Foreign Local


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, January 18, 2005 was originally posted on January 24, 2005.

DAY 458:  I remember Vietnamese-American Tony (Moshi, Tanzania) telling me he once went on vacation to Vietnam with some non-Vietnamese-American friends and all the local Vietnamese thought he was not a foreigner traveling with the others, but their guide.  I was surprised the same phenomenon didn’t happen to me in the Philippines, until I went on a diving trip off the coast of Panglao Island that day.

Panglao Island has attracted not simply German tourists, but German scuba divers who come to explore the surrounding reefs.  With nearby Bohol Island, there are many popular dive sites, and I would see two of them that day off the coast of the smaller island of Cabilao two hours north of Panglao via motorboat

The diving group was a crew of five German and Swiss-German divers, four of them in married couples, and all over them appearing to be in their forties.  They were a tightly knit German-speaking diving clique that I assumed had been diving together for years; they even had dive crew t-shirts made up from previoius trips.  One of them wasn’t too good in English, while the others knew enough for a basic conversation.

“Where are you from?” I asked them as a dingy took us from shore to our bigger boat.


“Yeah, I mean where in Germany.”

“Essen,” a man said.  “In the center.”

“Frankfurt,” answered another.

“He’s from Switzerland,” one said, referring to the single guy of the group.

“I’m from Basel,” he said.

“Oh, Basel.  I’ve been there,” I said, referring to a European backpacking trip I did in 1999.  “Nice zoo.”  His face lit up that someone had actually been there; it’s not exactly a sought out traveler’s destination.  (I wasn’t planning to go, but had no choice since trains were full to my alternate destinations.)  “Every time I meet someone from Switzerland, they’re from Basel,” I continued to entertain him, which was only true about 69% of the time.

That was pretty much the pinnacle of social interaction that I had with the German and Swiss dive crew; they pretty much kept to themselves with their language and inside jokes.  Soon I realized they simply thought I was one of the Filipino crewmembers; a couple of them mistook me for Edgar, the Filipino divemaster that was overseeing the excursion for his German boss back at the Sea Explorers dive shop.

THE TWO DIVES WERE GOOD, despite the poor visibility — quite possibly the worst I’d had to date, at only about 3-5 meters.  Poor vis wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just made the dive more interesting.  With that and the lack of sunlight peering down from an overcast sky (which displayed a rainbow just earlier that morning), the dives were pretty dark, so much that the Germans and Swiss all had underwater lamps (along with all their own gear).  As we hovered about halfway down reef walls on both dives, it felt more like an outer space exploration rather than an underwater one. 

The two sites were “Lighthouse,” named for the nearby lighthouse on Calibao Island, and “Hammerhead Point,” named for the frequent sightings of hammerhead sharks — although they weren’t in season and we saw none.  “They’re sleeping now,” Edgar told us.  The dives did bring encounters with a manta ray and a bunch of pygmy seahorses living in a big piece of fan coral, as well as all the usual tropical marine animals:  trumpet fish, angel fish, nudibranches, etc.  For me, most of the enjoyment came from the swimming in the dark conditions.

THE ANCHOR WAS HOISTED and we began the ride back to Panglao.  Edgar and crew passed out in the inner cabin (minus the driver of course), while the Germans and Swiss were on the top deck chatting amongst themselves.  I overheard one guy talking about celebrating his 300th dive. 

“What’s that island?” he asked me.  “Is that [Siquijor(?)]?”  He assumed that I would have the answer.

“Uh, I don’t know.”  He went off, ignorant.

Back at Alona Tropical Beach Resort (picture above), my Tita Josie had just gotten back from her excursion of the day, zipping around the island on a rented motorbike to see the sights and do some shopping.  Both of us were pretty tired, so we just stayed in and watched Lost in Translation on my laptop, a pretty fitting movie for my experience that day.


Next entry: Not So Chocolate

Previous entry: Island Hopping

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Comments for “Foreign Local”

  • Sorry, I’m about five days behind…  Hope to catch up tomorrow before I’m two COUNTRIES behind…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  02:40 PM

  • I might not be on a beautiful island, but it’s going to get up to 60 degrees here in colorado, when NYC has a high of 6! hahahahahhah

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  03:20 PM

  • 60 in Colorado!? That’s just not fair!  I’m still digging out over here in NYC!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  03:35 PM

  • Harry - C’mon it was like 60 in NYC like two weeks ago…the snow was long overdue….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  03:37 PM

  • Yea, I guess…I’m just getting to old for this sh*t! lol…I can’t believe I used to walk through a half mile golf course, knee deep in snow, to go sled riding for hours on end.  Now I get cold just seeing the wind blow through the window…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  03:45 PM

  • Not funny Nikkij!!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  05:36 PM

  • INFO NEEDED on anyone that has done the TEFL program….have a friend interested in teaching english somewhere (preferably Italy)....

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  06:12 PM

  • I can see Blue.. His Glorious!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/23  at  11:35 PM

  • markyt:  I wanted to go to Spain or Italy after finishing my course but if you don’t have a EU passport and a BA, it is practically impossible.  I am in China and enjoying every minute of it.  I took the Global College TESOL course in Canada.  I’m sure you’ll get some response from others who took it in the USA. Good luck to your friend!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  12:01 AM

  • JANICE - thanks for the info….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  01:16 AM

  • MARKYT:  BootsnAll just opened a TOEFL section…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  01:47 AM

  • FRANK THE TANK:  You’re my boy, Blue!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  01:48 AM

  • We’re going streaking through the quad and into the gymnasium!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  10:36 AM

  • Hey! Do you think KFC is still open?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/24  at  01:54 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

Praised and recommended by USA Today,, and readers of BootsnAll and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree, The Global Trip blog was selected by the editors of PC Magazine for the "Top 100 Sites You Didn't Know You Couldn't Live Without" (in the travel category) in 2005.

Next entry:
Not So Chocolate

Previous entry:
Island Hopping


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