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I looked at the PADI manual book on my hand, then I looked at my classmates who were sitting right opposite of me, then I looked at my instructor explaining the lesson, then I looked at my book again. That’s likely what I did repetitively during my first day of my Open Water Course with Livingseas, theory session. There were five of us – three students, one instructor, and one assistant, in a cozy room with glass panel wall dividing the corridor and the classroom on the second floor. Each class is limited to 4 students as to make sure that every student gets the equal amount of attention.
Air expands proportionately as we ascend and the pressure decreases..
What happen with our wetsuit when we are underwater?
..and the explanation goes on. I looked at the PADI manual book on my hand, then I looked at my classmates answering the questions, then I looked at my instructor explaining further on the lesson, then I looked at my book again. We had a short break few times. Everyone ordered for coffees and went for a toilet break. I got a little headache. I needed coffee but I was cutting it down after having too much cups days earlier. One of my classmates took out the delicacies he brought from Yogyakarta and shared with us. The class continued as I sipped the plain water from my tumbler.
..to control our buoyancy..
“..buoyancy..” I heard a lot of that since the beginning of the class. It must be very important in this course. While my classmates seemed to understand everything that was being explained, I only tried to catch as much as I could.
Question marks flying around my head but when I was asked whether I have any question, my answer is always NO, and I am usually the fastest to respond to that even though I am the slowest to get everything right. I wasn’t sure what to take note on and what to ask either.
My classmates are friendly; our instructor, Leon, is nice and knowledgeable. Passion and experiences don’t lie. He got it all as I see. Everyone enjoyed the class including myself. Just that there are many terms that I don’t understand, so, I need to work extra to catch up with the rest. My senses and logic don’t work well sometimes on certain things. Ha..!
If we were to talk about art, design, trekking, hiking or social media stuff, likely I will have no problem with that and can respond quickly. So, it is my personal issue and I need to work it out. No one can help.
The class was dismissed at around 5 pm and then we went down to do our gear fitting for our training session in the pool tomorrow. Mask, fins, booties, wetsuit, backplate, and regulator, all were kept in our individual mesh bag.
I stayed back for a while in the Livingseas store on the first floor which I think it also serves well as a community space. There is a big table where everyone can gather around. Students, friends came that night for a gathering. After trying to get to know the people more and familiarize with this new environment, I left the center. I still have homework to do – to read the text-book as much as I can before the training session in the pool starts tomorrow.
• • •
It was about six weeks ago..
..when I agreed to take up this challenge to attend this diving course. And since then until the day the course started, I think I never had a peaceful day. I kept thinking of it. “How is the course going to be like, would I be able to cope with it? Swimming test?? OMG…Should I just cancel it? Or postpone it? Aarrrgghh….What have I gotten myself into?” Slapped on my face.
It should be something exciting but I didn’t fully feel so. Mixed feeling. I am not really comfortable staying long in the water. That’s the main reason.
My friends who traveled with me before, know very well how scared I was of letting go my life jacket when we were at Labuan Cermin in Kalimantan. I was there twice and on the second visit, I tried harder. I asked a favor from my guide to stay close to me while I tried to swim around the lake without any floating devices. But it still didn’t work. I started to look for something to hold on in less than a minute.
“Seriously, Tracy? You mean you? The Daredevil?” Yeah, man. I have no problem leading you guys and setting an example for any activities above the ground but not something to do with the water. Oh, I did once before, I jumped off from the boat to the sea for snorkeling just so that you guys would follow. But that was my first snorkeling trip and I didn’t know that I have this problem (yet).
• • •
Pool Training Session
The pool training session was scheduled at 12 noon at Jayakarta Hotel. By then, I only had finished reading about 1/3 of the text book.
We met up at the swimming pool on the 6th floor and after I dropped my bag on one of the chairs nearby, I walked closer to the pool to check the depth. I saw numbers printed very clear in bright yellow color on the side of the pool – 1.75 m, 2 m, and 2.5 m.
“I am dead meat. I am only 1.58 m tall.” But I should have expected it wouldn’t be more shallow than that either. Haha..but well…I scratched my head, sighed as I went off to change to my swimwear in the toilet.
“Can I just stay here until the end of the training? Can I?”
Yeah, I mean to just stay in the toilet.
First stage, second stage, alternate second stage..
The training that noon begins with learning how to do proper set up of our own equipment, starts from putting on the backplate to the tank then the ‘first stage’ which is actually referring to the regulator that pumps air from our tank to finally our ‘second stage’, the part that we breathe in with, and so on. And also the Do’s and Don’t’s in handling our equipment.
Fortunately, the review I did helps me to understand better what I was doing although I was still nervous following the instructions given by Leon. When we are nervous, our brain cells everything seemed to get tangled; or probably that only happens on me. I kept leaving out and forgetting something. Okay, maybe age does matter but let’s not focus on that.
Everyone is ready? Now swim 10 laps.
That’s the instruction. The test had finally come. It was like a life test. How I wish I could go invisible. I walked closer to the pool, sitting at the edge of the pool, sighing, and regretting not just staying in the toilet earlier. The horrific feeling did come to me. But I also had that thought that since I decided to do it, I might as well try my best to the end. Scared? Yes, I was scared. The more I delayed, the more I felt horror looking at the pool. So, without thinking much more, I stepped down and swam in.
The first two laps as I remember, I was okay. It’s only when I realized that I didn’t have a base to step on, I started to get panic. I am not good in swimming but I should be able to do this. Sooner or later I have to overcome this fear. If I really couldn’t make it, I just hope God will send a rescue. Ha..ha..
But unexpectedly, I completed the 10 laps. Yay! Pat on my head. Don’t ask me how I did that and how long I took. I can only tell you I was the last one to complete and the most important thing, the scariest part was over! Maybe the purpose of the swimming test is actually just to see how comfortable we are in the water, I think. When I told my friends what happened, they were quite amazed. ~
Next, we continued our pool training session with all our gears that we set up earlier. We put on our wetsuit and all of our gears including that big tank on our back as if we are carrying a backpack. The backplate, a piece of metal shown in the photo above, supports and protects our back from the direct contact with the tank, hence, we don’t feel the bump at all when we dive. The tank may be heavy, but once we hit the water, we don’t really feel the weight of the tank anymore.
If I think it over again, the backplate works in a similar way like the back support on a mountain backpack. How good one backpack is, is usually measured by the durability, weight and also the back support. It is important because it carries all the weight on our back. And I think this also applies to the backplate since all the gears are hanging onto it.
Swimming VS Diving
I understand very well that I was doing a diving course and not a swimming course. I was supposed to be in underwater but I just couldn’t do it right. I kept on going up to the surface, floating, although I didn’t want to. With my current body weight plus all the equipment that hanging on me, I thought I shouldn’t have any problem to ‘sink’ in. But that’s not the case. Many factors affected this and it’s a little complicated to explain although it’s interesting. We learned about this in our theory session.
In the beginning of the practice session, I only had two scenarios – either I was on the top floating or I was at the bottom sinking. I couldn’t control myself to stay somewhere in the middle. And that’s when BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), one of the gears we are carrying when we dive, helps us to stabilize our buoyancy. As simple as it looks, only two buttons – inflate and deflate, but it still takes time for me to get the feel of it. Too much is wrong, too less is also not going to work.
We also practice some skills that will come in handy when the need arises, such as cleaning our mask underwater, pulling out and putting back our ‘second stage’ to our mouth and continue breathing normally, and other skills that we need to know if we want to be a responsible diver. At first, I resisted not to practice some of them because I was not sure if I could do it right. But when your instructor stared at you fiercely from behind his mask, underwater, you’d better do it. Haha..Basically, it is for our own good.
We ended our training session in the swimming pool in the late afternoon. Yeap, we were in the water for hours. I personally enjoyed it very much, especially after I got a little hang of it. However, it was still early to feel satisfied as we were only halfway through.
The real test would be when we dive in the sea. That’s when we know if we could really put out what we have learned in practice in the real environment. Our real diving session was on the following morning in Thousand Islands, near to Jakarta. The sea water is not as calm as in the pool. The water is not as fresh and clear as in the pool as well. There are also many things to watch out for in the sea.
Did all of us successfully pass the test? Or maybe the correct question is “Did I make it to the end?” Haha..Read my next post for the full story and do check out Livingseas Diving Centre where I took this Open Water Course, too.
Do you dive? What is your biggest obstacle that prevents you from enjoying nature? Feel free to share with me in the comment box below.