Shawna's, Jamie's and my birthdays were all back to back to back so there has been a lot of celebrating so far this month. Mine was on June 5, and I would like to thank everyone for celebrating with me and for the birthday wishes on Facebook. I'm terrible at planning things and so didn't have anything special thought out. I was teaching an Open Water course and had left for lunch break. When I returned to the shop for the afternoon boat, Tyler emerged singing Happy Birthday and holding a chocolate brownie with coconut icing and a candle. What could be better than chocolate and coconut? (I just now as I was writing this remembered that there are still leftover birthday brownies from Jamie's birthday in the fridge and had to make a dash to grab one. I'm back now.)

Once the work day was over I stayed and sat at Dive Shop A for a while because everyone is rather fond of just sitting there. I always feel incredibly awkward sitting there because if I'm there, I should be working right? Everyone asked what the plan was and I had no idea because I am really bad at planning events. Maike suggested several restaurants and I realized I really didn't feel like spending money on fancy dinner at the moment. Kyle suggested 7/11 parking lot where the night market sets up and I decided that was a brilliant plan. Cheap drinks and lots of food options. Once that was settled I went next door and treated myself to a birthday massage.

Here in Thailand you can get a wonderfully relaxing hour long massage for the equivalent of $10. There's really no reason not to treat yourself to one at least once a week, and on special occasions, such as your birthday. You can choose from oil, coconut oil, aloe vera, full body, foot, head neck and shoulders, you name it. I've so far been too terrified to try a Thai massage. They basically tie you into a pretzel and beat the living crap out of you. Someday I will be brave enough to try one, but not today. I usually just go for a full body coconut oil massage. Every place you go uses slightly different techniques, and the place next to Dive Shop A has this funny thing they do at the end of your massage where they sit you up, have you lace your hands behind your head so that your elbows are on either side of your head. Then the lady sits behind you and wraps her arms around the front of your bent arms. What she does then is pulls you around to one side so that you are twisting from your midsection, very gently the first couple of times chanting "relax, relax," before jerking you into a very fast twist so that you can hear every vertebrae of your spine pop, all the way up your back. After such a relaxing hour, the sudden surprise of having your back cracked is enough to send you into a fit of giggles, so she had to sit there for a minute reminding me to "relax, relax," before she did the same thing, whipping my spine around in the opposite direction. The end result is very satisfying.

I met everyone at 7/11 at 7:30 and we bought drinks from the convenience store and sat on the steps and wandered the food stalls. You may think this is an odd place to want to spend your birthday, but I'm a fan of finding fun in things that are different. I bought a bottle of coke and a bottle of rum from the 7/11 and mixed them up, and then found a stall selling something called "Pancake Thailand," which looked a bit like a small fried egg. Turned out the yellow bit was corn, and the white bit was something with a rice base that tasted sweet like pudding but had the consistency of an egg white. It was very odd. The lady who makes the papaya salad that has the little crabs in it wasn't there.

After we were good and tipsy we made our way to the bars. There are only a few bars on Koh Tao that are happening at night, and you usually wander them from one to the next to the next in a particular order. First on the list is Diza Bar, where you can get balloons for 100 baht. You can imagine that a good bit a money gets wasted there. (Hence the need to compensate and buy cheap drinks at 7/11). Diza is on a street corner, and the music is hit or miss, usually miss with a couple catchy pop tunes thrown in that you can't help but dance to despite how bad they are (Timber by Ke$ha). Next is Lotus Bar, where I will usually end my night, because it is so easy to get hypnotized by the fire dancers and there are comfy places to sit on the beach and watch. After the fire dancers amaze you with their magic, the guys usually set up a flaming jump rope or flaming limbo for all the tourists. Watching everyone singe their hair off is just as much fun as watching the real show. Next down the street is Bar Next 2. I haven't spent a lot of time there, it looks like a nicer night club would back home with a bar in the middle and couches surrounding glowing tables creating a nice lounge atmosphere. In the early hours of the morning the party usually ends at Fishbowl. If you make it to Fishbowl, then you are too far gone to remember enough of it later to describe properly on a blog.

I failed to request the next day off of work, so my student, who had also been out partying the night before, and I had a good fun morning trying to get through academics. In the afternoon, once I was feeling a little better after a lunch of a beet and carrot smoothie and some Tylenol, Yankee Wannabe, one of our other instructors at Dive Shop A, informed me that he was leading a UV light night dive over at Dive Shop X. I instantly forgot the hangover and texted the head instructor over at Dive Shop X to see if there was any space left on the boat. She said that I could come along as my birthday present.

Fletch was sweet enough to buy me this really fancy schmancy underwater light before I came out here. It is super powerful and has three different heads you can interchange, a spot head, a wide head, and a UV light head. UV light night diving is becoming popular because it brings out the natural bioluminescence in underwater organisms. Basically you shine a UV light and put a special filter on your mask and suddenly everything is glowing neon orange and green like you've just swum into the movie Avatar. I tried bringing my light out on a couple night dives but everyone else's white lights ruin the effect. So I was super excited when Yankee Wannabe told me he was leading a proper UV night dive, where everyone is using only UV lights. It was nuts! I'm not kidding when I say it's like being in the movie Avatar. You start noticing little things too that you don't normally see during the day because they are too hard to find, but at night they glow like crazy and you can pick them out. There's a little eel called an undulate moray eel that is small and brown and lives in little holes in the coral. Under UV light though he becomes florescent green, except for his eyes and the inside of his mouth which are pitch black, making for a very demonic looking little thing.

The next day over lunch the care package that Fletch sent to me, Shawna, and Kyle finally arrived. I was so excited to have it that I carried it around everywhere with me until it was finally time to go home. When it was finally time to go home though, I realized that it didn't fit in my basket or down my my feet on my scooter, so I had the brilliant plan to set it on my lap and pin it between my stomach and the handle bar. All was going well until it came to the final turn and someone was already sitting there. I tried to turn around him but with the box on my lap, ended up tipping over. Quite embarrassing. Luckily Shawna was right behind me with some bungie cords so we were able to bungie the box to the seat behind me. We had special instructions to not open it until all three of us were together and Fletch was on the phone with us. That time finally arrived at 6:30 and we opened the square-foot sized box to find a million little gifts all arranged inside like tetris pieces. I've never seen so many things fit into one box. The best gift was the Annie's mac n cheese. They don't have mac n cheese here and I've been missing it.