Tuesday, 10 April 2018

TRYST WITH THE UNDERWATER



To be honest, doing a certification in scuba diving is something I had never considered. I looked at scuba diving as something similar to sky diving. You do it once to experience it and that's good enough. And I did. I dived in Croatia while on a vacation and was extremely satisfied with the glimpse of the ocean I got.

But then, over only a year later I met a cousin who in casual conversation asked me - Do you dive? She could've asked me- Have you done scuba diving? But her question was different.

She had done over a 100 dives in her life. When she shared her experience, I finally realised that diving was not a one time sport like sky diving or bungee that you did to tick off a list. Rather, it was almost a way of travelling.

She convinced me to go get my PADI Open Water certification, a simple 4 day course. And she promised me that life wouldn't be the same after. I followed her advice, and I couldn't say it in any other words but that yes life has not been the same for me since.

The course opened up a whole new world for me. A world that I would otherwise simply be gazing at literally and figuratively, only at the surface.

Through my Open Water course, I realised the genius of human beings for having created a self contained underwater breathing apparatus, that would literally allow us to swim like the fish in the ocean. For those of you who didn't know, that's what the acronym SCUBA stands for.

Like the dream of every child, I too wanted to fly like the birds and swim in the ocean like the fish. And here there was something that actually allowed me to do the latter.

The theory classes in my PADI course taught me how this compact well designed equipment works, and once I knew, I realised it was the simplest sport there was.
Simplest, and yet one of the most powerful I have experienced.


It was a little more challenging to practice the theory in the swimming pool sessions, getting used to breathing underwater, practising exchanging regulators with your dive buddy in case your cylinder ran out of oxygen, and being prepared for any emergency that could happen underwater. And once I practised all the skills designed to be a part of the PADI course, I was confident that I would be completely safe deep down in the open ocean.


The next day was the big day when I practised the swimming pool skills in the open water. I loved the adrenaline I was feeling from the pre-dive anxiousness.
But once I jumped into the water, I realised it was the most peaceful and serene place to be in.

Deep down in the ocean, where I could hear only the sound of my breath, where I could see a hundred fish swimming in a school together, where I could almost float like I was in space, I discovered a whole new world that was right in front of me for so many years, but that I never discovered.  

And just when I could not contain my awe of the brilliant coloured fish and coral I was seeing deep in the ocean, my instructor pointed to something behind me.
I turned around to see the most magical sight of my life. A quiet wise old turtle gliding through the water. I felt like a child in a candy store. The turtle just pulled me to follow it like a magnet, and I too glided with the turtle for almost a minute.
All thoughts from my mind vanished and I was in a trance as I absorbed the surreal sights I was seeing. The trance continued even after I came back up to the surface. And a little bit of it has been living with me ever since.


My four day certification course finished, and I was granted an International Diver's Licence, that allowed me to dive anywhere in the world with just another dive buddy.
This was not the end to my tryst with scuba diving, rather the start of a most magical journey.

Every seaside place I have visited since, there's an additional attraction of diving for me. Now I am no longer limited to just interacting with the ocean on the beach side, as I would do earlier. Now I also put on my wet suit and wear my cylinder and dive deep into the waters to discover the hidden treasures that one cannot even fathom from the surface.


Over the past months, I have been lucky enough to swim with the most amazing creatures underwater from whales, to harmless small sharks, to starfish, manta rays, octopus, eels, and the list goes on. Each dive is a new experience for me. I have dived through caves and shipwrecks and got a chance to explore some amazing underwater structures. I am now 20 dives old and have completed my Advanced Water certification, but I still feel it is just the start for me. 70% of the world that is water is out there for me to go out and explore.


 



I would highly recommend scuba diving to anyone who passionate about exploring the world. Simply because as Dave Barry said it, "there's nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean. Except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realise that you've been missing the whole point of the ocean!

Monday, 19 March 2018

The adventure of a Lifetime - Memoirs of a Camper


‘I feel my heart beating
I feel my heart beneath my skin
I feel my heart beating’

These lines from the song Adventure of a lifetime by Coldplay, aptly describes my experience on the adventure camp I had this January in Karwar. Though I was aware it would be an outdoorsy camp that involved living in tents and being surrounded by nature, I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. The 6 days that I was there, tested my strength, endurance and confidence! Rewarding, exciting, unforgettable and unadulterated fun are just few of the words that describe the camp.

The campsite was exquisite! Right on the banks of the river, greenery everywhere, the sounds of nature followed you everywhere you went. What I am going to focus on in this post is the adventure activities.
Rock climbing, rappelling and kayaking sounds super exciting but when you get around to doing them, they are challenging! Let me start with rock climbing and rappelling, if you ever thought pull ups were difficult, try rock climbing (At least pull ups are done in the comfort of an AC room). For those with no upper arm strength (like me), the first task is to be able to pull yourself up, next you have to look around for places where you can put your feet. Even though you have watched people before you do it when it’s finally your turn, you are just so nervous that the instructions the trainer gives you just don’t seem possible. It goes something like this:
Instructor: Place your left foot on that ledge there
Me: moves right leg
Instructor: No, no your left foot.
Me: moves left hand.
Instructor: Ok, look at me, lift your left leg, yes that’s right, now place it on the ledge there. Good!
Me: That’s just one step! How do I get up to where you are???!!
But when you finally get to the top of that rock face you are armed with expert comments to shout to your friend who attempts it next, like you have been doing this for years. Once you’ve caught your breath and got over your fear, the view from the top is just spectacular.
Next comes rappelling, you’ve gone up the rock but how do you come down? You simply walk down the rock face, in adventure terms it’s called rappelling. That first step takes guts! Once you get past the fear of first few steps it really is quite enjoyable. You just need to trust in everything and go for it! Of course, it helps a lot when you have your whole squad cheering for you and instructors that shout their lungs out and tell you not to give up! I must admit though once you are actually done with the task it’s the greatest feeling in the world. I understand why adventure activities are so great for boosting your confidence.
Little did I know, kayaking would be one the hardest things I have ever done in my life so far. We set off for an overnight stay on an island 3 hours away in our pretty kayaks and canoes by 2:30 pm. It started off fine but then we were kayaking against the flow of the river and it was excruciating! The instructors were there with us throughout helping us but it was something that we had to do on our own. No matter how hard we paddled the water would push us in the opposite direction but surprisingly all of us managed to get past that rough patch by ourselves. When we saw the island it was the most wondrous sight on the planet! Once the whole group had reached, it was almost 6, we cheered, laughed and cried about what we had just done. There were so many instances where most of us were on the verge of giving up and just staying there in the middle of the river but the encouraging word of the instructors, camp guides and most importantly our friends kept us going. I am immensely proud of what I accomplished that day and I am sure all my fellow classmates would agree. The funny thing was once it was time for the next set of activities we were all up and ready to go. During the campfire session there was this sudden burst of energy in everyone and we sang and danced till the guides had to finally shoo us off into our tents. The journey back was a breeze, we were actually very surprised at how fast we reached.
The challenges I overcame was just one of the many highlights of this trip. Singing and dancing around a campfire, setting up our own tents, cooking our own meals, getting your feet dirty, sharing these magical experiences with friends made this trip something I will remember even when I’m 80. It also helped that we had some awesome camp guides and instructors with us.
There you have it, my adventure of a lifetime (so far!). I can finally can relate to all those motivational quotes about “greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”. Yes! I kayaked for 3 hours and it was painful and I was on the verge of tears but I DID IT! Now when I look back at it, it feels (in the words of Ron Weasly) bloody brilliant!!! Now that I have actually had this experience I feel like I’m allowed to give some gyaan on the lines of, don’t ever belittle yourself! The possibilities are infinite. So now to everyone reading this, go have your adventure of a lifetime!

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Hello Himalayas!

The International Baccalaureate (IB) learner profile describes a wide range of human capacities and responsibilities that go beyond academic success. They imply a commitment to help all members of the school community learn to respect themselves, others and the world around them. The profile aims to develop learners who are: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective.
Having worked with many international schools for their outbound programmes, teachers sometimes struggle to ensure that children imbibe these values. Outbound programme is one such opportunity for students to explore themselves and the values that IB encourages them to have.
Trailblazers organised an adventure programme in the scenic environs of Lower Himalayas for a group of students from MYP 4, 5 and DP in February 2017. Students enjoyed their stay in tents and did wide range of activities including valley crossing, jummaring, bridge slithering, hiking, kayaking, local village interaction and rafting. The teachers on this programme ensured that students were away from technology for four days and that made all the difference.  Away from their gadgets, it was nice to see students communicating with each other, playing and observing. Their evening reflection sessions turned very interesting where Trailblazers experts gently nudged the students to reflect and introspect on the day’s activities through discussions, sketches and writing down their thoughts about their experience.
Trailblazers wishes that more schools would undertake such focused outdoor programmes instead of visiting ten places in four days under the garb of ‘Educational tours.’ A focused outdoor programme can be designed to give more meaningful experiences and specific learning outcomes for our young generation. Do email us on contact@trailblazersindia.com to design an outdoor programme for your school.