Nerdy Cat Scuba Travels

A Cat Lovin' Engineer taking a career break by traveling, doing a divemaster internship, and diving around the world

Author: wangleslie@gmail.com (page 4 of 4)

First Day at Silfra – First Official Day of Training!

Silfra Thingvellier National Park

So today was my first day diving with customers at Silfra. I started the day waking up at 5:30am.  At the dive shop to start at 6am. I learned how to calculate people’s drysuit sizes and the logistics regarding morning preparations for tours. Next we picked up customers and drove them to Silfra. On the way Patrik explained the tectonic plates and size of Pingvellir lake.

Getting everyone into drysuits went well. It was after the dive that was a little more difficult. I’m still not used to helping people out of drysuits. On top of that- my hands started to swell up. My palms were swollen (and are still frozen now!) and so it was extremely did for me to pull my own wetsuit off. While helping a customer- I managed to punch myself in the face while I my hand slipped from their drysuit cuff. Ouch.  K.O by punching yourself. good one. I got a nice fat lip and some bit of blood. Ha ha.

Unpacking the gear was pretty easy. I kept trying to put more and more lotion on my face and hands. It seems that the Icelandic weather really knows how to dry them out.

Lessons Learned: 

  • Using people’s height and weight, I look at a size chart and grab a dry suit and matching undergarment.  For BCD’s, I use my own judgement on S,M, L or XL. If unsure- grab both sizes and have the customer decide which one fits better.
  • Weight belts: WTH?! I need to figure out how to do this.  I still have a hard time calculating what weights people need. I used http://www.divebuddy.com/calculator/weight.aspx to verify I estimated the right numbers. Most of the instructors knew the amount just by glancing at the weight.  Like a BOSS.
  • Morning preparation for diving: Verify every customer has a drysuit, undergarment, mask, weights, weight belts, weight pockets, fins, BCDs, and regulators.
  • Grab extras in case something goes wrong
  • Don’t punch yourself in the face trying to get a customer’s gear off.

Customer Dive of the Day: My Experience at Kleifarvatn Geothermal tour

Kleifervatn collage

Yesterday Dive.is sent me on a customer guided tour of Kleifarvatn. Kleifarvatn is the largest fresh water lake in the Reykjavik Pennisula region. The big draw here is the geothermal activity. While diving you can see thermoclines, bubbles coming from the ground, smell and see sulfur deposits and hear the “fizziness.”

The dive site required about a 100-200m walk on the rocks before swimming another 100m to the active geothermal zone. The good news was that Patrik carried everyone’s tank to the dive site- which really saved me from exhaustion. Dive.Is likes to have every new employee, divemaster candidate, or Instructor Development Course (IDC) candidiate have a “customer tour” before they start working. The purpose is to show the newbie how a tour should feel like, and give you the customer perspective. Since I actually paid for a silfra dive last year during my holiday in Iceland, I was given the option to dive here instead.  It’s sooooooo nice not to carry or assemble any gear. Just jump right in! Nothing to worry about here. What a treat. This place made me feel like I was on a movie set. No one around.  We could be expecting Matt Damon to pop out of nowhere with his Martian outfit on.

I felt a little more relaxed in the open atmosphere compared to the silfra night dive. There were just a couple of times where I struggled with my fin and then lost track of my buoyancy.  But I’m here to learn, right? I can’t start the program perfect. (Although I really wish I would be better)

Once the dive was over, this tour also included a trip to Seltun.  The area is a small hike around geothermal hill where temperatures beneath the surface reach 200°C. It reminded me of the Hells gate geothermal spa in New Zealand. Unlike NZ, this place is free.  Hells gate charges $35 NZD just to tour the area. On top of that, you have to pay more for the spa area.    A big bonus over Hells gate is that you can hike up a hill and get really close to all the mud and steaming holes. I suppose if you really want to get that mud, you could dig into at the top and camouflage yourself. I decided to just stay dry and as I was. At the top of the hills we saw a grand view of the different lakes around the area.

This was my favorite part of the day.

Lessons Learned:

For Scuba people: Choose a divemaster program where you get to dive interesting spots!

For Tourists: Come to Iceland, its got Seltun for FREE!

Night Diving at Silfra

Night Dive Silfra

Amazing! Beautiful night dive at þingvellir National Park with Dive.Is staff

Dive Log: 157 days since my last dry suit dive.

Am I really here? Do I really want to become a divemaster in about 2°C water?  I’ve been here a few times before. Why is it so cold? Am I being the biggest wimp ever? Are there icicles forming from my nose? The night skies are quickly disappearing from Iceland, so we had to squeeze in a night dive before the summer officially arrives.

“Buoyancy control to Major Tom.  Major Tom. Are you there? Ground Control to Major Tom!! Help!”

It took me about 30 minutes to settle in my drysuit and control my buoyancy. I really felt like I could have been a ball in one of those pinball arcade games. Good thing I was in a fissure and didn’t drift off into the lake. I’m totally over exaggerating, but you get the idea.

Once I calmed down, I was able to enjoy the dive for what it was: Beautiful. The water at an angle beautifully reflected the scenery below.  There were periods of darkness, then flashes of bright light from the backgrounds as other divers moved about.  When I turned on my back, I could see the stars shine through the water.

After the dive, I struggled to get out of my fins. It seems like I just had one stress after another tonight. The 400m walk back to the picnic tables wasn’t as bad as I remembered.  But then taking off the drysuit was definitely difficult. I couldn’t do it by myself.  By then, it had dropped below freezing. Once I got my drysuit off, it looked like a frozen dead body on the ground. Kinda stiff and just laying there. I should have asked for her to walk herself to the van and put herself away.

As tradition for any silfra dive, we had some nice hot drinks afterwards.  I should have enjoyed the moment, but the thoughts and pressure of the divemaster program were weighing me down. Back at the shop, my dive instructor comforted me and gave me the strength/boost I needed to get me out of that “doubt hump.” Thanks instructor!

Takeaway thought of the day: Know that the divemaster program will be very difficult… but that you need to give yourself time to breathe, adjust to the weather, and stop being so hard on yourself.

And So it Begins- Dive.Is Divemaster Program

DM_package

Today I received my PADI divemaster package. In Iceland the package costs 41,000Kr (approximately $341) Pretty standard price across Europe.  On amazon.com it was about $300 including shipping. This cost is not included in most PADI Divemaster programs. Its considered something else you need to get on your own (like your gear).

The one most important thing I learned was not to lose the GREEN Sticker, as that was proof that I bought an authentic and unique PADI divemaster package. A $300 green sticker. Wow.

If anyone is thinking about doing the  DM program, I would recommend getting the package yourself before starting the program.

At first glance, I was pretty happy with the package. The Recreational Diving book has everything! It reminded me of the old days (times before Wikipedia).

DM_books

I’m a sucker for hard copies the book has very detailed information on the physiology of diving to polar cells and global wind patterns.

The PADI Pro Black Zip mini binder contains slates and the instructor manual.  The slates have a lot of useful information on the workshops that you need to complete during the course.  One thing missing is a good old-fashioned pencil.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time I actually used a pencil. Add these things to “Stuff to get before you start your Divemaster program.”

Speaking of which. “DOH! moment of the day” – Before starting the dive program I learned that I needed to get a physical / doctor’s note.  I have a regular doctor at home that could have done the examination, but now I need to try the Icelandic Health system and see how it goes. Hoping I get it done before my first day on Sunday. Gulp.

Lessons Learned: Things to do before actually starting the PADI Divemaster Course

  • Buy your Divemaster Package online (amazon or ebay) for a better price
  • Get a physical; get the doctor to sign your divemaster candidate application
  • Buy a pencil and a sharpener and figure out some way to attach it to the slates while diving
  • Once you get the Divemaster Package, don’t lose the $300 green sticker

Goodbye Engineering – Hello World

I’ve been working since I was about 14 years old. My first job was working for my friend’s mom at one of those Thai Food places at Festivals. During high school, I folded clothes and talked people into buying denim at the Gap.  When I got to college I worked a variety of jobs- internship at Raytheon, a grader, and teacher’s assistant (TA) for engineering classes.  Once I graduated with a B.S. Electrical Engineering, I got a real paying job in Engineering.

I got into this habit of working really hard, then taking a crazy vacation. Work Hard. Take a Break. Repeat. in 2014, I worked 7 months straight (7 days a week) with a total of 3 days off.  My team had an important job to do by a deadline; so everyone worked everyday until we delivered the product. I bonded with all my team mates, but I felt the disappearance of my personal life. What happened? When did life turn into only work? After three long years without a proper vacation, I took 7 weeks off of work to go to my friend’s wedding in Thailand and unwind.  It was great. I set goals and told myself I wouldn’t get into the same habit.

In 2015, I felt myself drifting into the same habit. I wanted to be different, but I couldn’t stop dedicating my life to my work. I needed to put the same amount of effort in my personal life as I have been at all my jobs.

Personal Leave of Absence – A Sabbatical

I don’t think any of my managers were happy to let me leave, but they all understood. I have been a “Far Exceeds Expectations” type of gal. But I told the truth and said I wanted a break and needed to pursue my personal life. I met someone while in Thailand back in 2014 and fell in love. I wanted a chance to see what life would be like without the pressures of work.

Logistics

It’s not easy to leave your life behind. I have a great apartment in Santa Monica. I have a rental townhouse in San Diego. I’ve been a cat mommy for 16 years. I have a car, I’m a hoarder.  The list goes on and on.

Here’s what I did…I spent a month de-hoarding and donating all my stuff to salvation army.  I vacuum sealed any clothes I would need the next year and boxed up other important documents and stuff that I didn’t want stolen. I filled my garage with boxes of anything personal from my apartment.  I called my landlord and told her I needed to leave but would like the chance to come back. Being the nice lady she is, she let me sublet my apartment. That saved me about $200 a month in storage costs.  Coincidentally a swimmer friend was looking for a place at the same time so he agreed to sign a sublease with me and my landlord.

Next I spent about 2 weeks searching for someone that would watch my cat, Jade.  My close friend in San Diego volunteered her spacious house for Jade. I spent the next two weekends at her house with Jade making sure the cat was ok with her temporary accommodations.

Everything was hard to do, but I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I could see the freedom of doing whatever I wanted. Jade would understand, mommy needed a break. My family would understand. Friends were excited for me. Let’s DO THIS.

 

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