lunes, 28 de noviembre de 2011

Under the Sea

After two months on the Galapagos, I finally got scuba certified.!  I’d been trying to rally people to do it with me since we got here, but everyone was already certified, or didn’t really want to pay the money, so I finally decided to do it on my own.  I went to the same dive shop the school goes through and one of the girls told me she had a housemate do it on her own there and said good things about it.
            Saturday morning, I showed up at 8:30am and met a couple from Israel who was doing the class as well.  We learned how to set up all the equipment and did that a few times.  The dive master didn’t really speak English, so I pretty much learned everything in Spanish.  Wendy, the lady that owns the shop knows English, and she helped translate when I was really confused.  Then, after we were comfortable assembling our equipment, we hopped in a taxi and went to the pool.  I had heard there was a pool in town a couple times, but had no idea where it was.  Turns out, it’s a block from my homestay.  It’s behind a tall concrete wall, gated, and unmarked, so even though I’ve passed it multiple times, there was no way to know it existed.  The pool was about a 12x12ft square and shoulder height.  We got in with all of our equipment and swam around a bit with the regulators just getting used to it.  Then we started practicing various skills under water.  The lady from Israel freaked out not too long after we started and eventually got out and bailed on the course.  Me and her husband continued and learned how to get water out of our masks, all of the hand signals, various methods for sharing air underwater, how to take off and put on out equipment underwater and how to use the equipment in general.  The fist time I took my mask off, I breathed in water through my nose, which was an awful feeling, but then I just stood in the water with my face in it breathing through the regulator and finally got used to it.  The other guy was having a bit more trouble and I don’t think he understood as well.  After we finished in the pool, he decided he wanted to take it a bit slower, so he did not go on the afternoon dive.  I was free for a couple hours and ate lunch and then went back to the shop and just me and the dive master went out.  There is a beach right in front of the university and caddy corner from it is an abandoned building that I swim to with my friends a couple times a week.  We took a taxi over to the abandoned building and I was so glad to start there since I’m so comfortable with the area.  We dawned all the equipment, which is a bit awkward on land- especially the weight belt.  Wetsuits are super buoyant, so you use weights to help you sink to dive.  But after getting in the water it was fine.  The water was freezing!  My guide had a watch that tells you how deep you are and the temperature and it was 14 degrees Celsius!  We had a buoy that he tied to the bottom (7m) and then slowly descended.  I had a lot of trouble equalizing my ears at first, but it was such an amazing feeling to be under water.  We saw a sea turtle and a bunch of sea lions.  After finally making it to the bottom, we did all of the skills again.  Then we went back to the surface and he explained to me how to use the compass he’d given me.  I am descent at Spanish, but I was a bit confused.  We went back down and he told me to stay on the bottom and disappeared.  I was a bit freaked out because I didn’t know where he went, but he got out, rearranged the buoy and came back down with it on a string so he could collect the cord as we changed depths.  Then we swam along the bottom using the compasses and navigated to Playa Mann.  My ears kept bubbling as we went, but it took me a while to realize how shallow the water had gotten and then I was able to stand up and we were on the beach.  It was then that I realized what he had been explaining to me before we started.  We had to change the compasses part way through because it’s a weird angle in the water to get to the beach.  He knew exactly where we were the whole time though, which was sweet. 
            Then, on Sunday, I went back to the shop at 8:30 and put all of my stuff together again.  There was a girl Natalia, who I’d met before that was finishing the course with me.  So it was us, Jose Luis (the dive master) and Wendy (the owner) that all went out.  Plus, I got gloves and an extra layer to were under my wetsuit since the water was so cold.  We all got on a taxi boat and went around to Tijeretas, a cove around the bay from the school and went down 18m.  I was a lot more comfortable and didn’t have trouble with my ears this time.  Being underwater is so amazing, and given enough air and warm clothes, I could have stayed down there all day.  It’s one thing so see stuff snorkeling on the surface, but being down with it was so amazing.  It’s so easy to just go down, and forget about how deep you are and how much air you have.  Luckily, Wendy and Jose Luis were on top of things!  Once at 18m, we stopped on the bottom and went over all of our skills again.  Then we explored a bit and resurfaced along the line used to anchor the taxi boat.  We took off our equipment in the water and then crawled into the boat.  There was no ladder, which made getting up over the sides a bit interesting.  After than we went back out to the bay and rested for a bit before getting back in and exploring a wreck.  It was a huge area but the ship had completely deteriorated and so it was mostly a bunch of beams along the bottom.  It was so fun to explore though!
            Today, I take the written test and then I’ll be a certified open water diver!  Part of me is glad I waited so long because I’m really used to swimming in the ocean now and snorkeling, but diving is so cool, I kind of wish I’d done the certification sooner.  Today we start our last class.  It’s crazy to think I only have 3 weeks left in the Galapagos.  I’m super excited to go home, but I’m definitely going to miss the nice weather, ocean and fairly carefree lifestyle.

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