After a lovely motorbikin-son-of-a-bike kind of day, we decided to get some food at a little tiny restaurant up the road called “Mama Piyawan” and here’s a picture of Mama in front of a wall of worldly thank you notes she’s received for her delicious meals.
I got some kind of dish with a beer, and Hy got a soup thing with a Coke. Then we started chatting with a very nice couple next to us who it turns out met at work, and has taken their jobs on the road. They’re traveling and working all over the world doing social media, and they were just a really cool couple to talk to. I hand it to Hy for being the chatter, but at one point in the conversation, evidently Hy started eating my food and I didn’t notice, and then when I ordered a Coke for myself, evidently she switched mine with hers because mine was more cold. I had no clue.
After lunch, we came back to Big Blue and were to officially start our open water diving course. I’ve had a few people ask me about it, so I’m going to go into more detail about the class itself, but it’s an internationally-known school of SCUBA teaching called SSI. In California, PADI certification is pretty normal, and the only difference between SSI and PADI (as I have been told) is essentially the PADI certification class was more expensive, got a physical manual (rather than the SSI app we used), and when doing the official certification, there’s a specific order in which you have to do the tasks. Tasks such as removing your mask, buoyancy control, removing your regulator, etc. With SSI, we still did all that and a lot more, it was just not necessarily in the same order as the PADI cats did. It was crazy, too, because in my ENTIRE life, I haven’t ever really thought of SCUBA diving as a thing I wanted to get into but a friend from college, Erin, has been in Thailand teaching SCUBA at Big Blue for a while now, and the pictures she posted always piqued my interest, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
Class started at 4p, and we were to meet near the office/reception area/store/restaurant on the patio downstairs. We all kind of met everyone at the same time, and since Hy and I had already hung out, we were at a bit of an advantage. Plus, she’s super chatty and she immediately knew everyone in class. I take a few minutes to get warmed up, but I did fine. For the first day, we were just watching videos and doing paperwork and downloading the app, etc, so we had an instructor who was just temporary who started the videos and guided us through day one. That stuff lasted about two hours, not bad. We went through everything we’d be learning, and got all set up. It took me a while to get my app to download because I forgot my damn password to the apple store because I’m an old man, and then once I downloaded it, it took a while to get me set up through SSI because I used my Hotmail email address in case they decided to spam the shit out of me. Turns out Hotmail didn’t want to work properly in Thailand, so I had to figure out my password for THAT as well, and get to it via Safari on my phone, check spam, and then set up the app through there. A few more hoops than I would have hoped, but it was painless. Class finished, and we had homework to do, so Hy and I decided to not do that and go into town instead and find some more food.
This is where my days start to get kind of mixed up, but I THINK this was the evening we ended up going to the little Thai place down the road in town that had a dead duck hanging in the front “window” aka the ice cream esq. fridge at the front of the restaurant. This place was supposedly THE place to get roasted duck on Koh Tao, so who were we to not get roasted duck there. I think we ended up getting the same soup, but I ordered mine only a little spicy and Hy ordered hers moreso. The soup came, it was delicious, but there was NO spice, so I put a dollop of chili paste in there and immediately upped the spice-ante. It was quite tasty. Finished the meal, and went back to the resort. I think I ended up drinking a few beers and looking over my homework like a good little student, and then I went to bed when the bar was closing…at around 10p. I was just chillin’ down there, and all of the sudden I was the last person there and I’m like, oh, right, island time, mon.
Woke up the next morning at the butt-crack of dawn, again. Went down to the restaurant and chilled on the patio overlooking the water, again. Then got the American breakfast, again, when the restaurant opened. A couple shakes, and a couple fruit shakes to wash it all down, and I was ready to start class. I think this day we started at 8? Maybe it was 10. It wasn’t super early, we’d be saving that for the next day, but we were to spend the morning going over rules and instruction about how to properly SCUBA dive. I didn’t know ANYTHING about it, so I was trying to listen intently, and for some reason – in Thailand – I was able to hear much better than I do here. Maybe that’s more of an existential kind of realization, whereas maybe I was much more PRESENT in Thailand than I tend to be here, but it was an observation I made a few times throughout my trip, nonetheless.
When we all re-met in the morning, they divided our original big group into a couple smaller groups, and our official instructor for the class was Steve (not Steve-O, who was different), aka “Slars.” He was this bearded, moppy haired Australian who was very chill right off the bat. Big fan, and my type of dude. Former plumber, Steve had been on Koh Tao for a while as well, and he inadvertently made a very strong case for me wanting to be on Koh Tao for a job as well. I had a number of thoughts to that point throughout my trip, but even this early on in the vacation, I was like…yeah…this life could be truly awesome. We also had Nikki , a saucy Brit, as an instructor-in-training helping with the class. Nikki was a lot of fun – we seemed to have a similar humor style, and supposedly she knows her way around handcuffs. I chose to take that in a particular way, and you can too. My class was a good one, but after being able to hang out and talk with everyone, I really liked Albert, Nick, and of course Hy. Those are the three people who are NOT me in the main picture. I think I mentioned it, but Hy is Canadian, and Albert is from Spain, and Nick is a Londoner. I don’t really remember what Albert does, but Hy works in Marketing and Sales, and Nick is an Actuary for a big company. He seems to like it, though, I admittedly still don’t really understand what he does. He explained it in depth, but my stupid American brain zoned out once his British-English started being all smart.
Class started and we went over the main rule which is to always be breathing. Intuitive, but necessary to reiterate over and over. Before class, I was most worried about my ears popping (equalizing) underwater, and the whole breathing under water thing wasn’t a consideration, but yeah…that’s pretty damn important. After hours worth of “how to” when in the water, and a quick lunch, it was time to be fitted for our equipment and getting in the pool.
They have a special pool that’s for diving, so there’s a deep deep end, and a shallow end to practice things in. I got my fancy flippers, Buoyancy Control, and shortie wetsuit along with some goggles and snorkel. We learned the ins and outs of weight belts, and how to put everything together, and after a 15 minute float and swim in the pool to make sure we could float and swim, we were officially in the pool for the rest of the day. Lots of learning happened, and it took a LOT of time – so much so, that my hands were the most wrinkly they’ve ever been. It was weird. They were almost cracking they were so pruney. But we practiced everything multiple times and though it was a lot of information, and a lot of work, it was a lot of fun. There was a moment toward the end, though, that I was concerned because my chest was definitely feeling it and I’m like, oh shit, is there something wrong…but it turns out if you’re breathing through a tube underwater for hours and hours and hours and you’ve never done that before, your chest and lungs are getting a workout that’s probably going to be felt for a while afterwards. In fact, I felt it the next morning, too…but Slars set my mind at ease by essentially reminding me that I was breathing underwater for the first time and it took some getting used to.
I was so tired after class all day that I don’t even remember what I did that night. I probably drank some beers and I know I went over some additional chapters for homework, but admittedly, I probably could have spent more time on the latter, and less on the former, but it was all good. The next morning we were going to go over everything we had learned on this day, and the previous day anyway. Plus, the next morning was open water! More later…