Sunday, May 24, 2009

From underdog to wonder dog

it's a boring photo but i don't have a waterproof camera

D-Day as in diving day was here. And I was going to conquer this diving thing even if kil- whoops, maybe not the best cliché to use. Let’s just say I was determined. Although when I saw the grey skies that morning, a small part of my brain did hope maybe it would stormy and I wouldn’t be able to go out. I may have been determined but I was still scared.

Adrian walked with me to UDC and hung around as I met Anna and we started getting ready for my lesson, until I finally told him it was okay to leave me. The first thing Anna did was ask me to explain what had happened in my own words and what I thought I needed to do. I told her and then she explained step by step how she was going to help me get the mask monkey off my back. And she knew how because she’d had to overcome her own anxiety. Wow, I didn’t realize how common it was and how it was possible to overcome it. I wasn’t a freak after all. (Okay maybe I am a freak but not when it comes to scuba diving at least.)

We got my equipment together and when she heard how much weight I’d been told to use. She immediately cut it down by 30%. “There’s no way you need that much.” Well that will make it much easier to get back in the boat.

Then it was in the water. But unlike Cross Creek, UDC had an area just off shore to practice all the confined dive skills – much less intimidated than trying to do stuff in open water. We started off in the shallows and Anna began just by watching me as I did some of the simpler tasks. She immediately picked up on a couple of things that I could correct. I was still breathing too rapidly and shallow and I didn’t like opening my eyes in salt. We worked on both these little things and then it was time to just take the mask off and put it back on. I was so relaxed and confident that despite getting water up my nose again, I didn’t panic. Victory! I was almost there. No I just needed to add the swim bit to it.

For that we went out a bit deeper. We dove around for a bit and Anna complimented me on my buoyancy and control.

“It’s the not the diving I have a problem with – it’s these silly skills.” I told her.

“Well then, let’s get them over with” she replied.

Rather than anxiety I felt the nervous energy of excitement. I took my time mentally psyching myself up. I did the whole “visualization” thing too. I’m not much of a believer in stuff like that but I thought what could it hurt. Then I slipped the mask off and swam. When Anna tapped me on the shoulder, I began to put my mask on. Not easy with long hair. (diving tip: you have long hair, buy yourself a strap guard thing and avoid the pain and discomfort of getting your mask caught in your hair). I got some water in my nose but just a bit. I concentrated on getting the mask on and clear of water. I knew I could cough as soon as I was done that. I opened my eyes slowly. There was still some water in my mask. I cleared it again and Anna gave me a thumbs up. Ecstatic, I high fived her and we did a little booty shake happy dance (much more graceful now that was wearing a lighter weight belt).

“Thank you so much Anna. I couldn’t have done that without you.” I told her when we were back on the surface.
“Nope you did it. You totally rocked it. Congratulations.” She said high fiving me once again.

During our lunch break, I ran back to tell Adrian I’d succeeded. He was super happy for me. And although my stomach was doing congratulatory summersaults I had something quickly to eat before heading back to UDC. I still had another open water dive to do with another mask off skill. But with my albatross gone, I knew I was free and clear.

“We’re going to one of my favourite site’s here in Utila. Black Hills. You are like so totally going to love it.” Anna told me. The totally was the only give away that she was a surfer first and diver second. She had given up marine biology to dive so she could support her surfing addiction and Utila was close enough to Costa Rica’s surf sites. She must be a phenomenal surfer because she’s a pretty awesome diving instructor. Black Hill is an amazing mountain of coral way off shore. Getting to it involved a tricky entry thanks to the strong current but once under water the current disappeared. I did some compass skills and my final mask off exercise and I then I was done. The rest of the time we just enjoyed the scenery. And Anna was right: I like so totally loved it, dude.

After the dive, the boat took us on a search around the island for whale sharks. Today was not our day as the only thing we spotted was a tree trunk that looked creepily like a lone diver floating in the water until we got up close. But we did get a complete tour of Utila and the cays, including a long stretch of large beach homes on the west end of the island, most of which were for sale. It was tempting but somehow I think they were out of our price range.

Anna and I chatted more about traveling. She and Rob are also planning a trip to Africa. In September they’re going to teach diving in Mozambique where there’s also some grat surfing. We’ll have to hook up. I also chatted to a guy from Mexico who was only in Utila for 3 days so he was diving four times a day. He was very nice and friendly although he did try to convince me that I should try the grasshoppers next time I’m in town – but just the small ones because the big ones taste bad. Good thing I’m not heading back to Mexico City any time soon.

After an hour of circumnavigating the island we pulled up at UDC, where a boat from Cross Creek was also docked (the two schools help each other out with equipment and stuff). On the boat were Itamar as well as Avishai and Carmel. It was like running into your new ex while out with your new partner (who you may or may not have been seeing while you were dating the ex, not that I know, I’m just basing that on tv shows and movies). Awkward, until I decided not to let it be awkward. I told them that I had just passed. And Avi and Carmel let out a huge cheer and clapped. When I looked over at Ita, he was cheering too.

Adrian was waiting for me at the dive bar (erm the bar at the dive school) where he was watching the Olympia and Real Espana rematch with the Honduran staff members. The locals were cheering for the underdogs, Olympia from San Pedro who were playing their arch rivals the arrogant Real Espana. Olympia won. Today all us underdogs ended up on top.
May 24 S U C C E S S that’s the way you spell success.
D-Day as in diving day was here. And I was going to conquer this diving thing even if kil- okay maybe not the best cliché to use. Let’s just say I was determined. Although when I saw the grey skies that morning, a small part of my brain did hope maybe it would stormy and I wouldn’t be able to go out. I may have been determined but I was still scared.

Adrian walked with me to UDC and hung around as I met Anna and we started getting ready for my lesson, until I finally told him it was okay to leave me. The first thing Anna did was ask me to explain what had happened in my own words and what I thought I needed to do. I told her and then she explained step by step how she was going to help me get the mask monkey off my back. And she knew how because she’d had to overcome her own anxiety. Wow, I didn’t realize how common it was and how it was possible to overcome it. I wasn’t a freak after all. (Okay maybe I am a freak but not when it comes to scuba diving at least.)

We got my equipment together and when she heard how much weight I’d been told to use. She immediately cut it down by 30%. “There’s no way you need that much.” Well that will make it much easier to get back in the boat.

Then it was in the water. But unlike Cross Creek, UDC had an area just off shore to practice all the confined dive skills – much less intimidated than trying to do stuff in open water. We started off in the shallows and Anna began just by watching me as I did some of the simpler tasks. She immediately picked up on a couple of things that I could correct. I was still breathing too rapidly and shallow and I didn’t like opening my eyes in salt. We worked on both these little things and then it was time to just take the mask off and put it back on. I was so relaxed and confident that despite getting water up my nose again, I didn’t panic. Victory! I was almost there. No I just needed to add the swim bit to it.

For that we went out a bit deeper. We dove around for a bit and Anna complimented me on my buoyancy and control.

“It’s the not the diving I have a problem with – it’s these silly skills.” I told her.

“Well then, let’s get them over with” she replied.

Rather than anxiety I felt the nervous energy of excitement. I took my time mentally psyching myself up. I did the whole “visualization” thing too. I’m not much of a believer in stuff like that but I thought what could it hurt. Then I slipped the mask off and swam. When Anna tapped me on the shoulder, I began to put my mask on. Not easy with long hair. (diving tip: you have long hair, buy yourself a strap guard thing and avoid the pain and discomfort of getting your mask caught in your hair). I got some water in my nose but just a bit. I concentrated on getting the mask on and clear of water. I knew I could cough as soon as I was done that. I opened my eyes slowly. There was still some water in my mask. I cleared it again and Anna gave me a thumbs up. Ecstatic, I high fived her and we did a little booty shake happy dance (much more graceful now that was wearing a lighter weight belt).

“Thank you so much Anna. I couldn’t have done that without you.” I told her when we were back on the surface.
“Nope you did it. You totally rocked it. Congratulations.” She said high fiving me once again.

During our lunch break, I ran back to tell Adrian I’d succeeded. He was super happy for me. And although my stomach was doing congratulatory summersaults I had something quickly to eat before heading back to UDC. I still had another open water dive to do with another mask off skill. But with my albatross gone, I knew I was free and clear.

“We’re going to one of my favourite site’s here in Utila. Black Hills. You are like so totally going to love it.” Anna told me. The totally was the only give away that she was a surfer first and diver second. She had given up marine biology to dive so she could support her surfing addiction and Utila was close enough to Costa Rica’s surf sites. She must be a phenomenal surfer because she’s a pretty awesome diving instructor. Black Hill is an amazing mountain of coral way off shore. Getting to it involved a tricky entry thanks to the strong current but once under water the current disappeared. I did some compass skills and my final mask off exercise and I then I was done. The rest of the time we just enjoyed the scenery. And Anna was right: I like so totally loved it, dude.

After the dive, the boat took us on a search around the island for whale sharks. Today was not our day as the only thing we spotted was a tree trunk that looked creepily like a lone diver floating in the water until we got up close. But we did get a complete tour of Utila and the cays, including a long stretch of large beach homes on the west end of the island, most of which were for sale. It was tempting but somehow I think they were out of our price range.

Anna and I chatted more about traveling. She and Rob are also planning a trip to Africa. In September they’re going to teach diving in Mozambique where there’s also some grat surfing. We’ll have to hook up. I also chatted to a guy from Mexico who was only in Utila for 3 days so he was diving four times a day. He was very nice and friendly although he did try to convince me that I should try the grasshoppers next time I’m in town – but just the small ones because the big ones taste bad. Good thing I’m not heading back to Mexico City any time soon.

After an hour of circumnavigating the island we pulled up at UDC, where a boat from Cross Creek was also docked (the two schools help each other out with equipment and stuff). On the boat were Itamar as well as Avishai and Carmel. It was like running into your new ex while out with your new partner (who you may or may not have been seeing while you were dating the ex, not that I know, I’m just basing that on tv shows and movies). Awkward, until I decided not to let it be awkward. I told them that I had just passed. And Avi and Carmel let out a huge cheer and clapped. When I looked over at Ita, he was cheering too.

Adrian was waiting for me at the dive bar (erm the bar at the dive school) where he was watching the Olympia and Real Espana rematch with the Honduran staff members. The locals were cheering for the underdogs, Olympia from San Pedro who were playing their arch rivals the arrogant Real Espana. Olympia won. Today all us underdogs ended up on top.

7 comments:

Katey said...

Well done! It was really brave to go back after your scare, thanks for sharing the experience!

liz and adrian said...

it was really thanks to the encouragement I received from fellow bloggers. But I'm so glad I did go back and finish. It cost me an extra $90 but it was well worth it for the day.

itinerantlondoner said...

Wow...what a rollercoaster ride, but I'm so glad you succeeded. I totally know what you mean about the skills bit - the diving itself is really quite easy (and great fun), although I suppose you do need to know these things just in case. Do you think you'll do it again now you've completed the course?

liz and adrian said...

of course - we're heading to bocas in panama in a week or so and hope to do some there.

all i can say is what a difference an instructor can make.

cheryl said...

yaaaaaaaay!
totes excited for you, dude.
congratulations! :)

Renee said...

Congrats Liz. It's such a cliché that persistence pays off...but it does :)

liz and adrian said...

Thanks Cmck.

Thanks Ren.

I'm glad I did it too. I hate quitting and I think that was probably getting to me more than the water. I cant' wait til we get another opportunity to dive. Hopefully in Panama next week.