XXXXXXTRAVELOGUEXXXXXX. Los Viajes del Santo Monstrogringo Snorkeling on Iki Island renews my faith in this sepia world.

This last weekend I took my lovely girlfriend Asako to explore the charms of Iki Island (pronounced EE-KEY, not icky, for all you anthropocentric foot scratchers) in Nagasaki ken, and for the first time in quite a while I forgot that I am "one of these things that's not like the other", that is, a gaijin. I never liked that Sesame Street episode. That was Sesame Street wasn't it? For the most part it was a great experience growing up and watching kermit the frog, reporting from Sesame Street blah blah blah. Of course the classic Jim Henson Sesame Street is what I'm talking about. No I'm not. I'm supposed to be reporting on Iki Island (scratch, scratch). Right. So our plan was to go snorkeling, and of course we had to call and confirm the day before, and the day of as well. Yes, we're coming. But then the dude (Habu-san) picked us up from the hotel, patiently waited for us at least five minutes (which if you don't know, in Japan waiting five minutes for someone is socially equivalent to waiting an hour in the States, it's pretty rude). He wasn't miffed by the lateness, then it turned out he was a swell guy on top of it. He patiently waited for us while we took a lifetime to get our wetsuits on (what are they doing in the showers? I bet he was thinking) I proudly emerged to the front of the shop wearing the zipper down the front, which I knew was backwards, but Habu-san recommended I turn it around, smartly suggesting that my neck would get wet if I didn't. And I certainly didn't come here to get wet. Then he gave us a crash course on snorkeling, as it was our first time. Shape your mouth like the French vowel "u", clamp the rubber around your teeth and bite. Breathe gently. We waddled our way in the sand, mouthing our best French vowels, tripping over our rubber flippers, choking on saltwater, holding hands in the midst of the trauma. My biggest obstacle was trying not to hyperventilate while the saltwater invaded from around my lips and through the tube. I nearly drowned about eight times, a testament to my outdoorsy prowess. Marinesports Moscovich. It's the new me. In fact we signed up for the kayaking as well, but if I could drown with flippers and a lifejacket on, surely I would sink straight to the bottom of the sea without my beloved flippers. After the first few attempts at eating moss, shedding skin and bleeding, roughed up against the reef by the waves and the invisible lightening watersnakes, we finally got the hang of it and saw a fish. Asako pointed exitedly at the fish, as it swam in the monitors of our ridiculous silent film, it was about the size of a nickel, and totally in black and white, not like what I saw on the flyers. I didn't know everything underwater is black and white until that day, really I had no idea. Invigorating and humbling both. Actually it was more like sepia. We did get to see some lettuce-like seaweed coming up from the ocean bottom a good ten or twenty meters below. Another highlight was this half-bottle half-shell organism lying on the beach afterwards (pictured above left), which confirms everything I thought I didn't know about quantum physics, chaos theory, Ken Wilber and Reaganomics. The little guys inside the shells poked their heads out and I think they had long tongues like spider dicks (or miniature horse dicks if horses were miniature seacreatures that lived inside shells or people's minds who have the talent to nearly drown wearing flippers and a lifejacket) which like, totally creeped out my girlfriend. Later we went inside for cool beers and chatted with the truly amiable staff until Habu-san gave us a ride back to the port. I'm not kidding. Living in Hakata makes me particularly sensitive to people who are genuinely friendly, it's like watching a midget do a superjump to a thirteenth floor elevator then opening the door for you. Really quite out of the way friendly, Habu-san and staff at Hawaii Bar renewed my faith in life on this archipelagos.

Highly recommended: Iki Island's Bar Hawaii Marinesports.