most people are born with a natural skill or behaviour that has required little or no cultivation, this can fall on either end of the continuum. my brother has the enviable quality to charm his way into jaw dropping situations. he has not flown economy class on an aeroplane since he was 16. i have witnessed both a previous girlfriend (and her sister!) doing his ironing. however, he has been witness to my natural inability to process and consistently demonstrate a mastery of:
x + 2y = abcdohshitidontknowjusttellmetheanswersowecangogetacurryforgodssake!
when we lived in saudi arabia, camping at the red sea was our bi-weekly religious "pilgrimage". my dad was the avid diver with buddy in tow, while my mum played scrabble and drank home brewed wine with his wife. i relayed between trying to boss my then 7 year old brother and his friend gordon around as to the finer points of hermit crab racing, and then "snitching" (or so im told) to both the mothers. 10 years later they followed in their fathers' footsteps and acquired open water diving certs on a beer saturated school trip to egypt. a further 10 years after that, i decided that the only way i could shut my father up from harassing me, at least on this issue, was to sign myself up for the course. i should have remembered my first attempt at buddy breathing on his octopus rig when i was 10. far from the surface of my comfortable snorkelling domain, we dropped down 10 whole atmospheres, i panicked, pulled out the regulator and attempted to get to the surface. this was impeded by his attempts to what i then perceived as trying to save a lot of money on a big pouffy princess-style extravagance of a wedding later on down the line, but was actually an effort to prevent decompression problems by grabbing my foot, effectively denying me of any options. upon resurfacing he told me he thought i had seen the school of barracuda that were cruising alongside us. drowning, decompression sickness and now sharp bitey things?! i hurriedly retreated to the sand and my "famous 5" adventure books.
this past march i showed up at "aquatique" in bahrain and gave my hard earned ESL dinars to the little indian man who appeared to have the "best of" symptoms of ocd and high functioning autism. my fellow "buddies" arrived shortly thereafter. all male, all with "high and tight" haircuts, and all with tattoos. it was me, rajiv, and a posse of enlisted US marines. our instructor, who originated from australia and looked rather like a muppet, made an appearance towards the end of our level 1 video, a habit she would maintain utter consistency in. the first pool dive took place on the US navy base; a college campus style retreat, where the camo cargo shorts made them look even more co-ed. i saw a movie theatre, mall, bowling alley, outdoor concert and bbq area. the particular pool we used had music pumped in through the underwater speakers; i will attest to the fact that 3 metres underwater does not improve upon madonna's new techno style of music. as the token female i got to use the pink tank- how fun! however, by far the best part was my one woman "shimmying my fleshy thighs into, and out of, the wetsuit" act.
i took to the water like a cat, on crack. apparently most people can use a tank in the pool for a couple of hours. i checked my gauge and had burned through most of my air in about 45 minutes; underwater is not a good time for heavy and laboured breathing. furthermore, my buddy was able to establish the intricacies of adjusting his buoyancy and hovering in one spot by controlling his breathing and the air in his BCD, (the thingy that looks like a lifejacket you can inflate and deflate, just remember which button is which, otherwise you hit the bottom of the pool with a thwump). oh boy, was i ready for some open water action.
repeat mantra: if james and GORDON can pass this bloody thing with hangovers and being the lazy boys that they are, then so can i. i did. eventually. kind of like my driving test. on the 4th attempt. but then it's england so the pass criteria is a lot more stringent than other countries. so anyway, i have realized and accepted that i do not have a natural aptitude for doing much of anything underwater. during the mask clearing exercise (take your mask off and put it back on under water and clear all the salty, sewagey stuff out of it by blowing your nose REALLY hard) i gave myself a stellar nasal flush, choked on water, panicked, and all with my eyes closed because of my contact lenses and extreme myopia. after exiting the water i experienced a shooting pain in my cranium and promptly threw up into the sea. after i recovered from a 3 day headache of migraine style proportions i rinsed the salt out of my mask, packed it into my suitcase and returned to what i knew best: i finished zadie smith's "white teeth", not a bad read if you have 6 hours to spare.