May 3, 2013 | Koh Tao, Thailand
I’m resting in the heat of a tropical sun, looking out over a majestic blue sea. It’s the last day of our diving course and we’re up on deck taking a break from exploring the depths of a world unknown to me. If I had it my way, I’d still be down there exploring to my hearts content, but my instructor insists I come up for air. He’s french and his demeanour amuses me greatly. I love watching him dance around foolishly to attract the attention of another instructor who I can only assume is a past or present love of his. She’s french too and embodies self-confidence like a perfectly tailored suit. Her presence alone demands the attention that she so effortlessly dismisses.
Suiting up takes great effort. The equipment is complicated and needs to be setup properly otherwise I’m at risk of sudden death as a result of having my lungs explode upon resurfacing. I have a buddy who checks that I’ve done it properly but I met the dude yesterday, so how invested is he, really? Once that’s sorted I strap weights onto my hips to ensure that I’ll sink as I release air from my vest. It turns out that my bones could double as floatation devices as they refuse to sink. This would be incredibly useful in a shipwreck scenario but as a scuba diver it’s not ideal. I wind up wearing twice as many weights as anyone else which means I can barely hold myself up as I struggle my way across the deck. Mission accomplished once I’m in the water though, I have no issues sinking to the ocean floor. Survival instincts on high.
Diving is an incredibly sensational experience. Underwater my body feels weightless, as though suspended in space, having somehow escaped gravity. The only sound I hear is my own breath, a meditative drum beat holding me gently in the moment. My eyes stretch wide with excitements as I strain to take in more of this vibrant orchestra of underwater life. Hundreds of tropical fish dash in and out of the most spectacular coral of every shape, size and colour I can imagine. At each new discovery, we squeal with delight and point soundlessly to each other as we spot new species of countless things which must go unnamed because I don’t have a clue what they are. I move cautiously, not wanting to bring chaos to a system so pristine.
I’ve made friends with some of the other divers, including a group from France who I’m now referring to as “the frenchies”. This is the first time in all my travels that I’ve been surrounded by so many french people! I can’t explain why but I find them hilarious. Perhaps it’s because they are so passionate about every damn thing. In some strange way I feel like I can relate. They are from a city called Lyon and were appalled when I informed them that I had never heard of it and then outraged when I asked whether it was close to Paris. They quickly informed me that Lyon is the best city in France and declared that I would someday visit and perhaps even live there. I nodded along, but the truth is, I have little interest in travelling to Europe at this point, let alone this city in France that I’ve never heard of. Crazy frenchies.