How I learnt to Scuba Dive
This is Part one of my Greek epic. For anyone that has ever wanted to travel.
I was in Greece, on an island, I had just run away from a job in a yacht bar, where the manager had scars on his face from the daily dealings with pirate types.
I was almost flat out broke, so with the last 60 Euros I explained my dilemma to a taxi man who spoke no English. He must have understood the universal language of “help” and he took me to a friend who had a shop who found his friend who had a hotel and after a lot of handshaking I scored a deal of a cheap hotel room for two more nights.
Destroying a pack of Marlboro Reds on the hotel balcony helped me realise that I would be fine. So I decided to just stay.
There was a whole crazy series of events that happened over the next few days, I moved around a lot in Nydri, I think I had five different places to stay in two weeks, boats, houses, hotels, floors, sofas.
I managed to work in a few different jobs and just have enough to get by the next day. It was very up and down, and very hot all the time. I have only told the whole story to a few people and they always ask me why I didn’t just go home. But I’m not the giving up kind, I wanted an adventure and I got it thrown at me. Anyway I was 21, this is the kind of crazy you can do wen you’re young, I knew that if I could get through that first month it was going to be the best thing I ever did, and I was right. I remember at the time, even when I was down to the last 10 euros, just thinking that this would be something I will look back and laugh at one day. You kind of have to have this kind of blind optimism whenever your traveling, especially on your own. Yeah it would have been much easier to call someone back home and get the first flight back to London, but even if I had the choice again, there is no way I would ever do it.
I will say more about some of the jobs I had later on, but I was getting to how I came to be a qualified Scuba diver and for free at that.
Some of the best things that have ever happened are by chance, it was by chance that I met Jean my future scuba instructor in a bar, at 8pm. My 12 hour tour boat shift had just ended and I was celebrating the end of a hard days work and amazing sightseeing around the Ionian islands. Someone had mentioned to Jean that I was looking for work, like most small towns, everyone knew everyone’s business and by that point I was halfway to becoming less of a tourist and more of a hardened seasonal worker. It would be a few months before I was hanging with the locals down at the family house bbqs, but anyway it was the kind of place where people helped each other out. So I got into a conversation about snorkelling (although I had only done it before and never dived in my life) hearing of my predicament Jean offered me a job working in the Scuba diving shop, the catch was that I wouldn’t get paid, but I would get my room for free and I would pass all my diving certificates, which would normally be a hefty £300. So I moved from the sofa of an expats family living room, to the glamorous scuba diving shop. With a wooden bed that had slats missing, and a trickle of a shower that we used to clean down equipment. there was also a cat that liked to scratch, but it later died and was replaced by a giant Dalmation that we rescued and named Lucky. One day I walked the Lucky on the beach, she did a massive poo in front of a load of screaming Greek holiday makers, I tried to make a quick get away but my flip flop broke whilst she just stood there as they got more and more angry.
Anyway it was great, we had a rib and I sailed it a couple of times, the sea was warm and clear, I learnt to dive and then I helped the instructor with demonstrations underwater, how to take off your mask, how to take our your breathing equipment, using your air etc There were a couple of nervous divers and I helped them by holding their hand and singing Yellow Submarine on the surface. I think it helped, but maybe it made it worse, at least it distracted them. Well I can’t describe how amazing that diving was, I woke up in the boiling heat, got everything ready, packed up the tanks, fins, masks, wacked on my wetsuit and went playing in the sea, every day. It was the coolest thing ever!
I’m going to leave it at that for now, I will talk some more about the practical side of diving later too. Just once last thing, Jean had told me that he was once in a really tricky place, he had no money to get home from the south of France to Paris. so he spent his last franc on balloons and made balloon animals on the street to get by. He said that a couple of people helped him out on the way and one just asked that if he ever had the chance to help someone in a similar situation, doing it would be good enough repayment. He asked for me to do the same.
The dude might have made the whole story up, but i like to believe it and I remember it often. Jean really saved my ass that time and he was a legendary instructor.