August 23, 2014

Koh Tao, Thailand

I woke up early today (against my will) at about 05:30 and could not go back to sleep. I was filled with anxiety concerning today’s dives, as well as childhood fears of drowning that had resurfaced in my mind after having been dormant for so long. When it was time to walk to the dive shop, I diligently did so, making it there at about 08:40. My instructor (seeing me differently, with a freshly shaven face) started the day by reviewing the coursework over the last two days and then I was given a fifty question exam. After about fifteen minutes, I had finished the exam; my instructor then graded the test, and sure enough, I had passed. We then reviewed the plan for today before I was given leave to go to lunch. I ended up just going to my bungalow to rest before heading back to the shop. At 12:00, I had returned, we loaded up the trucks, and then drove down to the pier. We loaded on to the boat, got all the equipment aboard, and then cut through the sea to Nangyuan Island, to the Japanese Gardens – just as we did the day prior. My instructor and I prepared our gear and then I waited in the stern of the boat, talking with another member of the staff, who was giving me pointers. Then, when the boat reached its destination, my instructor and I jumped in to the water with our gear. We then swam to the shallow area near the beach, where we practiced more underwater exercises (mainly the clearing of the mask and removal). I had improved some since yesterday, yet I still had trouble clearing a mask filled with water; the only positive thing I can write about the events is that I never panicked and I always informed my instructor when I wanted to resurface so that I may clear my nose and breathe normally again. My instructor then decided we should try some other exercises instead; so we swam to a slightly deeper part of the water (2.5 meters), and then practiced sharing air while ascending, achieving neutral buoyancy underwater, towing an unconscious diver on the surface, stretching out a cramped leg (both my own and a buddy’s), removing our buoyancy compensator and putting it back on, removing our weight belt and putting it back on, and manually inflating the buoyancy compensator while underwater – during this exercise, a tiny white and blue-stripped fish (a Cleaner Wrasse) nibbled on my lips while I was preparing to remove the regulator from my mouth underwater, as if he were kissing me over and over again, trying to tell me, “It’s alright guy, I’m down here with you and I wouldn’t let anything happen to you.” It felt strange having him suck on my lips and I was afraid he’d forcefully swim into my mouth once I removed the regulator. Then after practicing a number of other exercises, which I can’t properly recall at this time, we moved back to the shallow portion of the sea so that I could practice mask removal and clearing again. Although, first my instructor had me remove the mask completely and then descend so that I could practice breathing with just the regulator. This helped immensely; when it came time to perform the exercises (clearing a half-filled mask, clearing a fully filled mask, and removing a mask and replacing it with another one) I managed to ignore the discomfort of salt water in my nasal cavities and I forced my way through to completion (surprising myself, since just two hours ago I was thinking that I would not manage to perform this task during the three and a half day course and that I was just thankful to finally be able to try out SCUBA diving). With that resounding success, my instructor and I made our way to the beach, took off our fins, and walked across to the other side (where our boat now was). We then entered in to the water, put our fins back on, and swam to the boat. Once back on the boat, we switched air tanks and reentered the water so that I could get my first open water dive completed. At 15:44, we descended down to the Twins coral reef. We then swam around underwater for about twenty minutes with a maximum depth of twelve meters; during our dive I learned to stay neutrally buoyant by controlling my breathing (if I inhaled too much, I would rise too much; with too much exhaling, there was a risk of hitting the coral below – I made sure to stay well above it) and we saw a Saddleback Anemonefish. Then, at 16:04, we ascended and returned to the boat. I was extremely content that I had an opportunity to see first-hand the beautiful world underneath the sea (sure, I had gone snorkeling before and had seen similar beauty, but it was nice to not have to constantly ascend for air). The boat then made it back to the pier; we then docked, unloaded the equipment, loaded up the trucks, and then drove back to the dive shop. Once there, we cleaned our gear and then my instructor explained the plan for tomorrow. I then walked back to my bungalow, showered, and rested for a while – I read the Book of Job and apparently (based on his speeches) Job was the first “Goth” in recorded history (very dark and deep stuff). I then walked to an Italian restaurant for dinner (I had dough balls with a pesto sauce and ravioli filled with crab with a thin slice of salmon laid on top). I then walked back to the bungalow and waited for sleep to come over me.

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An open journal or an exercise in narcissism.