Why are we doing the Divemaster Certification? Why are we doing it with Two Fish? Why did we leave the United States? These are questions we are asked around the Two Fish dinner table most evenings. Tim and I want to become Divemasters because we would like to travel the tropical world and obtain skills to earn money while we are there. I want to be a Divemaster because I love the ocean and its inhabitants and want to share that incredible underwater world with others. And, I love teaching – seeing that light turn on for someone when they have understood a new skill.
We left the USA for a tropical ocean, for the love of sunshine and because if I had to shovel my way through snow out to the car one more time, I might cry. Tim and I are water people, and the Oregon Ocean, at 11 degrees Celsius – 50 degrees Fahrenheit is beautiful but not very friendly. The ocean in front of the Bunaken Two Fish resort is 29 degrees Celsius – 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Its’ much more welcoming to water people!
We chose Two Fish because of what the diving community says about them, and I am thrilled to report they live up to their reviews. I did a lot of online research before we left, trying to find a dive company whose values matched up with ours. Whose instructors spoke smooth enough English that they could be understood (In some cases your life will depend on understanding.) And we didn’t want the 10 day version of the Divemaster course where students rush through, mastering the book work but missing the experience that comes from taking your time. Our Divemaster course with Two Fish Divers will be spread out over 8 weeks and 3 locations so that we get a chance to see different teaching styles, different dive environments and different dialects.
We did our introduction to the Divemaster course last week with Tina, one of the original founders of Two Fish. She has a wonderful mix of playful and serious and assured us that we are here to work. (Just so we didn’t get the wrong idea)
During our introduction, we broke the Divemaster position into three categories: Knowledge, Skills and Attitude, and Tina asked us to jot down ideas around: Who is a Divemaster? I thought that there would be more to cover in the Knowledge and Skills areas because I expected the course to primarily be teaching us skills. However, I was surprised to find that most of the things we came up with were in the Attitude category. My ideas of what a Divemaster is involved being an excellent role model – setting an example for how to behave, how to swim, how to stay safe and how to get the most out of the sport. To me, a Divemaster is an enthusiastic person who gets people excited about their dive and what they saw. Tim and I also listed that a Divemaster is responsible, organized, approachable, up to date, patient, safe and FUN! A Divemaster is an environmental ambassador who is respectful of all life and someone with excellent interpersonal skills. Surprisingly enough, nearly the entire list ended up not being knowledge or skill based, but a matter of attitude.
Tina pointed to the Attitude category and told us – “I hope you brought this, because I can’t teach you the proper attitude for the job.”
It reminded me so much of my hiring days in the coffeehouse – we looked mainly for the right attitude and personality for the job – a bright, bubbly, experienced, worldly, interesting person who had an aptitude to learn and great customer service skills. We could teach them coffee later, but we couldn’t train them to be bubbly nor interesting.
Likewise, Tina and Dion can teach us how to rescue an unresponsive diver, how to assist 6 students in clearing their mask for the first time underwater, how to check currents and surge but she can’t teach us to be approachable or fun.
This week we worked with Dion in the pool. Because the Open Water Classes include learning 20 skills in the confined water of the pool, and Tim and I will be assisting instructors with these classes later – we need to be able to demonstrate these skills on a professional level. The skills include things like hovering in one place for a minute, taking off, replacing and clearing your mask underwater, and breathing from your buddy’s alternate air source. These may sound simple to an experienced diver, but beginners are seeing these skills for the very first time and they may seem awkward and a bit tricky. The Divemaster must be able to break each skill into emphasized steps and demonstrate each step clearly, slowly and smoothly. This is teaching by action, with hand signs instead of words.
Also on the lesson plan this week: Dive Briefings – the little informative ditty before divers gear up and enter the water at a site. Dive briefings have ten important parts to them. I was Divemaster on board for two days giving the dive briefings to large groups, while Tim was assisting Dion with teaching an Open Water Course. It was a fun bit of public speaking – again using a lot of hand signs to illustrate how you will be communicating underwater. I like to throw in one absurd bit to get the group laughing about mid-way in the briefing. This reignites the interest of the very experienced divers who already know everything I am saying. There is a natural mix in every group – the newer divers appreciate that you tell them what to do if they lose their buddy, how to exit and enter the boat and the steps they should take to perform a helpful buddy check before going in. Some of the experienced divers tolerate it as a reminder. One very sweet diver told me it was the best briefing she had heard ever because it was so thorough – and that she appreciated the details I chose to include. I could see how, after you have done briefings a hundred times, it would be easy to skip over a few things and just say – let’s get in the water, guys! After all, you don’t want to be so thorough that divers can’t wait to get in the water because that’s the one place they can’t hear you talking! Instead, you want them to be safe, informed and excited to go explore this place you just (briefly) described. (I am working on the brief aspect…)
We have learned to demonstrate 24 skills, give dive briefings, find lost objects via search and recovery, how to penetrate a wreck, and the limits of diving with Nitrox but some of the most valuable things I have learned this week are about familiarity. For starters, I am becoming more familiar with my gear. I know every strap and placement of every accessory on my BCD jacket so I can access everything or even take off the whole thing with my eyes closed. And I have learned a natural rhythm of checking to be sure I have everything before the boat leaves the shore. During the first couple of weeks I would always forget one thing. I mean seriously – diving is a gear sport! Getting on the boat in the morning, I need my fins, booties, weight belt, extra weights, regulator, BCD, an extra regulator, mask, pointer, snorkel, emergency signaling device, wetsuit, fleece layer, sunscreen, dive computer…you get the idea – Crikey! It’s so easy to forget something! But after you dive every day, it becomes natural to understand your gear and know when you have everything. This is where I realise I am learning the Divemaster skill of organisation. Tim apparently brought this with him and has all his gear on board effortlessly. But this also helps me learn patience – because I had the opportunity to learn this, I will be patient with my groups and students as they gather, rummage, forget something or take a while with gear.
You know that saying that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care? It is so true here. I have enjoyed getting to know the fascinating guests from around the world who rotate out weekly, but even more so, I have enjoyed getting to know the Two Fish employees – the local guides and boatmen. They are such good hearted, open and approachable people. Most of them have taught themselves English, and although they look timelessly young, they have full families on the island. Tim loves wrestling and joking with the local guides as though they were siblings. I love hearing their stories and hearing them sing. It seems to be a theme with the Indonesian people – they love to sing. They sing in the kitchen preparing meals, in the air compressor room, while waiting for the boat, while driving the boat, while driving their scooter to work, and after dinner in a group by the sea under the stars. So I am learning to speak Indonesian, asking them how they met their wives, helping load dive gear on the boats, carrying tanks, showing how much I care. Then amazingly, when I am having trouble lifting something wet and heavy, they are right there to lend a hand. They are starting to joke with me, and I am starting to sing with them.
Huh. I guess it really is about attitude after all.
Thanks to Sara Bartlemay for the photos.