Spring Break in Bali, Part II: Learning to Dive
|Displaying our Open Water Diving Certificates in Open Water|
This is Part II in a series about our family's Easter holidays in Bali. For Part I, Click here.
(Note: MsCaroline debated creating some artificial suspense about her ultimate success (or lack thereof) in the Open Water Dive Course, but since she'd already posted the above photo on FaceBook, most of her readership (hi, Mum!) knew that she'd passed anyway. There were a few moments when that outcome was in question, but she ultimately prevailed and is now legally qualified to dive in water up to 30 meters in depth, which she plans to do again as soon as she gets some time off and some more money.)
Those of you who have been Scuba diving before will realize that diving, in and of itself, is not particularly difficult. Yes, there are a lot of pieces of equipment, and they're heavy, but once you actually get under the water and start swimming around, it's actually pretty chill, as Son#2 would say. You swim around and look at fish and coral and other cool underwater things and occasionally equalize the pressure in your eardrums until you run out of air and it's time to come back up.
MsCaroline spent most of her formative years in a swimming pool, growing up as she did in Southeast Asia. She learned to swim in Bangkok when she was barely 3, and has always been more or less completely at home in the water.
|MsC, age 3, recently arrived in Bangkok and with no need for any stinkin' flotation devices.|
|MsC has always been pretty happy underwater as well.|
The point is, while MsC had serious - and entirely justifiable - concerns about wearing a wetsuit, she did not have any qualms about the idea of spending extended periods of time underwater. As it turned out, this was mostly reasonable - but with a few glaring exceptions.
Things MsC learned about diving:
There is a LOT of gear: Besides the wetsuit and the mask and the fins, divers carry about a gazillion pounds of gear with them: diving equipment is heavy, people. All of this gear also has technical names, which (naturally) MrLogical already knew and (naturally) MsCaroline re-christened with more accessible names inside her head (eg, 'regulator'= breathing tube thing; 'backup regulator'=emergency breathing tube thing.) The point is, the vest that holds everything (which also inflates like a giant blood-pressure cuff) is positively bristling with hoses and tubes and gadgets, not to mention the air tank, which weighs as much as a Labrador retriever. In addition, divers (at least new ones) also wear weight belts to help keep one submerged. There were a few times when MsCaroline was heading for the water that she seriously doubted her ability to actually carry everything there without collapsing. It did not help at all that, in Bali, many local elderly women work at the dive sites carrying dive gear from the vans down to the shore. MsCaroline has never felt quite so fat, weak, spoiled, soft, and Western, as when plodding down to the dive sites carrying nothing more than her mask and fins while walking behind a queue of 95-lb elderly Balinese woman balancing 150-lb plastic crates of diving equipment on their heads and an air tank on their shoulders.
Diving is all about preparing for the worst: As MsC mentioned before, diving itself can be a fairly chill activity, and - if one's equipment is in good working order and nothing goes awry, there is not much to worry about. Unfortunately, the fact is, humans swimming around under water can be in some deep s**t in a very short amount of time if something does go awry. It is for this reason, then, that
Diving can be very cool: MsCaroline has only been diving one time, so she has nothing to compare her experience to, but in her 6 dives she was able to visit two shipwrecks and see some incredible marine life. Up until now, MsC assumed that the only people who dove in shipwrecks were either: a) on Discovery channel-type documentaries or: b) characters in underwater action movies. In any case, it never occurred to her that she would get to do a wreck dive on her first day.
|The Lionfish: I am poisonous. Do not touch me.|
Mask clearing sucks: MsC had never noticed before, but scuba divers wear masks that cover both their eyes and their noses, while the regulator (breathing tube thing) is held in the mouth. This is actually a good thing, since the mask (in theory) protects the diver from having water in her nose. However, even though the mask should stay tight against the diver's face, keeping the eyes and nose relatively water-free - sometimes it doesn't, and it's very common for some water to get into the mask occasionally.Obviously, since one is under water, one can't take off the mask and dump it out like one would do above water. One learns the technique for 'clearing the mask' (pressing on the top of the mask, pointing the head upwards, and blowing gently through the nose.) Keep in mind, though -since diving is all about preparing for the worst - beginning divers also have to learn what to do when water fills up their masks. Completely. Now - keeping in mind that MsCaroline has no problem swimming around underwater without any mask at all- MsC reasoned that- while having water in one's mask would be annoying - it wouldn't be an insurmountable problem.
Ah, dear reader, you see where this is leading.
Before the 'mask clearing skills session' began, MsC's dive instructor - a handsome Frenchman named Antoine with a captivating accent and long flowing hair - made this slightly prophetic statement: 'Everyone - zey hate zee mask skeelz sessions. Zey all hate eet.' Ha, thought MsCaroline, I will not hate eet. I will be fine with zee mask skeelz. Those other people probably hold their noses when they jump off the diving board. And she clambered into the pool like a baby elephant in all of her dive gear along with MrL and Son#2 to learn mask skeelz.
There is probably no need to describe what happened next, but MsCaroline is a bit of a sadist, so she will. What happened was simply that MsCaroline discovered that it is entirely against human nature to continue breathing slowly and calmly (HA) through your mouth when there is essentially a plastic container full of salt water strapped against your nose. In the first place, it is HARD to breathe in through your mouth without getting a bit of water in the nose (go right now to the tub with a straw and try it. She can wait.) In the second place, when one gets that bit of water in the nose, the instinct is to cough - which one of course does through one's mouth, which is full of the regulator (breathing tube thing.) This results in more coughing, more water in the nose, and - in case MsC forgot to mention it - it is happening while one's eyes are closed because opening one's eyes in a mask full of water stings.
What took place then - and MsC is not proud of this - was a small underwater panic attack, accompanied by agitated hand-flapping (MsCaroline had learned many divers' hand signals, but unfortunately, had not learned one for 'I'm coughing into my regulator and it feels exactly like impending death, so I need to ascend NOW' so she invented one on the fly) and repeated gestures toward the surface of the pool while she coughed and sputtered into her mask and regulator and any other tube attached to her.
Antoine then revealed himself to be part divemaster and part Yoda, fixing her with an hypnotic stare and waving his finger (non,non, Madame) slowly back and forth, while pantomiming deep, calming breaths in and out...in and out.....flap flap, cough, cough, gesture, panic, point.....in...and ...out..flap, flap, cough, choke.....eventually, under this calming influence, MsC found herself breathing, relaxing, and -inexplicably - staying under the water. (This is even more remarkable if you remember that she was in a pool and could have surfaced with one good kick.) MsCaroline can only attribute this to the fact that she is a rule-follower and half-Canadian. This means that she probably would have likely expired there on the floor of the pool rather than disobey the commands of the divemaster or surface rudely before the session was officially over.
Once MsC had resumed normal(ish) respiration and blood pressure, the lesson continued, but at that point, MsCaroline's internal dialogue had changed from this should be something I can do without much trouble to I am out of here. There were a number of other thoughts running through her head - many unprintable - but the prevailing sentiment was No more for me, thanks. After lunch, I am soooo out of here.
But that, of course, is not what happened. And here is the reason why:
With a certain amount of foresight, Antoine - who was clever as well as French - had started the course the previous day by giving a short safety briefing, suiting the Asia Vus up and taking them out immediately on their first (closely supervised) dive. What this meant was that MsCaroline (a sucker for any kind of nature things) had already tasted the joys of diving. She had already done this:
|Clownfish in an anemone|
And seen this:
So she did.
|Nothing like an underwater 'selfie.'|
If you are interested in going to Bali to do some diving, MsCaroline cannot say enough good things about the Baruna Dive Center in Amed, where she and her family did their dive course, and would recommend them to anyone, whether they are an experienced diver or a beginner.