A final post from Kale. This is an edited version of his post; you can read the original text here.
How does one begin to sum up three weeks of life?
Hm. (An honest question as much as it is rhetoric philosophizing.)
Well, let’s see… the IDC (or ‘Instructor Development Course,’ to you non-acronymites) began the last week of January, marked by an early-morning saunter into room 201 of the Blue Angel – a hotel suite converted into our temporary classroom. Here I met our course director, Mr. Jim Hutchinson, and my fellow instructor candidates.
The group included Julie, a conservatively-raised farm-girl and former ex-school teacher hailing from Missouri (‘Misery,’ as she called it) who broke away to live in Cozumel. There was Steve of Connecticut, a machinist and avid road-bike racer who sold everything to move to Playa del Carmen with his wife. Tracy was another piece of the IDC puzzle, a Texas-born badass who knew enough asian martial art to fight MMA, but opted to spend a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan instead. And then there was me, the long-haired hippy wanderer-type with a love of photography and perpetually growing beard (which had suitably earned me the moniker ‘Jesús’ around the shop (pronounced ‘hey zeus,’ of course)).
We were a colourful cast of characters, coming from different parts of the continent with our own unique stories. The coolest thing? That despite our differing background and age we had all come to Cozumel in a mutual search for fulfillment and purpose.
Inadvertently, being surrounded by all these people – these ‘adults’ – who were making the same changes I was, some having gone so far as to sell their home and 99% of their possessions, encouraged me further that I’ve been doing the right thing. That we, as individuals, are the only ones who can make the change if we are not truly happy.
In the following two weeks of training, we spent the majority of our time under Jim and Matthew’s guidance in class or in the ocean. We learned the PADI system and marketing mechanics, refined skill demonstrations, took turns in confined and open water as ‘instructor’ and ‘students,’ wrote lesson plans, gave presentations, mastered diving physics and physiology, wrote more tests than I had fingers and drank more coffee than I had in the last two years of my life.
Julie, Steve, Tracy and I watched each other overcome our own personal struggles during the IDC, then went on to collectively face the Instructor Examination. This took place over two days (Feb 7th-8th), with the written exams and classroom presentation on the first day and all the confined and open water stuff on the second day.
It was strange – I was incredibly confident with all aspects of my training but as soon as we were in an Exam Room with the evaluator (Mario, of Montreal) and eight other candidates, my heart started beating twice as fast. I think the notion of being tested shook me a bit, but the feeling was short-lived. I went on to score 94% on the Standards Exam (open book, don’t be impressed), an average of 90% between Knowledge Exam segments (physics, physiology, RDP use, general skills and equipment), and a 4.7 out of 5 on my classroom presentation, which we had an hour to prepare after finishing the exams.
Mario had to be on a ferry by two the next day, so he made our team (codenamed ‘red’) do our open water skill briefings that evening as well. Talk about time crunch.
With that day successfully behind us, we arrived at the IE by eight AM the following morning. Team Blue was already going through their open water briefings, then hopped in the ocean with Mario to run through their skill segments. Team Red (us) stayed on the surface with another course director and ran through Rescue Exercise #7 – Unresponsive Diver at the Surface. We passed, switched roles with Team Blue, and sunk twenty feet below onto an expanse of sand.
The evaluator designated the instructor, then went behind him/her and signaled problems to the ‘students,’ which would have to be caught and remedied by the instructor. Failure to do so would result in a failing score. We had done this many times with Matthew and Jim but this was the only evaluation that day where there was no second chance.
Immediately after this, we went through our skill circuit (five were chosen alongside classroom topics, confined water and open water skills on exam day one), and immediately after that we swam to an isolated section of the beach where we did our confined water circuit. Team Blue followed up, and once they had finished we closed the IE with our open water debriefings. Upon individual completion, Mario would take us aside and let us know whether we passed or failed.
When he shook my hand, I was both relieved and excited. When he told me I had gotten a score of 4.6 in open water, I was over the moon.
And just like that, it was over.
Hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and good vibes abounded the rest of that afternoon and would continue well into the night. Mario and the PADI Regional Manager, Robert Sievens, gave a closing speech to congratulate us, and one by one we collected a certificate and a handshake. We had done it, and that sense of accomplishment begun to feel more and more like a reality. I became giddy with the realization of how far I’d come, thinking back to a year ago when I had first set this goal for myself.
And here I was, holding a certification in my hand. I had done it.
With that, I feel compelled to say thank you. I am overwhelmed with the amount of support I’ve received from everybody. First I’d like to thank my family for the acceptance and encouragement of my approach to life, and specifically to my mom and stepfather for coming to visit Leah and I during their recent vacation to the Yucatan.
I’d like to thank my love, Leah, for putting up with my prolonged absences; for buying groceries and making sure I was constantly well-fed (she’d make me lunch and dinner everyday). Wouldn’t have been the same without you.
I’d like to thank Matthew and Kari Atkins, for their remarkable hospitality and high standard of education and training; for allowing me to experiment with their underwater camera and featuring me on the Blue Angel Scuba School website. It’s been a helluva journey and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come and do it with you two in Cozumel. Thank you for making me feel at home.
I’d like to thank Julie, Steve, and Tracy – you were all a constant source of inspiration and it was wonderful getting to train alongside you. Best of luck with everything that comes your way.
And finally, I’d like to thank you, the reader, and to those who have come up to me or contacted me telling me how much they’ve enjoyed the blog. It’s been really cool knowing that there’s a steadily growing audience who’s interested in my writing, my photography, and my future endeavours. It really does mean a lot. And, if there is anybody out there who still would like to contact me, my email is email@example.com. Feel free to ask any questions, or simply drop a line to say ‘hello,’ I’d love to hear from you all!
As I said, it’s been a journey. Challenging, invigorating, self-actualizing, productive… but now the feeling of being ‘done’ is settling in, and entertaining future possibilities (which are infinite, really) fills me with all sorts of excitement.