Monday, December 21, 2009



Suddenly the previous surrounding darkness was an eerily whitish grey glow. Coral sculptures jumped out of the darkness and just as suddenly it was dark again. Images of fish floated in 3 D vision in my right brain as my left brain scanned with torch to make sure I was not hallucinating. Wow! A lightning storm was above us. That’s a first.

For the second time in my life I was night diving and this has to happen! What men will do to please women!

We were doing a ‘night dive’ as part of an advanced dive course. I was just along for the ‘fun of it!’ Ha!!! I hate diving at night!!! It gives me the hibbie jibbies to jump into a swimming pool at night!

I’ll tell you about the last time I went night diving. I swore to myself that I would never, ever go night diving again!

Oahu, Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay outer reef. Diving for lobsters. A Kona –south wind night. A rarity. Perfect for getting lobsters on the windward side of the islands.

I was diving with my brother-in-law and his buddy.

Why do I get talked into these things? It wasn’t that I didn’t know that Kaneohe Bay was full of hammerheads. I had gone out with the Frank brothers to Coconut Isle where they cared for the feeding tanks on the weekends for the University of Hawaii. Sharks in the throngs would hang around the caged in pools with all these other sharks, waiting for tidbits to float out.

So there I was jumping out of our anchored boat just off the reef in Kaneohe Bay at night! Flash light in hand, ‘catch bag’ tied around my waist. Scanning this coral wall looking for caves that lobster would home. A sudden current sweeps along my back. I turn around and put my flash light on a hammerhead that glides by now mid way past me. I can reach out and touch it. It has half of its body to still pass me.

I had to swim from were I was to our boat which was about 100 feet. And our boat was on the other side of where this monster had just passed me, casually. And of course I am thinking. Light on or off. On he knows exactly were I am. Off he probably knows exactly were I am. This is his world. I am in his world. I am part of the food chain as far as he is concerned. I left my flash light on. Maybe I could blind him if he came directly at me. Thank God he did not come directly at me. This is my greatest fear. A man eating shark. Somebody please tell me, why do I presently live in San Francisco and at least once and more likely twice a week, go to the beach and put on a wet suit to imitate a seal as close as possible in looks and then go jump in the sharks food bowl – the ocean? Please some rational soul, please tell me why I do this.

Yep, that was the last time I went night diving! Until now. Until…’0h What! We are going on a night dive?’
‘Yeah!’, says Natalia, ‘It’s part of the course! They have one extra place. You get to come!’
‘Oh!’, I say. To myself I say something else.

Another FLASH! This one much brighter!

Oh Good! Were going to get cooked. We got these big metal tanks strapped to our backs and we are under an electrical storm out in the ocean next to a reef. My name is Bob and I’m gonna be shish KA BOB, any moment now!

Another FLASH! Still closer. Much brighter! The underwater world is like some kind of plasma without gravity and frozen.

It’s about here that you start having this intimate conversation with God, like he is your best buddy and it was just, you know, well, you know, okay, so it’s been a while. How you been God! By the way…

Somehow, for some reason, God have me yet another chance.

I swear! I will never ever go night diving again! But if I do, God, please be nice!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcome! Eastern Turkey! Winter!

After having gone through numerous military check points along this Turkish border road with Iran, the guards started calling us, upon our arrival, by our names.

‘Hello Robert! Privit Natalia! Would you like some coffee? Please come in while I record you passports. It will be just a moment. It’s freezing out here!’

They all had seemed to take our activity in some fashion of humor. They had obviously taken a moment to prepare these greetings in English for us. I must admit. I felt some what flattered!

They had all heard the story, passed apparently on from one check point to the next.

“Check Point 7, this is Check Point 6. We have two foreign travelers. Yes, that’s correct. Those two. One an American, male, Robert Palmer, current residence, Izhevsk Russia, Teacher, Udmurt State University. One Russian female, Natalia Timoshkina, resident, Izhevsk, Russia, Student, Udmurt State University. Both traveling together. Vehicle: Fiat 33 HA 166. Sightseeing! Yes, that is what they both have reported as their purposes for traveling. Yes! Yes Sir! I know Sir. Yes. Well Sir, I know! Their travel time concurs. No warranted suspicious activities. Yes Sir. They are departing here. Time: 1410.”

So we continued along this Iranian border road.

What are you two 'really' doing?

We are not sure which Check Point, but finally, at one, one of the guards- you could tell that they were dieing of curiosity - asked us, with a smile, ‘What are you two doing? Sightseeing in December in Eastern Turkey? Come on, what is going on? Listen, all the guards are very curious about you two. We are bored to death. What are you two really doing out here in Eastern Turkey in the middle of December?’

I could not resist the opportunity.

“We really had no idea that Eastern Turkey was going to be this sever of weather. We bought these tickets to Istanbul for US $99.00 round trip. We got them 2 days before our trip. Neither of us had been to Turkey. So, here we are. However, can I ask you something?”

‘Certainly, Turkey is a free country too!’

“I would never do this without your consent. What is the possibility of me being on Iranian soil for just a second or two?”

‘Are you serious?’

‘Yeah, but I would not do this with out your consent.’

Iran, Christmas Day, 2001

We followed this military transport vehicle to this spot. Here I am!

Merry Christmas Bob! December 25, 2001.