Friday, February 22, 2008

I've done something few others have

While in Belize, I had the experience of a lifetime. I learned to scuba dive. When training to become a scuba diver, you are taken through a variety of practice dives. An instructor teaches you about your equipment, how to hover perfectly in water, how to avoid and how to recover from problems.

The last training dive is mainly about recovery. We were taken on a boat, two miles out into an ocean reserve. The waves were four to seven feet high and the boat ride was exciting. Belize has the second largest reef system in the world. This reef is located just off shore from the island we were staying. The diving boat, taking us, seemed to be thrown around by the ocean.

The boat came up to a buoy, and while rocking mightily, we all put our gear on. I'll say it right now. I hadn't had the feeling of sea sickness before. But, I was starting to feel it then. I was counting the seconds until I could jump in.

There were two groups of people on the boat. Us, who were learning, and a group of travelers from Utah and Australia. We all stood in a line and jumped out in turn.

While in the water, the travelers swam together in a group, as we swam to the other side of the boat. We all were rocking back and forth in the waves.

When our instructor jumped in, we all started to dive down. The going was rough, the first fifteen feet we fought swells and waves. It was the first time where we actually had to swim down, instead of sink. But, after fifteen feet, things smoothed out. We continued our dive all the way to the sea floor.

The floor of the ocean was around 40 feet deep. We swam along it as the pure blue water surrounded us. We felt we could see for miles. The sand below was perfectly white and smooth. Croppings of orange and brown corral reefs popped out of the ocean floor. We curved our way through obstacles until we found a large clearing.

In the opening, the three of us, my friend Joshua and our instructor Sam hovered in a triangle. We practiced emergency techniques like taking the air tank off, pushing it away from us, and then putting it back on.

The last test we practiced was the emergence accent. At forty feet we were supposed to take out our breathalyzer and swim all of the way to the top of the ocean. This imitates what would happen if you had no air and had to get out.

It was my turn first. Sam, swam over to me and demonstrated a small example of exactly what I was to do. I needed to breathe out the entire way (air in your lungs expands as you go up) while letting the air out of my life jacket. I also needed to swim up slower than the bubbles I was blowing out.

I took a deep breathe, took out my breathalyzer and started swimming up. I watched the bubbles of air build up around me as I slowly paddled my way towards the shiny surface. Sam, swam up after me.
Then, about fifteen feet away from the surface, the water started moving me around. I swam up through the mess of waves, easier than I had earlier when I dove through them. At the surface, I kept myself afloat for a couple of seconds until Sam came up. Then, he had me manually inflate my life vest (I was pretending I had no air in my tank). So, while going up and down in large waves, out of breath, I was blowing into my life vest. I started to feel very light headed.

Sam could see it in my face. "Don't worry, it will be a lot smoother back under water."

He disappeared back into the depths as I put my breathalyzer back in and deflated my life vest. By myself, I swam back under, fighting the waves and current of the open ocean. After the ocean smoothed out, I could see the ocean floor and Joshua and Sam practicing the same techniques. Then, it hit me. I was sea sick. I was going to throw up, fifteen feet under water.

I started to panic. I had no choice, it was going to come regardless of what I wanted. I pumped myself up as much as I could, and thought through it as much as I could.

I grabbed my breathalyzer, closed my eyes, and yanked the breathing apparatus away from my face. The wonderful Belizean food I had been dining on left my body. After the first rush left, I gasped for air. I thrusted the breathalyzer back in to my mouth. I took half a breath and the urge came again. So, I yanked it away again as I filled the ocean with tacos, beans and rice. Once again, I gasped as I slammed the breathalyzer into my face, trying to find my mouth. I opened my eyes, to see a fog of brown float away from me. Then, dozens of fish, groupers and other beautiful fish came and started feasting on what had departed. It was the most concentrated amount of wildlife I had seen so far on the trip. Weirdly it was a beautiful sight.

I coughed a couple times, wiped away my tears and took a couple of seconds to calm down. I then dove down to where Joshua and Sam were finishing up.

Back on the boat, Sam told me that breathalyzers are designed to be thrown up through and next time I should try that.



Reagan said...

That is the BEST story ever, love. It's still great after hearing it like 20 billion times :)

rallywhit said...

WHat a great story! I cannot imagine throwing up under water! I'll have to try it sometime. =)