My head is full of knowledge that I didn't have a week ago—I've become a certified open water scuba diver.
For over half a week I ate, breathed, and slept diving. The PADI open water certificate course was like going through some type of scuba boot camp. When the class wasn't diving, we were studying. The days were very enjoyable, but often exhausting.
Taught by two instructors and a handful of divemasters, I was paired up with Shoel, a Canadian from Vancouver. Everything is done with a partner when diving (your "diving buddy"), and Shoel and I quickly became friends—probably the resulting combination of personality fit and the bond that's formed when two people learn and drill so closely together (especially when you have to trust the other with their safety and life). In a moment of pure juvenile glee, we proclaimed ourselves "Delta Force" early in the training—which the staff even conceded in calling us on several entertaining occasions.
Classroom theory was put into practice both above and below the water. Everything from non-verbal communication to having your mask flooded and air supply cut off under the water was drilled on. Learning effective buoyancy control (using only your lungs), calculating how much residual nitrogen is left in your body after a dive, and even practicing how to sip air bubbles from a malfunctioning regulator was covered. I know all this new vocabulary now—I love it.
I also picked up all sorts of other interesting trivia, like how the different colors of the light spectrum each slowly fade into gray the deeper you descend, and how parrot fish (who eat the coral) actually excrete sand—nearly a ton a year!
It turned out that Shoel and I are quite the handful when we're together under the water. The instructors gave up trying to control us long ago, shaking their heads at our antics often. We know they loved it though, and the speed at which we excelled through the course afforded us the luxury.
We were always given plenty of free time to roam/explore the amazing environment as a group when training (shadowed by staff). When waiting for others to complete their skill assignments, Delta Force could often be found practicing the same drill—inverted.
Diving in the coral reef surrounding Útila is amazing. The exotic plant and animal life is visually stimulating in a way that puts every jungle I've stepped inside of to shame. It feels like your swimming around inside of a giant aquarium.
Shoel and two others from our class decided to take the advance course, where you learn/are certified to dive deeper (and even go on a night dive). I was close to signing up, but I just couldn't justify the additional expense.
I'm a happy boy. Two weeks ago I didn't have the slightest idea I'd be in Honduras, a PADI certified diver. What an amazing experience this has been—only amplified by having a great diving buddy and instruction at Cross Creek.
The current plan right now is to head southwest (with Shoel) from the Bay Islands to San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. He's got a friend flying into Nicaragua he has to meet in a weeks time, so when he turns south to meet up with her next week, I'll break north and head up into Guatemala for a bit.
My brother tells me he's going to be backpacking Costa Rica for two weeks in July, so I've got a little less than two months to explore the region before I need to be in San José to meet up with him.
Only a month or so has passed since I received a replacement camera for the one damaged in Puerto Rico, and now it appears I've managed to break another. I believe the culprit to be a hammock that I sprawled out in for just a few moments last night. I must have inadvertently put pressure on the wrong pocket, cracking the LCD of the camera.
The display is completely useless, displaying nothing more than a white screen with black, fragmented lines. Although untested, I suppose the camera could function at a basic level without the screen; but with no way to adjust settings and review, balance, or verify the focus images, it's pretty much just a paperweight.
Until I figure out what I'm going to do, it looks like new photos will be few and far between.