Underwater Paradise

14 Feb

Friendly Distance

Squishy, Sticky, Spiky

15 February 2011

A whole new world: you think it’s going to be hard and it’s squishy. You think it’s soft, but it’s sticky. It’s spiky but surprisingly dull. Of course, I should do the research and give the names of these squishy, sticky, spiky plants but the problem with diving is communications.

I have learned a few hand signals (up, down, left, right, ok, no air, you look beautiful underwater – that sort of things) but even if Roger was great at pointing out wonderful specimen, he couldn’t tell me that they were! We did talk a bit afterwards, but I wouldn’t remember anyway.

I had him all to myself today, while the other dive masters were split between a few snorkelers and two male divers who seemed to know less than me (yes! I could pretend to be know something!).

First, we had some practice with the snorkel and a compass: ten kicks East, ten kicks West. I have never used a compass on dry land. My sense of orientation only works with landmarks and a certain sense of observation. Thankfully, he didn’t ask for anything else – ten kicks East check; ten kicks West check. Easy.

Then Mac the Captain passed me my BCD (jacket) and I had to put it on without help. I much preferred yesterday’s method: someone helps you on the boat and then you just fall backwards and try not to hit your head under the boat. You have to push the floating BCD under water, striding the scuba cylinder (not cooperative, I should say), lean back, get your arms through the “sleeves,” buckle up (Velcro and two clips), tightens the side… all that still fighting the cylinder and the four hoses coming out of it. I of course managed to get entangled with the inflator and Roger had to help me get it out. Then he checked my set up – what a good buddy when he is not distracted by a camera!

Next: switching from the snorkel to the regulator, and back (under water but at the surface). Again, and again. I think it’s to practice blowing out and not swallowing water, or something. Of course swallowed plenty and had this lovely taste for the rest of the dive!

Then they pass you the weight belt… How to get it on? Well, face down (breathing with the regulator), jiggle it under the cylinder and BCD, fasten it in the front without seeing anything. Child’s play. Must be funny to look at someone doing that from above.

Roger is a Star

Then we deflated the CBD and down we went. I was expecting to panic like yesterday, so I had planned for it – the same way I plan when to worry about what; it saves you a lot of surprise anxieties. So I had rehearsed all the reasons not to panic and… the anxiety never came! Even my ears didn’t hurt and I didn’t have to equalize as much… or maybe I just swallowed more naturally this time, popped my ears efficiently. My body is a fast learner… well, that may be a stretch. Anyway, the class wasn’t over.

On our knees, facing each other. Releasing the regulator, pushing it away and retrieving it without panicking AND while breathing out so that the lungs don’t get squished. I practiced that the day before in the pool; my lungs didn’t even realize no one was feeding them.

Then motioning that I am out of air and asking to use his alternate regulator, waiting for his permission, untying it, taking a big gulp from mine and switching. Let me tell me, if were really out of air, I would tackle him down and snatch it in one movement, or maybe even take his primary regulator! As long as it’s an exercise, I can be polite and slow. Bring it on!

Its Mother Finds it Adorable

Oh no! Not removing water from the mask. I sucked at it in the swimming pool and sucked at it again at the bottom of the sea (just 12 meters though). Can we do something I am good at, please? Unfortunately, once he had flooded my mask, you have to get the water out… again again again. It’s a whole technique that involves looking up, raising the bottom of the mask and breathing out hard with your nose. Sounds easy, right? Phew!

Thankfully, after that it was all fun and games. He swam around gently rubbing this funny looking plant, and I would do the same; caressing a sea cucumber and passing it to me (harder than I thought); passing some gigantic sea cucumber (you feel like cradling it in your arms and putting your head on top – great pillow, I reckon); handling a few small starfish (I thought they would feel more velvety) then he “threw” what looked like a big square ball that was quite hard. Tiny fishes, big fishes, really tiny and practically transparent fishes, huge fishes with curious eyes (but no one attacked me today, the snorkelers had all the bread!).

Roger was also doing his cleaning duties by killing savagely crown thorn, which attack coral in an ugly way. He would find them often at the root, sucking all the life away. Once it was on top of the coral and you could see the damage very clearly: dead vs. alive. So Roger would either find a rock and bash it to pieces, or bury it in the sandy part.

Flowers

He would also collect broken pieces of coral and piling them in a certain way, so that they would grow again. A fascinating world. In the morning, I finished the theory and passed all the quizzes and exams (even though I never read chapter 5!), but there is nothing there about the fauna and flora. It does say not to touch anything (oho) and that fish will only attack you if they feel threatened… these guys didn’t swim with bread in their hand!

There is a world above water and I visited the office twice to help a colleague with something… and both time she was away. In the afternoon, I opened my last box of Tim Tams (well, the last one I am ready to share with my colleagues, don’t tell them I have one at home) and drank some milk through one – only pros can do this.

Once I had recovered some energy, I walked home; met a crowd of people I barely know watching Dexter; ate some veggies and bread (carbo load for the last dives); crashed at 7pm; to be awaken by a massive storm; then awaken by… not sure; then by one of our visitors taking a shower at 4 something in the morning to catch the 5:30 flight to Tanna; and then the usual concerto in rooster majeur around 5. I felt really rested when I got up around 6 to stretch the old limbs! More squishy, sticky, spiky stuff to explore!!

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2 Responses to “Underwater Paradise”

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  1. Home « Traveling Tastebuds - 15 J0000002Australia/Sydney 2011

    […] I did enjoy my life there, as you can read from my earlier blog entries, in particular diving in Port Vila’s and Luganville’s turquoise […]

  2. Two Sides of Vanuatu « Travelling Tastebuds - 15 J0000006Australia/Sydney 2011

    […] February 2011 – Underwater Paradise […]

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