It was an experience. But oh my word it was fun! I was glad I went! The whole dive trip experience and atmosphere was a ton of fun.. the camaraderie of 30 plus people who hardly know each other, living in one big area, tied together only by their interest in diving! So we arrived Friday night around 10pm and unloaded our stuff and the trailer of dive gear and tanks; then some of us (RARE) girls decided to go for a walk down to the dock to see where we’d be diving. The moon was reflecting over the bay and it was gorgeous! However, thinking of jumping into that black black water was kind of frightful! When we got back, the whole group was instructed to try on our wetsuits right there to make sure they fit right. But while the guys felt comfortable to strip to their boxers in the middle of the room, I was relieved to see the other girls heading to the bathroom as well. We all helped each other into our wetsuits and then were told there was a group announcement so went back to the big room to hear; my extremely thoughtful instructor decided at the end of his speech to ask how my wetsuit fits because it was a different one than I had tried on at the dive shop. So all 40 people turn to look at me in my wetsuit, if I wasn’t awkward about it enough! Luckily people turned back to their own business as he came over to inspect it and pronounce me a little “hippy” (as in, I have hips..!) which is why the wetsuit fit a little weird. Oh the joys of being a woman. The next morning (Saturday) we were all up around 8; we were split into groups and told to get ready in varying stages because only so many people could dive at a time and they didn’t want us overheating in the wetsuits. My dive buddy and I ended up being towards the end and I was jittery as we went through the drill of gearing up and checking each other. We walked down to the beach and waited in the surf until we were called to swim out to the instructor and dive. During certification, on each of your 4 open water dives, you complete certain skills either underwater or at the surface, and then the rest of your dive time is spent “touring”, or just swimming around looking at stuff. Only the dive instructors can certify your skills, but then divemasters take groups of divers to tour around so you can be underwater longer. The first dive went fairly well, but not without some excitement: 2 minutes in to our “touring” session, my fin came off. I was pretty proud of myself for not really panicking and just reaching up to my buddy and tugging on her BC. But she was a little ahead of me so I yelled a little bit in my reg and tried to catch up to get her attention– our instructors said they would rather lose 2 of us than 1, and so we were always supposed to stay with our buddies. I wasn’t getting her attention but there happened to be a divemaster trailing the group who clearly thought I WAS panicking: he and “told” me to calm down and then motioned me to follow him to find my fin. He found it (shocking!!.. it was murky!!) and then since we couldn’t find the group we just surfaced. When the rest of the group surfaced a few minutes later, my buddy’s mask was filled with blood and I was terrified that I had shook her so bad that I had made her bleed!.. but the divemasters reassured us (me) that she just got a nosebleed, which is common considering the pressure changes. The walk up the beach was tiring … with all of our gear and weights .. and exhausted as I was, I wasn’t sure if I could make it up the 3 rickety wooden steps from the sand up to the pavement. The minute I lifted my leg to climb up, I knew I didn’t have the energy and with all the weight on my back I went tumbling backwards and completely biffed it on the sand. If you can picture a turtle stuck on it’s shell with it’s arms and legs dangling in the air, that was me. It was hilarious (and MORTIFYING!!). Of course the divemasters (who ALL happened to be male, and in their 20s) saw it happen and rushed over to help me up. Just to add to the earlier encounter of me “flipping out” underwater about my lost fin— I’m sure they thought I was high maintenance!
After lunch we did 2 consecutive dives where we stayed in our wetsuits and only got out for 45 minutes. The weather was awesome and sunny and 80s so outside we weren’t cold (though the water seemed to get colder on every dive!!). And let me tell you, wetsuits don’t keep you from getting wet (and cold); no, they let water IN, and then your body heats up that water that is in your suit. So you still have this layer of cold water that you are swimming around with! After those dives, we put a “WOMEN’S SHOWER” sign on the bathroom door and sequestered ourselves in there with the hot water… ahhhh it was wonderful. After a cookout dinner, the girls retreated pretty early— diving takes a lot out of you!!!– while most of the group headed down to the beach for a fire. The really neat thing about the group (and I think dive groups in general), is the variety of people: there were typical students (most of us)– marine bio majors to forestry to business, people in their 30s, retired army 50 year olds looking to refresh their skills. It was so fun to see the diversity and hear why different people were interested in diving.
Sunday started out good; I was disappointed and a little out of touch because I wasn’t in church, but God worked it out to His glory. I took my Bible and cheerios outside to read by myself in a deck chair before anyone else was up, and it was wonderful to really tune my heart to Christ. Sometimes I get so caught up in church and the “system” of our faith–how we worship, how we look…, that I lose track of the pure reason WHY. It was so refreshing to have some quiet time with God and think about why I live the way I do; it is for HIS glory and HIS honor, and I should be able to live by that whether I am surrounded by 300 members in Silverton or a cabin full of guys from the world. I loved this feeling of “going back to the basics”, of connecting with Christ so closely when I felt so far away (from my church family). I am hoping I can have this positive of an experience in Caicos this fall — I don’t want to lose conviction or lose faith because I am far away (this is something I know I will need to watch for), but rather grow closer to God and appreciate His work in my life for bringing me where I am.
Anyway, Sunday morning was the last (scariest!!) dive of all: the one where you have to take your mask all the way off underwater. While we’d had a variety of intimidating skills on the prior dives (including flooding our masks), we hadn’t had to take them off until this one. While it is clearly a psychological fear–physically completing any of the skills isn’t hard, but somehow the skill seems terrifying! Still, as I’m thinking about it (and knowing I’ll have to do it again in Caicos), I get jittery. But I self-talked myself into better spirits and went down to the beach to conquer my last dive! Of course, this one couldn’t go without flukes either: 5 of us went down to 20 feet with an instructor and a divemaster, and the instructor first turns to my buddy and motions for her to take off/replace her mask. She started having problems with it and I couldn’t really tell what was going on, but she couldn’t get it cleared and she kept coughing, so the instructor signaled for us to stay on the bottom while those two surfaced. This totally freaked me out and as they were swimming up, I was thinking “Don’t leave me!!!!”. So the 4 of us (a buddy pair, 1 guy by himself, and me) and the divemaster are just sitting there on the bottom, waiting, and it is REALLY bad visibility. Like we could see less than 5 feet in front of us. We were all on our knees in the bottom to try not to stir up anything else. After (what felt like 20 minutes!) 5 minutes, the divemaster looks at us and says he’s going to go up to see what was going on… I can tell you at this point I was so scared, I did NOT want him to leave us. He stirred up another cloud of mud when he left, and it was all I could do to just make out the neon yellow edges of the guy’s mask beside me! The two buddies started holding on to each other and I was THIS CLOSE to holding on to those guys too… I did NOT want to get lost on the bottom!! Anyway, after some of the most terrifying moments of my life (theme of the day, right??!), they all came back and the rest of us took off our masks without a hitch. You don’t know how SATISFYING it was to walk out of the water on that last dive and know that I was certified, I had done it, I had survived! Because I had wanted to quit so many times and was really pushing through as a personal challenge, it was so much more thrilling to actually finish! I was literally on top of the world for the rest of the week!!
So. That is my dive history thus far. And my trip last Saturday to buy dive gear turned out successful .. I am now the proud (and scared) owner of a wetsuit, BC, regulator, alternate reg, and dive computer! And this girl is SERIOUSLY PSYCHED FOR CAICOS!!
I'm a twenty-something from the Pacific NW making home in new places as I follow where God leads.
My intent is to show Christ's love to the world and use business to solve some of the social problems we face: hunger, illiteracy, healthcare, economic hardship. For now, I'm in a stage of learning. A little adventuring, a few books, some good friends, and a whole lot of prayer and life runs on.