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The problem student

It finally happened. Karma decided I was having it far too easy since I have been allowed to teach in April and sent me a tough one in the person of T., a very nice girl, pushed into doing this by her husband, already certified diver and pretty good in the water.

Stay put, this is a long one, sort of as long as this Open Water course.

Day 1: So here I am on day one, I do the usual, explain how this is going to work and the schedule, get her to watch a couple of videos, show her the book and stuff. After lunch, I get her ready to jump in the pool...and this is where it started to go clearly not so well as the usual.

(Brief explanation on the pool thing: there are 5 sets of exercises and skills you need to do with your student over the Open Water course. So far according to my very little experience, with one student only I get through the first 3 in about one hour and half, so when they are done with that they have a fair idea on how it should go underwater and I can take them diving in the ocean.)

So T. is in the pool, every exercise takes a serious amount of explanation and several attempts for many of them. After 2 1/2 hours, I am barely done with the 2nd set and she is exhausted. And my eyes grow wider each time she tries to do stuff, because clearly I was not aware before that someone could take half a dozen of attempts to clear a snorkel without choking and going for the surface. The mask clearing (get water in your mask and then clear it by blowing through your nose) is a whole new level of incredibly difficult. Anyway, I call it a day and go home wondering how the hell I am going to make this work the next day.

I ask other instructors that know better than me, still puzzled. I am given tips and tricks and ideas to help, I am also being told to take a bit of perspective on this: it is not because I have been in the water since forever and I don't even think twice about going for a swim or a dive that it's like that for everybody. Obvious but nevertheless relevant point, which gave me a bit to chew on.



Day 2: So the next day I walk in decided to make it work...and it is pretty much a failure. Dive one requires no exercises whatsoever but just to get in the water and try to dive. It takes me 10 minutes to get her sorted on the boat, another 10 to find a mask that she likes (which will end up being my mask), and another 5 to get her down because she is freaking out and breathing so much that I just need to add more weight on her. Add on top of this that the husband wants to tag along and take pictures of his wife underwater, he keeps telling her she will be just fine when obviously she is not. We FINALLY get down...and she is freaking out. She holds my hand during 40 minutes, grabbing me like I am her lifeline (which I told her she could do so well, she listened) and freaks out during the first half. Twenty minutes into it she realizes we are in the ocean and they are fish and she finally starts looking and pointing at things. But still, she goes up, spits out her regulator like it is a dead rat and keeps saying how scary that was.

Off we go for the second dive, which is shallow and mainly sand so I can get her to do stuff without worrying about killing corals. Second disaster of the day, she cannot do half the things she is supposed to and that we practiced in the pool the day before.

We get back, it's too late for pool and she is tired, we decide to go and dive late the next day and we agree to do just fun diving for practice since they are here for a few days, which later turns out to be a great idea since it's Friday and she's showing up at our party and is clearly more gifted when it comes to drink gin and tonic.

Day 3: fun diving. She tries on 5 masks before finding out that she eventually likes. I am thinking she will still hang onto me like I am her favorite person in the world, but after a little bit she lets go and actually manages to follow me and does not die in the process. She even makes a couple of attempts at emptying her mask and adjusting her buoyancy, and doesn't do too bad. And FINALLY, she starts to get excited about the fish. I am pointing at just anything that swims by (parrotfish, boxfish, whatever) and my finger pointing at it seems to make it special and she stares in awe. When she comes up, she still complains about things she doesn't like and annoys her, but less. The same day later, back in the pool. I try some of the tricks I was given by others, and it starts to get better. We do all the mask things all over again, until she finally does it. Buoyancy is getting better too, I feel like instead of just freaking out and trying to mimic me she actually listens to what I am saying. I set her free after a long day and planning to do our training dives 3 and 4 the next day.

Day 4: off we go to the ocean again. Once again I am taking her to the "training" dive site for the first one so we can get all the skills done somewhere that will not be scary. She puts on a brave face and tells me she wants to do all the training stuff first to get it out of the way so after we can go and see some fish. Here we go then, I leave the mask things for the end, still unconvinced that she is not going to try to swim for the surface or choke and die on me...but she doesn't. She does it, not in a very fluid way but she does. And then I clap underwater and she beams and does a little dance move.

We come up, I congratulate her again, we finish the surface skills and get on the boat for a little rest before getting ready for the second dive. This time a super nice one, up the north of Penida, reef full of fish and all.

I get her to drop another weight (which now brings her to a semi-decent amount of weights for her size), we get in and we just have a lovely drift dive (although a little downcurrent comes to annoy me half way but nothing too bad). We get back up after a 45mn dive, she spits her regulator out and goes "Well, that was VERY nice". SUCCESS in bright huge letters is now flashing inside my brain and I refrain from the victory dance. And she is so proud of herself it is lovely to see.

More theory out and I finally certified her as an Open Water diver. Never thought I would bite my nails that much over this but I did. Never thought either that I had hidden resources of patience, but I do (which is good, obviously). I guess they can't all be easy ones...but now I know better. Bring on the next problem one! (not right now though, I need a rest from this one).

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