Around 8:30 in the morning, Cyn, Jason and I head out for dives only slightly late.
While Cyn and everyone else sitting on the porch scoop up gear and head for the boat, Jason and I sit dumbfounded on the bench. Every now and then a staffer walks past and mentions that we are “George’s e-learners”
What the fuck is going on? Jason shrugs.
Everyone’s gone on the boat, I say to him, starting to panick. I don’t want to miss another day. Are we supposed to be elsewhere? Are we supposed to get on the boat? Who’s George?
Jason assures me that he’s sure we are not supposed to be on the boat this morning.
When everyone leaves, Tim, an older white guy–not unattractive, tan, with a shock of short, white hair–comes down and introduces us to our instructor George.
Do you think he’ll care that I actually haven’t finished my PADI course yet? I whisper to Jason. I clearly had not passed that exam last night. Jason shrugs.
George takes us upstairs to watch a short review video narrated by P.J., the dive shop owner, and we run through a quick review before setting up our gear and beginning our confined water course in the shallow bar area.
Jason is apprehensive at first, but soon we are clearing our masks (by far the most irritating exercise), doing fin pivots, and practicing buddy breathing.
Our first real dive begins at around 25 feet at Bikini Bottom, and we execute some drills swimming through coral and clearing our masks.
Surprisingly, executing exercises at 25 feet feels similar to executing things at 10 feet. However, Jason, who had grabbed Gatorade and Munchies as a makeshift lunch, began to feel sick soon after the first dive.
I think it’s the junk food, I tell him. You’ve been feeding your body too much healthy, good stuff. You haven’t trained it properly.
We initially decide that we will not dive any more today, but when George insists that tomorrow is extremely busy and we may not be able to wrap our Open Water course for another 2 days, Jason runs back to take a shot of Peptobismol, and he is back on the boat for the 40 feet dive that follows.
I’m glad I did that, he says afterwards. During that first dive, I really felt like I was going to throw up.
We congratulate ourselves with one of Cynthia’s prepaid beers at the dive shop and head back to the room, where we run into Gemma lighting up a splif of Roatan oregano. The shit is terrible, hardly any better than dirt. Some guy down the street sold her a bag of ganga for $20 and threw in a bag of tobacco for good measure. She rolls the two together into a rolling paper and the sweet mix of ganga and tobacco fills the air.
I scratch furiously at the hundreds of bites from the sand flies that have eaten me alive.
Around 7:30, we head back to the dive shop to see if Cynthia, who was on a night dive as part of her advanced diving course was back yet. We’ve promised to all have dinner together.
We couldn’t have planned for better timing, because as we approach the dive shop, we can see the Coconut Tree Divers boat in the distance, pulling up with her fellow night divers.
How was it? I ask.
She immediately takes a draw of Jason’s lit cigarette. Holy shit, she says. I’m glad I did it because now I can say I’ve done it. But I’m never doing that again.
Terrifying, she says. We were only down about 20 feet or so but you can’t fucking see annnything! We were diving down a wall, and then all of a sudden, I turned around, and all you can see is water. You can’t even see the sand beneath you.
Gemma, who is quasi-studying to become a dive master (she is already certified as an emergency rescue diver and has 40 or the 60 required dives to become a dive master) shudders at night diving. I don’t bloody want to do it, she says, and tells us about all the other training she had to do, including getting her valves shut off, equipment knocked out, etc., as part of her training as a rescue diver.
They want to see how you react, she says. I guess it’s quite useful, but it’s bloody scary, just having your tube yanked out like that.
We head with Reid and his brother, Daniel, to Shark Cave, and two delicious pizzas, two beers and an 1000 lempira bill later, we all head back to our cabana with the intention of going out.
Motion failed: we all end up passing out to bad TV.
In the morning, we finish confined water sessions 4 and 5. Damn, we thought we had completely finished confined water skills tests the day before.
There are cruise ships coming in today, the staff tells us. It’s about to be a mad house. And soon, the microbuses filled with tourists in tube socks and backpacks pull up.
Jason and I are set to finish up our certification courses on the 1 p.m. boat but by 11 a.m., the rain is pouring down.
Where’s all your paperwork from your e-learning, Marco asks us as we chill on the dive shop porch, waiting for the rain to die down.
Is it a problem that I haven’t exactly finished my course, I ask.
What? He says. You’re not done?
Not exactly, I say meekly. I’ve finished 99% of it. It’s just the last exam. I didn’t know how to read dive charts! I can do it now…
You better do it now, he says. Then, looking sternly at George, he adds, you should have made sure they had it first! We can get in trouble for this.
Honestly, I try to add, I thought it just had to be finished by the END of the course. I figured the final exam comes at the end. I’ve finished all the coursework for the individual sections.
I feel incredibly guilty for possibly getting George in trouble. After all, I had kind of tried to finish it the night at the Chicken Shack.
Marco lends me his jacket, and I run to the internet café down the street amid the pouring rain. A 5-minute walk, he had told me, but only a 1-minute run. The streets are congested with microbuses filled with cruise go-ers and potholes, now water-filled. Mud splashes up onto the back of my calves..
The internet is fast but their computers are slow. Fortunately, with the power of my laptop, I pass with a 90 and sprint back to Coconut Tree Divers for the 1 p.m. boat. I make it at 12:50, huffing and puffing, only to be told that all afternoon dives have been canceled because the waves are too choppy, so choppy, in fact, that a Spanish woman says she puked on the boat earlier in the day.
In that case, I suppose there’s nothing to do but drink. We all head back to the room and drift in and out of sleep. After a dinner of chicken sandwiches at the Coconut Tree restaurant, we return to the cabana to wait out the rain yet again.
We make plans yet again to go out but never make it.