Vernie, our divemaster, keeps looking at me with sad eyes. “You didn’t sleep, miss cate?” He thinks I am sad, but admirable, because I told him about the kids in Uganda, and he wants to ease my path. He dresses me like a waterlogged valet, slips my fins off for me so I can climb the ladder back into the boat. We talk about his impulses to immigrate somewhere, anywhere, maybe Bahrain.

I asked him the other day the deepest dive he’d done. “100 metres,” he said. “It was a bullshit dive.”

“A bullshit dive?”

“To retrieve the body of the course director.”

Using the computer of the buddy who survived, but who was brain damaged forever, they think he ran out of air.

We took a second day trip to Apo Island today, three sedate and peaceful dives. My camera packed in on the third dive again — it was Finch’s old camera and housing, and the battery connectors just seem tired. I’m still learning to breathe more smoothly and not suck up all my air too soon, and these calm, shallowish dives are good for practicing.

Until I start swimming with green turtles.

turtle face
(12.23 – 358)

This one was unbelievably unbothered by Rachel swimming with it and generally getting up in its business.

rachel turtle

We were anchored offshore, which meant that pedlars of sarongs and tshirts paddled out to us in a little kayak type of outrigger and hauled bundles onto the deck. When they appeared on the outrigger in our first trip, I couldn’t quite process where they’d come from. “Jeez, everytime I look up I see someone I didn’t notice was even on this boat,” I said to Watson, the Thai American who dives in a jaunty two piece red and black wetsuit.

“I don’t see anyone,” he said.

“Those women,” I laughed.

“Hallucinating gypsy women is the first sign of decompression sickness.”

The village was drumming and singing today, it being Sunday and just before Christmas. They have an enormous Christmas tree on the beach.

village tree

If you look closely, you can see that instead of a star on the top, there is a boat.

I thought it was charming and perfect for a village that makes its living from the sea. One of the Finnish women was perplexed by its non-stellar-ness.

Just before my camera pffted out, I found a particularly Christmassy nudibranch.

green nudi

Our ride home was rough, and the woman from Boise lolled nearly unconscious on the bench, limbless, felled first by seasickness while diving and then from the overdosing I gave her on seasickness meds. Her son’s Taiwanese girlfriend spent the ride back clinging to an empty cylinder, hunched over the side, apologizing to me with a small smile before she vomited politely. I found a well of relaxation in my stomach for the first time in days, rolling with the boat, not clenched against seasickness. I put on my raincoat and sat on the cooler in the middle, getting drenched, reading a sodden copy of Dark Star Safari, enjoying the ride.


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