In Flores, our crew kept a reoccurring conversation on what our spirit animals would be. For some of us, our spirit animals were immediately fitting, some were inconclusive and for others, it continues to evolve. I still believe my spirit animal is a black jaguar, and though there is some debate, what’s inarguable is that my spirit animal is not an aquatic creature.
I mentioned before that Ellen and Kayla spent a lot of time in Kanawa earning their open water diving certification. I was originally on board with this plan too—until my first two hours of scuba diving. Much to my dismay, I discovered diving isn’t really “my thing,” and I blame my spirit animal.
From the moment I put on the stretchy wet suit and the heavy air tank on my back, I began to feel uncomfortable. In the water, I couldn’t really figure out the best way to sink, and stabilizing the pressure in my ears was difficult and bothersome. For the first 20 minutes I was in the water, the diving instructor spent the majority of his time trying to help me. This added to my discomfort since three other women—including Ellen and Kayla—also needed his help and attention. So I made the decision to step out of the water, while the instructor made me promise that I would try again later just with him. I was more than a little disappointed as I watched Ellen and Kayla swim away, about to discover a whole new world under the sea without me.
A few hours later, I went out into the water again. This time I was alone with the instructor and I immediately felt more comfortable. I managed to sink and pass all the essential diving drills at the bottom of the sea floor, about 10 meters deep. We swam around the coral reefs that surround Kanawa, losing heat and color as we dove deeper, everything drowning in blue.
Although I was able to swim for about an hour at almost 15 meters deep, I was never able to get the best mobility and I felt really restricted in my movement and vision. The pressure in my ear, and the thought that I may cause permanent damage to my hearing, wouldn’t leave my head. This is obviously an extreme situation. Diving and feeling this much pressure in your ear is natural and temporary; it’s something you must get used to. Nonetheless, I kept asking myself: Would I prefer diving to hearing? And appropriately the song “Under Pressure” by Queen kept playing in my head interrupted only by a few schools of fish and a gray-blue sea turtle grazing near the bottom of the sea.
There were so many things passing through my mind it was difficult to enjoy the experience. All I saw while diving was lovely, but for me, it didn’t feel that much different from snorkeling. That is, snorkeling with a ton of anxiety over my hearing and breathing and being mindful of all kinds of diving rules.
Ellen and Kayla had an entire different experience. They loved it, continued to get certified and were able to dive with manta rays, which sounds dreamy. Diving is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time—and I am still disappointed that it didn’t work out for me—but maybe in the right place, at the right time (upon the evolution of my spirit animal) I will try it again and if I’m lucky, I can rewrite this story.
* for more logistical details about traveling to Flores check out this blog post.