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    July 2, 2017

    My July Trip Has Been Cancelled Due To National Origin Discrimination!

    My July trip has been cancelled – not by me, but by the tour group that I was going with, simply because I am an American citizen.

    I jinx all my trips:

    2012 – I bragged about going to Albania, only to have the Polish diving base close. I had to find and hire a student from the University of Tirana to complete my mission of diving in Albania.

    2013 – I went diving in Poland, however, Greg, the guy who was suppose to take me diving had personal issues and couldn’t. He turned me over to another diving group – that was no issue.

    OK, I have not been totally honest with the six people who read this blog – I did not want to jinx my trip.

    Yes, it was a trip to Vladivostok, Russia to go diving.

    Well, it also included a six day tour and diving in North Korea.

    So, here’s the story.

    I work in a cubicle, sort of like a jail cell, in the basement of a building.

    Diving in Hawaii or Fuji, just really doesn’t cut it for me.

    I need to go someplace weird, and when I found out last year that there was the first tour group of its kind, open to the public, to go diving in North Korea, I knew that was the trip for me…

    DPRK SCUBA DIVING
    This isn’t a joke – they have diving in North Korea.

    DPRK Receipt
    In September of last year, I put a deposit down and paid the balance in June.

    For almost a year, I heard how wonderful “The Real North Korea” is and how any negative news that I may hear is just “standard banter between the US and DPRK that has been going on for 70 years.”

    I had to jump through hoops to get a Russian Visa ($385), buy a letter of invitation ($45) and I also went out of my way to become PADI certified, as the tour group did not recognize any other agency other than PADI.

    On June 3rd, I received a confirmation email stating that the trip is on and that we were to all meet in Vladivostok, Russia on July 6, 2017.

    Then, the unexpected happened…

    Otto Warmbier In Custody

    Otto Warmbier, who had been held in North Korea for 17 months, was medevaced to Cincinnati the same day Dennis Rodman landed in Pyongyang.

    Mr. Warmbier arrived in a comatose state and died on June 19, 2017 of unknown causes; his family refused an autopsy.

    On March 16, 2016, Mr. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after he was caught and confessed to stealing a propaganda poster from a staff only area in the hotel he was staying at; he was with the same tour company that was taking me SCUBA diving.

    I agree, that is an unusually harsh sentence, but a man in the United States had been sentenced to 25 years to life for stealing pizza and another received a life sentence for stealing a pair of socks.

    What happened to Mr. Warmbier is anyone’s guess, but I personally think he tried to commit suicide and the North Koreans couldn’t revive him.

    American prisoners in the DPRK are too valuable to be tortured and starved or beaten; something else must have happened.

    After Mr. Warmbier’s death, the tour company started getting a lot of bad press:

    Gung-ho culture at tour agency Warmbier used on North Korea trip

    Boozy tours court trouble in the hermit kingdom

    Then on June 19, two weeks before I was scheduled to leave for Russia, I read the headline, Tour group says no more Americans to North Korea after Warmbier’s death

    Well, luckily, I had already booked and paid for my trip, so this was obviously for future trips.

    That same day, I received an email from the tour group…

    “I wish I was contacting you under happier circumstances, but I’m afraid that’s not the case this week. Due to the recent events regarding Otto Warmbier, we have reassessed our decision to bring American travelers into North Korea and have decided we will no longer be coordinating tours for American visitors to the DPRK, starting immediately. This means that we will have to cancel your booking for the upcoming SCUBA diving tour to North Korea.”

    What the fuck?

    I wrote back, “That sucks. I can understand the tragedy with Mr. Warmbier, but it probably would have happened regardless of nationality. Can’t you make an exception since I signed up almost a year in advance? And no, I don’t have travel insurance. It will cost me not to go.”

    I also wrote about my extensive experience in cold water diving and that I would be an asset to the group.

    “Perhaps you need a staff safety diver? I could do that,” I wrote.

    Three days of silence was followed by the next correspondence:

    “I’ve tried talking to management about still bringing you along but they are very persistent about the finality of the decision. So unfortunately we will still have to go ahead with the cancellation.”

    That was it.

    People can go diving in North Korea, but I can’t because I am an American.

    I told my friend Rick, “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against; I now know what it’s like to be black.”

    Rick said, “You don’t know what it’s like to be black, and everyone thought you were a dick face for even trying to go to North Korea.”

    I have ran into all sorts of problems, on every international diving trip that I have planned.

    To be so close, with what would have been the ultimate mark on my diving bucket list, only to be told that since I am American I can’t go but everyone else can, really sucks.

    I became really depressed and it sent me off into heavy debriefing mode for several days, to the point where my boss told me to “switch your cologne because it smells like beer.”

    I did some research on how I could go diving in North Korea now.

    There are currently four tour companies that will still take American citizens, however after contacting them, they are currently “reassessing” their policies towards Americans.

    None of the four tour groups have diving trips to North Korea, however you can go surfing in the DPRK.

    I am not a surfer, I’m just too fat.

    There is also talk of the United States government making it illegal to travel to North Korea, for whatever stupid reason they can make up.

    So in order for an American citizen to go SCUBA diving in North Korea now, a diving crew from either Russia or China would have to be hired and then one of the approved tour companies that still take Americans would have to put the tour together.

    If anyone is interested in such a trip, I would be happy to look into it further, but it won’t be cheap; contact me if you have any serious interest in such a trip.

    Also, anything the United States government does in the way of travel laws could interfere with these plans.

    Thanks to my friend Mirek, who pointed out that someone called Handel On The Law last Saturday with a similar situation; maybe I can find him and we can do a class action lawsuit?

    Handel On The Law

    It cost me almost $1,000 not to go.

    As one of my friends told me, “You failed and have disgraced the SCUBA diving community. You are lucky you aren’t Japanese because you would have to commit Harakiri to preserve your family’s honor.”

    Harakiri

    I told him, “If I was Japanese, I would be able to fucking go!”

    I will no longer be announcing trip plans, maybe that is part of the jinx?

    Anyway, that ends the best diving trip that never happened… because I am an American.

    August 21, 2016

    500 Dives And Still Alive!

    I arrived at Terranea Resort a few minutes after 8 AM, to what was going to be my 500th dive.

    There were maybe eight or nine divers there, but only three regulars – Reverend Al, BlueSteel and Libertarian Ted.

    It was decided to go off the Point.

    Unlike most other dives, I was actually waiting on the rest.

    Expert entrance.
    I was the first to enter and watched the others make easy entrances.

    The group off the Point.

    We swam out and dropped right on the statue…

    Logged SCUBA Dive #500

    Dove with Reverend Al, BlueSteel and Libertarian Ted

    The Point, Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, USA

    In With: 3000 psi
    Out With: 1000 psi
    Max depth: 60 feet
    Waves: Some surge but manageable
    Visibility: 10 – 15 feet
    Water Temperature: 69 degrees
    Air Temperature: 75 degrees
    Total Bottom Time: 46 minutes

    The lady and memorial
    The Lady of the Point, plus a new addition…

    Memorial
    Photo by Reverend AL

    Memorial rocks – “Shanon Wesserling Final Dive 2012″ “Dennis Gunn 1940-2016 A great ??? a dive buddy”

    I want a rock when I die.

    Reef At Terranea Resort.

    We followed Reverend Al.

    Reef At Terranea Resort.

    Amazingly, these pictures look like the hundreds of other pictures that I’ve taken here.

    Reef At Terranea Resort.

    Reef At Terranea Resort.

    A block reef.
    A block reef.

    Stringy Blobs
    The Sun Stars are gone, but I have noticed these weird stringy blobs have been appearing more frequently.

    This was a nice, uneventful dive.

    Silt out.
    When visibility sucked, we surfaced.

    A smooth exit.

    I tripped over a rock on exit, but everyone else seemed to have made it out just fine.

    During the dive, we headed shallower earlier than usual; I still had 1000 psi in my tank, which is rare for a Point to Cove dive.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see Nick, Jill (a.k.a. Jilly-fish) and their son Ben; they showed up just for my 500th dive and to check out the diving scene, which they’ve been missing for several years.

    Grilling ribs

    Jill brought Korean ribs, kimchi and potato salad; I had no issues being the cook!

    Korean ribs!

    My dive buddies.
    My dive buddies for my 500th dive – BlueSteel, Libertarian Ted, Reverend Al and Myself.

    Ben, Nick, Jill and Me.
    Ben, Nick, Jill and Me.

    Me and Ben
    Me and Ben as Reverend Al photo bombs.

    The debriefing

    We were amazed at what people will go to to avoid parking fees…

    Parking Wars

    During our debrief, some psycho Russian sounding chick, who was a passenger in another vehicle, got out of the car and ran to a newly vacant parking spot as someone else was trying to pull in.

    She yelled, “You can’t park here, this is my spot!”

    The driver who was trying to park yelled back, “Lady, I was waiting, I’m next in line – it doesn’t work that way here.”

    Psycho Chick Steals a parking spot

    The psycho woman actually sat down in the parking spot.

    The guy acted like he was leaving and then started to back up into the space.

    The lady screamed – I didn’t see exactly what happened.

    The guy in the car yelled, “Call the police!”

    “I am calling them right now,” she said.

    During this time, the car that the lady came out of found another spot and parked; nobody appeared to be physically injured; obviously the woman is mentally damaged.

    I think that was the same psycho woman that was yelling at diver Irish Andy a year ago, telling him that if he was done with his business at Terranea, he needed to leave so she could park.

    Andy told her, “When I leave, I’m going to make sure you don’t park here.”

    Thanks again everybody for all the years of diving – great memories.

    Thanks again to Jill for the food.

    Until next time!

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