Somehow, at the last minute, Tiffanie and I managed to get the coolest scuba instructor of all time, all to ourselves for three whole days. Sofi was Spanish, like Spain Spanish, expressive, funny and obsessed with diving. She made our lessons on land and underwater easy and enjoyable.
Before doing our first confined lesson, we had to prove we could float and swim without losing our cool–go figure. Thankfully, we passed the first rigor-moral with flying colors. After mask removal and regulator retrieval exercises, she took us on our first dive. I had issues with my ears when I was younger, so was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to equalize, but I figured it out real quick and didn’t have any trouble.
Japanese Garden, the dive spot for the day, has an astounding diversity of corals. So many different shapes and textures with such clear visibility. It was breathtaking. Well, you can’t hold your breath when you dive, but you get the idea. At 11 meters, Tiffanie had a bit of a scare when her lung cramped up, but Sofi calmly managed the situation and she recovered after a minute’s rest. Apparently, you can’t have a beautiful reef without also having trigger fish, but Sofi taught us how to dodge them gracefully. Well, somewhat gracefully. I tend to do a lot of oafish pointing and awkward maneuvering. Triggerfish are the worst.
A full day of diving for the books, we got dinner and finished homework over margaritas at a nearby hostel. We attempted to finish it over water bottles in the room, but our very inexpensive hostel had no air conditioning and little to no wifi. Also, I’m using the word “we” very liberally here. Tiffanie did homework, while I wrangled the Myanmar eVisa System. After months of waffling, we decided that we were definitely doing Myanmar, thanks to reassurances and tips from friendly people on Koh Tao and abroad. Unable to book flights with confidence sans eVisa, we needed to procure them fast.
After two frustrating hours, a handful of web resources and three different iPad apps, I managed to make our stupid photos for the application. It was the only time that we really needed a computer. I could have snapped, cut and pasted those darn photos in five minutes using Photoshop and a strong wifi signal. Moral of the story: decide that you’re going to Myanmar sooner than later and take care of the eVisa from the comfort of your own living room.
The visa applications submitted, our fingers crossed and a few friends made at the bar, Tiffanie said I could copy her homework if I couldn’t finish it in the morning.