D 4. Drowning feelings & Rescue training

France lost the Euro Cup, but it wasn’t the worse part of my evening. I had set an alarm clock at 3 in the morning, a rather pointless idea, since I wake up naturally at the end of every cycle, due to the uncomfortable heat.

At 2:50, I opened both eyes, and decided to make my way to the Tourist Avenue (probably not called that, but let’s face it: it is what it is), where I would find a bar showing the game. The first one I encountered would do, and it was packed with the French crowd.

Evidently the vast majority of the audience had not gone to bed at ten to wake up at three, this was the continuation of a holiday night in a open club, where cocktails cost a little under 5€, and beer are ridiculously cheap (and light).

The behaviour, attitudes and speech that I witnessed towards the local population or even the other tourists were despicable. Those guys couldn’t have shamed me more. Part of me does not regret France’s loss. I can’t imagine what the celebratory parties would have been like, with this kind of crowd. It’s this kind of blatant disrespect that drive perfect paradises into tourist traps, with the local population living separately, mixing with the foreign crowd only to get a maximum price out of them, no cultural exchange, minimum communication.

Thank You Bar/Restaurant

Quite the contrary of my second favorite place in the island (after The Yoga Place): the Thank You Bar/Restaurant. From the outside, it looks like another touristy place from its menu displaying « european food ». But the complete menu actually contains many more local suggestions, at really low prices, up to a third of what you could buy on « Tourist Avenue ».

I’ve been there tonight for the second time in a row (and a plate of noodle at 25 000 Rp, with Lime Juice at 20 000 Rp, for a total price under 3,50 €.) And the young waiter recognised me, so we talked for a bit. Enough for me to remember his name (Fidel), and teach him to say « Ravi de te rencontrer », since he took pride in welcoming me in french this evening, and teaching me the indonesian name of my favorite dish so far.

I’m probably going to get my last meal on Gili from this place too.

Death 3 — 4 rescue

So today was day one of practical rescue training. It was time to take the theory to the field, and just like yesterday, I told my (new) instructor that I intended to become a Dive Master myself, so these rescue skills were actual responses and reflexes that I needed to develop. I am into this as training, as in « for real, bitches ».

So he upped the stakes just enough to make it challenging for me. And this is how another day I thought would be spent memorising steps for an exam turned out to be a very productive and interesting learning process. I discovered that I would be able to assist a drowning grown man, and even lift him outside of a pool. Apparently I can do that with someone that weighs up to 30% more than my own weight. Which amounts to about 90kg. That’s a lot of people I can actually heave up like this.

Let’s see if I can remember the core procedures.

Unconscious diver under water

  • Tap his shoulder, try to get a reaction
  • Wave before his eyes (in case he’s just really distracted)
  • Check his meter (does he still have air?)

Alright let’s lift him up slowly to the surface — slowly being the recommended pace under 9 meter per minute. BUT FIRST: send up your SMB (Surface Marker Buoy), to signal the ships that you’re coming up.

Right. Let’s proceed to the ascension:

  • Start inflating his jacket
  • Place right hand under right jacket shoulder strap, to open airway & maintain respirator
  • Place left hand on his BCD inflator, and continue inflating
  • Pull your own weight backward to lift the victim vertically
  • Maintain balance by placing his tank between my legs (and keep steady with fins)
  • Monitor ascension by keeping an eye on my computer, inside left wrist

Upon breaking the surface, the procedure continues same as with an unconscious diver at the surface.

Unconscious diver at the surface

No reaction? Turn him around on his back

  • Inflate BCD to achieve positive buoyancy (for me as well by the way, shouldn’t need mentioning).
  • Remove his mask & respirator, check for pulse — OPEN AIRWAY and keep positioned with left arm under his neck, left hand pulling the chin upward.

CALL FOR HELP: signal the boat crew that you have an unconscious diver with a pulse

(No pulse? Let’s tow him to the boat ASAP, we need a hard surface to initiate CPR)

Alright: two breaths in through the nose, mouth closed.

  • 1 Mississippi (where are his buckle straps?) 2 Mississippi (there I’ve located them — unbuckle chest) 3 Mississippi (unbuckle ventral) 4 Mississippi (ditch his weight) and on 5 Mississippi insuffle one breath.
  • 1 Mississippi (unscratch ventral) 2 Mississippi (unclip both shoulder) 3 Mississippi (my chest) 4 Mississippi (my ventral) and 5 Mississippi one more breath.
  • 1 Mississippi (unscratch my ventral) 2 Mississippi (ditch my weight) 3 Mississippi (alright is he clear?) 4 Mississippi (am I clear ?) and 5 Mississippi one more breath.

…All the while, towing the victime towards the boat, maintaining open airway.

Then place both hands on the boat, and hope that someone will help me hoist him up (because that can be quite a challenge).

Panicked diver at the surface

Diver diver, inflate your BCD!

— a panicked diver will not respond nor act, especially if he’s drowning.

  • Drop below the surface and assist from behind, so he can’t pull me under.
  • Grab his inflator, inflate BCD to achieve positive buoyancy.

Yes I can

It’s the kind of question that keep me awake at night. Like, how would I act under pressure? Would I keep a cool head? How about fixing a problem? What if I can’t figure it out, wouldn’t I start panicking as well?

Well, thanks to my savvy instructor, I now have an answer to these questions: yes, I would keep cool, no I wouldn’t panic. He tricked me under water by putting all his weight on the same side, which I couldn’t see since it was inside a pocket. I didn’t resolve the issue on my own, but I did identify the cause, and I wasn’t bothered in anyway by my failing.

We dived for over forty minutes, and it was like floating through fireworks of multicolour fishes. Granted, I had to intervene on my « buddy » several times, but no situation really triggered any stress at all.

When we resurfaced, I was ecstatic. So many fishes, so different, sizes shapes and colours unknown to me, I was laughing, respirator dangling by my side, mask around my left arm, when he dropped. As if his vest had sunk with him in it, and he started moving water jerkingly around, trying to stay afloat.

My reaction was almost instantaneous. As I yelled him to inflate his BCD, I was already securing my own mask and respirator. Before he could grab me, I dropped under, and I don’t think that I have ever mastered an immersion this quickly. The trick is to exhale all the air out of the lungs, which apparently, I can achieve better under pressure.

I broke out again in his back, pulled down his tank while grabbing the BCD control, and started to inflate. He tried a grab at me again, but I was out of the way.

My reaction was quick, right, rid of panic or any parasitic gesture or emotion. I knew he couldn’t really be drowning, but he caught me completely by surprise, in a moment of euphoria post-diving.

If my first response is this efficient when my guard is down, I am confident that I’ll be able to handle many stressful situations being fully prepared and alert.

And that lesson is priceless to me.

The real test will be, again, when I’ll ask my instructor tomorrow: after these two days of training, would you feel confident pairing me up with an unreliable diver? Would you trust me to handle any stressors that may occur under water?

If the answer is yes, then that’s the pass I’m really after.

A day like this could only end on the same beach as yesterday, at sunset. Even though I did manage to get a sunburn on both arms and part of my face, I can’t really be mad at myself (I did put sunscreen on, clearly not often enough though).

It’s day four, I’ve already lost my zero-sunburn-challenge, and this will probably get worse in the weeks to come, but I know how to save a life and more importantly, how to prevent a situation from coming to that point.

All in all, another very, very good day.

The sound of the day: Come on get higher, by Matt Nathanson

« I miss the sound of your voice
And I miss the rush of your skin
And I miss the still of the silence
As you breathe out and I breathe in

If I could walk on water
If I could tell you what’s next
I’d make you believe
I’d make you forget

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire and the swing of your hips
Just pull me down hard
And drown me in love »

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