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Thursday, October 20, 2011

There goes my dream of being a mermaid....

For Sergio's birthday weekend, we headed  to the coast to our favorite beach - Diani.  To get there we always fly to Mombasa because it's much cheaper than flying to the Diani airstrip - and then we take a taxi about an hour to Diani.
Driving through downtown Mombasa

We have a place we stay at every time we go to Diani - it's a cool old Swahili house owned by a family that runs it as a bed and breakfast.  You have to see the place: www.thekenyaway.com
But this time since we were sharing a place with Scott, we stayed next door where they have apartments - It's a restaurant called blue marlin but it's mainly an old house as well.
Anyways, the plan was for the guys to do their open water certification for scuba, which took up half of each day we were there - and I was going to try my hand at scuba for the first time. 

Well, I quickly learned that scuba is not for me. I should have known just from the experience of getting a wet suit pulled on to my chubby thighs that it wasn't going to be a pleasant day at the beach.  Pedro, the scuba instructor (English guy that used to be Peter) took me to his house to do the first day pool work with his wife Tracy and assistant Danielle (TINY little Kenyan man).  In most countries, scuba certification takes weeks and lots of money. But here in Kenya, it takes just three days and it's relatively cheap.  Now, I'm not sure if i would have had a better reaction to the whole thing if I took the certification course in the US - I'm guessing they would have gone a lot slower with some of the key steps, but TIA (this is Africa).  The weird thing is that you don't expect scuba to be scary or that you'll have mental issues with it..BUT IT IS HORRIBLE. Well, it's horrible for someone like me with occasional panic disorder and a hint of claustrophobia.

So, they strapped 75 pounds to me and then put me in the pool. The first step was learning to use the oxygen respirator thing and then going under with it.  There is a general feeling when you are starting out that you are not getting enough air - It's a very irrational thing. You know you are getting oxygen, but the feeling of the oxygen coming in only through your mouth and then all the bubbles that are forced out to exhale just feels awkward and not smooth - it makes you feel like breathing harder.  So, I was fine with this just standing in the pool with my head under..but once you actually kick your legs up, with all that weight on you, and still trying to breathe - things start to freak out. Even now as I think about it, I don't understand what causes the panic but there is just this basic irrational fear that I won't get enough oxygen and then with all that weight on, I won't be able to swim to the surface quick enough.

I got through some of that to the point where I swam to the bottom of the deep end and started playing with the buoyancy control thing that helps you hover higher or lower and then I spazed out! I looked at Danielle who was underwater with me and I was like "UP, NOW!!".  You just feel the weight of the world on top of you when you are down there for a while, with all that weight on your back. And I don't have this problem with swimming normally. And then you cannot just shoot up, because of your ears and the pressure changes you have to come up slowly, which is the last thing you want to do when you think you are hyperventilating and you want to take the thing off your face. We did a few other drills, like practice taking out the respirator while you are underwater and then putting it back in, in case of emergency. I was fine with that since we were standing and doing it...not swimming.   So, then they wanted to take me out with the guys for their dive. I was VERY nervous about it - I knew they wanted me to also get into the ocean..on DAY 1, when I was already showing signs of mental disorder!

The day was really rainy but we went out anyways. The ocean was really choppy - I was feeling seasick before we even anchored. The guys jumped in and it was just me Danielle and the other two assistants. Danielle was cool but one of the other guys was really pissing me off. He knew I was nervous and he kept getting in my face and signing this Hakuna Matata song and just really being obnoxious. It was not fun. I was too scared to do the backwards dive into the ocean with all the gear, so I got in and then they put the gear on me in the water. I was shaking like a little chihuahua in the snow. ..So scared but trying my damnest to not let it stop me. I went out to the descent rope with Danielle and he let the air out of my jacket and we slowly tried to get me to go under.  I got to like 5 meters, then I freaked out and had to come up. I just cannot explain what happens to me in that moment. It's like the most important thing is getting my head above water immediately and I cannot talk myself out of it. It's like being trapped in an elevator. You know you aren't really going to die in there - but after a few minutes, you start getting a little panicky. They kept telling me it's totally normal to feel like that starting out, but I know what I was feeling was not normal.   Plus the truth was, I was only doing it because they did it, but I have never really wanted to scuba so i didn't have the determination to continue considering how i was feeling. Then I got back in the boat and threw up twice.  The END (thank God).

Here are some photos of Sergio getting ready on the boat. Sergio is loving scuba - he had some nervousness and panic in the beginning but he got a lot more comfortable on this trip. They saw some amazing things like ginormous turtles flying through the water, a dinosaur size lobster, and tons of other exotic things on the sea floor.

Pedro, the instructor is in the background

My little happy flipper. 

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