Saturday, June 30, 2012

Photo(s) of the Day: Bizarre Breakfast Trio

Alli and I have decided that it would be cool to follow in the footsteps of a million bloggers and photographers, along with plenty of the dead tree media, and publish a photo or two on a somewhat daily basis. Now, we're not gonna do one or a couple everyday because as soon as I start slippin' then that'll reflect poorly on us, specifically my problems on being punctual. Brian time is always slower than Alli time. Most people (especially Alli!) won't argue this.

What we want to do is just share some visuals on everything that we do, see or deal with on a daily basis. This could be (duh!) pictures of sea turtles or anything else encountered here throughout our day: from branching corals and our lunch, to what we unload on the cargo boat, or even the pathetic dirt hole we unsuccessfully dug out that was originally going to be a new septic tank, but will now settle for only greywater. The point is to show you that life and work here is much more than turtles, sand, beaches and palm trees. Self-indulgent? Absolutely, but isn't that what blogging is all about! Enjoy the photos folks. Comments are always appreciated.

Just to start if off right and show that it ain't all about photos of cute-as-a-button baby turtles here at the JTP, the inaugural photo is of Alli indulging in the most absurd breakfast plate of all time. This took place about one week ago. On her plate is deep fried potatoes and leftover Nutella chocolate cake from Dani's birthday the night before. What she is about to take a bite of is egg salad on toast. So there you have it: fried taters, chocolate cake and egg salad. An oddball breakfast trio if there ever was one. Makan makan!

Down it! I'll admit cake and taters for breakfast was lovely, but egg salad too? No thanks. Never been a fan of that stuff, especially when its warm and reeks of mayonnaise. Alli loves it though! 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Juara Raking Team

Here at the JTP there is one piece of yard equipment everyone gets to know real well: the rake. After living in the Sonoran Desert for the last four-plus years I sorta forgot it existed. I mean, ain't many leaves to be getting rid of unless you live in manicured suburbia or atop one of the desert's sky islands. I don't think anyone will admit they regularly rake up those dinky mesquite tree leaves that fall to the ground.

I know what you're thinking. Is he really going to write an entire blog on raking leaves? Maybe I am, but I promise it'll be much more interesting that just your average, everyday yarn about raking. Or maybe it won't.

Alli don't mess around when it comes to raking! Sassy strokes.
When everything is open (no doors, flung windows) and you're sandwiched between the beach and jungle it's too damn easy for everything to get dirty, dusty and sandy very quickly. So of course when Alli and I first showed up here we had to jump right in when it came to getting the morning chores done. Wiping down tables and counters? Yeah that's okay. Changing the foot bucket water? Too quick. Sweeping the big house deck? Whatever, never been an enthusiastic broom fan. But getting my rake on while listening to UGK, Baby Huey or Funkadelic? You had me from the first morning JTP (or maybe the second, jet-lag is lame).
Uncle Rake Wants You!
The chain of events is simple and goes like this: most of our facility is located under trees, leaves fall from them and clutter the ground we're on. These leaves get everywhere, all over JTP's grounds, from the visitation area to around our chalets and gardens. A large amount of leaves awaits us every morning. Because of this we get our rake on, on the regular. Some people say cigarettes and coffee go hand-in-hand, but that's a basket of hogwash. Caffeine and raking are the duo, especially when sweet milk tops it up to a glorious trio. Side note: Malaysia loves the phrase "top up." It's like fill up or get more of something. Example: I have to "top up" minutes every two weeks on my cell phone here.
Putting leaves into piles around our fire pit and garden table area. I love piles, just ask Alli! She misses all the newspapers piles I had in the U.S. so much.
If we don't rake on a daily basis not only will the ground disappear under leaf litter, but our place will look rag-tag and half-assed. Since we are open to the public and are pretty much the only conservation organization on Tioman, it's vital we look good. Representing the face of sea turtles and trying to embody the novel idea of environmental stewardship doesn't work too well if your place of work resembles an unkempt dump.

That girl know how to sift! I'm going out on a limb here, but I think Alli fancies raking to Beyonce.

But the reasons to embrace raking just keep on coming. All the leaves are sifted to get rid of sand, collected in a wheelbarrow and thrown on top of our bursting-at-the-seams compost pile. We wait a little bit, stir that sucker every week or so, and after everything has taken its time to break down (including weeds, crusty old food and more) you can ram a shovel in the pile and bring out a nice heaping scoop of grade-A quality dirt. Alli loves this dirt. She plants new things in it, such as pumpkin, along with the standard-bearers here: okra and cucumbers. 
Our giant soft compost pile with the chicken coop in the background.

The cycle keeps on going. Leaves fall, we rake, we wait and then the dirt comes. The process is stupendous for us since soil quality here is not too, well, quality. We also have three compost boxes in effect now so that's speeds up the process of getting soil too. I must now take a moment to thank my parents who made me rake our yard in Maryland growing up all the time. I don't think I appreciated it back then as much as I do now. We've been joking about getting some volunteer shirts made here at the JTP that say: "I came for the turtles, but stayed for the raking." Now I should heed my own advice. Raking starts in about five hours. Time to go.

Monday, June 18, 2012

General Life Update and Snorkeling ol' Renggis

Please forgive my doozy of a gap in blog posts. We've been super slammed here at the turtle project. Turtle activity was bumpin' in the beginning of June (cue JTP Facebook plug here). To keep it short: nests on all three beaches plus a lot of hatchling action. Then Alli, Charlie and I took a trip to Mersing, the gateway town to Tioman on mainland Malaysia. It's the burg the ferry boat shuffles to and fro from. It was Alli and I's first trip off-island in exactly two months and it can be summed up quite succinctly: delicious Chinese pork, shopping for supplies, sweating in the heat (no jungle shade there) and a bad action movie in the hotel room.

Then we hopped back over to Tioman and a few days later 19 Singaporean polytechnic students came to JTP for 4 nights. It was a total blast. We cleaned Jo's tank with them (complete with sea turtle diarrhea), did a bunch of manual labor, taught them how to rake leaves and whack wood with a machete, took 'em snorkeling (conclusion: rough waves plus first time snorkelers equals Alli and I having our hands full, but I did scope my first ever Cuttlefish!), heard them scream multiple times in response to the spiders running around in their chalets, and totally fooled them all into thinking our plastic turtle we have was a nesting female who came up at early afternoon. Plus tons of other rockin' activities. A solid bunch of city kids who got a all-too-short respite from the urban world.

That's ol' Renggis off in the sea in the background there, our destination.
Now to make things a little confusing the rest of this blog post is a narrative of a snorkeling trip Allison and I did over one month ago (15 May) to ol' Ringey aka Renggis Island. A tiny rocky nubbin,' which is located on the other side of Tioman just south of Tekek. The trip was phenomenal and began with a sweaty jaunt from our chalet to the beach (at the behemoth Berjaya resort) where we swam out to the island from. But first we had to read the sign and take notice of the monstrous sea urchin. In reality there was more than one in the sea, actually there was a ton. Lost in translation for sure.

Oh yes, beware! I love that the words tell us to watch out for one, but the pictures three.
Eyes on the prize. View from the beach where we swam out to get our snorkel on.

Top photo: More Rengiss, which below is also my shoreline hair twin for the day.
The swim out was filled with urchins and dead coral unfortunately. I've heard the corals here 20 years ago were still full of life, but now it's just an urchin, rock, sand and giant purdy clam party. *** Remember: all these photos enlarge if you give them a click. Also, a larger Facebook photo album can be found here.

Urchins and clams, from far away and close up.
After a solid chunk of time we made it out to the island and it was a fish frenzy from the get go. A truly large number of fish were swimming all around us, but the reason for this was very lame. Some boat drivers who shuttle tourist snorkelers out there feed the fish sandwich bread so when we first arrived Alli and I were caught up in the scaly barrage. They were coming at us from all angles. I've never been surrounded by so many fish in my life. Some were bumping into my mask and legs. You could see them gobbling down the soggy bread. Alli had to break free and get some space. I don't blame her. But the underwater terrain around the island was gorgeous. Shallow water and coral everywhere you looked.
Sassy Tern on a boat/swimming platform.
Floating with the fish, bout to get surrounded by these bread deprived creatures.
Underwater coral scenery.
Eventually we broke free of the bread fiesta and boat platforms and did a loop around the joint. All kinds of fish were seen: several species of parrotfish, Bird wrasse, Orangespine unicornfish (what a name eh?), Titan triggerfish, False Clown anemonefish (made famous by Nemo), large schools of needlefish, Virgate rabbitfish and many more! A bountiful loop I must say. The shallow water and abundant sunshine made for stellar visibility.
Top two photos: ain't no party like a parrotfish party cause a parrotfish party don't stop!
Grumpy False Clown anemonefish who were not content with us up in their space. One of the best photos by far from the day.
Orangespine Unicornfish - what a name and what a creamsicle colored spot by the tail too.
After our loop we chilled out on the swimming platform for awhile soaking up some sun. A few boats with folks pulled up when we were there. It's amazing how quick they snorkel, as some only stuck around for 15 minutes or so. A few of the snorkelers couldn't even swim but luckily had PFDs on. But even with the floatation help they still struggled. Basically without it they would have drowned. I thought I was going to have to bust out some of my old lifeguard moves for one lady who could not move forward at all and seemed to be drifting away. Thanks goodness she caught the rope and pulled herself back. Gotta love people who jump in the ocean over beds of coral that can't swim!

More shallow corals spinning out and doing their thing.
We plopped back in the water for one more look around, which proved to be the right call. Plenty more parrotfish were spotted, along with a large barracuda and two Blacktip reef sharks, one of which swam by me just a few meters away! Can't beat an ending like that. It was Terminator 2 good. After another dry out session we swam back to shore, taking the more direct route and saving a ton of time. After over two months on Tioman now this spot ranks pretty high on our favorite list. Thankfully neither of us was assaulted by "the urchin." We'll be back again sometime in the future. And anyone out there who comes for a visit, we'll be taking you here too. That's all that's fit to type at the moment.

Ya Got to Keep Ya Feet Up... I think Tupac rapped something similar to this.
Sometimes fish gotta photo bomb too.