Our first weeks have gone by in a blur. We’ve completed exams, spent hours mercilessly repeating skills, and above all else dived – A LOT.
Wolfgang is pushing us along. He let us take our exams without the slightest bit of a teaching. “If you need my instruction then I am happy to give it, otherwise I won’t waste your time, pass what you can pass and we’ll come back to what you can’t. Our time will be spent in the water.” This was music to our ears. Despite a few complex physics and physiology details, which required some genuine studying, we passed all of our exams in 2 days on our own.
We have two Open Water students at the moment. Marc and Srai from Austria. We help Wolfgang with whatever he needs while teaching them. Hauling equipment, helping the students study for the exam, and demonstrating skills for them are all part of that. I remember my Open Water course like it was yesterday. This is the course that takes a regular person and spits them out as a proper scuba diver. It’s fascinating to watch it from the other side. The students struggle with various things, but they quickly improve as they practice. Occasionally we witness it all click for them and they look at us with intense excitement. It’s beautiful to watch.
We spend a fair bit of each day practicing our “scuba skills”. These are mostly simple tasks, like how to remove your regulator from your mouth, find it, and replace it. We must be able to do these skills at “demonstration quality” which basically means that you would wish all students to do the skill exactly as you have demonstrated. It has to be flawlessly and in a perfect sequence with the right technique. It’s essentially the categorical imperative (love a good Kant reference) of the scuba world. It’s not easy, especially when you’ve been in the underwater for 2.5 hours and you can’t stop laughing because Kay and Val are doing the chicken dance while you try to demonstrate. You can’t talk underwater so we are learning a lot of sign language. It’s fun, but not half as hilarious as the “new” symbols we invent on a daily basis (like the “I’m peeing right now and it’s magnificent” symbol).
Our days are long, we start at 7:00am and finish after midnight. Beyond the requirements of the course we have to learn the system that Bajo Dive uses, how to navigate the divesites, how to read the current, how to manage divers in the current, how get divers excited, how to calm them down, how the equipment should fit various body types, and a lot more. All while adjusting to being in the water 3 – 4 hours each and every day.
We are tired but happy. Wolfgang is wonderful and interesting person, the only caveat is his affection for wearing speedos, but hey, nobody is perfect. Labuan Bajo, the town we now live in, is anything but luxurious, but it’s filled with kind and sincere people. We are learning quickly and our confidence is growing. We’ve been following Wolfgang as he leads divers and soon we’ll be doing it ourselves. We’ve gone from not diving for six months to being thrown headlong into a busy dive operation at the end of the world. At the end of the day, even after my eyes lose their ability to stay open, it takes a long time for my smile to fade.