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Diving into Open Water

The PADI Open Water Course

For most people delving into the world of diving, doing the PADI Open Water course is the first step. For those with less time or more nerves there is also the Scuba Diver course, shorter and certifies to a shallower depth with more restrictions.

The Open Water course takes 3-4 days and will ultimately certify you to dive to 18m / 60ft with a buddy/fellow diver. It is a great course that introduces the students to all the basic skills in an easy succession to ensure the students comfort.

Playing Favorites

I must admit, so far I do have a couple of favorites and it just so happens they were 2 Open Water students. Shon and Mike are a pair of friends from completely different backgrounds and yet most likely brothers in a previous life. Shon, from Israel, met Mike, an engineer at a diamond mine in Arctic Canada, yup you heard right… while traveling in Japan and planned to meet up again in Thailand and do their dive course.

Shon contacted me through couchsurfing and asked many questions concerning class size, cost, where to stay etc.. he was considering Koh Tao as it was cheaper but ultimately liked the idea of having a small private class with me. So it was decided I would host and teach them, great fun would ensue. Shon arrived the day of the Full Moon party and was a hoot, ensuring he not only bought a couple of rolls of toilet paper (amazing how expensive that can get with couchsurfers) but also winning my heart with a reeses peanut butter cup! He headed off to the party and arrived back to pass out in the morning. Meanwhile Mike (who I had assumed was Japanese as all I knew was that they had met in Japan) was flying in from Arctic Canada, after numerous flights and a ferry to the island most people would be exhausted, Mike on the other hand walked from Tong Sala to Chaloklum!!! I repeat walked!!!! Probably a good hour or more with a number of hills. Shon met him and brought him over and let’s just say he wasn’t Japanese, too funny, what a pair.

Mike, Shon and me, please ignore laundry in background

Mike, Shon and me, please ignore laundry in background

Nerves

Probably the one thing that can ruin a course is when the student’s nerves get the better of them, when the “what ifs!!” emerge. While Mike was completely chilled (at least he appeared to be) and taking all the videos in stride with a few questions, Shon’s nerves began to show. Completely understandable considering he was learning in his second language and needed certain words translated. But the moment he said “I have one problem, I can’t breathe through my mouth”…. the headmistress in me came out, the only way to stop the nerves was to make it clear that he had nothing to fear and if he still had these fears after the pool session, then we could discuss them… especially since the whole premise of scuba is to breathe through your mouth. That calmed his nerves dramatically.

This is an important skill to learn as an instructor, some students will need hand holding and tender words, others need a good stern demeanor and an aura of confidence. You just have to know which one and how much to dial it up or down.

Pool Sessions

For the PADI Open Water course there is a required set of 5 sessions in the pool, these can be done all together or over two days. We started in the morning and ended up finishing 5 hours later, very prune like, but happy to have completed all of them.

Once I had them prepare their equipment enough times they could do it blindfolded, it was time to breathe underwater. I knew both of them were nervous so we first just breathed through the regulator above the water, then just the face in the water and finally down on our knees. For me being on my knees in the shallow end gave me a good 5 inches of water above, for them they had to bend over and hunch up… the joys of being tall. As soon as we went under I could see the light bulbs begin to glow and the excitement begin to grow. We whizzed through the skills and the boys were amazing!! A lot of laughs were had.

Wolverine??

Now while Shon was the charismatic, fun loving socialite, Mike was.. well from Arctic Canada with a certain Wolverine quality about him. During one session of diving Shon and I surfaced after completing a skill, to see Mike at the steps, chin on hand… I nearly passed both of them right there and then, they just looked like scuba divers!

At the pier

At the pier

Open Water

Finally completing copious videos and quizzes and finals, it came time to take them into the deep and so we headed off to Sail Rock. Once again they amazed me, even with their nerves they kept calm and completed all the skills with flying colors. All the time they called me Master Sensei, awesome guys to hang out with.

Ready to go!!

Ready to go!!

Dive 1 was the hardest, nerves and distracting fish proved hurdles they luckily got over.

Dive 2 was much better, they flowed through the skills and seemed more confident.

Dive buds!

Dive buds!

Dive 3 on the second day, proved a slight hitch with full mask removal, but once again they overcame their nerves and carried on, even with a bit of a current.

Dive 4 proved to be the one where the veil lifted, the nerves dropped away and much fun was had. Most of the other dive boats had left and it felt like it was just us at Sail Rock, the boys conserved their air well, we got down to 18m with no problems equalising like the first 3 dives. Truly spectacular.

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Neil of Scuba Futures with Shon, Mike and 2 other students

So Proud!!

I felt very proud to announce that they had successfully passed their course and were now PADI divers. I hope to meet up with them again in the future and just head out for a fun dive, no skills or tests required!!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0971.

Thanks boys for being such amazing students!

Great Students

Great Students

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Why Not Become a Scuba Instructor….

Cruise Ship vs Dive Instructor

about 6 months ago, Monique, a good friend and dive instructor tossed a thought out to me, why not return to Koh Phangan Island, where I did my Divemaster, and become a dive instructor… Her husband, another good friend, was studying to be a course director and would be my instructor….

The conversation in my head went something like this:
Me – Cruise Ship hostess vs Scuba Dive Instructor…. mmmm
Rational Side – WTF you are 37, you have a good gig with the cruise ship, save and then settle at home with a real job!
ADHD Side – been there done that with the cruise ship, onto the next adventure
Rational Side – what are you thinking
ADHD Side – something new something exciting …. D I V I N G T H A I L A N D
Rational Side – well it is always good to have multiple skills, and the cruise ship is a good backup
ADHD Side – come on Rational you know what you want
Rational Side – ok the deal is we pretend to consider this for at least a month, don’t want people thinking we just jump into decisions at a moment’s notice! Also we work as a Divemaster first for a month or two before taking the Instructor Development Course (IDC) need to get your skills sharpened!
ADHD Side – Deal sold, we are off see the wizard the wonderful wizard of Thailand!!!

So there it was, I had convinced myself, at age 37, to fly to Thailand and pursue a dream I had never even let myself consider – To become a PADI Scuba Instructor
For months on the ship I dreamed of Koh Phangan and diving, it had been almost 2 years since any serious diving which made me nervous. My time there before was amazing doing my PADI divemaster, the food, the friends, the freedom of riding a motorbike/vespa and of course living in a tropical paradise.
WHAT AM I THINKING!!!!

Adventure is Out There

Finally end of contract arrived, my month and a half vacation at home ended, all packed and ready to go I set off on a jet plane. In the initial planning stages I had decided to visit my friend in Slovenia and then a couple of nights in Venice… of course this meant literally nearly flying all the way around the world just to get to Koh Phangan… but it was worth it. While in Slovenia I got a message from Neil, my soon to be amazing patient, very very patient instructor from Scuba Futures and Haad Yao Divers, informed that an IDC course would be starting on July 1st (about 5 days after my arrival). I think I nearly choked on my coffee. The email back and forth went something like this:

Me – but but but
Neil – you will do fine
Me – but but the math, the physics, the the the
Neil – you will be fine
Me – but I need to get my skills up to par I need time to remember the dive sites…
Neil – you will be fine
Me – BUT THE PHYSICS AND MATH!!!!
Neil – you will be fine, the theory can be taught, the diving will be remembered, being an instructor is about personality and, well, you have plenty of that…
Me – but will I really be fine??
Neil – yes you will be fine

Thank heavens Neil is supremely calm and patient because this course was going to be a mental and emotional roller coaster for me, with numerous giggle fits!

Island Welcome

The heat and humidity of Bangkok nearly took my breath away, I had forgotten what it was like. Of course I got the taxi that had no idea where the hostel was and then I left my favorite light jacket in the taxi and then discovered my room was on the 3rd floor and no elevator. Always a good start. But got myself sorted, lugged my bag upstairs, stood under a cold shower for about 20 minutes, found a sim card and texted Neil with my arrival. I took the 6am bus, which worked out perfectly because I couldn’t sleep and was awake by 4am, giving me time for another cold shower and final sorting then a long 8 hour bus trip and 2 hour ferry ride. The weather had been perfect and just as the ferry pulled into Koh Phangan the heavens opened and welcomed me back with a good solid drenching. Neil was their with his side car to pick me up, we briefly considered I take a taxi but finally said “screw it” I was wet already, the ride home just meant I didn’t need a shower anytime soon. We pulled up to my little bungalow and it felt like home almost immediately.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

We popped into the Crow Bar just down the road and said hi to a few old friends then Monique helped me stumble to a little place to grab some food. I took it home managed maybe 2 bites and passed out. What a welcome back!!! Tomorrow the studying would begin, bring on the physics!!!!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Why Don’t You Get a Corporate Job???

The other night, chatting with some of my favorite guests, who just happened to be South Africans, and after a couple of drinks, the Aunt of one decided to give me some advice…

It started off simply with some questions:
Aunt – So are you going to make this your career?
Me – No, I don’t want to work on ships forever
Aunt – But why not move up in the company get a corporate job in the main office, like Miami?
Me (trying not to laugh) – hahahah I really don’t want a corporate job
Aunt – Well what is your plan then?
Me – I want to think about doing my Scuba Instructor License in Thailand maybe next year
Aunt – But don’t you want to get married and have a family?
Me – Yes of course, hopefully someday
Aunt – Well you may as well get a corporate job and security, because when that happens all this… travel stuff, won’t matter!
Me – I don’t want a corporate job, and who knows maybe I will meet the man of my dreams in Thailand or somewhere else.
Aunt – No you won’t you are 37, you need to think about who will look after you when you are old and you should get a corporate job…

This went on for about 30 minutes and it really started to bother me, might have been the influence of the Turkish Raiki drink I had tried, but it seriously made me upset and frustrated.

Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in South Africa I was brought up on good old traditional ways of thinking. In other words: School, job, marriage, house, kids…. along those lines. Luckily my parents also instilled in me the sense of adventure, whether it was doing a 5 day hike in the Umfolozi Game Reserve through the bush, or encouraging me to take a teaching position in South Korea after finding work proved difficult. They have always supported me, although I am pretty certain secretly (for the most part) wished I would settle and get a job. My mom always stresses that as long as I am happy, and can fend for myself then she is happy. I don’t think they ever realised their encouragement would lead me into the life of a gypsy!

But with this upbringing it is always in the back of my mind, what society expects, how life should be etc… I call it the logical side of my Schmidt brain, and it has taken me many years to understand and accept that this side of my brain just prevents me from going beach bum and that I do not necessarily have to follow it to the letter. So when the Aunt brought all these things up it was difficult to fight this side of my brain and I found myself trying to rationalize and convince her that my life choices are just that MINE and that all the curves in the road have led me into fantastic adventures and have shaped me into who I am today.

Luckily for me, a good friend who is very similar to me as far as the gypsy lifestyle goes, was online and gave me his usual sage advice (he is always there when the Schmidt brain tries to rationalise all my crazy adventures). He asked whether or not I agreed with the advice the Aunt had given me, I said NO! Then he reminded me that normal life advice does not necessarily work on people like us, as we are kind of outside of the bubble, we live life instead of survive it. Once thing is for sure, trying to convince her how much Thailand may turn into a great opportunity and what living a simple life there was like a couple of years ago, made me realise just how much I hoped for this next adventure!!!

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Cruise, Thailand, Travel

 

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