First Kitesurfing Lesson and Rekindling of Old Online Business

learning-how-to-kitesurfThings progressing nicely in the camp. Got a bit shakey as a few times got tired of all these little children (volunteers) passing through, doing minimal work, breaking things, negligent. Seems that people these days have been turning into zombies, can barely walk across the street without getting run over with their faces in facebook all the time. Blew up at them a few times, and pretty well they always apologised and realised their error. But have been adjusting things, including my approach letter, which now offers lower food costs for someone who can stay longer term and act as a for(wo)man so that i don’t have to tend to all these little babies, repeat myself and police them. Things that i really do not like doing. Meanwhile, the number of paying guests passing through has been on the increase, so I am slowly getting back my investment, while still investing little trickles into it, mostly in the form of little purchases through ebay. A constant stream of little presents brought to me in little spurts by arriving volunteers who pick them up in batches from a distant post office on their way here. Bought myself yet ANOTHER phone. Am so tired of the crap they sell in Asia. Learned that I should always take it apart and check the battery before initial purchase, so that I can tell if it is an imitation fake or not. Now I’m getting a Samsung s3, so should be the real deal, and really looking forward to having a reliable phone. Got protective sleeves for it as well. Getting some other toys and will have it set up so that I can sit at the campfire and use bluetooth to dj the big stereo without having to run over there whenever I want to change the song. From ebay I’m also ordering a 64gig external memory, in addition to the device’s 32g internal memory, so I’ll have room for all my music, and will have a kickass system with which to entertain guests.

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Have even had my first kitesurfing instruction, and as I expected, did fairly well on my first attempt. The volunteer even gave me a high five, although everyone was somewhat concerned. Before she came here some Brazilian volunteers showed us all that it is possible on a nearby island. We all hired the owner’s boat one day and went exploring around, because they failed to get the sail up on this island, on both sides. But with the boat we managed to find two islands where the wind was strong enough. The second island (Bolina) is the best, because it has a very wide, soft and fluffy beach, so easy to launch, and where I later took my first course – excellent for beginners. The Brazilians were excited to have broken virgin ground (it is every kitesurfer’s wet dream to have such a paradise all to themselves) and the owner, who came with his boat, was also excited, because he saw for the first time what I had been trying to sell him since we first started this venture now almost a year ago.

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Brazilians attempting to “get it up” on the other side of our island.

After the Brazilians, this other girl came but the weather pattern had changed somewhat, blowing more in a southern direction instead of west. Perhaps it was more intense as well, but she managed to get her sail up on my own island, on both sides of it, so that was quite exciting progress. But learning the ropes myself was certainly the most exciting. After all that I had read about it on the net, and watched youtube videos, especially about people hurting themselves, I realised it can be quite a dangerous sport and didn’t want to pull out my own kites until I was certain. The Brazilian couple looked at what I have and said I needed to replace a bunch of my valves, so another pump and repair kit is on its way. At the moment I have a volunteer with three years of kitesurfing experience, so perhaps he will be able to put the sails into operation and complete my training. The girl had gotten as far as teaching me how to body surf, but getting that far within a couple of hours is still pretty good. My left ear was starting to hurt as I was being dragged through the water from side to side while controlling the kite with one hand. I was also getting rather exhausted. But after she gave me her initial, introductory lesson, I was practicing controlling the sail while standing on the wide fluffy shore, with her 9m and modern kite. I was just starting to get the hang of it at the 10am (left) position when she said I can go ahead and start practicing it at the 2pm (right position). I swung the soaring kite over to the right when all of a sudden it started swooping further down to the right and out of control. These sails can be quite expensive, the entire kit easily at more than a thousand euro, and I had agreed to buy it off her if I caused any harm to it. As it was descending out of control to the jungle side of the beach, I was afraid it might get ripped up in the bushes and was trying to get the kite to swing back up to the 2pm position. While the kite was getting out of control it was also swooping down into the “power zone”, which is more downwind and closer to the ground. My instincts were good as I kept my eyes on the kite, trying to get it back up to the 2pm position, although by this time the power of the wind had lifted me off the ground and I was sailing through the air, upside down, my back occasionally bouncing off the beach and the occasional coral. I scoffed when she initially asked me if I want to borrow a helmet, wondering what on earth for, but now I know. I scratched up my back a bit and luckily did not hit any rocks with my head, but after being dragged down the beach and being lifted and carried in the air for metres at a time, I finally managed to get the kite back up in a safe position and re-establish myself firmly on my feet. Thank goodness for all those years of gymnastics!

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My instructor wailing away just off our main camp.

Another problem, which I will make sure not to miss as an instructor, is she gave me a quick speech about the safety mechanism, but obviously I had completely forgotten about that in my horror as I was being dragged upside down along the beach. If I had not managed to get the kite back up into the safe position well over my head and if it had continued to remain in the power zone, I would have certainly made it to the end of the beach and thrown out into the open ocean, dragged for who knows how long before I remembered the safety mechanism. She’s obviously not a trained instructor, but I suggested to her that next time she teaches someone they should practice with the safety mechanism for a while first before having a real go with the sail. The safety mechanism releases the sail. It is still strapped to you, but it loses all its power and falls harmlessly and slowly to the ground. I feel beginners should hold up theirĀ harms and pretend to be controlling a sail, when the instructor hollers out “emergency!”. At which point the beginner quickly releases the mechanism. Keep practicing that until it is automatic. It was certainly not automatic for me as I was in shock while flying upsidedown through the air and occasionally bouncing off the fluffy sand. Another problem is that the two kites I have are from 2001, so ancient technology, before all this fancy release mechanism stuff. They have some sort of a safety mechanism but I wont touch it until an advanced surfer can complete my training. Not to mention that my two sails are 12 and 14m!!!!

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View from Bolina island as a Tao Expeditions boat sails by.

On another note, a thought had been brewing in my mind for about a year regarding the rekindling of KENAX as a translation agency. As you remember, the last big project, when I was in Bulgaria more than five years ago, turned out somewhat of a disaster and I ended up owing the translators some $6,000. Since then I have been slowly paying them back and am now getting reasonably close to having that completely paid off. But the failure and resulting debt has demotivated me from focusing on that element of my enterprise and instead focused on me translating only. Especially for this new customer which pays double what I had been receiving from everyone else up until then. This has given me a good cash injection over the last four years and an ability to pay off various debts (like to my good friend Roger, a thousand Euro alone). But now that I am approaching the end of my debts, while my costs are practically zero because of my food and beer arrangement with the volunteers and because I don’t pay rent, and with profits starting to increase with an increasing arrival of paying guests, I thought I might rekindle the agency. But this time hand the entire management to someone else. I decided to try out the head project manager for the last disaster project in Bulgaria. I managed to find many other project managers who were willing to work for $3 an hour, located in such countries as Nepal and the Ukraine and working together to cover the different time zones. All were reasonably sharp, loyal and good workers, but none were remotely intelligent enough to handle the more technical end of things. This dude, Tony, spent a lot of time in the US and now lives back with his family somewhere in bumf*ck China. He would accept no less than $10 an hour, but it was worth it. A hardcore dude who could get things done. I even had a skype video conference with him once so that I could show on his computer how to navigate in the software, because it can get quite complicated.

Anywho, thought I’d approach him. The deal is that he would focus on certain things, mostly promotional and marketing, while I would focus on production. We would both work for free, pulling this monster out of the dust heap, and once work starts trickling in, he’d be in charge of project management while I would be in charge of production (automating everything through programming and the website). For actual jobs, he’d get his $10 an hour, I could charge something for my time, and we’d split the profits 50/50. If we eventually need to expand, he could manage other project managers like he did last time and I could fill in for him if he is ever busy, since he explained to me that his family’s business is becoming successful and raking in some 2-3 thousand bucks a month. He explained that he has to give that priority, but agreed that he could work on kenax in his spare time, and if things get heated, I generally have lots of time on my hands and can step in to fill his shoes when he can’t.

So it will be fun to reactivate it. It’s been a long while and I can see all the dust that needs removing. I will also need to set things up so that he can approach my translators without giving him complete access to my database. I decided I will also need to convert the thousands of webpages into a newer, online format, so there is lots of work that needs to be done, as well as training him regarding the promotional work etc, but it gives me another fun project and looking forward to kickstarting this baby again.

[Must have about 5,000 words already written about the various travesties that have taken shape so far, but need to proofread it several more times before going public. Sometimes letters to mom, like this one, are easier for quick updates.]

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