Monday, May 22, 2017

Life List Item #73- Scuba Dive

For years now I've been interested in trying scuba diving. I've always been curious of what it would be like to "breathe" underwater and if I would easily have the ability to trust the tank.

When Megumi and I decided to go to Okinawa (more on this later), one of my first requests was to try scuba diving. Being a tropical island and a tourist hot spot, I knew this had to be a possibility. Turned out, it was and Megumi got to work finding a location for us to do this at.

On our second day in Okinawa, we awoke, had a filling buffet-style hotel breakfast, and walked the quick 10-minutes to the nearby beach to have our diving experience. I was most excited that the experience was super affordable at only 6,000 Japanese yen or about $54.00.

First things first was to suit up in our wet suits. Being the very first time I was donning one, I didn't realize how labor intensive it was to get into. Japanese people are typically standoffish and keep their distance. But the Okinawa-born woman helping to dress us made herself comfortable in my personal space, hiking the pants up far on my thighs to I could pull the thing up. With the final zip I posed for this picture.
Next Megumi, myself, and the one instructor who would be leading us sat cross-legged on the ground near where the above picture was taken. The man quickly assessed my Japanese ability, which was small, but felt better knowing that Megumi could translate. To be honest with you, his body language was so animated that I understood about 70% of what he was saying by it alone. Megumi's translations helped to confirm and fill in the details. 

Once the 30 minutes of instruction were finished we got strapped into the rest of the equipment which was a weighted belt, oxygen tank, goggles, and flippers. We sat down on the ground as we were helped into the 40 pounds of extra weight. When told to stand up, I exclaimed I CAN'T! I was lifted up in one big heave. 
We entered the water and I finally learned what a wet suit actually did. I got wet immediately. I also became weightless and thus ended my burden in carrying the tank. We were taught how to unplug our ears underwater, drain water from our goggles, and retrieve the oxygen mask if it were to come out of our mouths underwater. I wasn't too good at the practice of this, so I truly was hoping it wouldn't happen to me. We were told to take long, smooth, deep breaths into the oxygen mask. This is the part I was most nervous about. 

Turned out, I was great at this! Years of yoga and meditation helped me to take deep, filling breaths which were ideal for scuba diving. I also learned, once fully submerged that I had to remain completely calm. If at any moment I got scared or nervous of my surroundings I might lose my wits and start breathing erratically and get into trouble. Being an introductory dive, we were never far from the beach or the surface of the water, but I didn't want to lose one minute of this unique experience.  

It was a great exercise in remaining extremely calm and this notion paired with the full deep breaths soothed and relaxed me like I hadn't felt in a long time. I enjoyed the sinking feeling, upon exhalation as my body went deeper into the water. We swam around for what seemed like 15 minutes, but turned out to be 40. Our instructor took us to see "Nemo". He had many of his friends were living in what looked like a fish condo to me, but of course was a living piece of coral. 

I was also calm because under the water of course we couldn't talk. This removed the pressure for me to understand anything, and put us into the world of universal gestures for communication. However, I did learn in the lesson portion of the experience that thumbs up means "I need to go to the surface", not I'm good! The OK hand gesture is reserved for that. 

On our last minute or so of the dive I really put my flippers to good use, kicked hard and strong, and felt my body propel forward surrounded by the comfort and protection of the water. Above and around me, the suns rays were making wavy lines on the sand below. It felt majestic being weightless and swimming among the fishes.