Monday, October 8, 2012
LIVING IT UP ON WHITE SAND BEACHES
Sunday brought our welcome arrival to Barra and BEDS. I don't think anyone has been that happy to see a bed with a mattress after four plus weeks in tents. After a peaceful night sleep in our new quarters, we woke up to our first day of diving classes- a short five minute walk down the white sand beaches to the Dive center. Our first class consisted of entertaining but slightly cheesy instructional videos and pool training. After splitting into two groups we learned how to set up our equipment, use our regulators, clear masks, and equalize our ears along with other emergency procedures. After an intense hour and a half underwater, everyone made a mad dash to the bathroom creating a hectic frenzy around the one toilet and huddled in groups of three in the two hot showers. Eleven girls in two showers seems pretty normal now.
Dive Master Jane spent the afternoon chatting with locals, shopping, and relaxing. She also offered encouraging words as we learned to clear our masks underwater.
The following morning we switched lodges and were amazed with our luck of “a penthouse” our enduring name for our taste of luxury. We all ran though the new abode marveling at the beds, tiled floors, personal infinity pool, AC, bathtubs, cable TV, along with....an icemaker. :)
Today we embarked on our first open water dive. The first group went out on the boat pushing it from the sandy beach to the water. A short 1 km boat ride later brought us to our dive site. “1, 2, 3, GO!” and eight of us along with our three instructors fell backwards into the deep blue water. I, unfortunately had a slight panic attack not being able to see the bottom, and feeling the first twinge of pressure in my ears. I swam back up bawling and hyperventilating so the dive instructor felt the need to drag me back to the boat rescue style. I sat on the boat with a slight blow to my pride, but otherwise unscathed waiting for the others to finish their dive. After about ten minutes McKinley also surfaced due to equalization issues with an awful headache from the pressure. We waited with Jen and the boat captain until the rest of the group came up from their exciting and successful dive. The second group had an equally successful dive and even got to see humpback whales on their boat ride.
Bartering on the beach with local vendors has become almost as important as learning to dive. Our group is quickly acquiring a second wardrobe with some African flare – wild pants with various designs are a welcome addition to our malaria clothing line, along with hats, shorts and bracelets.
After our diving we pow-wowed for dinner and celebrated Aunge's 31st birthday. We surprised her with a birthday massage, room decorations, and a chocolate cake on the beach after dinner. We brought the underwater scene to her as she was unable to dive due to some ear problems. A full moon over the water was the cherry on top of a fantastical day.
Which leads us to the present, where most of the girls are at the dive center finishing classroom time and preparing for their 3rd and 4th dives. The few of us who opted out of diving are enjoying some quiet relaxation to the sound of waves and the sight of swaying palm trees.
Brooklyn, Senior, Washington