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Hello and welcome to my blog formerly called Gypsy-K. Please note that I am only updating this blog while I am walking from Rome to Jerusalem from September 2015. My online home and permanent blog is at www.kymwilson.com.au. You can also sign up for pilgrim postcards and newsletters here. Thank you for being here and supporting my journey. With love and courage, Kym xx

Thursday, 31 December 2009

An Amazing Year in Review

I don’t believe in living in the past but there can be such value in looking back and reflecting on what has been. As I reflect now, I can truly see how 2009 has been such an amazing year for me. I am truly blessed.

January

In January, I procrastinated a lot. I tried to plan my journey and I changed my mind a lot until I finally booked my one way flight to Phuket. I moved out of my beloved Elwood to house-sit my sister’s place in Glen Waverley, a lovely change of pace from inner city chic to suburban tranquility. I rocked along to Neil Young and trained as hard as I ever had.

February

In February, I battled the heat of Melbourne’s hot, hot hot summer and sweated it out working in an old building with a barely functioning air conditioner. Like most other Australians, I was inspired and touched by the generosity and compassion my fellow Australians showed to the bushfire victims. I stopped working full-time so I could pack up my belongings and head to Asia, indefinitely. I celebrated my dear friend, Barb’s final period of singledom in true Aussie girl style, lots of drinks, dancing and singing.

March

In March, I enjoyed 5 day weekends only working 2 days per week until I finally became unemployed. I shopped for the perfect dress to wear to Barb and Marc’s wedding and helped them celebrate the beginning of their new life together.

April

In April I prepared to leave. I trained, cooked, cleaned and packed. I rode an amazing emotional roller coaster as I prepared to leave my loved ones and the life I knew behind. I cried a lot. And then once I was packed, I became excited. Then on the 16th April, I left Melbourne, headed for Phuket. I settled into my new home, Southern Fried Rice guesthouse and explored Kata. I contemplated renting a motorbike but was too scared after seeing too many accidents. I started training in Muay Thai in the scorching heat, my clothes soaked and dripping with my own sweat. I became an Emergency First Responder and a Rescue Diver and I started my Divemaster training. And I started to learn that "the Universe only provides what you CAN handle, nothing more and nothing less."

May

In May I learned to never, ever disrespect the (muay thai) teacher, unless of course you enjoy additional push-ups. I trained hard and graduated to Intermediate Muay Thai. Training in the heat made me so tired “my feet don’t touch the ground”. I finally broke my turtle drought, my first turtle sighting in more than 50 dives. And I enjoyed watching Thai soap operas with the thai ladies at my guesthouse even if I had no idea what was going on.

June

In June I celebrated my birthday diving King Cruise Wreck, Shark Point and Koh Dok Mai. My first birthday spent diving and my first birthday overseas. I swam 2 kilometres underwater so I could map a dive site as part of my divemaster course. I continued my Muay Thai training with my fragile, constantly bruised shins and then I was promoted to the Advanced class, a reluctant graduate. The madness of Bangla Road and Patong beckoned and I answered. I read and loved Shantaram. I finally learned to ride a motorbike thanks to Ina’s patient tuition and felt a freedom I hadn’t known existed. I ate the best mango icecream in the world but then for a change of pace I prepared to detox, giving up coffee, sugar, alcohol. I became a PADI Divemaster and then I packed up my things and went to Koh Phagnan, not for a full moon party but to fast and detox.

July

In July I went back to Phuket, detoxed and better than ever! Then I prepared said good-bye Phuket, hello Malaysia! I hung out in the Perhentians with my der friend Viv, diving and enjoying the beautiful, clear, turquoise waters of 32 degrees. I logged dive number 100 in the Perhentians, not naked but I did it in a yellow power rangers costume. I went to Sabah where I cruised the Kinabatangan river to watch Orangutans, Macaques, Proboscis monkey and birdlife galore. And I found my diving heaven. I was stunned by Sipadan. It surpassed anything I could have imagined. 3 days, 9 dives, more than 90 reef sharks and 70 turtles.

August

Then I went back to Thailand, but this time Bangkok. I caught up with my work friend, Jarrod and then met up with Viv for what I thought was one last time. I loved the bustling, beauty of Bangkok so much I stayed for another week. I walked with Tigers and bathed an elephant in Kanchanaburi and was so very blessed that the universe brought Viv back into my life. We hung out in Chiang Mai and together got pummelled at the Chiang Mai women’s prison, laughing all the while. Together we went to Pretty Pai and for the first time in my adult life I started to wear pink.

September

"Its time to taste what you most fear. Right guard will not help you here. Brace yourself, my dear...Its a holiday in Cambodia". I loved Cambodia, especially Siem Reap. I was amazed by the crumbling ruins of the temples of Angkor and did my best Lara Croft impersonation. Then I headed to Bali, looking forward to getting back into the ocean and catching up with my dear friends Ina and Arndt. It didn’t start well. I attempted to break my nose by swimming into a brick wall nose first. We went to Lembongan where I was horrified by the sights and sounds of Cock Fighting but also amazed by the beauty of the underwater world. Shivering in cold water, I saw my first ever Mola Mola, 4 of them in one dive. And my heart leapt with joy as I watched my first ever Manta Rays dance and glide before me. We travelled Bali by car and survived our little mishap. We dived Liberty Wreck and marvelled at the tiny pygmy seahorses. And spent some time chilling out in Padangbai.

October

I jumped from Bali to Java by bus and ferry. I got up at 2am to see a volcano at sunrise....Gunung Bromo...the most beautiful but surreal landscape I have everseen in my life!!! I visited Yogyakarta’s crazy bird market, drank Bintang by the pool, watched the passing clouds and ate lots and lots of gado gado.

I came full circle.....back to where it all began, Phuket. I enjoyed eating mango and sticky rice once again, the endless summer and beer o’clock. I was reminded how "the fabric of our daily world is so amazing....don't get so caught up doing stuff that you lose contact with the miracle and how mind-blowing it really is"
I swam in a sea of indecision and discovered that swimming in the sea helps with indecision :) I spent a wonderful 10 days with dearest Diana, beaches, food, diving and Phi Phi.

November

I did the longest and worst trip of my life, a visa run to Kota Bharu. I moved home on the back of a motorbike. I spent two glorious days with my dear friends Barb and Marc in Koh Lanta. I started to miss working. I enjoyed more beer o’clocks at sunset. I screamed in excitement when I saw my first ever whale shark at Shark Point. I finally made the decision to do my IDC and tried to study but was so very distracted by gorgeous weather and the beach. I was (and am) blessed to spend a lot of time with a very hot Italian man.

December

I started my IDC and prayed for time to go very slowly. I delighted as I scored some perfect 5.0’s during my course. I studied and practiced exams. I discovered I was knot-lexic and was relieved to overcome my knot-lexia. Then I faced the IE and won. I became a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor. I was so excited to speak to all my family together at the same time, in the same place at Christmas, one big chaotic conversation. I started writing again after a period of silence. I became the snorkelling queen and even a baby-sitter but with a gentle push of encouragement from my friend Ina, taught my first scuba students. And now I’m about to end this year by making some bubbles with an 8 year old girl before welcoming in the new year with friends, drinks, fireworks and hopefully lots of fun.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

A Christmas Interlude

Sometimes I forget the blessings in my life and I take for granted the basic gifts in my every day world.

Sometimes I get so caught up, following the dialogue in my head, still chasing the perfect life, still believing “I will be happy when…”, being dissatisfied with what is and longing for more, something different, instead of living in this moment and choosing happiness now.

Sometimes I let those negative emotions that simmer in the pit of my stomach reach boiling point, fuelled by too much attention, allowing the anxiousness, self-doubt and fear to engulf me in a sad sea of uncertainty.

Sometimes I overlook the wisdom of my heart, its gentleness over-ruled by the louder egocentric voice of my mind that still thinks it knows best.

Then I have moments like these, when I wake up and see all the blessings surrounding me. I realise with dismay that once again, I fell asleep, ignored my inner wisdom and followed the wrong signs. I am grateful for awakening and that the blips are only temporary.

This Christmas my life is full of blessings. I live in a tropical paradise of gentle smiles, golden sands, aquamarine warm seas, mesmerising sunsets, crisp blue skies sometimes filled with bulbous white clouds, sometimes overtaken by refreshing, tropical rain.

This Christmas my life is simple. I am without the stress of work obligations, fighting for space in the shopping centre car park, joining long queues at the supermarket check-out and demands on my time with places to be.

This Christmas I am completely free to just be and enjoy life as it is in this moment.

This Christmas I am miles away from my family and friends back in Australia but there is much love around from those near and far.

This Christmas, I celebrate all the wonderful, simple blessings in my life. I look back at the year that has been and see the many steps I have taken in this journey. Looking back, I remember, I realise and am grateful for this time and the amazing year 2009 has been for me. Letting go, being free, seeing where the winds and see may take me have lead me to this point in time with all the wonderful experiences I have had this year.

This Christmas I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be in this tropical paradise, the sun on my face, warm water lapping at my toes, for the joy that diving brings and the way it has changed my life, for the amazing people in my world, new and old, and for the love that surrounds me.

Through my writing and my photography I hope I have been able to share some of these blessings with you all.

May the spirit of Christmas stay with us all throughout 2010. May we always remember the blessings in our everyday lives, both big and small with gratitude. May love surround us always.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Diary of an IDC Candidate - Part 2: The IDC

And so the IDC began. I embarked on the Instructor journey…8.5 days of listening to presentations about the PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors), reviewing all the PADI courses from Discover Scuba Diving to Divemaster, learning standards, standards and more standards, and learning the PADI way to teach in the classroom, in the pool and in the open water. I turned up on my first day, cheerful but feeling a little unsure of myself and unfortunately my first session back in the pool did nothing for my confidence.

Of all the skills we demonstrated for Bent, our Course Director, I struggled to complete one of the most basic, weight belt removal and replacement underwater. I was able to remove it with ease but it then took me, what felt like 5 minutes, to replace my weight belt underwater. I just couldn't slip the end of the belt back under the clasp to do it up again. Frustrated, I started talking to myself through my regulator. “What’s going on? Why can’t I do this? This is stupid!” I muttered as I peered down at my weight belt to see what was going on. I stayed calm, kept persisting, finally did it back up and signalled “OK” to Bent. We surfaced to exit the pool and Bent commented, “Nice weight belt demonstration.” I flashed a cheesy smile and said “I know! I can’t believe it. I have never had problems with that one before.” I inspected my weight belt and then noticed the end wasn’t sitting flush which caused the initial problem and quickly replaced it with another one. Nonetheless, my inner critic gave me a hard time and I went home that evening feeling a little bit bummed.

The next two days were a bit up and down. My first confined water presentation was Partial Mask Clearing. I was so nervous trying to remember everything we had been taught and wondering if I would be able to identify the errors that my “students” (fellow IDC candidates) were instructed to make. I did OK . Well actually, it was better than OK, I scored 4.6 out of 5 and a boost to my confidence. I just needed to remember to have my hand closer to their regulator for this type of skill and remind the student of how to correct their initial error. I went home to prepare for my classroom presentation and second confined water presentation feeling positive and optimistic.

Day 3 was our first classroom presentation. I was glad that we stayed in our small group of 3 students as I have never been a fan of public speaking. My presentation was “Streamline yourself”. I had a lot of fun thinking of my non-diving analogy to use as my contact story. I settled on Formula 1 race car designs. I showed a picture and had my “students” describe its appearance, including lack of “bitsies” hanging off it that would cause drag. Preparation was more fun than delivery and I scored 4.5 out of 5. I was a little disappointed as I thought I could have done much better but it was still a passing score.

Later that afternoon we had our second confined water presentation. This time, I was teaching fin pivot by oral inflation of BCD (buoyancy control device, the jacket that scuba divers wear). Again, I was nervous. The same thoughts running through my head, trying to remember what I had been taught, hoping that I would pick up the errors that my students were told to make, which I did, albeit a little too slowly today and I scored only 4.2. Still a passing score, but the high achiever in me was disappointed with my results and I went home feeling a little bummed not knowing that everything was about to change.

Day 4 of the IDC was the turning point for me. The day that I truly believed that I could do it and I could do it really well. We started the day with our first Open Water Teaching Presentations. I taught Regulator Recovery and Mask Removal & Replacement. I was nervous and my briefing showed it, my voice quivering as I spoke. We went into Relax Bay, Le Meridien’s home reef, and dropped onto the sand at about 6 metres. I was grateful that I wasn’t the first to do my presentation when I discovered that our Course Director was one of our students. But I needn’t have worried. I identified and corrected errors on both skills with ease. I jotted down my errors on my teaching slate so I wouldn’t forget them between the surface swim back to shore, dismantling my gear and giving my de-brief. I gave my debrief and then waited for the verdict from our Course Director...and waited…and waited…because I was given my score last....and…. perfect 5.0’s for both skills. I was rapt and remember thinking “Wow, I really can do this.”

Later that day I gave my second Classroom Presentation on Finding Minimum Surface Interval using the Recreational Dive Planner Table. Again, I had a lot of fun trying to think of my contact story. I used the comparison of planning an overseas holiday with connecting flights because everyone wants to minimise the amount of time spent waiting in an airport. I actually enjoyed giving this presentation, probably because I made my “students” do most of the work, showing me where to find the answers on the table. Well, I wasn’t completely lazy, I did guide them through it. Anyway, the end result was another perfect 5.0. Three perfect 5.0’s in one day. I was doing something right and these scores positively buoyed my self-belief.

Now the course was starting to become fun. I challenged myself to create interesting contact stories for my presentations and I looked forward to my Open Water teaching presentations, wondering what errors were going to be given to my students and looking forward to identifying and correcting them. My in-water rescue demonstration was good. I felt great and started looking forward to the IE….then I hit a major hurdle….knots!

I discovered I was knot-lexic, bow-line knot-lexic to be precise. I had a major inability to tie the bowline in the pool or in the open water. I found it most confusing when I had tied one end of the rope to an object with a bowline and then had to tie the other end of the rope to another object with a bowline. I went through phases of being able to tie them on land and then in the next moment not being able to tie them. This was a very big problem because for the IE, you have to be able to tie three different knots, bowline, two half hitches and a sheet-bend, not just on land but underwater. I was almost at panic point. I could do two half-hitches and sheet bend but bowline kept eluding me. I had practised and practised at home and been able to tie them with no problem. But the first time I went into the pool to tie the lift bag to the weight belt, everything just looked different. I couldn’t tell one end of the rope from the other and I struggled to tie the knots. Eventually I succeeded but not in an easily repeatable manner. My stress levels began to rise. “I am going to fail the IE because I can’t tie a stupid knot” I thought to myself.

I began to carry a rope with me everywhere and every opportunity I had, I practised tying the bowline. I talked myself through it. “Lake is in front of the tree, snake comes out of the lake, around the tree and back into the lake." Sometimes it would work and sometimes it wouldn’t. “Jeepers, I am an intelligent person, but I can’t tie a simple knot. What’s going on here?!”

Just when I though I had it conquered, I discovered, in the open water, that I still hadn’t perfected the knot. I volunteered to tie the lift bag to the weight belt first, thinking I would be able to do it easily but I still couldn’t get it right. After several attempts, I shrugged my shoulders and raised my palms to Adriano, our Staff Instructor, asking what I was doing wrong. He tied the knot in front of me but I still didn’t get it. Raising the lift bag was no problem but attaching it? Oh dear. My stress levels took a sharp rise.

I became distracted in class. Focusing more on tying knots than listening to the presentations in class. I would sit there and my rope to the rings in my binder, untie, re-tie, untie, re-tie. Just when I thought I had it sussed, I went back out in the open water for a practice session and I still struggled to tie them easily. “Why?!!!!” I exclaimed to myself, close to tears. “It really shouldn’t be so hard”. Then, after watching my friend Ina demonstrate the knot slowly, I finally figured out where I was going wrong. “Ahhhh, now I get it. You have to hold the snake’s tail, and pull the tree”. After that, I had no more problems. I tied, un-tied, re-tied the bowline, perfectly, every time with ease. Now I felt ready to go to the IE.

The IDC passed quickly. My days were timetabled and full of the things I needed to learn to pass the IE, lots of information to absorb and lots of practice. Every day started at 9am and I generally didn’t leave Le Meridien until 4pm every day but my day didn’t finish then. Although I still found time for Beer O’Clock with my friends, every night was filled with preparation and study and of course, knot tying. No sooner had it begun, the IDC was over. I had passed. It was time for the IE.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Diary of an IDC Candidate - Part 1

I’ve been silent for quite a few weeks now and this is the reason why…..

My longing for stillness, to be in the one spot and stop moving around has been fulfilled. Apart from my temporary departure to obtain a new visa, I have spent 6.5 weeks in one place. Despite the stillness, I decided to listen to the very specific instructions given to me in a dream, those instructions being, “Kym, stop being so afraid and do your IDC” (Scuba Instructor Development Course) which have now taken me on a whole new roller coaster ride. At first, I wrestled with the decision; Should I do it? Do I want to do it? Do I want to work as a Scuba Instructor? Will I be good at it? Should I spend the money? What if I’m not good at it? What if I fail? My mind and inner word have been clouded by fear and doubt. I spent two weeks on the yes, no, maybe roller coaster and then finally I committed to doing it and enrolled myself in the course. I tried to write several times during my period of silence but my inner world was such a whirl, I was constantly distracted by my emotions and thoughts that I struggled to string together anything of real meaning.

Yesterday was prep day where I met my class mates, completed paperwork, revised some theory and snorkeled 800 metres. The course officially started today. I am nervous and anxious. As soon as I wake up, these emotions start flowing forcefully from my belly. My doubting self chimes in and the self-deprecating thoughts commence. Maybe you’re not good enough, maybe everyone else is better, maybe you will fail and so forth.

My dive instructor friends have all reassured me that I will pass. And in fact there is a wager going that I will pass. But despite all of this, my self-doubt is high. Despite everything I have achieved in my life, the self-doubter within me still thrives. I thought that perhaps I had made peace with her this year. By leaving Melbourne and travelling by myself, I have learned so much about me and been reminded many times over that I can do anything that I put my mind to. But the self-doubter within still persists and this is part of the reason I must do my IDC…to overcome my self doubt.

Self-doubt is not the only factor generating my fear. Becoming a Scuba Instructor is a fairytale dream I had a few years ago. Deep down I wished for it to come true but it has taken a long time for me to even acknowledge this longing yet alone allow it to be a real possibility in my world and not just some nonsense, illogical dream. Now I am following my desire and hoping with all my heart that it comes true but there is fear of disappointment, of not succeeding, of not being good enough. In pursuing my dream, there is risk of failure and perhaps crushing my heart and my hopes in the process. But where there is great risk there is also great rewards. So I am chasing the dream.