Up at 7:00 a.m. for my walk to West End Divers to begin the open water dive certification course. Micah and Verdi are amazing and knowledgeable and after the classroom portion, Micah geared us up for our first underwater class. There were four of us including an 11 year old girl which ironically was who they assigned to be my buddy. The technical aspects came easily to me and being in the water donning my wet suit, BCD, cylinder etc went fine as well. The visibility wasn’t good underwater due to the number of people kicking up sediment in this shallow area by the docks. The 11 year old girl’s regulator had a leak and had to be replaced. It wasn’t a good start given my nerves were on edge already and my exhaustion from studying most of the night before. And, to add to my discomfort, as in the past, I forgot to equalize at the surface yet again which is recommended by other divers for those of us who struggle with equalization. It wasn’t but a few seconds before my ears began to hurt again and the panic set in. Hard to believe that in a big open ocean you can feel claustrophobia but behind the mask, low visibility, regulator in mouth and ears pounding, I felt an unparalleled claustrophobia comparable only to the dark Cu Chi tunnels I crawled through outside of Saigon, Vietnam. As our instructor had three other students including a child for which she is responsible for, the stress became even more prevalent. I was choking on a fear far greater than anything I had experienced before and one that wouldn’t be receding anytime soon like it would after 5 minutes of volcano boarding, hand gliding, Tarzan swinging or other somewhat dangerous activities. It would be days of this and without the much needed personal attention, I succumbed to the fear and borderline begged for the pain in my ears and panic to dissipate but in that vast underwater world neither of them did. I ascended to the surface after the third and final try knowing that if I was meant to conquer this fear it wasn’t meant to be today. I don’t know what is scarier – feeling alone under that water or telling myself there might be something in this world I cannot do but this question was not to be answered today. I removed my bcd and climbed back up onto the dock and proceeded to swallow the tears and emotion that had overcome me so at least I could explain to Verdi and the owner of West End, John, what had happened and why I was quitting. John was kind enough not to charge and Verdi was very understanding both of which I was grateful for.
Due to my flight on Thursday, there wasn’t enough time to begin the course again the following day perhaps with a private instructor one on one which clearly I needed. This is because you can’t fly until a minimum of 18 hours after your last dive. As such, I walked for about an hour in acceptance – a good and powerful place to be. It was then at a restaurant called Por Que No that I met the lovely Sinde from Belgium who is an anthropology student doing research in, including, without limitation, Honduras on the activist Berta Cásceres who was murdered not too long ago and we became fast friends. She is truly
one of the most interesting people I have met having done research in places like Kenya
on female genital mutilation and research on other topics in places like Cuba and Guatemala with her primary focus on indigenous communities. She not only enlightened me intellectually but spiritually. This is truly the greatest gift of travel – connecting with the people from all over the world – a sense of all of us being one – part of a big and beautiful world.
Sinde and I decided to rent an old fashioned jeep the likes of which will make my daughter inconsolably jealous and we drove to the other side of the island – the East End – telling each other stories of our various travels and after a long distance and a very rough road we stumbled on Paya Bay resort where the wind and earth feel as though they are speaking to you (heard this a place of strong energies due to the quartz) and onward to Camp Bay where we enjoyed coconuts and she tasted their deadly rum punch in a shack suspended off a dock in the middle of the water. There was a tranquility to this place like no other and is recommended if you have the time, the $75 for the jeep, the $30 for the gas and a desire to see all the island has to offer.
That’s all for now from the East End with a genuine understanding of my limitations and my humanity, some humility and lots of love to Sinda and the man upstairs for altering the direction of my day.