Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Stephanie is the lovely English gal with the Aussie accent who taught me to dive. She was feisty and sweet as can be, and called everyone “darling” in her darling accent. She said she spoke that way from watching so many Australian soap operas growing up and wound up in Mexico quite unexpectedly. Her parents went on a trip there and spontaneously put a down payment on a house in Cancun and then moved there. Her father is a jolly, adventurous fellow and she only reluctantly came to visit, and well, that was the end of that. Fast forward seven years, 3,000 dives, and the overweight, pale english girl is now a fit, ebullient, dancing on the deck, scuba instructor, newly married to a Mexican musician. I imagine her diving all day and then relaxing in a cozy cantina sipping cocktails while her love serenades her while seemingly singing to the whole crowd. I asked if when she was young, when she was 18 or 20 she had any clue she’d live an adventure life, and she said “nooooooooooo”. She said she was looking forward to raising a family there, thought it would be the perfect place.

I watched a video in the dive shop, but my expert diver companion had already verbally walked me through the basics, so the information wasn’t overwhelming and then Stephanie took me under the dock while they guys loaded the boat, to practice four basic skills and then off we went. The first thing she asked was if I wanted to scuba dive and she was relieved by my jumping up and down, enthusiastic response because she said that often, when it’s the female part of a couple where the man already dives, they’re very often pressured into it, scared out of their wits and the day is a disaster. I am happy to say that I experienced not one moment of panic, fear or anxiety even when I suddenly ceased being able to breathe on my first dive and had to go up. The air in the tank is really dry and I didn’t know that you have to focus on making saliva and swallowing it, and since I’d not done that, all of a sudden my throat just closed up and I couldn’t swallow or breathe, so I went up, no big deal. Second dive was no problem and I stayed down for 50 minutes which honestly felt like 20.

When you're diving you use hand signals, and if someone signals you, you're supposed to respond. The  O.K. hand gesture is for, everything's o.k., which seems simple, but we're all so used to doing a thumbs up for that. Thumbs up means, "oh no, somethings wrong, I have to go up". Stephanie OK'd be throughout and I OK'd back and near the end she did it and I made the heart shape with my hands and she threw her hands up into the air and did the underwater equivalent of jumping for joy. I heart scuba diving, I heart sea turtles and I heart Stephanie.

I’m hoping to do the classroom and pool certification here and then go back to Mujeres and do my four requisite dives with Stephanie, that would be perfect! She’ll probably have an intrepid little baby in a wetsuit in tow. Sadly, I have no desire to plunge into the freezing Northeast water.

Along with my souvenirs, I brought back another unique chapter in my puking diary. I’ve never been seasick and neither had my friend who has dived and snorkeled around the world for decades. The 45 minute ride out to the whale sharks was really fast and choppy, but if you sat on the seat sideways it was like riding a horse, I loved it. I didn’t notice the choppy water when snorkeling, it was too exciting, but when I got back on the boat the queasies crept up on me. One woman, who seemed a bit worse for wear before she even got on the boat had already puked over the side, so that kind of planted the seed. I got through it though and went for another swim, we rotated, only going in the water in pairs, and swam really hard to keep up with some sharks and as I swam back to the boat, zowie, I started puking all over myself with no warning, vertically, while treading water. Blech, vomit and salt water {insert shudder here}, at least it’s easy to rinse off and I felt better immediately. Except that one of our boatmates was a know-it-all prick who could not stop pointing out what had just happened “ha ha ha, you sure fed the fish" {repeat ad nauseum, shameless pun intended}. I felt like such a wimp until we heard my seasoned travelling companion, still in the water doing the exact same thing! The third swim was the best, the whale sharks had slowed down and I was able to swim for a bit directly over one that was about a foot under me, with very little effort. I’m sure the puke diary will continue, but this was certainly my most worthy chapter.

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