Il est un optimiste
- - 16.07.2010 | 0 comments | #link | rss
IST Pro Ear or the Pro Ear 2000 review and test.

Pro Ear 2000 or IST Pro Ear Diving Mask for dry ears

Basically this is sort of same product, they are just sold in different names around the world. Initially I bought the Pro Ear 2000 on the French border to Switzerland where I live.

It was the clear silicon one and sold under the brand ProEear 2000. When I arrived in Thailand one of the Englishmen had one under the brand IST ProEar in Black Silicon.

The issue was that when I bought it they just had this one in the shop and supply was quite limited, and I haven't used a clear silicon mask in years. So I went for it only to swap with him after a couple of days. He liked the additional brightness of the clear silicon. Thing I didn't like since I found to have more reflection on the mask when diving, especially on shallow dives with lots of light. Then adding the camera view finder that is quite small made it even harder for me with all the reflection.

But I think this is a different debate and is certainly very personal to what you find more comfortable. The last I might add about this is that the Black silicon felt slightly smoother. But the mask really has the same built and I don't think there is a reason to have the one over the other.

Why did I go for this product in the first place? Well I am quite prone to ear infections, and diving holidays where generally followed by middle ear infections. When you are diving your ears are getting soaked for many hours, washing the ear out. By doing so, removing the protective film in the ear. I then realized that after about 2-3 days of diving my ear got very sensitive to wind. But I let you imagine how hard it is on a dive boat to be out of the wind all the time. One of my doctors told me that if I want to get rid of that problem I should stop diving... not really an option at this stage for me.

So I tried the rinsing with freshwater, drying the ear after the dive, alcohol and vinegar mix. But it never really worked. My brother mentioned this mask already many years ago and I finally decided that for the 4 month I'll be diving in a row I want to have the best chances to not have an ear infection every two weeks.

What do they look like?

Pro Ear 2000 or IST Pro Ear Diving Mask for dry ears

Pro Ear 2000 or IST Pro Ear Diving Mask for dry ears

Well there is mask as you would be used to it, and it has additional two cups for the ears. These are connected to the mask by small tubes. This makes it a closed circuit at ambient pressure. So you don't have the problem of pressure as you would have with ear plugs that can't be used for diving.

To get to the immediate question, do you ears stay dry? I would say usually yes. It is a bit like with a normal mask, you might once in a while get a bit water in it. But at the end of the dive my ears might be wet like if I had taken a quick shower and not soaked for hours. And the more I dive with it, the easier it gets to clear the mask and to keep it from folding in the first place. I do have a short hair cut, but it seems that it can still provide an effective seal over some hair. But here everyone is different so a try might be necessary.

This brings to the second answer; yes you can clear the era pieces if you have to take your mask off. And how easier can you fit the mask? Well I did my Divemaster course with it most of the time and when we had to demonstrate mask replacement it worked really nicely, it seemed to me actually that it is easier to put in place underwater as it is on the surface. You will then need a bit of time to clear the ear pieces, and this takes some training. You will find the right technique that works out best for you after a while.

As I just wrote, I did most of my course with this mask. There is however a change on the hearing quality. On the surface people will have to speak up to you or else you won't be able to hear them clearly. On the other hand this changes once you are underwater, it feels noisier at first. But now I'm not sure it really is, it just feels different. What is truly improved is your directional hearing underwater. Since sound travels faster underwater is quite hard to guess from where the sound comes from, the brain doesn't have the time to get it. I recon the little air bubble created in the ear pieces improve that. I am now usually capable of hearing from where a boat is coming from or to find the boat based on hearing quite easily.

And the last thing, does it help to equalize? My direct answer is, if you dive many times yes it probably will. But my guess is that this is not due to the construction of the mask but simply that when you dive with is over a period of time your ear are simply less stressed by water, bacteria or cold water. A healthy ear will equalize with no trouble.
Final thoughts... My only regret with this mask is that I didn't buy it earlier; it would have saved me some very painful experiences on holidays. I have now been diving over two month and my ear feels good, there might still be some stress on them due to pressure changes but I never had pain nor did I have to skip a day of diving because of my ears. Some people don't get ear infection at all despite diving for very long periods; unfortunately I am not one of them. And if you too are one of those that have to take extra care for your ears, don't hesitate to give this mask a try I would not trade for something else.

And there the link for you to the manufacturer: ProEar2000
- - 06.07.2010 | 1 comments | #link | rss
One of the things I always wanted to give a try is a semi closed rebreather system.

Compared to a normal open system used in diving where all your air is blown out directly in the water. The rebreather has an exhale and inhalation pack, comparable to an external lung to your body. So the air you just breathed out is contained and the CO2 is removed by a lime cartridge. A small tank with, in my case 40% oxygen is used to replenish your breathing gas. Resulting in a 35% mix, roughly 40% minus the 4-5% of oxygen the Human body is using. This number could change slightly depending on the activity level. On a small 4 litter tank at 200 bar you can stay over 1h30 underwater.

This gives you a limited operating depth of around 30 meters and very long non decompression limits (NDL).

The instructor I was diving with was using a normal air tank, we spent a long time down a 18 meters and he was hitting his NDL and air limit, I could have stayed another hour
It is also a different diving feeling as when you exhale you don't lose that air, meaning you stay more stable in the water and don't go slightly up and down when inhaling and exhaling strongly.

And the best part, you almost have no bubbles coming out, and if there are they are not in a big burst. This is great when you approaching marine life as bubbles are one of the main things that scare them. It makes noise and air is a normal thing for them to encounter.

Now the question is, would I want to buy one... as they are a bit more bulky and requires usually high level of oxygen it makes it a bit harder to travel with. And they are only fun when your dive buddy also has one to get the maximum out of the dive. Will see : )

- - 30.06.2010 | 1 comments | #link | rss
After all these days I had a little day off, went for some shopping. Followed by a stop at Délifrance and give a try to some apple pie. Not as good as back in Europe, but close enough to satisfies my immediate need and comfort of home.

Then followed by a little Big Mac (I know I had desert first), they also have a Double Big Mac and a Double Filet o'fish. But maybe next time, I'm actually happy that I'm eating almost healthy these days. I'm surprised it took almost two month before I went to Mc Donald's.

- - 30.06.2010 | 0 comments | #link | rss
Where has he been?

Well I have to say that since the last time I wrote something time has passed and I was a pretty busy time.
First, after my certification as a PADI Rescue Diver I went on and did many specialities.

Here the list:
• Wreck Diver
• Deep
• Full Face Mask Diver
• Underwater Navigator
• Dry Suit Diver
• Digital Underwater Photographer
• Search & Recovery
• Gas Blender
• National Geographic Diver
• Night Diver
• Emergency Responder that is part of the Rescue Diver course.

Once you are a rescue diver and have 5 specialties you can become a Master Scuba Diver.
It is more of a prestigious thing than a true new certification. But the title sounds cool and the pad for the shirt with it gold border is pretty : )

Secondly, once all this was done I was looking forward to have some fun and spend some days in Koh Chang. But it didn't work out as there was a couple of pre test and things to get ready for the Dive Master course.

So suddenly I spent most of my time reading books followed by knowledge reviews, attending theory classes about physics and decompression theories.

This was followed by two weeks of sheer terror... not wait... It was hard and I have to admit that there was one day where I wondered myself why I was going through all this. But this was followed by a day of inexplicable good mood and bell rings (all the bars here have bells that you ring for paying a round of drinks) and a couple of tequila shots later the good was completed followed by a 5000 Baht bill.

But all this ended on the 29th of June after the last skill demonstration in the pool and final exams where completed. All passed successfully. Now the PADI paper work was done and I'll get my new card in some time. So it was a good time for a party!

I only took one picture that evening, Elvis in the house!

Tomorrow, first time on the boat as dive master.
- - 15.05.2010 | 0 comments | #link | rss
The region around Pattaya is also known for its naval base.
So during some of the dives there are Islands that are used as training ground. So you might come across these kind of things during a dive:

Bombshell found during a dive

And on that bombshell, I can tell you that there are also nicer things to see:

Pink skunk clownfish - Amphiprion perideraion
- - 15.05.2010 | 0 comments | #link | rss
Last night we went for a night dive cruise.

We left the dive center at around 3 o'clock and did our first dive right before dusk at 6 o'clock.

The first dive was on the HTMS Khram, it is nice to dive at dusk because the light to the upper part of the dive is still bright enough, but as soon as you pass the 20m mark it is getting dark. And once you have reached the bottom at around 28m you can't see much without the torch.

I was also impressed by the amount of big fish swimming around. I guess it is a good place for them to sleep.
Then back on the boat after a 30min dive where the food is almost ready. I'm telling you diving makes you hungry and when you come back on the boat and you smell that food being prepared...

After dinner we had some time to kill, until midnight where we would go for the second dive. What a great feeling to sit on the sun chair after having eaten looking at the surrounding light. The boat rocks you gently. This is a feeling of true relaxation!

Second dive was less deep at around 12m on a sand and rock ground with some crabs, fishes that are sleeping and even a little blue spotted sting ray. And a nice thing was a squid, they light up in a nice way at night with the torch on them. But I couldn't get a picture of him.

Little crab at a night dive

Back on the boat, and now time to get to... a snack, BBQ on the boat : )
So we made Hot Dogs and Hamburgers, can't tell you how great that is at around 2 o'clock at night after a one hour dive.

Next on the agenda would have been a dive at 4 o'clock in the morning. But no chance for me, way too tired. So some people stayed on the boat and slept while the others went for the dive. Looks as if there was a strong current and wasn't the best dive of the night, so I don't I guess I didn't miss that much.

Back to my room, sleep and decided that I spend some time writing up my stories on the blog.
- - 15.05.2010 | 0 comments | #link | rss
So what else have I done over the last days?... I spent most of the time reading in order to be prepared for the rescue diver course. I have to say that I really had a good time and the learning was really useful.

It also includes a part of Emergency First Response. So now if someone is in need I can say; My name is Alex, I am an emergency responder. May I help? Or for the dive part; Diver diver, I'm a rescue diver. May I assist you?

But the really hard part is in the water, we spent hours in the swimming pool doing rescue exercises and another two day in the water where we applied the skilled learning in the pool.

One of the exercises on the second day was conducting a search for a lost diver. Visibility was ranging from one meter to around 30cm. And to make it even harder, there was a strong current. We didn't find the dummy body, but at least we knew what we could improve. And also it did help the moral a bit that after the training the two divers who planted the body didn't find it again either...

So we did lose some things, I also lost my pair of fins in one of the exercise where I had to carry someone up the boat on the ladder and someone lost a mask.

The only thing we did find on the way back was a group of divers where one was exhausted and lost a fin. So we ended the day with an actual rescue and brought the diver back to his boat.

The day I did all the reading I went for some nice lunch at the beach, noodles soup with chicken from one of the carts on the street; 30 Bath, so 1.- CHF... and another 27 Bath for 750ml water and an ice cream on the 7eleven.
So as you can see the food is cheap, and I have to say that these street carts sell really good food. And I'm not just saying this because it is cheap.
And then the snack on the evening:

Snack, grasshoper and frogs

So we have Grasshopper and small frogs, deep fried.
And as a bonus : )

about to eat a grasshoper

I have to say that the frog, and I don't like to admit it, really tastes like chicken... the grasshopper on the other hand. No clue, it has some taste that is familiar put can't really define it. Must have been de seasoning they used.
- - 15.05.2010 | 0 comments | #link | rss
So what is the diving like? Well I have to admit that visibility in the bay is ranging from horrible to very bad.
But ! Fantastic wreck diving on a wreck, the HTMS Khram.

HTMS Khram, image by Alex Beuchel

More info on the wreck: here

Very nice dive, first at 28 meters where we swam along the boat next to the bottom with lots of fish creating a shield. So one side the boat and on the other all the fish that was surrounding us.

Second dive was on the same spot, so this time we went on the top of the wreck with a little swim trough at on the front of the wreck. Guess that the Wreck Speciality is on my list of to do in order to be allowed to penetrate the wreck.

Got myself a little sun burn, not that bad... let's say that when I looked in the mirror the colour of my bum and the colour of my back was distinctively different... The only real annoyance was on the next day when putting the wetsuit on, it does get a bit uncomfortable on the back but that feeling disappear once in the water.
- - 07.05.2010 | 1 comments | #link | rss
So, what happend?

Well at some point I was sitting in that plane and while it was climbing I had a nice last glance at Geneva from the sky... with a jet eau and all the lights by night, postcard feeling.

So that makes you think that it is a nice place and I'll probably start enjoying it differently once/if back : )

Off from Zurich now where the flight was most of the time very smooth so the sleep with the Gin & Tonic was very good. Though the red wine on Swiss could be improved. Speaking of improving why is it that the screen on the plane have such a limited viewing angle? I understand you don't want to disturb your neighbour with light of the screen, but no good if you can't see the screen because you are too tall. This is ok when the guy in front of you is sitting straight, but obviously the one in front of me put it down almost immediately after the sign allowed it.

Crazy heart was despite the screen a good movie. And the singing is anyway more important there. Avatar would have been crap...

Well I landed in Thailand and arrived in Pattaya, can't remember much of the drive as I have been a sleep most of the time.

So what are the first impressions? Well the first reaction from my body was sweat, and only to be told a bit later that it just cooled down a bit and that we are on terrace in the shadow with a breeze.

Second impression, the road where I am living on is in construction, so it looks very messy. Not to speak from the electric work that is close to art and would make go every Swiss electrician just speechless. Haven't seen any sparks but some humming is coming from certain Pylons... Speaking of electric, I hope it is the high temperature and not the odd current that is heating up my laptops power supply.

Thappraya Road in Pattaya

On the first evening I had my first beach party for some guys who just finished their Dive Master certification. Great fun and a nice roasting pig on the bbq (and by pig I mean the whole animal)

The internet connection at the hotel where I stay is down due to the road construction. So luckily the dad of a friend who lives next to Pattaya has lent me a USB stick for the connection. Not as fast as DSL in Switzerland but still very nice. As I can sit in my room in the cool and not outside the dive shop where it simply get very very very and again very hot. While writing this I realise that I'm running at around 4 litres of water right now, and that I still should drink more... I wonder if I need more water that my body is able to absorbe.

So one last picture from my trip today, a Giant Buddha carved with laser in Gold on the cliff of Kaho Chee Chan.

Giant Golden Buddha in stone at Kaho Chee Chan cliff
- - 11.11.2009 | 0 comments | #link | rss
Wind of change, when I hear that sentence I have a few references in my mind...

I guess that for most people relate to the whistle during the song from the Scorpions. It also has strong relation to the reunification of Germany. Many images of the Berlin wall falling are shown with the song playing in background.
I was only 7 when the event happened, but I remember the images shown on TV of the wall being demolished and people climbing over it. I also remember my parents who were on the phone with friends in Germany who drove to Berlin that night to witness the event. But I didn't realize at that time what really happened and how that event 20 years ago was important for Germany and diplomatic relations in the world.

Few years later during vacations in Spain, some of my parents friends joined us. They were living in East Germany and for the first time able to leave freely and go for the first vacation outside. For me being there was normal, but for them it was an exceptional event. How overwhelming it must be for all the senses. The smell of the sea, the feeling of swimming, the culture; food and languages... Again these are things I see that way today, years have passed and my perception of the world has changed and is evolving every day.

But originally the introduction that should have been only a few sentences has become longer than expected... I wanted to write a short message that I'll be blogging again, not that I wrote that I wouldn't do it again but my last post was a long time ago.

The initial thought was to write about change in my life. At that time I was in the process of considering taking a sabbatical. I had this thought already some years ago but I didn't take any action to actually do it and my actions to move within the company to a different country weren't successful either.

At the end of the summer I sat down with a friend who is planning to take a sabbatical next year. During the dinner my original idea emerged again, it felt stronger and the timing better. I wanted to get a Dive Master certification and do it in some place warm and exotic!

This is a big change and has an implication in my career, so my first thought was: Lay down some reasons why you shouldn't do it. That shifted really quickly to what the implication would be since I haven't found anything that says; no, don't go.

There are a few areas I considered that would go into the check list for a go, or no go. As it is a dive master, am I in shape mentally and physically to pass the exams? Check. Do I have any obligation to someone; wife, children, family or friend who depends on me? 3 times no. Check. By the way if you have a pet and consider not doing it because of that, you should check your priorities in life. Do I have an employer that would allow me to do this? Luckily yes, the company I work for has an official program for taking an unpaid leave. Check. Am I in a situation where it makes sense to take a break? By that I mean, I don't believe that taking a sabbatical when you are profoundly unhappy in your job is the right thing. When you come back the probability that you job hasn't changed much is high. But you might have had such a great time you job will look even less motivating. Also if you are going to take a new challenge any time soon, I don't want to start something new and then leave for a long period right away.

I want to take a sabbatical in order to achieve something; that would be the dive master certification. At the same time, leave that comfort zone and break the routine that I have in my life today. And by routine I don't really mean waking up, going to work and... well, work. It is to change the country, city, people, activity, food, life style. All this you can experience it during holidays, but not over a longer period of time and hence, really intensify the experience.
It all seemed to be a good idea and very feasible. Over time my motivation hasn't faded and the next step was to find a location and define a possible time frame based mainly on the ability to save money till my departure to pay for all the necessary bills.

So I talked to my superiors and sent them the plan; the place; Thailand. Start of the courses on the 5th of May and be back on the 20th of September 2010. I have been very lucky because they were very supportive and able to give me very quickly their approval. So if you are reading these lines; again a big thank you.

This post has already become much longer than I anticipated but I guess that this topic is very close to my heart right now. And that I still have things that I want to say but I'll break them down in some other posts to come.

I'll promise to continue writing as this blog will be a platform where during my trip I want to lay down my experience. Take the same to write down thoughts while they are still warm and crisp, also include photographs as this is one of the few messages that don't include any.
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