Monday, May 14, 2012

The Year of Skills: Part 2

April: Driving a Stick Shift

I didn't have a car when we got married, but Mike did, and it was a stick shift. It's really embarrassing that it took me a year and a half of marriage to get around to learning how to drive our car, but Mike never seemed to mind giving me rides, and I didn't mind biking or taking BART when he couldn't. In any case, the Year of Skills was the push I needed to learn, and I spent several Saturdays in April out at the abandoned naval base in Alameda--flat, empty, and perfect for shifting gears--or at the cemetery in Piedmont--perfect for practicing hills--and now I can now confidently drive our car around town, and once I even drove it on the highway! When I say that with such pride I suddenly feel sixteen again, slowly turning circles in a parking lot with an anxious parent slamming on the air brakes.

(This was also a small cheat, since a friend in college had tried to teach me to drive a stick shift before. He gave me several great lessons but I never got as high as third gear and I never actually drove his car on the road, just in a parking lot. By April 2011, I had been out of college for five years (!) and had essentially forgotten all of his lessons.)

No picture here, either. It's a 1998 blue Honda Civic. Try to imagine it.

May: Making Cheese

I didn't plan a skill for May until the third week, and I had no ideas for one until I posted about my goal on Facebook and solicited suggestions from friends. Nearly 100 comments later, a friend said that she and her husband had a leftover cheese-making kit they were trying to get rid of, and, in case I wasn't intrigued already,  their homemade ricotta was delicious. Sold! So in May I tried to make cheese. Unlike the other skills so far, I tried to teach myself this one using the internet (oh, thank you internet!) and the instructions in the kit. Mike was in New York for most of May and June so I had plenty of time alone in our apartment to waste milk. I'm sure there are more efficient and fun ways to waste milk, but still, this wasn't so bad, even if it never resulted in proper cheese. (My first attempt ended in rubbery and unpalatable lumps and my last attempt ended in delicious curds that never really turned into a solid. I smeared some on a loaf of bread (homemade, of course--that's one skill I actually do have) and called it good.

June: Scuba Diving

Despite having lived in the tropics for years and despite being a passionate and dedicated snorkeler, I never learned to scuba dive. My youngest brother has heart trouble and my father has lung trouble, so obviously scuba diving was right out for our family. Also, I'm a total wuss and scuba diving seemed scary. Mike, however, loves scuba diving, and so with a trip to Indonesia planned for our summer, he insisted that I learn. I spent late May and early June reading all the books to prepare for the written certification test, and then at the end of June I did the initial pool work with a friend of Mike's in Davis, who is a certified instructor with a backyard pool.

(Side note: his pool was only 4 feet deep. This was a good way to keep me from being terrified of the whole endeavor. This also meant that we had to use his neighbor's pool for the final portion of the training, and so we dutifully trooped down the street--wearing wetsuits, flippers, and air tanks--in search of a deeper backyard pool. It was like I was living in a Wes Anderson movie.)

I just needed two more days of certification once we got to Indonesia, and, of course, Indonesia having no real rules, we persuaded the instructor to shorten that to one day. I'm now a card-carrying scuba diver, and getting over my fears paid off: we dove around and through a sunken World War II ship, and we saw sharks. Sharks! I can die happy now.
Two very white people about to enjoy a wreck dive with sharks.

1 comment:

grauntbetsy said...

I want to learn to scuba dive, I haven't done it yet but soon.