Friday, May 28, 2010

Getting Ready to Go

Getting ready to go to Africa has taken up so much of my time i haven't been able to blog, tweet much, or even surf much. I was able to ship some food to Senegal, and arranged air freight for some stuff as well. I didn't bother sending a tv, but sent a wetsuit, some surf gear, my triathlon bike, and some camping gear.

I don't watch a lot of tv, get most of my news from the Internet, and would rather be out practicing my french or doing something. It also looks like I will need to learn Wolof as well. If I get to travel as much as i hope (and surf as much as i hope) satellite service would be wasted.

Another thing that i always wanted to do is a full ironman triathlon, and South Africa holds one each April. I will have plenty of time to train when i am not surfing, but figure i will have to spend most of my bike time on an indoor trainer. I am not looking forward to spending 6 hours on an indoor trainer. It seems like there is a healthy running community in Dakar, even a branch of the hash house harriers, but i haven't seen anything about open water swimming.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, May 3, 2010

Scuba School

This weekend i started the PADI Open Water Certification Course!  Saturday was spent in the classroom watching the PADI movies and taking written multiple choice tests (got one question wrong on the final exam) and today was spent in the pool doing confined space dives.  Next weekend we will venture into the Pacific Ocean for five dives to earn my open water certification!

Diving in the pool was a lot of fun today, the gear was heavy out of the water but once in the water i didnt notice it at all.  We were in a 13 foot deep salt water pool so we floated pretty easily- i might have even needed more weights (they gave me an extra 30 pounds to carry in my buoyancy control device (BCD) and on a belt around my waist to compensate for the 7mm thick farmer john wetsuit that I was wearing (14mm effectively on the core of my body). 

There was no big ceremony and they didnt make a big deal out of the first breath under water as i have seen others wax poetic as it being a life changing experience.  I thought it was pretty cool- the air was jsut there and i could breathe normally.  At first the bubbles coming out of the mouth piece were pretty annoying as they encumbered my vision, but after a couple minutes i adapted and wanted to get going. 

We did a bunch of drills to get started, first on our knees just barely under the water in the shallow end of the pool, then later on the bottom of the deep end.  Drills included clearing water from your mask, finding your mouthpiece if you drop it, taking off your mask & putting it back on and clearing the water, simulating running out of air and getting air from your buddies spare mouth piece (called a regulator), and similar actions in case of emergency under water.  For fun we even followed each other around the bottom of the pool and through hula-hoops suspended at different depths. 

We weren't allowed to bring a camera into the water so i don't have any pictures, but i am excited to dive with my GoPro video camera in the future since it is rated as waterproof to 100m.  The instructor said in the last class some people brought cameras and forgot to pay attention to their dive buddies or the instructor so they are banned during training.

I am looking forward to diving in Africa!  Its supposed to have some pristine areas with all kinds of fish and animals to check out.  There are three dive centers listed for Dakar and one rents all the needed gear for 45Euro per day so i should be able to dive at least once a month.  As well as when i am touring the rest of the continent I can take a break after surfing in the morning and dive in the afternoon.  Not sure i want to be lugging a boardbag and scuba gear on the plane and through customs for each country i will be visting in Africa. 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

They Turned Our Desert Into Fire

Thursday night i attended a screening of "They Turned Our Desert Into Fire" with a couple friends and met the director before the film began.  It was an interesting documentary of a photographer who visited Darfur in 2004 and was asked to present his findings to congress.  In order to get to Washington DC, the photographer traveled by Amtrak train from San Francisco and shared his photographs and story of Darfur with fellow passengers and recorded their reactions. 

Most of the people he recorded were unaware of the crisis in Darfur and wanted the government to do something.  Some of the statistics presented in the film about the media's neglect of the crisis were astounding, especially when compared to the Martha Stewart Insider-Trading Scandal (60 mins for Darfur over a year and 130 mins for Martha Stewart). 

Another part that was amazing to me is the impact of the American policy decision to not put any pressure on the government of Sudan until the North/South/rebel group conflict was resolved.  This allowed the government to delay any peace deal and continue the burning/killing operations in Darfur.  Bad analysis of the political situation drove bad American policy and allowed the deaths of thousands and displacement of millions. 

The reaction of many of the train passengers was to ask why the US Government and the United Nations hadn't intervened.  The director gave some information about how some of the nations on the Security Council had vested interests in the conflict continuing as they were making a profit (selling arms) as well as Sudan was selling them oil. 

In my opinion another major reason for non-involvement is the principle of sovereignty- that a sovereign nation can make its own decisions and no one can force them to do anything.  This is a principle that hasn't been evenly applied internationally.  It all seems to depend on the interests of the invading countries and what they can gain from it or the story that is told about it.  Sovereignty is something the US claims when another nation or group attempts to get it to do something that is not in its own interests (Kyoto for example).

It seems that Darfur hasn't been a bigger story because Iraq overshadowed it, because some were making money by selling arms, and others were afraid that it would upset the oil exports from the country.  The director challenged everyone to get the word out on Darfur and try to increase the visibility of the crisis to get support of the millions of displaced people and bring pressure on the government of Sudan.

Watch the film- check for a free screening around you or order the DVD.  Spread the word because the crisis is still not over.