Sunday, 25 January 2009

Where Not To Do Your Divemaster Training

Forra Diving’s main shop and resort sits on Sunrise Beach, not far from my bungalow. My instructor had recommended Antoine, a Frenchman (not going to be from Wigan with a name like that, is he?), to push me beyond my limits, and take me on to another level of scuba skill. He spoke very highly of him, and I couldn’t wait to meet the fellow.

The PADI Divemaster course is the first professional qualification and, once attained, enables you to find work at dive shops worldwide. It can be done in 3 weeks, or over 3 months. 60 dives must be logged before accreditation. I’m looking to spend 3 months doing it, and learn more besides: boat driving skills and the like. I’ll also get more experience and see how a dive school is run. Might be something I’d like to do in the future.

Forra Diving Resort is not the way I would do it. If all dive shops were like this, I would give it up now. Sure, they all wander round smoking joints and on the surface it seems pretty laid back. But you’d think they were loaded with cocaine, not weed, by the arrogance on display. I’d gone there for breakfast, and ordered a tuna salad sandwich via the disinterested Thai waitress. Rude is not the word I’d use to describe the way she plopped the plate on my table while gazing out to sea before wandering back to the kitchen. And I’m not used to someone writing texts while they bring a drink over. Your tip just evaporated with the steam on my tea, my dear. Pretty ravenous, I tucked in and watched the waves breaking on the white sand. Stopping mid-chew after demolishing half of the sandwich, I lifted the top of the rest to peek at the contents. Salad, and mayonnaise, it would appear; the only flecks of tuna in it looked to have been ones stuck in the pot of mayo. 

"Congratulations" I told the glum waitress back at the till "you seem to have invented the world's first vegetarian tuna sandwich."

"What?"

"There was no fish in this sandwich" I pointed out.

"I didn't make it" she said, looking back to her magazine "blame the chef."

Very helpful. "Well I won't bother eating again. Thanks all the same."

Later that evening, I decided to look up Antione. The bar was fairly full, and I sat at the bar, ordering a beer. A Frenchman turned up in just a pir of shorts, muscular and covered in tattoos. He began rolling a joint, looking out to sea. As he wandered through the bar, one of the woman serving called to him by name to ask a question I didn't register. Just as he began to leave I asked the woman if he was Antione. She just said Yes, and turned her back on me. If someone had asked me that question I'd have, at the very least, asked if the person wanted to speak to him, or how they knew him. Forra people just don't seem to be bothered. A fellow came to the bar, and this same woman served him. When he smiled and asked if it was a joint she was smoking, she deadpanned a Yes and said "Bar privileges" before ignoring him to serve someone else. I was beginning to take a dislike to her. The whole place seemed very cliquey.  There was one English girl who came to the bar later, and she made biref conversation, but apart from this nobody seemed bothered with Outsiders. I couldn't be bothered to make the effort by this point. In all the places I've been so far, it's been easy to introduce myself and get chatting. If it's an effort, it's not worthwhile. 

I spoke to Antione briefly, mentioned Ian had done the Divemaster course there, and that I was interested. He asked if I'd done Rescue, and how many dives I had under my belt. After this, there was no explanation of how the place worked, who was on the course at the moment, what the island was like and the social life...everything I'd had when signing up at Sunshine Divers on ko Tao...nothing. Conversation tailed off, Antoine wandered away, I finished my beer and left disappointed.

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