kena tangkap tengah baik punya tanni, and badly wants to be caned for her offence, sekarang kata nak berlakon pulak lepas dah kena caning. It makes you think if this episode had been a publicity campaign on her behalf all along. It sure gives a new meaning to the saying:

“NO PAIN, NO GAIN!

Anyway, raya has been good, apart from a furniture-equivalent episode. Had fun with Wifey and her brothers and cousins, makan-makan and bowling together. The eve of raya, the family had the usual last berbuka gathering.

On the third day, we went to Tioman. Kejadian pelik yang kitorang nampak kat Tioman cumalah this group of Middle Eastern yuppies yang ada Ailurophobia. Nampak aje kucing, siap nak berdiri atas kerusi. Kalau yang pompuan aje takpe…ni yang jantan bertelor unta pun sama. Mungkin diorang adik-beradik suku-sakat piyut-piyat Imhotep kot.

Baghal.

Anyway, here are some pics to share with all of you; wishing you a happy Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Mixing vodka into the orange squash for berbuka
Mixing vodka into the orange squash for berbuka

Ambil lauk berbuka
Ambil lauk berbuka

Happy dah kenyang
Happy dah kenyang

Esok tu raya…kitorang berkumpul kat rumah kampung my wife’s family:

The cousins
The cousins

Malam tu pergi bowling beramai-ramai
Malam tu pergi bowling beramai-ramai

Raya ke-3 kitorang cabut ke Tioman:

Wifey kat bawah Salang Jetty
Wifey kat bawah Salang Jetty

Jellyfish kat Tulai
Jellyfish kat Tulai

Phyllidia elegans kat Fan Canyon
Phyllidia elegans kat Fan Canyon

One Full Diving Circle

Doing my 3rd dive at Renggis Island off Tioman, July 1982
My 3rd dive at Renggis Island, off Tioman. July 1982

I was 16 when I first scuba-dived. It was the time when tanks were heavy made of steel, no BCD, no alternate air source (Octopus), no air pressure gauge. The tanks had J-Valve on them with a little yoke on the left for you to yank for some spare air in emergency. The only way for you to know you are out of air is when you suck in the regulator and all you get is nothing. So, you yank the yoke for emergency air and make your way to the surface. The only gauge available then was the depth gauge; all readings were in Imperial units. Decompression sickness was not something that would come to your mind as it was 1982 – it would be 3 full years before PADI’s recreational dive planner became a must. On the surface you would have to kick continuously until you could grab a hold of the boat else you would sink back to the bottom because of the heavy tank. And after I left the military service, I stopped diving altogether, and concentrated more on skydiving.

Somewhere along the Straits of Malacca

If it weren’t for that episode where I was interned in a coronary intensive care unit at the Damansara Specialist Hospital back in 2004, I would not have taken up scuba diving as a hobby. As a result of my heart condition then, I was advised by the cardiologist to take up something I might find relaxing and that would have a calming effect on me. I was stressed at work, and I was stressed at home. I had to have a vent somewhere before my heart would give up on me. A year later, I even got my eldest daughter, who was 13 then, to take up scuba diving. And it was at the Perhentian Island where she did her open water course and first dived at a site called Teluk Kerma (more popularly known as D’Lagoon after the only resort on the beach facing the lagoon). My final dive of that trip was at Tukun Laut (known by its more popular name – Tokong Laut), which to me is still the best dive site anywhere in Malaysia. After that trip, my cardiologist took me off Cordarone, the medication to help regulate my arrhythmia. I had found my stress-buster.

My daughter, Hana, during her open water course. Next to her is Fazira, then 10 years old
My daughter, Hana, during her open water course. Next to her is Fazira, then 10 years old

When I started dating my wife, Jasmeen, early last year, several people told me that she is not the outdoor-type and would never bask in the sun, let alone scuba dive. As a matter of fact, she never even jumped into the pool during our first trip together with friends to PD. Then one night, while being under the influence of some drinks made of wheat and grape extracts, our friend Gemgem, made us promise to go on a trip to Tioman, and I was to do all the necessary arrangements. Of course, when much sober, Gemgem denied saying he would pay for all flight and accommodation costs that were to be incurred. His luck improved when all accommodation on Tioman on the planned weekend, were fully-booked. So, we switched destination to Perhentian. Anyway, to cut a long story short, after my first dive of that trip, I couldn’t get into the room because she was missing. Apparently, she had gone snorkeling with the rest. Now, that was one giant leap for the pampered-kind. Subsequent trips turned her into a “snorkel-master” but still, never enough to coax her to take the plunge into the deep.

The group during the first Perhentian trip
The group during the first Perhentian trip – end May 2008

For our honeymoon, we returned to Perhentian with my sister, Nazra, and her husband, Kazu. I had promised my wife that I would go snorkeling with her on that trip. Then, one afternoon, as we were resting in the room, she said she would like to try scuba-diving. A very quick lesson on discovering scuba and correct usage of equipments followed and I took her underwater to 6 meters at the house reef, and I think she loved watching the juvenile batfishes sheltering in between the artificial reef structures. I think that made her wanting to pursue a course proper.

Wifey taking her first plunge doing Discover Scuba
Wifey taking her first plunge doing Discover Scuba during our honeymoon

Last weekend, both she and her long-time friend and ex-schoolmate Dalina, took the open water diver course. The latter’s husband, Renek, is already a dive buddy of mine, having dived together on several trips to Tioman, Mabul and Sipadan. They did their four open water dives at the Tiga Ruang, Batu Kapal/Shark Point, D’Lagoon, and Batu Nisan dive sites, with Renek and I accompanying them at all sites.

Wifey and Dalie during their first open water dive at Tiga Ruang
Wifey and Dalie during their first open water dive at Tiga Ruang

I finally got to buddy with my wife at Tukun Laut on her fifth dive, where she did her Adventure Deep Dive (to allow her to dive deeper than the open water limit of 18 meters without having to undergo the full Advanced Open Water course). After she had done her narcosis management exercise, I guided her around to show her things. We saw ‘Tripod’ – the three-flippered Hawksbill Turtle, a resident of Tukun Laut, Bamboo Sharks, lots of Snappers, and even the huge resident Titan Triggerfish. But I got to show her two things that she had wanted to see the most: the Boxfish, and the Tomato Anemone Fish. I remember looking at her face, smiling with delight when she saw that cute boxfish swimming around but going nowhere. It seemed surreal to me as it was my own wife I was guiding. I never thought I would live to see this day, that my own wife would be diving with me.

Wifey on the surface before her first deep dive at Tukun Laut
Wifey on the surface before her first deep dive at Tukun Laut

Back on the boat, I told her how much I love her and how truly proud I am of her, and how she has disproved the notion that she is a softie. She smiled with tears of joy welling at the corner of her eyes.

Revisiting Sipadan – Part Three: Mabul

I ran a temperature the night before, that I lost the appetite to eat. The things that made me happy were the SMS to and from Wifey, being able to hear her voice, and the thought of another day of diving around Mabul.

The day began with another dive beneath Seaventures. While the boat was being tied to a mooring line, I managed to exchange waves with Lianah from Borneo Divers, my dive guide during the Celebes Safari back in November 2007. There was a slight surface current, but once I slipped beneath the waves, it was calm.

I was greeted by a school of Jacks, and the usual Abudefdufs, and I smiled thinking how Wifey would be cursing had she seen them. Then I noticed something on the sandy bottom – a discarded toilet bowl. I quickly motioned for Kimi to come closer and take my camera, as I had to have this shot of me sitting on the toilet bowl underwater; something I have always wanted to do underwater.

Then I went to the sea fan where I took some shots of the Pygmy Seahorse, and waited for my turn as there already were some cameramen doing their shots. Then I saw some of them went to take photos of something crawling on the sand; it was a Blue-Ring Octopus, probably one of the most poisonous animals on Earth. I took some shots of it before Lee, the second dive guide, signalled to me that he was going to surface with Aznan and Spena, and wanted me to buddy with Kimi. Then, some 20 divers from a nearby resort descended upon the sea fan and sand and silt just hung there, clouding the visibility. All of them rushed and elbowed each other to get an opportunity to take a photo of the Pygmy Seahorse, which, by then, I was sure, was smothered by the amount of sand these divers had kicked and disturbed. With the visibility gone bad, Kimi and I had no choice but to cut short our dive and surface.

We did a long surface-interval as Johnny, the other dive guide, suggested that we do our second dive after lunch. As I was still feeling feverish, I looked for a masseur. I know I fell asleep while being massaged.

The second dive was at Eels Garden, while the third was at Paradise 2. Renek lost his mask at Eels Garden after surfacing due to a common mistake divers do. The visibility at Paradise 2 wasn’t that good but I enjoyed the dive, especially when I happily snapped away at this half-asleep Green Sea Turtle. Huge mother!

I had fever again soon after surfacing and slept again before waking up in time for dinner. The rest of the night was spent lying down on the jetty watching the millions of stars in the sky above us.

And I was always thinking of Wifey then…

Doing the deed underwater

Its bite can be fatal

The sh*t stirrers

No teeth

Sleepyhead

Sunbathing