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Reisverslag Divemaster in Utila, two months in paradise!
22 december 2019
Divemaster in Utila, two months in paradise!
The next morning I arrived back in Utila after a quick ferry trip. Getting back in the dive shop was great, and I immediately put myself down for a night dive that same day with Sage. Sage was doing his open water, and since I was going to do my advanced, I needed to do a night dive anyway. And since you two fun dives or one night dive with a course, Sage was doing a night dive after his course. Unfortunately it wasn't all great coming back, since it seemed things between Michèle and me were not as we had left them, but I guess that's the effect of Utila, it can be quite seducing. This caused a lot of drama over the coming days, which didn't help with my enjoyment of the diving and the island, but in the end we decided we'd just enjoy the time we had together before we'd both go our separate ways. I did my advanced course with Bella and then my Emergency First Response & Rescue Diver course with Anthony. After those two courses I had all the prerequisites for my Divemaster course, besides that I didn't have enough dives yet. Therefore I just did a lot of fun diving, where I didn't have any of the responsibilities of staff yet. Not everything was diving, we also took the dogs of the shelter for a walk, and enjoyed some of the beaches. And it wouldn't be Utila without a bit of party. Then some sad news made its way from Cofradia. Saeed was supposed to take care of Simba while we were gone, but he didn't really seem to care too much about animals. So while we were in Belize he had left the door open, Simba had gone outside and when the night guard came, the dogs got Simba. He died from his injuries the next day. At least at the dog shelter they also had a ton of adorable kittens that could console us. The coming days I would usually go diving in the morning, and then spend the afternoon chilling at the beach with Michèle and people from the dive shop. Then a week and a half there Michèle left to go to Mexico, and I now had plenty of time to focus on my Divemaster.
In the beginning I mostly hung out with Matthieu and François. A guy from France and French Canada respectively. They joined around the same time as me, and were more or less on course to finish around the same time. I was still stuck in the dorms, using my free accommodation, while Matt and François found a nice apartment together. Since the customers (people doing normal courses) would usually pass through pretty quick, we would mostly hang with dmts (divemasters in training). Since most dmts were further than me by the time I got there, quite a group of them left after some 4 weeks there.
Jess, a Canadian girl that taught at CBS (the school in cofradia) the year before was coming back, and she came to Utila before she started teaching. She also brought a friend, Jess (yes, nice and confusing), and since they were only there for a few days, we had some drinks and parties the coming days. We had an especially nice party for my birthday. I was planning to go diving on my birthday, and celebrate underwater, but just a few days before that, I messed up my ear. I had five dives on one day, assisting on a course and doing some fun dives, and the next day my ear hurt the entire dive even when I tried to equalise. So then I didn't do the second dive, and went to the doctor afterwards. Luckily it was nothing too serious, just no diving for a few days, and I got some ear drops. So while this meant I couldn't dive on my birthday, it did mean I could just start drinking earlier. We just chilled on the beach with some beers, and enjoyed the sunshine. As the day progressed, more people joined, and in the evening we went over to Matt's place for some dinner. Then we went to Noah's place for some more dinner, after which it was time to head to the bar. On Utila there is party most days, and if you're with a big enough group, you can always make your own.
Before Jess and Jess left again we also went to Neptune's, a restaurant with a nice beach. To get there you need to take a boat, after which you're isolated from the rest of the island. Good way to make money, since you can't just run to the store to get some cheap beers. There is a dive site right in front, where we sometimes go with underwater vision. Just coming there to drink, it's still nice to bring a snorkel and just swim around a bit. Now we didn't even bring a snorkel, and we were just drinking. Mike had also come, a guy from New York, who we had been hanging with for the past few weeks (there are some gaps in these stories, at this point, it's a while back, and so much has happened since). Mike is absolutely mad, and a lot of fun. He did his IDC (diving instructor course) at underwater vision. The instructor exam was just a few days ago, and everyone had passed, so there had been a big party for that too. Now Mike was just getting drunk in his instructor t-shirt, something not everyone at the shop was very fond of. After some delicious piña coladas, Mike also decided it would be a good decision to take of his shorts, and swim and walk around mostly naked. Not only did it scar us and some poor bystanders for life, it was pretty hilarious too. After a nice day at the beach we went back and the next day Jess and Jess took the ferry back to the mainland to go to Cofradia.
After almost four weeks I was quite done with the dorms, so I went looking for an apartment with some of the new arrivals, Ryan, an ozzy dmt, and Ivan, a guy from Chile that came to Utila to become a diving instructor. After walking all over the island and asking around we had found some nice places we would mind living. We would literally just walk in, and ask if we could live there. In the end we really wanted to move into Old Tom's apartments, but the landlady was asking a bit much. After some negotiations we got somewhere where everyone was happy, and we moved in on Halloween. This timing was great, since that same night there was a graduation and massive Halloween party, and now we could crash in our own place after the party.
Before the Halloween party we had a staff dive in the afternoon, where a costume was mandatory. It was so much fun, everyone dressed up, and since there were no customers, we didn't have to watch our behaviour the same way. My costume was a Dutch oven. I had drawn an oven on a white t-shirt and I had wrapped my Dutch flag around my legs as a skirt. Now swimming with a skirt is very far from practical, especially if that skirt keeps coming undone and you have to reattach it constantly. We were constantly fooling around, taking each others fins, sneaking up on each other (field of view is much more limited due to the mask), and messing with each others gear. Then after the dive, we moved in to our new apartment, and got ready for the party. The party was also the graduation of Raoul, Noah and Kimbo, some dmts that arrived before me from Italy, Israel and Australia respectively. I hung out with Noah quite a bit, and a bit with Raoul, I didn't have much contact with Kimbo. We had a big party with all the people from underwater vision, and people from other dive shops also stopped by. As the party progressed, we ended up going to bando beach, a private beach on one side of main street. Everyone was having a blast, and I don't remember what time the party ended.
The next weeks I was assisting on several different courses, as part of my divemaster training. Usually I didn't have much contact with customers that were just doing one course, since people tended to come through quite a lot, and if they're only staying for some four days, it's just very short. The customers on courses me or my friends assisted would hang out with us though, and some would stick around longer. Besides assisting on courses, we also need to lead dives, and do some other projects such as mapping a divesite. I had assisted on most of the required courses, but now a lot of the newer dmts were suddenly doing a lot of leads as well, making it a bit more difficult for me to find a spot to do mine. I had been talking about graduating for a while, since I was almost done, but I did want a nice group to graduate with. The group I mostly hung out with was Ryan, Justin and Mackenzie, a girl from Texas that already had some dive experience before she came to Utila. With her it was always y'all this, y'all that. It was such a nice group of friends and it really felt like I had found a new family. We would just all get crazy together, and since Kenz was living just behind us, we would always chill on our balcony. If we were not diving, we would often be smoking some joints at our place and chilling in the sun.
Kenz and Justin also dragged me into running, so I would finally go and get a bit healthier, but my stamina is still really bad. Smoking of course doesn't help either. But we tried, and it felt good to do some exercise again. Then at least you had an excuse for being lazy the rest of the day.
Then came another graduation, where Matt and Colleen were graduating. Colleen came in with a lot of dives, and all the prerequisites, and she wanted to do the entire divemaster in 2 weeks. This meant she had priority on pretty much everything, and in the end she got it rushed through. She was a nice lass, but a bit crazy at times. She's a doctor from New York, and while she was very clever, sometimes the cleverest people would say the stupidest shit, but she was a good laugh. The graduation had as a theme “genderbender”, so all the guys were wearing bikinis and dresses, some even with makeup, while for the women the dressing up wasn't always as obvious. This is also where an amazing legend started, when Justin started wearing a dress that Kenz had found on the dock. The graduation was not too special, but afterwards we had a good party, and it was very funny to see the entire gang of underwater going out while crossdressing. Colleen left shortly after, but Matt stayed on the island a lot longer. It's one of those things that happens on Utila. People talk about leaving, but it rarely happens as quick as originally planned.
The main days people would go out in Utila are Tuesday, when it's Tequila Tuesday at Tranquila, and Thursday, when it's ladies night at Vinyl. One of these Tuesdays we were having some drinks, and we were gonna go to Tranquila, when Justin, mad cunt that he is, decided to put on the dress. That night Justin, Kenz and me got very crazy, and it was a lot of fun. Justin jumped from a raised platform, into the water, and somehow we all ended up in the water, pulling each other in, and pushing others back once we finally struggled to get ourselves out of the water. The great thing is that it's not even expensive, we would just drink free, very bad, “tequila” (I'm pretty sure it's just tequila flavoured liquor, it's definitely not as strong as any real tequila, and the hangover is a lot worse too). The next morning, waking up as complete wrecks, Justin was missing some of his shit, like his phone and his wallet. He thought Kenz might have that, so he was pretty chill, until she showed up to debunk that theory. Then someone found his wallet, so he could pick that up at Tranquila (without any money though), but his phone was not coming back. This was a legendary night, but for Justin, it was a bit pricey.
Besides diving, we also wanted to explore the island a bit, so one day we decided to rent a golf buggy for a few hours, and drive around the island and explore. We went up north, through the back roads, and were racing over the airport. We got some nice cold beers, and cleaned a beach when we found a ton of trash. On the way back from the beach we drove back on the airport (it's a super small one) via some side road, since there was a guard at the official entrance, and we wanted to see if there was another exit on the other side. When we didn't find that, we just said fuck it, and went to the normal entrance to leave. It's Utila after all, everyone is super chill. The guard didn't speak English, so I did most of the talking. He asked if I could please tell my friends we were not supposed to drive on the landing strip, since planes could arrive any moment. He was super chill, and didn't really care about what we did, but his job was to tell us it wasn't allowed, so that's what he did. After I informed the others what the guard said, he let us out, and we were on our way.
One of the people that I should mention is Alexa, even though she's not a dmt (yet), she was around for a long time. She just did her open water while I was there, but then also started working in Tranquila. Since I would be leaving early December we needed someone to take my room, and Alexa was keen. She would hang out with us most of the time, just chilling on the balcony and shooting the shit. She just didn't dive as much, since she actually would need to pay for dives.
Then the last weeks of November I was pretty much done with my divemaster, but I was waiting for some others to finish, since I did not want to graduate alone. At the beginning of december Ryan and Kenz were also about to finish up, so we decided to graduate together. François and Shai (an Israeli guy) were also almost done, but they wanted to wait for some people to get back from graduation. Before we graduated we had some final dives together. We had our final five dives all together, which also was one of the first times we actually dove together. They were some great dives as well, visibility was improving, and we saw turtles and tons of other fish. We had a night dive with a small group, and then on our very final dive, we went off with the four of us. Even though Justin wasn't graduating with us, since he was going to do his Instructor course after this, so he had more time, he was a vital part of our gang, so he was always included. It wouldn't be the same without him. It was only 7 people on the boat (no including captain Hoover, the greatest captain to ever captain #captainhooverfanclub) and we just went slightly behind the other group, out of sight. Since it was our last dive, and we were out of sight of any customers, we decided to do a naked dive. Usually you do your 100th dive naked, but you don't always get the chance like this. For me it was my 88th dive, which still isn't bad at all, since you only need 60 dives to finish the divemaster course, assuming everything else is finished as well, so I got another 28 dives extra. It was a bit cold, but a lot of fun, and a perfect goodbye to such an amazing adventure, with the best crew I could have wished for.
Then that Saturday it was time for our graduation. The theme we had chosen was hippies and hobos, which wasn't anything special, but people dressed up nice and flowery. Of course, Justin was wearing his (at this point traditional) dress. First we had a nice BBQ with a lot of the staff, which caused us to arrive fashionably late to our own graduation. At the apartment where we did the BBQ, they had this tiny 2x1m pool, and Justin once again decided to show what a mad cunt he is, so he did a bellyflop in the pool. Once we finally got there the graduation kicked off pretty quick. However, before graduation, Justin had suffered a heavy blow jumping in the pool, and he was convinced something was seriously wrong with him. He was chilling in a hammock, in serious pain. At one point he even had a Izzy (a DM and doctor that was around, we went with her on the golf cart adventure as well) listen to his heart and lungs. It all seemed fine, and he just took it easy and laid down for some rest. Then the party kicked off and as is standard with graduations in Utila, we all had to drink quite a lot, so we were somewhat hammered at the end. It started with general questions, and if we got it wrong we had to drink some massive shots. We got pretty much all the questions wrong. Then it came to a practical exercise, which in our case, was a blinded equipment setup. At this point, we all had set up our tank with our diving gear well over a hundred times, so we should be able to do that easily with our eyes closed right? So with masks stuffed with paper so we didn't see anything we got to work. However, since we had been at the shop for quite a while (I'd been there for 10 weeks at this point), we all had a good amount of friends at the graduation. And while good friends are nice, great friends are assholes. So as soon as we'd set up one piece of the equipment, they would immediately undo it, and open our tanks, and just continually fuck with us. Not being able to see and already having had some drinks didn't help of course. After a while they did let us get on with it, after repeatedly telling them to get fucked. It's people like those that make the experience extra special. After the equipment setup it was time for the mask clearing. This is always at the end of graduation, and it has a reputation. During diving, it happens quite regularly that some water comes in the mask, especially for men with facial hair, or if your mask doesn't fit properly. The normal way to clear that is to blow some air in it, and then the water goes out. However, this time, they would pour beer into our mask, and instead of blowing air, we had to inhale to get the beer out. Having a bit of a stuffed nose definitely didn't help. But I tried my best. Kenz just ripped off her mask after a second or two, but Ryan and I gave it a good old college try. After the mask clearing we were official divemasters and we took a nice group photo with everyone. After 10 weeks, I'm now a dive professional! After graduation pretty much everyone went out, and we went from one bar to the next, drinking and partying until the early hours. We ended on our balcony, talking for hours until we ran out of drugs and decided to call it a night.
The next morning some mad lads did a beach cleanup, something we do every Sunday at underwater vision, and something that you are supposed to do if you want to do you divemaster there. I had done it before, so when Kenz woke me up at 6.30 after not even two hours of sleep, I not-so-politely told her to get fucked by a rusty shovel. However, Justin and Ryan did join her, and kudos where they're due. However it didn't go that well, since most people were still wrecked from the glorious party of the night before. Ryan fell asleep on the beach several times, and Justin puked. Several people also missed the boat, and others just reeked of death. We also learned that several people had an orgy, and a lot of people had some fun adventures. All in all, I would say it was a very successful graduation. And out of the five I've seen, I'd say it's the most mental by far, and most people that had been there for a while, told us it got a lot crazier than most they'd seen. We were all very hungover as well, but we wanted our beautiful divemaster t-shirts, so we could show off that we were now official divemasters. Besides that we didn't do much all day, since we had very little energy for anything after the night we'd had. Ryan, that poor bastard, decided to leave that afternoon, so he could take a bus to Costa Rica that afternoon. Kenz and me left Utila the next day, after our hangover had subsided. It wasn't easy saying goodbye to all those beautiful people that I had grown so close to in such a short time. I had learned so much, in and out of the water, and made new friends all over the world, that I'm sure will stay with me for a lifetime. It's not a farewell, it's a see you later.
Kenz and me took the ferry back to la Ceiba in the morning, from where we took a bus to San Pedro Sula. We had a few days here, I wanted to get some new tattoos, something to remember Utila by, and also something small for Guatemala. Kenz was flying to St. Thomas from there, to go and do more diving and work as a divemaster. The tattoos took a day to get designed, so I said goodbye to Kenz, and then got my tattoos the next day. The day after I got on the bus towards Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, however, there isn't too much to do there, so after spending the night, I went on to the border and made my way to Somoto. It's in Nicaragua, very close to the Honduran border, and they have a very nice canyon there which was recommended to me, so I decided to go and visit. Since one of my new tattoos is on my foot, I tried to avoid wearing shoes as much as I could. However, while travelling it isn't very practical to lug around very heavy hiking boots, so I would wear them, and take them off as soon as I'd get on the bus. However, in the canyon I tried to do it all barefoot, but at one point there were a lot of sharp rocks, so I did slip into some sneakers for a little bit. After walking for a bit we got to the actual canyon, which was wading through water and swimming some bits. There were also some places where the water was very deep, and you could jump from 20 meter high off the side, so that was fun to do.
After the canyon I made my way to León, my new home for the coming months. I stayed in a hostel for a few days, but then I quickly moved into Quetzaltrekkers. It's the only non profit organisation in Nicaragua, and they organise hikes for tourists. All the money that they earn goes to local schools and other programs to empower the locals and support the poorer children around Leon. They also teach English class here, and last Friday I did some of that as well. The level of the kids is much lower than what it was in Cofradia, but the kids here did not go to a bilingual school where half the classes are run by volunteers. So far I haven't done any hikes yet, just worked some office duty, and got to know the crew here. It's a small group of volunteers, since the recent political turmoil has severely affected the tourism industry in Nicaragua. They are rebuilding here, and it's much better than it was a year ago, but they still are not back to where they were before. It's a great organisation and a good way to give back. I will probably stay here until sometime in February, but for new years I will head to Costa Rica for a visa run. Even though I've only been in Nicaragua for a short time, the visa region is Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua, so all the time I spent in Honduras also counts for the 90 days I get upon entering the region. After this I don't know where my path will lead, after exploring the rest of Nicaragua I will probably head south, and I hope to find some place to do some more diving.
Hopefully I will keep up with my blog a bit more, since I noticed that many events are not completely in the correct order, or it's just hard to properly keep track of everything. While traveling I do so much and meet so many new people. And while the crew I had in Utila was the best group of friends I've found while traveling, I'm sure I will find many other people on my travels, and I will have plenty more amazing experiences and friendships. I do miss all those beautiful bastards from Utila.
Hopefully you guys won't have to wait as long for the next blog.
2 januari 2020 05:01 | Door: Josue
Hi jellet greetings I am reading your page I hope all is well a big hug from Leon.