Monday, October 31, 2011

Sweet Home Monkey Mia

As always there is more to write about than I can possibly express so I'll start from the beginning.  36 hours of travel was bit rough, especially with a headcold.  Mostly I just felt bad for everyone sitting next to me on the planes.  The Australian airline Qantas was very nice made the trip much more relaxing although i was far from relaxed knowing that i would soon be in Australia.  Once in Perth I met up with my coworker Adriana and we flew to Monkey Mia together.  She is so enthusiastic and happy all the time that it is completely contagious and even after all that travel I was so energized to be here.  I mean almost to the point of shaking from excitement.  I am quite sure the other people on that last flight must have thought we were completely bonkers.

We arrived at the resort with high expectations that were immediately confirmed and then vastly exceeded within minutes.  For most of that first day I was simply in shock of the raw beauty and incredibly foreign land.  Red sand covers the ground with an outrageously blue ocean extending into the horizon.  The beach is border between the two and it is composed of pure white crushed shells which only enhances the contrast between the land and water.  After a little tour around and meeting some of the folks who work here I went to bed with an aching face from the smile that had been plastered on me all day.

The next morning was like waking up to realize that its Christmas.  I shot out of bed busted open the door out my trailer, lovingly nicknamed "The Shitbox".  It's really not that bad, plus i get it to myself while the other assistants are in bunk beds together.  The last member of the team, Kirk, arrived around noon and we all hung out and got to know one another a little better.  I had met Jordy, Kirk and Adriana during my time in Miami but Fanny and AnnaRose were new.  They had both been here for a couple weeks already and helped to explain the ropes to us.  Fanny is from the French side of Switzerland and just about the sweetest girl you can imagine.  AnnaRose is from Ashland, Oregon and went to school at Oregon state. Naturally there was an immediately established and good humored  rivalry between us, Ducks vs Beavers. Of course the Ducks win.  All in all I could not ask for a better group to with.

That night we celebrated the beginning of the season at the Monkey Bar and what a celebration it was.  Many bottles of wine later we all went to bed happy as Turtles at high tide.  This morning was bit slower and also a bit too windy to do any work out on the water so we took it easy and hung out on the beach all day.  While Kirk, Adriana and I were all in the water throwing a ball around some starts shouting at us "Shark...Shark" as they point wildly to a spot out 100 meters from us.  We all turn to see a massive Tiger Shark Thrashing about just at the edge of the sea grass beds.  Adriana and I watched somewhat apprehensively while Kirk actually goes strolling out towards it. He got within 30 meters from it to watch  it devouring some unfortunate creature.  The Jaw theme was playing in my head the whole time.  This shark was no Great White but it was 3-3.5 meters long and that is damn big.

Today was also my birthday so tonight my team baked me a little cake and gave me one of the best birthday presents I have ever received, Which is just being here in this place and at this time with them.  I really could not ask for more.  At the moment my heart feels like the Grinch's when he carves up the roast beast.  It has swelled to over ten times its size.  True happiness may be fleeting but when you've got it there is nothing in this world that can bring you down.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Auspicious Occasion

"The best journeys answer questions that in the beginning you didn't even think to ask."
- Jeff Johnson, 180° South -

I've been in Oregon the last few days reorganizing my gear and hanging out with my brother.  Its a nice farewell to be leaving from one of the friendliest towns in the US.  I am starting to drop back into travel mode now.  I am ready to roll with the punches, excited to meet new people and to take it all in.  Four flights, a train ride, 10,000 miles and 20 hours later I will be sunning on a beach in Western Australia.

I will be greatly missing the national holidays that I have come to love so much.  Thanksgiving is always a good time filled to the brim with great food.  Before leaving Chicago my family and I did have a nice mock thanksgiving dinner so I am not missing out completely.  However without a halloween down under, this year will not be complete.  I have no costume planned and no great idea hidden up my sleeve right now but I fully intend to celebrate what is the best holiday ever, no matter where I am.

I talked with my traveling companion, Adriana, yesterday and we are both more excited than words can describe.  My mind is so dead set on where I am going that I can barely focus on anything else.  Although looking out the window of my train car and heading to Portland is beautiful.  Its early and there is a heavy fog blanketing the Willamette Valley.  Like my future I can only see what lies directly up ahead and no further.  So many people are still asleep, so many are just waking, so many will miss out on the beauty in their own backyard but will dream instead of a foreign paradise.  Today I am lucky enough to experience both, from a unique sunrise over the verdant green of the Oregon Cascades to the unknown treasures that will greet me in a distant land.

Noah and I on my last day in the US

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An Exercise in Free Writing

What interests me?  What gets my goat? What floats my boat?

Do I want to devote my life to applied science or to the pure theoretical inquisition of the world?  There is no way that I can simplify a choice like this into an "either or" form.  That just isn't the way life works.   No decision is reduced to A or B in reality.  There are infinite choices and only one reality.  All we can do is to take the first step and to address the next decision that must be made.  Assess where each choice has taken us and use past history to inform our present decision making.

So how do I decide what I want?  Not what I like, that question is simple enough to answer.  I like science, I like biology, I like physics, I like chocolate, I like animals, I like plants, I like being active, I like music, I like longboarding, I like traveling , I like a lot.  I would wager that in general I like a lot more than I dislike... and I like that about myself.

However the real heart of the matter that I am after lies in what I want, not what I like.  Do I want to spend life in a lab? No.  Do I want to spend life in a remote location with no contact? No.  Do I want to spend life teaching at the risk of gaining little or no direct experience? No.  Do I want to experience new things every day, never to gain a familiarity or understanding of what is around me. No.  These questions represent the extremes.  They are both sides of the spectrum, the polar opposites, and each one would make me equally happy and equally unhappy in life.  Leaving part of my soul fulfilled while another feels empty.  However by listing the these opposites from my own individual point of view I think that I will be able to get a bearing on where to find my a personal equator.  A bearing towards the place and to the life that would give me the greatest happiness of mind and most complete self actualization.

So what else then do I see at the extremes of my personality?  My interest of identification and classification leads me to want a career in field naturalism.  My interests in comprehension, education and expert knowledge leads me to want a career in intellectual thought and education.  My interest in creation, invention and construction leads me to want a career in the applied sciences.  Through it all I want to make a difference, no... let me rephrase that.  Through it all I want to be different. I don't want to follow the basic mold.  I want to go about things my way... to discover and uncover my own process uninhibited by the biases of others.  I am happy to receive constructive feedback but do not attempt to tell me that what I am doing is worthless or insignificant just because I go about it in a different way.

As Thomas Edison said, "I succeeded in inventing 1000 ways not to build a lightbulb. Then having exhausted all other possibilities I built one that worked".  The lightbulb had already existed before Edison worked on it.  However, after trying every idea in his head he discovered how to create the most efficient bulbs and longest lasting filaments.  Well what good does it do us if no one ever tries anything different?  If we all fall right in line then we have nothing but the same flaws repeated over and over again.  Without the possibility of genetic mutation or as Darwin called them "abominations",  even evolution would cease to occur.  Often mutations are deleterious, they have negative impacts but every so often they add something new and beneficial to the mix.  It does not have to happen frequently but when a positive mutation does occur it tends to stick around.   At the very least I could discovers new ways to error... and possibly new ways to think.  Writing all of this down is effectively a new way for me to think and in the last five minutes I have discovered much about my own thoughts.

But still I ask what it is that I want.  What life lies between those extremes I mentioned before? What future will build bridges between them all.  It is the Question that remains complicated.  The Answer is simple.  It is the one decision that we decide to live out.  It is the Actions that we take.  Everything else is ephemeral and fleeting. The question of how we want to live our life is what takes years and years to discover.  What is my question?