[entry updated on 3. January for corrections and minor additions]
Happy 2003, everybody!
New Year’s Eve on a tropical island can be a lot of fun, especially when you’re hanging out with Divers, some of the craziest people on earth. We all went to a little bar up the street from the Dive Center called Kudeta to start things off – even though things had really been started hours earlier, even before I came back from my afternoon dives. Anyway, at Kudeta everyone proceeded to get as far out of their heads as they could manage, assisted by all manner of chemical and organic compounds, many of which I didn’t even know were there until late on New Year’s Day. By midnight, Nigel (former DJ, current Dive Instructor) was in the booth wearing nothing but his headphones, screaming, “YOU WANNA SEE MY KNOB? YOU WANNA SEE MY KNOB? HERE IT IS!!”, alternating with “IT’S NEW YEAR’S EVE!! EVERYONE NOT DANCING IS A CUNT!! ALL OF YOU, DOWN THAT SIDE OF THE BAR: CUNTS!!!” This, apparently, is standard holiday behavior for Nigel, who was also naked on Christmas Eve and yelling into a microphone. Commented a bystander: “Nigel sure likes to get his kit off, eh?” Yes.
Midnight was great – everyone in the bar knew everyone else so there was an extended period of wandering around hugging everyone you saw, shouting HAPPY NEW YEAR into their ears because you were so deaf from having HAPPY NEW YEAR shouted into your ear by the last 15 people you hugged, and lots of toasting and drink buying and so forth. After the affection subsided, Owen (Divemaster in Training) began rounding people up and putting them in taxis to our next destination, a club on the opposite side of the island. By this time, Owen was quite a sight – sweating profusely, pupils like saucers, eyes rolling, with a heavy list to starboard – but I must grant that he was efficient. With military precision and liberal bullying, he got us all motivated: “YOU. Get in that truck. NOW. Tim, put her on the back of your bike and get going to In Touch. NOW.” [ed. note 03/01/2003: having spoken to many of the people there, not even Owen remembers leaving Kudeta, much less marshalling the troops. Nobody seems to recall much of what happened later on, either. Owen woke up the following afternoon on a bus near the beach, wondering what happened.] The only problem was that by the time we got there, several of us realized that we’d already had plenty to drink and moreover were still pretty tired from the afternoon dives, and really just wanted to go home. So we gamely downed a beer or two an then went back out in search of transportation. I don’t think it would be possible to adequately explain the insanity that is transit on Koh Tao on New Year’s Eve, after 3 solid days of rain, so I won’t try. Let’s just say it took a while and we hung on really tight. In bed by two, I was in excellent shape for an afternoon of diving on New Year’s day. Which brings me to:
Part 2: Happy to Be Here
From the moment we all arrived at the dive center, it was clear that it was going to be an interesting day. I was a bit tired and a bit nervous about my equalization problem, Susan* had lost her bag (passport, Visa card, cash, camera) at a beach party the night before and Pam*‘d had her cash stolen; Cameron (Divemaster) was a little bleary-eyed and hung over, and Marco (Instructor) looked beat.
Now, before I continue, I should probably say a few words about my fellow divers on this particular afternoon. As I may or may not have mentioned, I had some trouble equalizing my sinuses on a previous dive and therefore had to join another group to complete my re-certification. Most of the group was fine, good underwater and knowledgeable about equipment and procedures. Susan (the one who lost her bag) was a bit on the nervous side, but did very well at 18 meters, Lucy and Stefan were very together, and then there was Cindy*. Cindy was nowhere near fine. Cindy couldn’t remember whether to inflate or deflate, couldn’t remember to watch the others in the group and stay with them underwater, couldn’t remember that in order to move she had to kick her legs. She didn’t kick at all, and on every dive I was on she had to be reeled in because she was wandering off in a direction entirely apart from the rest of us.
New Year’s Day was not your average afternoon diving experience. The first dive went very smoothly, right up until the end, when we did a safety stop 5 meters underwater. I was hovering around Marco’s knees, Susan and Pam were drifting up near the surface, and Cameron was struggling to drag Cindy up from the bottom (she wouldn’t kick) when I heard a motor. I looked up just in time to see a dark shadow passing, Marco kicking up and grabbing Susan and Pam and yanking them back down – the boat missed their heads by less than a meter. This boat, confronted with two dive boats on the two pinnacles of the site, with no less than 4 groups of divers underwater (bubbles clearly visible) between the two, had decided to cut straight through the center of the dive site – at speed. This is unheard of, and completely outside the bounds of any sort of common sense. The worst part was that it belonged to another dive school. Marco was furious, Susan was beside herself, and everyone was shaken. Fortunately, everyone was also completely unharmed.
We got back on the boat and headed for the next dive site. Susan decided she was in no shape to get back in the water, so the rest of us went down. It was time for our last exercise – compass navigation. Sound difficult? Not really. You look at the compass to get a bearing, then swim in a straight line for about 20 seconds. Then you turn around and swim straight back. Marco waited at the beginning/end point, and Cameron swam with us. Since visibility was low and Cameron was ahead of me, I kept an eye on Cindy. When I was turning around, so was she. I thought, “Great, she can see me, I can see her, she’ll follow me back and it’ll all be good.” I was grievously mistaken. I swam back, and one by one the other all arrived – except for Cindy. We waited a minute or two and then surfaced, according to the standard PADI procedures. No sign of her. Marco went looking for her in 3 different directions. No sign of her. Pam started to panic. Still no sign. Finally, about 5 minutes later, she surfaced – roughly 100 meters away, back at the boat.
By the time we got back to the dive center we all needed a beer. But the good news is that I’m legal to dive again, and planning to do as much more as possible. I’m going to have to forgo the next round of courses, though, since going up ladders on to boats with full SCUBA and 6 kilos of weights on has not been good for my ankle. So I’ll take it easy for a few days and then head off to lovely Vietnam around the 7th or 8th.
So what did you guys do for New Year’s?