You can’t talk to each other under the sea. I mean, you have the bare essentials with hand signals and motions to say OK, Up, Down, Shark! and so forth. But you can’t have a real conversation, it’s just about reading the emotion in each others eyes.
That’s something I really struggle with. I was never one to be able do ‘sponsored silences’ at school. I like to ask a lot of questions, as well as answer and argue them. I’ve never really been able to think without giving a running commentary, so naturally – I felt lost underwater. Particularly when I didn’t remember what I was supposed to be doing, floating around in the open water – wide eyed, and trying to gesture ‘I don’t know arms’ out like an idiot.
I was fortunate enough to be able to do my open water diving course in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, the Gili Islands. I was even more fortunate to have the most caring, understanding and supportive diving instructor – Mimi. For these reasons, I was able create some of my most fond memories.
I’ve never been much of a water baby, except for when i was an actual baby. But when water goes up my nose (I’ve got a big one), it fills me with panic and claustrophobia. It’s something that made me avoid going under water – and given that that the sea likes to swallow people, a paddle was enough for me.
With that said, my boyfriend told me there was no way i would be able to become a certified diver if i was scared of the Sea. Not really an unreasonable statement, but I hate being told that i can’t do something so i decided i had to prove him wrong.
My first dive was a fun dive, and it was exactly that! The mixture of adrenaline, mystery in this new enchanting world and Mimi’s cool and calming presence affirmed the fact that i wanted complete the course – pass my tests and become a certified open water diver.
Two of the tests i needed to pass that were literally the last thing i would ever want to do:
Pull up your mask to allow it to fill with water, tilt your head back, apply pressure to the top and blow air out through your nose to clear.
Take the mask off at 15 meters below, put it back on around your head and repeat action 1.
Luckily enough, we got to practice the tests before hand in a swimming pool. It sort of went exactly how i hoped it wouldn’t. I watched as my group took off their masks casually and then Mimi gestured with her arms that it was my turn.
I peeled back by mask to let the water come flooding in. Panic filled me as the water suffocated my nostrils and the adrenaline sent my body shooting up to the surface of the water. But before i could spurt out, there was a firm grip around my jacket. Mimi shook me with pleading eyes, and i could only mimic this gesture with equal measure. I didn’t need words for this, i knew i wouldn’t be able to act this way in the real test without risk of getting the bends.
The bends is basically caused by the nitrogen you are breathing in, it starts to expand as you rise, if an air bubble gets into your bloodstream and travels to your heart or brain – you are dead. In the real test we would be some meters below, and given that none of us wanted to die, we took the safety measures of rising to the surface slowly.
Gili Air fast became my most favorite place in the world. The laid back island attitude, natural beauty and familiarity of faces you passed each day made it feel like a home, and having such paradise feel that way is pretty euphoric. The 7 Seas Diving school team started to feel like family too, I couldn’t have been luckier.
The whole nose thing seemed a bit ridiculous, but Mimi never once made me feel like I was stupid. She persisted with me, and i was soon able to clear the water out of my nose by repetitively breathing out through it (funny that).
The day came, and just wanted the boat journey out to the reef to continue on. I really didn’t want to do my mask tests down there on the Sea Bed. As the boat stopped, sickness rose and my breath shortened. Everyone was in the water, but I had completely lost sight of any state of calmness. But i was determined. Shakily, i flipped backwards over board and tried to regulate my breath back in the water. I lay afloat in the water until i was ready to go down.
I can’t tell you how relieved i was when the mask test was over. I had my eyes closed the whole time but i could feel Mimi there with me. After that, I started to feel more confident diving, and once i had passed the open water test i started my Advanced.
I’m so glad i got to prove Simon wrong – but more importantly, I got to prove to myself that if i pushed myself out of my comfort zone i could achieve (and enjoy) something i never knew was possible. Next up i just need to create an underwater talking device and i’l be as happy as Dory can be.