Thursday, April 14, 2011

Scuba diving

This weekend and last, my dad and I completed an Open Water Scuba Diving course. This is something we've both wanted to do for a long time, but I've kept putting it off because of time constraints, plus I had an inkling of reservation about the (lack of) sense and sensibility involved in plunging oneself deep into the vast, vast sea....

Anyway, at the end of last year, while on holiday in Jordan's coastal town of Aqaba (on the Red Sea), we took an excursion on a submarine boat with a glass hull that allows you to have a sneak peak at what lies beneath in the comfort of a dry and controlled environment. The submarine boat passed by a group of scuba divers on its course and I remember thinking to myself, "Far out, that's where the real fun and adventure are!!". It looked so free and liberating that I resolved to get my diving licence the first chance I got.

Watching divers from inside our submarine boat in the Red Sea, Aqaba Jordan

We booked with ProvDive in Coogee literally the week before starting the course as they had a one-off half-price offer. We were given a book and dvd to work through before starting the course - I found it really quite useful and informative learning about some of the theory of diving principles before even trying it; and the prac components made sense quite easily after that. We hit the local swimming pool for our first session in scuba gear to familiarise ourselves with some important safety elements like how to breathe using the scuba system; finding your regulator (breathing device) if it falls out of your mouth; sharing air with someone using the second regulator if you or they run out of air; clearing your mask if it fills up with water while you're under, etc. It was weird at first, that's for sure! Nothing was difficult per se, just a matter of adjusting your body, equalising pressures, and the number one rule: remembering to never stop breathing!!

Our first open water dive was out at Gordon's Bay last Sunday - I couldn't have picked a better day or site for the occasion. The weather was absolutely gorgeous both in the water and out; and the visbility was a fair 20 metres or so. It's difficult to describe the sensation in terms other than "like flying through water". I was warned by the guy who booked our places in the course that it's an addictive hobby - I can vouch for that! It was just as I imagined it would be and better. The silence, tranquility, and sheer beauty of the underwater world made me feel so calm and at peace; corny as it is, I kept humming Nina Simone's "Feeling Good" in my head.

Gordon's Bay, Sydney

The other thing that I loved was the commraderie among our team and enthusiasm of our dive instructor. There were nine of us in total: my dad and I; a law student about my age and her mum; a cute young Ukrainian couple; a cool surfy couple and a guy of New Zealander Maori background who wanted to learn to spear fishing while diving. We all came from different backgrounds; but between us a common desire to travel and explore the world around us, epitomised by our dive instructor - a young, hip Danish guy who left home in his twenties to travel, got his diving instructor's qualifications, and never made it back to Denmark. Le sigh! The life of the young and free! I mean, I'm young right (turning 25 this year); but by God, let me just say that the further along medical training I go, the more restrained and tied down I feel. Once upon a lifetime a ago before starting medical school, I just wanted to travel, drifting from place to place - taking my skills with me wherever I went. I was always going to be either a teacher, doctor or nurse for this vision to work; as these professions would equip me with portable skills that are universal across all borders. Fast-forward to the reality that is medical training and my prospects of continental drifting any time in the next 10-20 years are looking quite grim. I'll leave a complete and unabridged rant on this topic for another day; but let's just say, although I thought I could rise above and conquer this long-held silly dream of mine, it's getting the better of me and I am presently giving a lot of thought to what I'd like to specialise in based on it. Anyway, another thing I was also quite surprised by, was the inclusiveness and unpreteniousness of the diving community and their culture. They genuinely want people to learn to dive and be excited about the underwater world - and it's not financially driven either. When the costs of equipment, staff, insurance, licencing, etc are factored in, I doubt much if anything at all is made on leading a diving trip or teaching a "learn to dive" course. I could explicitly spell out a comparison to the culture of the medical community at times; but you all know where I'll go with that one. Hmmm...

So after our first weekend of diving, this weekend couldn't come sooner. We had another geat couple of dives, this time out at Camp Cove. The weather this weekend was a bit miserable, but when you're underwater, you're going to get wet anyway! We finished our course and I have to say I was sad at having to say good-bye to my diving buddies. Le sigh, such is the nature of transient friendships; but who knows, it's a small world and our paths may cross again on day, on land or in the sea.

As for my dad and I; our holidays have just gotten all the more exciting and fun!! Our first chance to put to practice some of our newly acquired aquatic skills will be this upcoming week. My mum, dad and I are off to Phuket for a week over the Easter long weekend and I can't wait to get into the water and check out some of the amazing tropical reef and sealife up there. Hopefully will get a chance to take some photos while down there too! In closing, I'm going to highly recommend y'all get out into the water and try diving for yourselves. You'll be amazed, I promise!

Monday, April 4, 2011


I have a load of uni work that is quickly piling up into a mountain. 11 weeks into the (17-week) semester, I'm thinkin', "crap! what have I been doing all this time?!"

Doesn't help that, mentally, I just want to cruise through this year and put in the bare-minimum of effort required to scrape through. Still, it's dawning on me, "scraping through" still requires public health assignments to be handed in; journal club papers to be presented; and short-cases to be reviewed. Urgh!

One of the habits I've had to get back into practicing, is breaking tasks up into bite-size chunks, and chipping away at a seemingly overwhelming workload one bit at a time.

God that I wish for this year to pass painlessly! Pleeeease!!

In other news, today as I was walking to the train-station, I found myself becoming a nosy-onlooker at the scene of a car vs pedestrian accident. I watched with much apprehension as the ambos scooped up this poor semi-conscious woman (who was just innocently minding her own business, crossing the road at a pedestrian crossing, as you do..) and whizzed her off to hospital. I considered for a brief second running back up to the hospital (I assume they would have taken her to my clinical school hosp; which was only a few hundred metres from the scene of the accident); checking out her management in the ED and seeing that she was okay. But the sight of the pool of blood that was left on the road from her open head injury made me feel quite queasy.. and honestly, I decided that I preferred not to know the outcome, if there was a chance that it was going to be a bad one. *Shudder!* Anyway, I now have a renewed sense of utmost respect and admiration for ambulance officers.

Okay, enough said - time to hit the books!