No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, August 09, 2013


June 21, 2013

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Good Morning, greetings from Saranda, Albania, where RPM Nautical is joining the Albanian Center for Marine Research in hosting a scientific diving school. I had traveled to Albania along with a student of the class from Key West and a former student who this year is returning to be a member of the staff and will be assisting the team in providing the training for this class and two additional field schools that will take place later in the summer.

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RPM has set up a mobile dive locker including a fill station for Nitrox, a complete dive locker full of gear and a containerized decompression chamber on the local Military base here in Saranda. Small family owned hotels provide the housing for both the students in one hotel and the staff in the other. The hotels are located just above the small harbor where the military base is located.

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The military base is nothing like you would expect if you are familiar with the US Military, it is basically a couple of small Albanian Navy boats, and a few soldiers armed with old Soviet era Kalishnakov rifles who preside over a run-down and ramshackle base that is mostly abandoned. What they lack in equipment, they make up for in dedication, service and friendliness. The commander and soldiers often can be found having coffee at the veranda café of our hotel in the morning as we prepare for the days’ activities.

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Each day begins with a brief lecture for the students where they learn some basic Albanian phrases, a little about the locale and then a lesson plan for whatever activity is planned for the day. Then it is down to the dive locker- where formal equipment set-up and planning for whatever dive plan is in store for the students.

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With the scientific dive class, there are very specific training goals to be accomplished including safety, navigation and other basic skills that must be passed before the more specific scientific diving techniques can be tackled. The RPM boat, the Contender, has not yet arrived on site, so this class had to do all of their diving from the shore, which thankfully is not much of a problem in Saranda as there are many spectacular sites located just off shore including the spectacular WWII sunken wreck of a hospital ship, “The Probitas” located right in Saranda Harbor- mere feet from the many waterfront restaurants and bars.

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Saranda is a tiered city rising up in a large half circle around the main harbor with each successive street forming a new layer up into the small mountains that surround the harbor. The public beach is ringed by a wide pedestrian promenade, where each night locals and tourists walk back and forth in a festive setting. The promenade is lined with restaurants, bars and night spots before the lowest street rings the harbor. Each successive street is lined with large, mostly recent concrete buildings with markets,storefronts, apartments and hotels.

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The outskirts are filled with many half built, empty or simply shells of concrete buildings that sprung up then stalled out before they could be completed leaving a surreal have-done quality to much of the city. Throw in the fact that just outside the city are very rural towns and villages whose livestock wander free- often coming down into the city to feast on trash and you have a very unique setting.

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Thursday, August 08, 2013


June 20, 2013

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Often times I have to stop and consider just how fortunate that I am. Having a job that I love that enables me to travel to exciting and exotic destinations and participate in truly unique and wonderful activities of the type that I once only read about in things like “National Geographic” is awesome. Arriving once again in Saranda, Albania , I am reminded once again of my good fortune.

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Once again this year, my employer, the RPM Nautical Foundation is a sponsoring organization for Archeological Field schools along the Illyrian coast. The first school is actually a scientific diving class which over the course of two weeks in Albania will provide students with the expertise needed to be recognized as AAUS (American Academy of Underwater Science) certified.

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This course complies with the 100+ hour AAUS standards. Students gain diverse diving experience, participate in ongoing underwater research, and learn diving theory and methods in classroom sessions taught by experts in the field from institutions including East Carolina University, the Albanian Institute of Archaeology, and RPM Nautical Foundation.

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Almost daily dives over the two-week course expose students to a variety of habitat types found along the southern Albanian coastline, as well as the best practices for conducting hypothesis-based research, environmental survey, and archaeological methods. The diving course also offers a necessary component to participate in other Albanian Center for Marine Research field school offerings.

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Located a mere 8.7 mile ferry ride from Corfu, Saranda is somehow worlds away. The port city is located on the Albanian Riviera, a stretch of beautiful, mostly undeveloped beaches.  Saranda has been described as an undiscovered gem of the overcrowded Mediterranean, yet I would hesitate somewhat in describing it as a gem quite yet. It is a fun and functional city of about 30,000, but still lacks much of the infrastructure needed to support the tourist economy that is coming.

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It does seem to have a ton of potential with beautiful stretches of beach, decent restaurants and nightlife and best of all some of the nicest, most friendly people you ever could meet, probably because they have yet to be so inundated with foreign tourists to become jaded from meeting them.

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The scientific dive class covers a wide range of objectives designed to teach divers the best and safest techniques to be able to conduct scientific research underwater. It begins with the basics and includes swim testing which the class conducts right down in Saranda Harbor at the swim center that was built for Albanian Olympians to practice in. The area is now more of a popular swimming area for Albanian children who gathered around us with great curiosity while the swimming tests were ongoing.

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They are especially curious about technology and found my ipad and digital camera of special interest and I even let some of the young boys borrow my camera to take photos and when I got the camera back was impressed with the great quality snapshots that they had taken, it was a really cool experience.

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