Day 1 - Saturday, June 16
Taz and I are on Bonaire, a small island in the Dutch Antilles area of the Caribbean. We arrived via Atlanta and are joining a group of seven others: Billy, Calvin, Denny, Dave, Rick, Chris and Danny. These guys get together regularly for dive trips and kindly allowed me to tag along.
Taz is eager for me to dive. And not just to dive, but to get comfortable in the water, to learn to swim and to learn to love the water. I'm open to the idea of diving, but am having difficulty believing that I'm about to choose to get in to water with weights in my pockets that will force me to sink to water far deeper than my height.
But, I'm here, I'm mostly willing, and I'm anxious. I have to complete my online ePadi lessons. There's an introduction and six lessons and I have four more to go. Perhaps being here, surrounded by divers, immersed in this whole dive environment will help me learn more easily.
I'm intimidated mostly by all of the technical aspects involved in diving. How will I possibly be able to remember what I need to do, like breathing, when I am so focused on not hyperventilating and remembering to, well, breathe?
Day 2 - Sunday, June 17
Happy Father's Day!
Taz and I explored the island and had dinner with the guys. Tomorrow, I will try snorkeling, to literally get my feet wet.
Day 3 - Monday, June 18
We snorkeled right off the beach in front of the resort and I loved it! It's amazing to experience the underwater world here in these warm and clear waters. I completed another ePADI lesson this evening.
Day 4 - Tuesday, June 19
I joined the boys on their boat dive this morning. The boat was full, but the driver let me come along. It was great to watch the entire process of everyone laying out their gear, adjusting their tanks, stepping off the boat. On this first dive, they dove about 60 feet to a wreck.
The second dive of the morning was near a beach, so I planned to snorkel off the boat. When I made this plan, I thought Taz was waiting in the water for me, but he had already submerged, and so instead I sat nervously on the stern of the boat, trying to gather the courage to step out in to the deep water.
I sat for about twenty minutes, with my feet dangling in the water, simultaneously taking deep breaths and holding my breath. Annette, a woman on the boat who dove the first dive and was just hanging out for the second, got in to the water with me, encouraging me.
I slowly got in to the water, hanging on to the anchor line the entire time. It was exciting to see the divers below me, but I was absolutely terrified and panicked and returned to the boat after being in the water for just a few minutes.
I failed at my first open water snorkel attempt, but I completed another ePADI lesson in the evening.
Day 5 - Wednesday, June 20
Snorkeled again this morning. I really, really love snorkeling. I feel comfortable in the water, bobbing just below the surface. I did swallow some water and ended up popping my head out and ripping my mask off. Not what you're supposed to do, but there you have my natural, visceral instinct for self preservation!
Completed another online lesson today and went for a drive while Taz was diving. I ended up driving a road out in to the countryside, ending up at a beach just passed the landfill. I filled a container with beachglass, which of course is always a fantastic find!
Taz and the guys went out for dinner and drinks. I stayed in and read for a bit, then walked in to town for a couple of hours, taking photos as the sun set and enjoying some alone time. I was in bed reading and drinking a strawberry beer when Taz came back.
I can't seem to get drunk here. Billy says it's because I drink so slowly, which might be true. I think it's because it's so hot that the alcohol just leaks right out of my pores.
Day 6 - Thursday, June 21 - Happy Solstice!
I snorkeled for a couple of hours this morning, while the boys dove. Dave lent me his underwater camera which added a whole new dimension to the experience of being underwater.
I saw an octopus and a few schools of blue tang, along with other fish I don't yet know the names of. Again I swallowed water and popped my head out and ripped my mask off. I need to get comfortable with water in my mouth and in my nosepiece, which Taz has been encouraging me to practice.
I completed the last of my online lessons today, hanging out in the shade under a tree on the beach. I failed the final test the first time and retook it and passed. Tomorrow will be the test of what I'm learning; that is to say, if I'm actually learning or just memorizing!
I sent an email out to friends and to family, sharing how nervous I am to dive. Beth wrote about her first dive experience, of similar fears, and reading this helped to calm me a great deal.
I've really been enjoying getting to know the guys. They're all very nice and easygoing and make me feel very welcomed. It was very kind of Dave to lend me his underwater camera. And Rick said he'll leave his underwater housing for me to use when he leaves, since we have the same camera.
Day 7 - Friday, June 22
Today is Dive Day. I'm to meet Alex at the Dive Shop in just 30 minutes. I'm so nervous I think I might throw up. Taz is going for a run so that will give me some time to focus.
I'm nervous that I'm going to fail the test. I'm nervous that I'm not going to fail and then I'm actually going to have to get in to the water. I just can't imagine forcing myself to sink when I've just barely gotten comfortable snorkeling. I panic the most in dark water, though Taz explained that the dark water is deeper, but it's dark because there's more coral. Knowing this has helped.
I panic when I have water in my nosepiece. I panic about anything beyond stepping in to water from a beach, beyond the snorkeling I have gotten comfortable with. In order to be certified, I have to: watch a 20 minute video, take a test, be fitted for equipment, get in to the pool and show a working knowledge of my dive equipment and basic skills, and do contained and open water dives. Yikes! Anything past diving in the pool completely freaks me out!
One step at a time. Alex promises that he is patient and understands my fear of the water. He says that most people can be certified in a day and a half, but he's giving me three days because of my anxiety. I keep telling myself that this is no different than bunjee jumping, but it is completely different!
Here, drowning is a possibility!
I have to get dressed, gather my wits and go, so here I go!