August 22, 2014

Koh Tao, Thailand

Woke up and got ready for class today. I walked to the dive shop, made it there by 08:30, and shortly after we began our lessons. First we reviewed yesterday’s lessons and then I watched three more videos, which covered diving computers, currents, marine life, and furthering my diving education. After the videos, my Swedish instructor talked about each one, she went over how to prepare the SCUBA gear and safety measures one should take when diving, and she also assigned me my homework for tonight. After the academics, I tried on some fins and a wet suit to use, and then I was given an hour for lunch, so I ate at the adjacent restaurant (I had a fried chicken, cashew, and pepper stir-fry).

Once lunch was completed, it was time to head down to the pier. We loaded up all of our bags on to the truck bed (each one filled with fins, a wet suit, and a buoyancy compensator device), as wells as a crate full of masks with snorkels, a crate full of weights belts, and a crate full of regulator devices. Then all the different students and as many instructors that could fit loaded up into the back of the truck. We then drove down to the main pier on Koh Tao (at Mae Haad). At the pier, we walked across other boats to get to the one owned and operated by the dive school. After all the equipment (the air canisters were already on the boat), students, and instructors were loaded on to the boat, we were given a short briefing which went over respecting “Buddha’s point” (the extreme bow of the ship, with yellow ribbon wrapped around, and blessed by the monks for safe travels), the marine toilet (do not flush anything down the toilet you would not want to swim in), and general safety. The boat then left the dock and we traveled north, to Nangyuan Island (located just off the northwest shore of Koh Tao); the island is actually three islands, connected by a beach, which does occasionally disappear under the sea, separating all three rocky peaks. During the trip, my instructor and I prepared our SCUBA units and then I relaxed at the stern of the boat until we were at our destination (the Japanese Gardens – the fanciful name given to the coral reef below). Since this was my first practical exercise in the world of SCUBA Diving ever, we were not going to see the reef today. So my instructor and I donned our gear, did our buddy checks, and then jumped in to the water. We fully inflated our buoyancy compensator devices once in the water, and then we swam close to the beach, to shallow water, to do our “confined” water lessons. We went over various exercises (retrieving a primary secondary-regulator if knocked out, sharing a buddy’s regulator if out of air, etc.). Then we came to the exercises dealing with a flooded mask and a removed mask; after spending the last twelve years of my life learning how to breathe by inhaling through my nose and then exhaling out my mouth during exercises and relaxation, I had a lot of difficulty with these exercises; just getting some salt water up my nose felt extremely uncomfortable and each time it happened, I signaled to the instructor that it was time for me to resurface, so we would both ascend, I would remove my mask, regain my composure, and then – when I was ready – we would descend for me to try it again. I continued to have problems with clearing a flooded mask and then it became time to reenter the boat, so we made our way back to boat; once there, the boat moved to the other side of the island.

While waiting for the boat to reach our next destination, I made the decision to cut off my grandiose mustache since it was making it difficult to get a tight seal on my mask (before going in to the water, I did cover it with vaseline, but it didn’t help much and I believe water was seeping in, albeit slowly, every time I was submerged); so I grabbed scissors on the boat, my instructor held up her iPhone with camera on (so I could see what I was doing), and I cut away (did a fairly good job of it too, especially since the scissors were not particularly sharp and were semi-rusted). Then with mustache gone and boat in place, my instructor and I donned our gear again and we jumped in to the water. This time, the boat captain lowered a metal bar on the side of the ship for us to use during our exercises (so we wouldn’t have to waste any time swimming to shore to practice in shallow water). We practiced some more SCUBA diving skills, including clearing a flooded mask; just as before, I had a great deal of trouble with this one and could not get through it. Eventually it came time to head back to Koh Tao, so all the students and instructors came back in to the boat and we were on our way back to the pier. Obviously I was saddened by my performance today and if I were a fanatic Japanese man I would’ve probably committed seppuku, but I figured I would try it out again tomorrow. We then reached the pier, we loaded up the trucks, drove back to the dive shop, washed our gear, and then I had a chat with the instructor, going over the plan for tomorrow. I then walked back to my bungalow, bought a razor and shaving cream along the way, and eradicated my beard (94 days of growth down the drain – though most of it made it into the rubbish bin). I then showered, completed my homework for tonight, and then found a restaurant that had wifi. At the restaurant, I had a chicken cordon bleu, potato wedges, salad, jasmine tea, and – for dessert – pancakes with bananas and chocolate syrup. With my iPhone – and the restaurant’s wifi – I looked up various ways to deal with a flooded mask (the best one was exercising on dry land with a flooded mask on – that’ll surely teach you to breathe through your mouth and not let water bother your nose, unfortunately it would also take a lot of time, which I didn’t have). I then finished up dinner, went back to my bungalow, and eventually fell asleep – worrying far too much about tomorrow.

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An open journal or an exercise in narcissism.