Some people were not meant to scuba dive. We are those people.
We spent the last few days at Sodwana Bay and St. Lucia on the eastern coast of South Africa. Jason set up scuba lessons for himself, Elizabeth, Ben and me. Noah was certified last year on a school outing in Jordan. In the US, it can take weeks, if not months to become scuba certified. In much of the rest of the world, it can be done in a weekend.
While Noah went off diving, the rest of us spent the first morning of certification in a classroom, watching boring videos and taking written tests. We all passed with flying colors. Yea us!!!
Then we spent the afternoon at the dive pool. First we learned how to assemble and disassemble all of our gear. Passed!!! Yea us!!!
Then we had to prove to the instructor that we could float or tread water for 10 minutes without help. Passed again!!! Yea us!!!
Then we geared up and into the pool we went. At the deepest end, the pool was 3 meters deep. When we made our first descent I was immediately overcome with nausea. I tried so hard to suck it in; and for the most part, I was successful. But by our 7th or 8th descent, I lost it. I shot back to the surface, swam as fast as I could to the side; whereupon, I lost my lunch at the side of the pool. A small fraction of my lunch may or may not have found its way into the pool.
We asked our instructor if he had ever had anyone throw up before. He had students throw up over the side of the boat on the way out to dive in the ocean, but never at the pool.
I was the first. It was not a proud moment.
I knew that if I couldn’t make it through the pool portion of the certification without throwing up, there was no way I was going to make it through the ocean portion. If 3 meters made my stomach churn, imagine what 12 meters would do! That evening, I continually imagined myself the next morning throwing up my Corn Flakes while simultaneously aspirating star fish.
So I graciously bowed out, making myself the first Hale Scuba Certification Dropout. Again, I’m not proud.
The next morning, while Noah went off on another fun dive, Jason, Ben and Elizabeth set off for their ocean certification. Ben made it about 1 meter underwater where he wasn’t able to equalize the pressure in his ears due to a cold he was suffering from, making himself the second Hale Scuba Certification Dropout.
Jason and Elizabeth both made it the 12 meters down to the ocean floor, but only after Elizabeth pleaded with her dad to not make her do it and Jason secretly convinced they were all going to die. Though they made it the furthest, neither of them passed the ocean portion of the certification, becoming Hale Scuba Certification Dropouts #3 and #4. I’m sure our instructor now thinks that all Americans are pathetic wimps.
Surprisingly, none of us feel particularly bad about our failures. And none of us want to go near scuba gear ever again. We can all readily admit that we were not meant to scuba dive. Except for Noah–who admitted later that he didn’t remember anything from his certification and was actually winging it.
We’re all lucky to be alive.
While at Sodwana Bay, we stayed in a charming chalet in a local neighborhood. On a number of occasions during our stay, a local kid would hide in the bushes behind the back fence of our chalet and sing his heart out. My guess is that he thought that there was a chance that we were American music producers who were traveling around Africa looking for the next great singing sensation. I’m sure he was pretty disappointed when we pulled away without taking him to meet Ryan Seacrest.
And speaking of our chalet, it was surrounded by naughty monkeys who would run around on the tin roof early in the morning–sounding like someone was rolling logs off the roof. At one point, one of them climbed in the kitchen window and, while straddling the window sill and countertop, ate most of a loaf of bread. Here is one of them eating a plum that Elizabeth put out on the back table for them.