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Dive Trip to the Sudanese Red Sea

I lived in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia for fifth and sixth grades. On many weekends, we’d go to the beach on the Red Sea. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to scuba dive in the Red Sea. Snorkeling and swimming wasn’t enough. I wanted to go deeper, see more, and hang out under the water. I finally got my wish.

We just got back from a week-long dive trip on the Red Sea, leaving from Port Sudan. (We flew on Emirates from Nairobi to Dubai and then on Fly Dubai to Port Sudan. This avoided having to go through Khartoum.) The trip was great!

The marine life was abundant. The reefs were healthy. The boat, the M/Y Voyager, was nice (review to come soon). The people we dove with were super nice and we made some new friends.

There were just a few glitches. There was not a lot of current, and so there were not as many sharks as I would have liked. We did see some though. I even saw a hammerhead – my first! Of course that happened on the dive when our GoPro flooded. Actually, this was the dive trip where a few things went wrong:

  • The GoPro, which was human error. The housing is still fine but we need to buy a new camera.
  • The fogging of my housing was an issue. I shot mostly with a universal lens and the port dome for that lens large, which means more air and more risk of condensation and fogging. It was pretty bad this trip. We are going to modernize our camera equipment for future trips. It’s time for something more streamlined and less error-prone.
  • J.’s regulator malfunctioned, which was quite scary. The air connection where the regulator connects to the tank (the first stage, the mouthpiece is the second stage) sort of blew out and air started to leak rapidly. It happened twice. Luckily, we caught the error above water both times. If it happened at depth, it would have been a serious and life-threatening problem. We were able to rent a regulator from the boat for the rest of the trip.
  • One of the dive masters got very sick and we had to go back to Port Sudan to drop him off. However, we went back out again and resumed the trip.

Overall, still a really great trip. Highlights for me include that first hammerhead sighting, diving the Umbria wreck (separate post on that to come), and playing with the macro lens. (There was no fogging problem with that lens and port dome combination: smaller lens, smaller air space, less condensation.) Here are some shots I took with it.

Sudan Red Sea-105Sudan Red Sea-96Sudan Red Sea-94Sudan Red Sea-114

Another highlight was diving on the site of the Precontinent II. This was the second of a set of projects by Jacques Cousteau. The project was to see the effects of living underwater on the human body. The site we saw is near Sha’ab Rumi. Here are some shots from that.

Sudan Red Sea-25Sudan Red Sea-26

Overall, it was a fantastic dive trip. We can’t wait to dive again with with group.

Video from this trip to come soon!

 

 

 

Knitting Experiment

Some of you know that I am a knitter. In past blog posts I’ve written about knitting and the struggle of finding yarn in Kenya. It is tough.

I’ve been experimenting with yarn from Spinner’s Web. It’s soft enough. It comes in pretty colors. However, the yarn weight isn’t even. A given ball of yarn can range in thickness from lace weight (like a string) to super-bulky.

This issue causes two problems:

  1. You can really only do stockinette or garter stitch. Color work, cables, ribbing, and other elements just don’t work. You can see the issue with the ribbed hem of a sweater.

Knitting - 3

2. Getting a size right is tough. I made a sweater for myself that fits fine. (It was in DK weight yarn.) I used that same pattern with the Spinner’s Web yarn (thinking that DK might be a good mid-weight example thickness to use as a baseline) and the sweater has come out child size. It will fit a 10- or 11-year-old. I am an experienced knitter so I know the problem isn’t me. The problem is that with the yarn varying so much, it is hard to know what to shoot for in order to get the size you really want.

I’m going to try again with a cardigan, aiming for a much larger size with the hope of getting something that actually fits me. We’ll see how that goes. If it doesn’t work then I won’t make any more sweaters from their yarn.

I’m trying another pattern as well. There is a scarf I made with worsted weight yarn that could work with this yarn. So far it’s coming along nicely in terms of texture, but we’ll see how length and width work out.

Knitting - 2

I don’t know how much more I’ll experiment with this yarn. It’s not fun to have to take wild guesses on sizing and yarn amounts. I might talk to the people there to see if they can spin their yarn to even even weights.

In the meantime, I’ll be buying tons of yarn every time I’m in Europe or the US. Anyone coming to visit soon? Can I order yarn through you?

Driver’s License for Expats in Kenya

I did say I’d keep posting any new tips. Here are some relating to driver’s licenses.

Getting a License

Okay, here, I can’t help much. The U.N. did it for us. I don’t know the process if you are not with the U.N. or an embassy. If anyone reading knows this information, please feel free to add it in via the comments section.

Renewing a Kenyan License

This part I know and it’s super easy. For anyone who is a resident and has an Alien ID card, you can just go online to eCitizen web site and renew it online. You fill out the form online, pay online, and print your renewal slip which you tuck into your license.

However, if you have diplomatic status (e.g. are with an embassy or the U.N.) then you can’t do this. You won’t have an Alien ID card. Your license will need to go through the Foreign Ministry first.

BUT…and this made my entire year…you don’t have to go through the ssslllloooooooow process at the U.N. or at your embassy. You can go to AA Kenya! I dropped off my passport (shows proof of residency) my diplomatic ID (also proof of residency and that the Foreign Ministry need to do some processing), and my current Kenyan license. I got all my documents and my renewed license back the next day. It was so fast and easy.

Renewing a U.S. License

This will vary from state to state. In New York, you can do it via mail. Just go to the New York State DMV site for license renewal and scroll down to the part about doing it via mail. I filled out a form, got an eye exam in Kenya (and had the optometrist fill out a form), and sent both in along with a check. The key is that the DMV will mail your new license anywhere in the U.S. You’ll need to arrange to have it sent to a friend or family member who will then send it onto you. I had it sent to a friend who then sent it via DHL to me.

International License

If you’re in the U.S. you can get an international license very easily through AAA. Just go in with any valid U.S. State license and you can get one that will be valid for up to one year. You can set the start date as a future date. For example, if you won’t be out of the country for another month then you can set the start date for the month you’ll actually be away.

AA Kenya does do international licenses. So, if you are in Kenya and want to travel/drive in another country, they can take care of that for you. However, be aware that international driver’s licenses are not valid in the country of issue. This is true everywhere. In other words, you can’t get one in Kenya to use in Kenya. It has to come from another country.

I hope all this is helpful. And, again, if anyone can provide information on how to get a brand new license in Kenya, please post it in the comments.

I Used To Be Driven

Now, I’m driving. I’m taking the car a few days a week. I pretty much only need to hire a driver for one-off trips. This is a very new thing for me.

I like it. I never really understood the sense of freedom people felt with having a car. Living in New York, why would I need one? It’s a maintenance. You have to garage it or move it every day (every other day?) because of street cleaning. It was a pain to have a car.

Now, I’m loving it. I’m comfortable on the road. I still hate parking lots but I’m fine with them. I love being able to go where I want, when I want, without having to plan every single excursion.

I’m all about the car. I even want us to get a second car. We don’t need one. I can drop off J. and pick him up from school work. It’s not necessary for us to have two vehicles.

But, I want my own. Actually, I want the one we have now as my own and for J. to get another one.

I thought about making this part of my Trying New Things series of posts…but it’s not trying something new. It’s part of the evolution of me.

I drive now.

Special Note to my friend JD in Alaska: You’ll go through this same journey.

Town Hall

Last week I attended a town hall at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Nairobi. I’ve been to one of these town halls before so I had an idea of what to expect. There were announcements from Ambassador Godec and others and then there was a Q&A session.

This town hall wasn’t as good as the last town hall I attended, but it was informative. Here are what I saw as the key points from the town hall:

  • They are cautious about the upcoming elections. I discussed this with others and not everyone agrees with my take on this. That said, the advice is to:
    • make sure to have enough food, water, and medications to last your family for a week. How much water is enough for a week “…depends on how clean or thirsty you want to be.”
    • make sure your place of work and wherever your children are (school, daycare, etc.) has sufficient supplies for a week.
    • keep hard currency (cash) in different denominations on hand.
  •  Plans for direct flights between Kenya and the US are on track. The TSA will be doing some review the second half of this year. If all goes well, direct flights should start in 2018.
  • There was the usual question about the embassy helping Americans find jobs in Kenya. What people don’t seem to understand is that:
    • No embassy can help with that anywhere.
    • U.S. employment laws are just as tough for foreigners seeking employment. That’s life.
  • They brought up the Wardens and how it’s important to know who your local warden is in case you get in trouble. However, they did not give any information about the wardens or how to find out who your warden is. I could not find the information on the embassy’s citizen services section of their web site.

I asked two specific questions. The first was about healthcare. If TrumpCare passes in the Senate, will Americans with non-U.S. health insurance who return to the States have a hard time getting insurance? Can we be denied healthcare either because we lived abroad or because non-U.S. coverage will not be recognized? The Ambassador did not know the answer. I kind of wished he would have said he’d look into it, but his response was fair enough.

The other question I asked was whether Americans living in Kenya or elsewhere in Africa would have a hard time in immigration when visiting home. The Ambassador said, “I have no reason to think that you’d be greeted any way but with a warm welcome.” I call bullshit. That’s the answer he has to give. The fact of the matter is that Americans are being harassed and detained for no valid reason.

That was the town hall. One last bit…about the main photo. Under direction from D.C. the embassy was required to offer various embassy swag for sale (hats, t-shirts, etc.). It was awkward and tacky. I guess Mar A Lago needs a new pool or something.

If you are living in or traveling to Kenya, please take a look at the embassy web site or contact them should you have any questions.

Contact information pulled from the site (valid as of mid-May 2018):

“If you are an American citizen with an after-hours emergency, please call our hotline at: +254-(0) 20 363 6000.

If you are an American citizen with an emergency during business hours, please call  +254-(0) 20 363 6451.

For Non-Emergency Issues Please contact us at:

  • Telephone               + 254 (0) 20-363-6451
  • Email Address           kenya_acs@state.gov

Callers in the United States can also call the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Overseas Citizen Services toll free at 1-888-407-4747 (from overseas call 1-202-501-4444).”