My biggest challenge in life (so far)
My joy of scuba diving lasts until Laci tells us that the next day we are going to practice a second round of practical exercises in the sea, including mask, compass and self-rescue exercises.
In the morning we all meet by the pool and Laci explains how to use a compass. I'm trying to suppress panic. I’ve always had a problem with orientation. I manage to get lost in a one bedroom apartment.
When we arrive to the dive site, Laci puts our gears in water and ask us to put it on there. This was probably the only exercise I was really good at during my Open Water Diver course (if I don’t count simulating cramp in the water and simulating a tired diver on the surface for rescue exercises).
We are all in water, ready to dive, Laci says he will try with us the self-rescue first, then exercises with the mask and other exercises and finally navigating with the compass.
He decides to start with me first, probably because that way I won’t have much time to stress underwater. We dive together to a depth of 7 meters. I’m trying to calm down and get ready for one deep breath.
Finally, I’m ready, my right hand over my head, taking one deep breath, trying to kick my legs not too fast, but not too slow either. I’m exhaling bubbles. When I feel like I’m not able to blow a single bubble anymore, I open my eyes and find that I'm just below the surface and I take a breath. "Laci, I did not make it, I took a breath just below the surface. Can I try again?" "If you took a breath just below the surface, it's OK. What I don’t undertsand is, how you want to prevent accidently crushing into a boat with your eyes closed."
We dive once again, and this time I don’t close my eyes, I take a deep breath and kick my legs while exhaling bubbles, and somehow it seems easier to me than the first time. Once I get to the surface, I inflate my BCD with my mouth (as I try to simulate the situation that I’m out-of-air). Laci seems satisfied. "So you did it." "Yes, this time it was OK," I say, but I think it’s too soon to celebrate because I haven’t done the mask exercises yet.
Again, we go down, and I am trying to mentally prepare for probably the biggest challenge in my life so far (and I was thinking naively that the state-exams at the law faculty would be the biggest challenge for a very long period).
"Olivia, just calm down, you already did it in the pool, so you know you can do it, it'll be OK," I try to calm myself. Half mask and full mask clearing I manage without panic, Laci shows me that it is time to take the mask of completely.
I'm most afraid I'll panic and swim back to the surface when I take my mask off. Laci is waiting patiently. It takes infinity until I finally do it. I take my mask off, hold my nose while breathing slowly through the regulator, and wait for Laci's signal to put it back on. I concentrate only on breathing through the regulator, there’s no room for panic in my head somehow. When I get the signal, I let go of my nose, put the mask full of water back on, and with my terrible style I blow the water out of the mask. I open my eyes. Laci gestures to ask if I'm OK. I realize I'm more than OK. I feel a very intense feeling of happiness that is comparable to the feelings I usually experience only when eating good food. I did it! With my terrible style, but still. Suddenly, something unblocks inside me, I'm sure I will never have the problem to take off the mask underwater again. I show OK to Laci and we swim together to the others.
Feeling motivated by the fact that I still live after the mask exercises, I can handle the other exercises without any problems. We are getting to the last test of the day. This is compass-based navigation. My buddy is Lucia, as always. At first she watches the compass and guides us according to the instructions we received from Laci, while I check our depth, then we swap. I am surprised that I can handle this task without any problems as well.
Laci shows us OK and swims to other group. Dive master Katka is guiding us at the moment. Again I get into a mental state in which I am able to perceive the beauty of the environment. Unbelievable beauty. We dive in Padangbai, Jepun dive site, where we meet Buddha (no, I don’t have hallucinations, as I am "only" 18 meters deep, you can actually see a Buddha statue underwater in Jepun), a nice turtle with which I take a picture and also a stingray, which is so perfectly camouflaged at the bottom that I would never have noticed if Katka didn’t show us.
Laci and the rest of the group join us shortly. After a while we get to the little wreck of the ship. "Olivia, you are 18 meters deep and looking at the shipwreck," I say to myself and I wonder how safe it is to share my diving experiences with my mom if I don’t want to give her a heart attack.
Katka pulls me out from this awkward state of mind. She is pointing at something really small at the bottom, which I don’t have the chance to capture with my visual dysfunction. So I swim closer and I see a beautiful colorful sea slug (nudibranch). Really handsome, this one.
After a moment, Katka asks us with a gesture how much air we still have in the tank. I find that I am at 60 bars. Katka shows me that the two of us will go to the surface, but first we will make a safety stop. Others have the opportunity to watch the incredible underwater world for a few more minutes. I'm angry with myself. I need to put an end to my Darth Vader breathing. We stop at 5 meters for 3 minutes and I must admit that I make some progress. The buoyancy is dragging me to the surface, but I manage to stay with Katka at the same depth, thanks to quick inhales and long exhales.
When we get to the surface, I'm quite happy with myself. "So what, did you pass?" asks Katka. "I don’t know, Katka, I think so." "That's awesome, you did a good job, really."
"I still have to pass the theory. I think, I will spend the next day off on the beach reading PADI OWD manual. And when it will be finally over, I'm going to book additional dives, because I need to practice more. I really want to get better, so that we can go together for a night dive. Actually, I had a dream that we were together on a night dive." "This dream will come true, trust me," Katka smiles.