The Lats love to scuba dive.
Many a Whatsapp thread has been dedicated to it.
Many a Thanksgiving discussion has revolved around sea turtles, and close calls with sharks.
Many a reunion has been centred around it.
The last time I came to the Philippines, I sat on the boat reading my book while my cousins explored the aquatic depths. The weather was beautiful, the view spectacular, the novel in my hand engrossing (although, I can't for the life of me remember what it was). It was an idyllic setting for a good book, but I couldn't help but feel left out.
I'd tried to learn the art of scuba a few years prior. Dad and I had enrolled in lessons at a scuba school in Toronto. I aced the written exams. The practical - not so much. I've been swimming since I was a little girl, and even competed as part of my high school Swim Team back in the day, but there is a fundamental, almost laughable, flaw to my relationship with water - I hate, and I mean HATE, getting my eyes wet. One of the fundamentals of scuba is that you need to be able to "clear" your mask should water get in it. Part of the test involves the rookie diver removing their mask while underwater, replacing it on their head, and blowing out through their nose to remove the water.
In the past, this stupid, seemingly easy task, had been my downfall.
But not this time.
When I planned this trip to The Philippines, I decided that it was time for me to, um, earn some fins... grow some gills... learn how to scuba dive. And learn I did.
As you can see from this photo, I even befriended a turtle while down there! (Bottom right corner - he blends in a bit with the neighbourhood).
As a kid, I vividly remember watching a specific episode of the "Jacques Cousteau's Ocean Tales" cartoon, in which a diver found her foot tangled amongst the underwater weeds - her oxygen supplies dwindling rapidly. This is the one and only scene I remember of the entire series, and it clearly traumatized me.
It's always a nice feeling when you escape the clutches of a cartoon-based trauma.