Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A fishy outing to Apalachee Bay, Gulf of Mexico

View of St. Marks river (CM Lau)
There is something really fishy about this outing. A couple from our host community Tony and Renee decided to take us boating in Apalachee Bay, Gulf of Mexico. We’re clueless about the trip initially - unsure if we’re just going sightseeing or doing something else.

It turned out to be an exciting trip! Not only we went sightseeing, but we had geographical and biological lessons about the St. Marks and Wakulla rivers. The 2 rivers have different pH with Wakulla being more acidic, meet before flowing out of river mouth where freshwater and saltwater mix. Due to the difference in water density, it created a unique ecosystem which comprised of organisms from both freshwater and seawater.

12-inch black rock bass caught (Tony Murray)
Pelican resting on a red buoy (CM Lau)
We spotted pelicans, vultures, bald eagle (which is used on the US emblem) along our journey from the river out to Apalachee Bay. Once we arrived to the fishing spot, first cast returns empty hand but a 11-inch rock bass was caught within seconds of the next cast. That really kicked off our trip. With the first catch hauled in, we continued to get many fishes - mostly rock bass as well as white grunt (Haemulon plumieri) and trigger fish (Balistidae). Smaller rock bass and the trigger fish were released to allow them to go through reproduction phase. Now, this is something I admire - the sustainable practice of recreational fishing which is something lacking in Malaysia.

Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) (CM Lau)
While on the way back, we were escorted by unexpected guests. Who? A small pod of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)! These beautiful marine mammals (yes, in case you didn’t know they are NOT fish) followed us for a good 15 minutes. What a start to our fellowship!

Imam collecting water samples for red tide testing (Tony Murray)
Fish aside, we took the opportunity to collect some water samples to be sent for red tide analysis. This collection is somewhat also known as citizen science, where volunteers help to collect opportunistic samples whenever they go out to the sea. Large data sets give more accurate analysis, but more collections are limited by funds and manpower!

Southern style fish along with chips and 'Hush Puppies' (CM Lau)
We made full use of the fish we caught, sending it to a restaurant nearby to be cooked into the Southern style – fried and blackened. Not just that, the restaurant if well known for their hush puppies. Not the hush puppies dog or even the shoe brand but they are delicious corn balls! I like to think that I am a southerner, because the southern style really fits my taste, hot and spicy! Good food usually seals the deal for the day!  So what’s so fishy about this trip? Really, it’s just the fish.

Oh, the catch of the day? It’s our host couple’s 28th wedding anniversary!

Catch of the day: Tony and Renee took us out boating despite it's their 28th wedding anniversary!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Touched down! @ Tallahassee

He ran from the wings, skipped past a defender and he jumped and…touch down! He scores for Florida State University! Listen to the noise of the home crowd. *Cheers and jeers and claps*

Touched down in Tallahassee (by Koren Taylor)

Ok, that’s not how the commentary goes. I just made that up. Nope, unfortunately we didn’t get to watch the game. It was sold out!

New landmark of Tallahassee

But yup, it’s all about football! That is the pride of Tallahassee. The day we arrived is the home game between the arch rivals of Florida State Seminoles and Miami. Huge crowd gathered in town, there’s traffic jam and a lot of tailgating. Opps sorry, tailgating that I meant here is about a party at the tailgate of vehicles before the football game. It's an American thing. Not about a vehicle driving too close to another vehicle in front.

Doak Campbell Stadium, home of the Seminoles Football
These are the first few cultural lessons I had during my brief ride from the airport to our hotel. Along the way we passed by the Florida State University stadium, which is huge! It accommodates up to 85k people! Now, this got me excited to be among the spectators in that stadium watching live college football game. Will be patiently waiting for the opportunity to go the home game while I am here.

Like a migratory bird...

I always wonder how it feels like to be migratory birds. I have always admired the energy of migration birds, their ability to navigate to their preferred location, far far away. Nature is great isn’t? Migratory birds fly in a flock, a strategy of utilizing their energy efficiently, migrating between north and south to escape unsuitable weather and to search for food. Depending on species, the distance that they cover is usually really long. Due to the long exhaustive journey, they need to stop at several locations before reaching their final destination. After the effort of travelling away, they would fly all the way back to where they came from.
I would liken my journey to the United States to the migration of these migratory birds. I now sort of understand the feeling of flying long hours with several stops in between. Departing from Malaysia with a bunch of enthusiastic professional fellows, it took us 25 hours, transiting for several hours in two stops before arriving Washington D.C. After several days of ‘rest', we are off again to different cities within the United States. In a way, we are escaping from unsuitable weather (it’s hazy now in Malaysia!), but not searching for food. We are instead seeking a rare lifetime experience, in land far far away from home. The journey doesn't end here, it has only begun.
Under the wings

Ready to take off!

Thank kew 4 sarpoting ah, come again oh!


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