Wednesday, October 8, 2014


We often laugh at the misinterpretations of translators between Chinese and English. It is commonly revered to as being "lost in translation", however personally I believe it is more about that which is "gained" in translation. Of course for the most part we tend to forget this and so it was when I met Ran Chan, a Chinese lady. Ran’s English was not the best, something I established when she was about to climb into the car dressed in her wet-suit and it took almost 30 minutes for me to convince her to get into something more comfortable like slops, shorts and T-shirt! But her English was still good enough for us to have a meaningful conversation.

She introduced herself as “Ran” which of course wasn’t pronounced anywhere near what one would think. Seeing the frown form on my face, which must have been a common thing to her when introducing herself, she quickly added, “But you can call me Veronica”.
Veronica is her English name – a common practice among the Chinese given the Wests inability to cope with Chinese pronunciation and for a while we bemused this strange affair.
“What do your friends call you?” I asked.
“Vivi” She said with a smile. I could not help add to my amusement by pondering the strange results and intricacies of the cultural exchanges – not just in the habit of claiming an English name and the ability to choose it but also in not allowing the opportunity of losing out on getting that all important “nick name” with it! Later on I wrote her name on the observer spot of our recording sheet as “Vivy” by mistake. Scratching out the “y” and replace it with an “i” I smiled at her and asked if that was correct. Saying something I could not quite understand she quickly but politely added, “It’s ok. It’s ok.”, with a generous hand gesture.

Veronica must have been in her late twenties or early thirties – I admit to never asking and that I could be completely wrong. From personal experience I have found the Chinese to be notoriously challenging to assign an age to, their cultural eating practices often making them look far younger than they actually are - well, that’s my opinion anyway. But Veronica was an absolute pleasure to be with. She had an easy mannerism around her and laughed a lot, often at slight nuances of things that required a deft sense of humour to appreciate. Given her lack of knowing the full English language it was pleasantly surprising!

Soon we were engaged in conversation, much around the basis of love I have to admit, but covering a range of spin-off topics including China’s one child policy, of which Veronica is a result.
“I take my hat off to China for introducing such a policy.” I said. “It addresses not only their own lack in resources but they are also contributing to what I see as the only solution to the current world crises which we commonly refer to as ‘overcrowding’. So you are part of the solution.” I added with a smile.
“Yes” she replied tentatively, “but very lonely…”

Her simple comment was profound. Hidden in those three words were allusions to the immeasurable effects of what it means to be human. The simple act of a one child policy will alter the basis of relational behaviour in humans with unknown and far reaching implications. The fact that Veronica grew up without siblings and deprived of the opportunity to share intimate space in a living environment, she admits, could have been a great contributing factor to why she is now divorced.

Of course I could not help share in the use of God’s greatest commandment, to love Him with everything we have – body, soul, mind, every fiber of our being – but that this love be carried over to our neighbours. To love others in the same profound way and that if that was the basis for all humans would she still have found herself divorced? Of course she seemed to have loved our conversation and I could not help but see the notion of Christ-like-love being pondered deeply.
“I have never thought of it that way…” She said.

Later on, while driving her home I asked quite suddenly, “So then tell me, how do you spell ‘vivi’?”, my smile making it known that I have not forgotten her gracious acceptance of my spelling rendition when I wrote her name on the recording sheet.
“V and V” she said while finger writing two V’s next to each other in the air before adding, “Easy. Like ‘doubleyou’!”

Hehe… Its true! ;)

Veronica, knees tucked up behind me and sporting my yellow socks to help with the wind chill.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Are we there already!?

“Are we there yet?” Parents know that question all too well. As a kid I remember the internal frustrations and angst stirred up with those words, not just in the anticipation of the end f the journey but sometimes in fear of the reprisal from your parents. Still, as a kid one could not help ask that question. Some of my fondest memories are of those long journeys to the ocean - the peering over the hills the closer you got in the hopes of being the first to see the sea. Oh the anticipation as a kid was almost too much to bear and asking “Are we there yet?” just the most natural thing in the world to do, regardless of the emotional consequences (or those that might end up on your backside! ;)

Full dinner table!

Coming and going emotions – if I can call them that – are part of life for everyone. “Oh I hate goodbyes...”, and whether you say it out loud or keep it to yourself, you are of course experiencing those come and go emotions. And though many hate and ovoid the “saying goodbye” moments, I have learned to embrace them. Embracing these emotions is akin of emotional maturity even if one does not quite understand them they do remind of life and living.

Our season is just about at an end. We have had our farewell dinner, said our goodbye’s and some have already gone their separate ways. We are all left with our memories, making of them whatever we want – good or bad, happy or sad.

The 2013 Interns!

One thing is certain, time brings change and “Are we there yet?” has changed to “Are we there already!?” and how subtle but mature that change and shift in life is!

Wish I could stay just a little bit longer…


The 2013 Team Leaders!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Storming action

Quick update...

Francis and I scanning the water while keeping an eye on the weather

Today was not for sissies. Francis, flying his Gyro and I got chased back to the airport after spending as much time with the boats as we could. He was just doing it for the fun so sneaked back a few minutes earlier than I did. As he said, “I don’t want to get too wet…” :)

With rain coming in on the right it was a run over those clouds and the island back to the airport.

It was a hard and fast run to make it back - even if it was 20 k's away. I still got somewhat soaked. The storm actually moved past the airport to the south but our survey area was flooded. The interns said they took the boat passengers to snorkel at the Four Season but they refused to get in the water since it was pouring with rain. Hehe… :)

Even with two aircraft patrolling the oceans we didn't see any sharks which was a bit disappointing but certainly there was no lack in action.

Wish you were here!

No, its not a hangover!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Squeaking tires...

Dirk was beaming from ear to ear. He had just walked through the door after his afternoon flight. As usual he had a bag with some snacks and groceries but I could not help notice the two empty beer bottles in his hand.

“We got 5 sharks this afternoon!” He said. OK, so perhaps the empty beer bottle weren't the reason for his happiness – or at least all of it. “It was amazing!” He continued. “This morning I got 1 shark but this afternoon we got 5.” He was shaking his head in a kind of elated disbelief. “Five!” he said again, this time with more emphases. Of course given the recent drought of whale sharks this was good news.

“Awesome!” I answered enthusiastically before settling in to listening to Dirk.

According to him the interns and clients are going to sleep well tonight, some most probably were going to be sore too – they had a lot of encounters so were clambering in and out of the boat all the time. It was great to hear – nothing like a good bunch of encounters to lift the spirits of everyone.  What made the day even more special was the fact that the wind was just 5 knots. In these light wind conditions flying becomes more a pleasure than work and Dirk made full use of it.

“Jis!” He says with boyish enthusiasm, “I have forgotten how fast the micro-light lands when there is no wind. The wheels made the same noise as a Boeing!” and Dirk whistles his rendition of tires hitting the runway. I of course have a good chuckle. It is so good to share in his happy state.

Wish you were here!


PS: Savvi just popped in inviting us to the bazaar. He too is in a happy state and sure is looking sun-burnt!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pretty woman and chocolate éclairs...

“Does it have a chocolate filling?” I asked while pointing to one of the long bread-thingies covered in a layer of chocolate.
“Oui” she said. I had to admire the perfect French accent.
“Great! Can I have one please?” I smiled being all warm and friendly. Her mannerism and dress was more akin to a secretary rather than working the bakery till. My admiration came with a slight tinge of sadness too as I remembered that once, some time ago, someone had told me too that I was a “lucky ‘bastard’”.

She sure was pretty.

It was lunchtime and I was doing my usual routine but for the discovery of the new bakery that had just opened next to my favourite take away shop. Moments ago I called Sam with the news that once again there were no sharks. (Dirk and I actually feel quite guilty to call Sam with the news of no sharks – her disappointment is rather disheartening!) Of course it is not just Sam that was being effected, the interns too were feeling frustrated. After starting on such a high, the lack of sharks over the last week and half have put a slight damper on things.

“That will be 30 rupees” she said while her eyes locked on mine. They were emerald green and exquisite, the beauty not lost on me while I fumbled through my pocket for some money.
“Thank you” I said before adding, “and I wish you all the success with the new shop.”
“Mercy” came her reply. Ah, there was that perfect French accent again. Taking my chocolate éclair in its pretty box I walked out of the shop.

Later on, back in the hangar I shared lunch with Donn – he was a Captain in the Seychelles Air-force. We often have a good chat and over the years have built up a good friendship. Of course he could not help admire the tempting and enticing look of the chocolate éclair and what a rare find that was on the island.
“Talk about tempting” I mentioned. “I have to tell you about the pretty lady working at the bakery…” Soon we were discussing the merits of admiring a beautiful lady. Suddenly Donn looked at me with a grin before adding, “Well, at least you could take the chocolate éclair home with you…”

Wish you were here!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Aware are you Romeo?

Savvi and I

The other day Savvi and I was driving home after a day’s flying and I tuned into BBC. I think Savvi was perhaps not as pleased about the BBC thing but I think he was being very polite about it. They were talking about the distinguishing emotions between animals and humans. One guy mentioned his sense of nostalgia was what made him different to animals. That there were a few different kinds of nostalgia but in essence, an animal can’t become nostalgic. Another said it was the degree of love or the degree of hate that makes us different. It of course was my cup of tea and could not help but go along with the train of though. The fact that we are very different to any other animal on this planet is unmistakable – of course many arguing that we are the worst of the animals on the planet, with good reason too. However the fact that we are different was not the debate but rather the range of difference that separated us from all other animals.

“I can sit and think. I know that I am a human being. I know I have a choice to act accordingly.” I asked while looking at Savvi. Personally I thought it was being aware or knowing about the sense of Self that made us so different. And as I said being able to exercise a choice – this choice is the very thing with the potential to makes us the worst – or the very best, kind of beings.

Savvi was being quite unresponsive so I continued, “Does a dog sit and think, ‘I am a dog. That’s why I act like a dog.’, or, ‘I like being a dog but I’m going to act differently!?’” This time with a bit more persuasion in my voice.

“I guess” Savvi mentioned with his typical loud and dry American accent.

“Or another way of looking at it Savvi,” I continued, “I can act very civil towards another person while inside I might be plotting to kill them.”

“I suppose…” he ventured, slightly uncertain and unwilling.

I had a bit of a mischievous glint in my eye. (OK, maybe it wasn’t that obvious!) But I was trying to entice him into the conversation which was a bit of a heavy topic for any young man. It was an old habit of mine and perhaps Savvi was used to me ‘pushing’ him along many of these ‘heavy’ topics whenever we go flying.

“This sense of Self, and the ability to reason about that awareness and control it, is what separates us from animals. Of course that is my humble opinion. Did I miss something you think?” I looked at him, kind of forcing him to answer and take part.

“Makes sense…” He said, while once again I detected an underlying hint of an unwillingness to commit to the conversation. I mean, who can blame the man? He was still high from spending time above the clouds.

Pic taken by Savvi

The next day I was sitting at 7500’ cruising above the rain and dismal weather falling on the Northern point of the island. At that moment, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of Self. It was magical. I was floating through a land of cloud-castles, akin to Jack and the bean stork; mysterious and enchanting, surreal yet certain, weightless yet seated, unencumbered yet limited. It brought to me a sense of freedom and love and blessings that becomes hard to put into words. Over and above my reasoning and navigating skills to safely move through the clouds, I have the ability to be aware of having this capability. And to top it off, I could recall my conversation with Savvi in the car the previous day. I suddenly realized that he was being civil and polite while disliking our conversation.

All too human!

Wish you were here!


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Short and to the point

Today was an interesting day. Savvi accompanied me on the flight as an extra set of eyes. (Four is so much better than two! ;) The winds had gone east and the west coast was thus off shore. If you were low you would get bumped around by the rotor turbulence and if you were too high you couldn't see much. It was kind of a toss-up between the two and we just made it up as we went along. I managed great navigation on the morning flight to stay clear of the bumpy stuff but on the afternoon things changed a bit and in one area we got hammered. For all the work we only got one shark – the boats did not go out.
Here is a pic of some of the action.

“Savvi and I still on the east coast passing “the point” – half way between the Airport (just off the pic on the right) and South point (off to the left).

Tomorrow they predict rain. We will just wait and see…

Wish you were here!


PS: Would you believe that all the interns have turned down to fly with me tomorrow morning? Are they insane!? Who would turn down the chance of flying around a beautiful tropical island in a micro-light?
Should I take it personally?

Hhhmm…. No. Perhaps they all have seen the weather forecast! ;)