I thought I would panic once submerged in water. And if I did what would happen to me?
I will hold on to you, and you will breathe slowly, says Erkan, my dive instructor. Not the answer I am hoping for because the only thing worse I can imagine than panicking underwater is panicking underwater while someone is holding on to me in that panic. But of course, he is right, because that is the only thing you can do under water. Just breathe…
Luckily it doesn’t come to this because after my initial, slightly shaky giant stride I am hooked. Insert a, to fish insensitive, hook, line, and sinker joke here, but I immediately feel like Arielle, only unlike her the underwater world is calling me, pulling me under. Though I am slightly relieved to realize that the water is not literally pulling me under. In fact it is harder than it seems to get there and while breathing with my regulator becomes second nature to me within a moment, neutral buoyancy does not. Weightlessness it seems has to be learned just like walking and swimming.
And when Erkan shows us a stingray underneath a big rock, I am too busy not to crash into him or the rock and take pictures and have no nerve to actually look for that damn fish. Not that it matters. I still have one Nemo, a Parrot- and a Triggerfish and see hundreds of Christmas Trees disappear with a wave of my hand. I find myself laughing all the time, laughing in awe and wonder of this new world I am just getting acquainted with. A world that apparently makes me very happy. And yes, while it is quite possible to laugh out loud and breathe at the same time under water, singing Under the Sea is not (needless to say, I tried!).
During the last dive of my course, I want to refuse to come up. After all, there is still 80 bar in my tank and so when Erkan signals us to hold on to the rope and make our descent I want to stomp my feet and shout I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go. But there is no stomping under the sea and back up we go.
On the boat I feel a bit inconsolable, like something precious has been taken away from me and not even the deliciously horrible banana cream cookies can help. I know I’m being dramatic, but I can’t help it and the feeling stays. The next day is the first day I get to spend with my friend Julia since I have arrived and I should be excited about spending a day in paradise with one of my favorite people in the world, but when I see the longtail boat full of happy divers depart I just want to cry and run after them.
Some days, some emails, and a
few no budget calculations later it is decided: I have rescheduled my flights, booked an advanced open waters course, and basically extended my stay for a holiday affair. I guess it must be underwater love…
I did my Open Waters at the New Heaven Dive School on Koh Tao. They are a really awesome school with some of the best accommodation options on the island, located in beautiful Chalok Bay. And in case you don’t get lucky like me seeing no stingray and no turtles, they do have a turtle nursery where you can hang out. Thanks to Polaroid for giving me a cube so I could at least take a picture of the (phantom) stingray – you guys can see it, right?
P.S. You should listen to Smoke City’s Underwater Love while reading this. I had originally included a Youtube link of the Levi’s ad, but even though I now love it underwater and like mermaids, seeing a diving boat sink seemed a bit gruesome to me.