14 June 2007

fritters & rice.

Times have been a bit lean in the past months, one of those periods where I really start to believe the statement "Santa Barbara is such an expensive place to live." Granted, it's true for the most part, but there are certainly ways of getting around the pricey ticket items, and keeping life simple and maintainable, modeling my behavior and spending habits after SB's working class. I've been eating a lot of *survival food, and there's something sort of satisfying about that. Survival food is basically what's cheap, filling, long-lasting, and somewhat nutritional. Beans, rice, crunchy natural peanut butter. Bananas, canned goods, tofu, coffee (some room must still be maintained for comforting daily routine...). I know it's not forever, which helps make it easier to deal with. It also allows for elevated levels of appreciation/satisfaction when offered shift meals at work, for free samples of delicious peaches at the farmer's market, and for when there's a bit left over for little treats.

I mentioned in a previous post that my dating stint had come to a halt. I'm realizing in the aftermath that part of my attraction to him was that, rather than the 1 room *studio I inhabit, Chris actually had an apartment. Still technically a studio apartment, but his was a real studio apartment, the kind with a private bathroom, and a kitchen. He even had a small fenced-in patio at the front, with a BBQ and room for outdoor dining.

I've lived in this room now for almost 11 months, and, clearly, I'm ready for a change. It's actually been a few more years than this that I've been without access to a yard. And these seemingly inconsequential details will be the reason I plan to move when my lease finishes in August. I'd like to think that I could stay for the remainder of my time in SB, but my love affair with Chris's apartment has shown that I love having a kitchen! And a private bathroom! And on days like today, when the sun is shining, and it's warm and sunny, I fantasize about lying around in a big old hammock in the yard!

I had a funny experience recently, while watching a movie. In the movie (Stranger than Fiction), the female love interest is a baker of modest means, and over the course of several scenes, a good chunk of her house is cameo'd. My reaction to this, rather than thinking what a lovely old Victorian it was, or how cute and boho the furnishings, was the question "Wait, she can afford to live in that house, all by herself? Nor was I the only one thinking this, the friend I was watching with expressed the same incredulity. So, I've become a Californian, in that I've become accustomed to the limited extent of one's housing dollar.

And here I'll close this entry. I'd like to re-read, and edit, and come to a great conclusion about all the world's problems, but at the moment, my concentration is waning. The reason my concentration is waning is because at this moment, in the shared bathroom on the other side of the hall from where I'm sitting right this moment, is the incessantly chatty 22-year old who lives down the hall, in the bathroom, for some reason, with a friend. They've been there for about 20 minutes, talking. And bless their hearts for it, because I was 22 once, too, and I know it's a different place from where I am now. It's just that I don't really want to hear about it anymore, especially since I'm waiting for them to exit so I can use the toilet.

13 June 2007

self, fulfilled, pt. II: marine mammals.

The rest of my weekend was amazing, and relatively uneventful. I had a magnificently bad town car run, that I won't bother to outline, for lack of interest in perpetuating the horror of its memory. Strangely, Monday was the day life took a grandiose turn for the awesome. I got called by Sam (the Marine Mammal Vet and the organization's co-founder with wife, Ruth) of CIMWI to help with a rescue. Seeing as I was free for the day, I LEAPT at the opportunity. During my time volunteering for the organization I've cleaned up after and fed lots of sea lions, and recently joined other volunteers for a release from one of the local whale-watching boats. I've also helped with the bodies of those who haven't fared as well. Soon I'll also have the chance to sit in on a necropsy (just like an autopsy, but for animals) to learn more about the anatomy of the animals we spend so much time with. But I've never been along for a rescue, and I was pretty stoked to be able to go.

There were 2 reports of stranded sea lions yesterday: the first, a yearling, exhausted and stationary on the beach, approximately 2.5 feet in length; the other, a juvenile, mobile, around 4-5 feet in length. The first animal was clearly no problem to handle. He was conscious, but essentially unresponsive. So, wearing specially designed protective gloves (ie ginormous leather welding gloves), I firmly cradled my hands around the base of the pup's skull, lifted, and placed him into the kennel we use for rescues. Sea lions are pretty strong, and densely muscular, but the major concern when dealing with them is to keep your soft warm flesh away from their sharp bitey teeth: their saliva can cause a nasty infection in us humanoids. Lifting in this way is the same as any wild mama would do with her young: grab onto the nape of the neck and get em where you want em to be.

Checking on the second sea lion in the day's dossier, we found a confused pregnant female who'd been booted from the shores of the island (there's a whole pecking order I'm working to understand: as with any group of animals that gathers in droves, there are powerful instinctual behaviors that aren't always favorable to all individuals.). We observed her for a while, as Sam gave us a play-by-play of her behavior, but despite her not-ideal location, all was as it should have been for her, and so we let her be. We brought the first patient back to the treatment facility for assessment (all indications, very sadly, point to domoic acid poisoning), attempted to feed the other wee devil that was already there, and gave a few injections to keep everyone healthy, if not happy. Today was another day at the facility, my regularly scheduled day to be there, to feed and clean, medicate and log.

I love my work there. I love spending time with Sam and Ruth. The work is challenging, and sometimes really sad, but it feels like we're doing something really good, really trying to help, and that's love. And it's an amazing thing to be a part of. Sam said something a few weeks back to one of the vet students who'd asked how he'd started doing this work (FYI marine mammal vets are few and far between. There are few, if any, vet schools that offer specialization in marine mammals, so the bulk of Sam's training has been post vet school, on-location, figuring it out as he's gone along.). Sam's response to the question was that he'd decided he was going to work with marine mammals, and he didn't let anyone stop him from making it happen. CIMWI is a side project he's been dreaming of for years, but he makes his living by flying all over the country, throughout Mexico and the Caribbean, caring for marine mammals at places like Sea World, and Dolphin Encounters, among others.

I can feel myself getting further and further away from being able to work the way I've been doing, to be working jobs I'm not passionate about, working hours not always determined by me. I'm constantly surrounded by people who are self-made, with businesses centered on what they love, on sharing what they love with the people. There's a whole different vibe involved in this, a sense of freedom, a sense of determination, a passion for one's work, a sense of control over the outcome of one's life. It's just a matter of time now, and a matter of figuring out the hows. I may not have had the drive that Sam had from an early age, but I know it's in there somewhere!

12 June 2007

self, fulfilled, pt. I: marine technology.

Funny how sometimes, when you say something, that very thing, very shortly thereafter, can come true.

One of the last statements of my last entry was "Actually, I'm pretty sure something amazing is on its way!" which I basically included as an effort to lift my spirits, and to get myself back to seeing things in a positive light. Happily, it was most effective. Shortly after publishing that entry, my endlessly considerate phone alerted me to a call from friend Carlo, calling to invite me to the Longboard bar, where he and others were imbibing.

Over the course of the year the MDT Building, owing to its equipment and amenities, plays host to several professional development classes, which are related to diving, but not affiliated with the school or program. Simply put, the facility is contracted to outside organizations. To give a few examples, the city dock workers spent a good deal of time at the facility this spring, becoming familiar with the helmets and manifold systems. Yet another class is held annually, just after the end of the school year, a training/certification course for Sonar equipment produced by Kongsberg Simrad Mesotech Ltd. The course is classroom based, with a good portion devoted to hands-on time with the sonar equipment, both in the tanks at the facility, and off Stearn's Wharf downtown. For this particular class, a handful of MDT students are selected each year by the program director to assist with the underwater portion of the class. This year's assistants included friends Carlo, Rob, Josh, and Simon. When Carlo called from the Longboard last week, he was out marking the end of the course with a handful of class participants, plus the instructors, plus MDT's own Program Director, Mr. Dan Vasey.

Having expressed an interest in learning more about sonar at an earlier date, Dan suggested I find time to chat with the instructors of the class while they were in town. Thursday night at the Longboard was my chance to do just that. After chatting for a few hours with Mark and Brian, they invited me down to the facility the next morning to review some of the course materials, to look at some sonar imaging project reports, and to listen to a quick & dirty overview of sonar applications. They were knowledgeable and, better yet!, enthusiastic about what they were doing and the limitless future possibilities. The challenges associated with sonar use are enough to pique my interest and guide my steps in that direction. But in addition, there were specific buzz words mentioned with regard to working with sonar, the most critical of these (to me) being: travel. When working with sonar, one tends to travel pretty regularly. Later that day, I also got to play with an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) at the facility. ROVs are another area that interest me. Slowly but surely, a path emerges...

07 June 2007

like a rolling stone.

I was having a conversation with someone recently, during which I made mention of my age-old supposition that eventually, after living in a place for a while, I'd freak out and run away as quickly as possible. My friend offered a different perspective, that perhaps I'm just in need of change every so often (which, as you might have gathered, may be a bit more often than the average Jane.). It's not mind-numbingly insightful, but it is insightful enough to give me a new way of looking at a very old pattern. The pattern was obviously most noticeable whilst living in (or fleeing) Minnesota, but it presents itself other places too, like here in Santa Barbara.

I've been here just under a year, friends. I arrived... let me confer with my calendar... Saturday, 19 August 2006, which means I'm all of a 10.5-month California resident. My time here has been amazing- the diving program, the phenomenal friends I've made, the sheer beauty of this coastline- like nothing I've experienced before. But life feels strange and different now that school's out for summer (who can resist inserting those lyrics where applicable? Certainly not me!). I'm not sure what to do with myself, not sure what I want to do with myself.

I've been focusing for the past few weeks on de-cluttering, which has been wonderfully fruitful and cleansing. I've cleared out tons, and have been attempting to feng shui-ize my living quarters. Obviously an engaging and rewarding endeavor: the chi is flowing smoothly, symbolism abounds, and my space is more organized than it's been in forever! I'm also looking for new forms of employment, and doing a lot of talking and networking, when possible. At present, I'm driving limos and town cars on the weekends, and I'm volunteering weekly at CIMWI, helping to care for injured sea lions. I'm loving ALL of this, but I'm feeling a definite lack of purpose without classes to attend and homework to attend to.

This also feels like one of those door closing/window opening-type periods. With school over for a bit, and having quit the jobs I'd been doing for so long, and having ended my 2-month (a pretty decent attempt, considering my history) dating stint, I'm ready for something new to come into my life... But what? And how? I have a tendency to overexert myself, and try to force my way into new possibilities, when the best options always seem to come in quietly, unexpectedly. So I'm also trying to relax and enjoy this time, to appreciate the serenity of days without phone calls or boring and obligatory work obligations. Actually, I'm pretty sure something amazing is on its way!

In the meantime, maybe I'll try to write more, meet more people, explore more. There must be tons left to be discovered outside that window...