What happens when life throws you problem after problem? Is walking away a solution?
So on 1 July, I left Singapore for hell. Pulau Redang, specifically. Bought a one-way ticket. I was going to do my divemaster course with The Taaras, and work as a divemaster upon completion of the course, and then continue to do my IDC. Big plans indeed. And kinda long-term, about three months.
I know what I signed up for. I was going to a rural village with no form of entertainment, no cafes, facilities or even friends for that matter. I essentially signed up to suffer. I had little expectations. I just wanted a good dive instructor to learn from, and a clean place to call ‘home’ for the next few weeks.
The plane ride to Kuala Terengganu was short and fuss free. My plane landed at 10.29am, and I got my luggage at 10.35am. Took a cab to Shahbandar jetty, and I arrived at 11am. I had plenty of time to burn, for the boat ride was only at 3pm.
The boat ride was comfortable. An air conditioned boat with plenty of seats to spare. I took a nap and we arrived at Pulau Redang’s jetty one hour later. We were told to transfer to another boat. The boat made a first stop, and two people got off. No idea how they knew when to alight, so I decided to ask the boatmen. Turns out I wasn’t supposed to get onto the second boat at all. Way to go… We made two more stops before going back to the jetty. By then, it was 5pm. I had spent an hour on the second boat for nothing.
My dive instructor (AA) picked me up and sent me to my ‘home’ for the first two nights. D’Rimba homestay. It was infested with ants. Fought world war three with the ants and won. Left over 500 bodies on the floor as a reminder for their fellow comrades. By then, my can was near empty. Great. Should have bought a bigger can, or a carton. I wasn’t expecting a suite, but having paid RM 130 a night, I expected it to be bug-free. Or at least, without soda stains on the floor.
So that was day one. My anxiety kept me up all night and safe to say, my sleep wasn’t great.
Day two turned out to be worse. AA admitted he had no idea what my course schedule was like. “Actually I’m not sure.. you’ll do a few quizzes, a final exam, some scenarios…”. GREAT. Followed him to do a scuba review, and he rushed through everything, even when the customer obviously didn’t know how to clear her mask. If there’s one thing I learnt, if you can’t do it right in chlorinated water, don’t expect yourself to magically get it in salt water. The dive was horrible. The customer couldn’t equalise, and I was guiding her about 2-3m below the surface. Thank goodness for quick wits. AA? He was 20m below. #win.
I kept questioning myself. Did I really know what I signed up for? Is this dive school as good as I expected it to be? Would I receive proper education? Should I try my luck on the other side of the island? I was feeling utterly miserable, and a few thoughts crossed my mind.
1) find another IDC on the island (FYI there’s no other IDC)
2) fly to Phuket and do my course with another instructor
3) go back to Singapore
I calculated the costs in my head, including sunk costs. Back in Phuket, I’ll definitely get a good education. But the weather wasn’t the best during this time. Singapore would be expensive, yet comfortable and clean. Decisions decisions. It was an internal battle throughout my three dives. I was unhappy. I was miserable. I couldn’t see it working out.
The second dive was worse. The lady couldn’t equalise again. AA signalled me to look after her while he went down with the lady’s husband, and another customer. About five minutes later, AA told me to bring the lady up and cancel the dive. Fine. Back on shore I asked him why, and his response was, “She can’t equalise, so why let her dive? She’s just dragging the group down.. It’s not fair for the rest.. If anyone asks you why you cancelled the dive just say it isn’t safe for her…”
WOW ok thanks asshole. I was that close to throwing in the towel. Talked to the second dive instructor (F) who was much better, and he talked me through the schedule and said he’ll be planning it with me. Figured I’d be safe with F..
Went to visit my more permanent ‘house’, at Redang Abadi just across the road.
Dimly lit room, bathroom wasn’t dirty but it wasn’t the most welcoming one either. There weren’t that many ants.. so I guess it was a trade off. Went back to my first place, and lugged my stuff. Decided to move instead of staying for one more night. The lady asked me why and I snapped. “Did you see the number of ants in my room?”
I don’t think these people know what service is. All she did was nod and say, “yes there are ants everywhere”. Yes captain obvious, but did you see the fucking trail? Service here is non-existent. I just hate how I’m on the losing end here because I can’t afford to live in a SGD 400 a night hotel room for the next month.
I bought a larger can of bug spray from a nearby shop. Some 1km away from my place. FYI, convenience shops here do not sell toilet paper. Resigned to fate. I’d just have to grab rolls of toilet paper from the hotel my dive school is at.
Came home feeling quite beaten up. Contemplated booking a ticket home when I saw a spider the size of my palm crawling from the side of my bed. I sprayed the bug a million times. The fumes were getting into my head but I couldn’t open the windows or door as I’d risk inviting more insects in. This was all getting too much for me. Hot, angry tears of defeat rolled down my cheeks and I called panda. Sure, I came here to get out of my comfort zone but this was probably too much at one go. And I hated how I was using my tissues because they had to be rationed (wtf). Who knows if the shop sells tissues right?
Spoke to my parents and they were willing to fly me home. Seriously I feel like I’m a princess and at that moment I felt like packing up. My lack of appetite and sleep didn’t help. A good 30min cry later I decided to give it another night. If I woke up feeling like crap, I’ll just pack and leave. No point going through all this shit and be unhappy for one month.
Just before I slept, a cockroach came running from under the bed. Heaved a huge sigh and sprayed it to death. Didn’t even flinch. I was as numb as the cockroach on its back. Guess I was really too exhausted.
Day three was better. I followed F for dives throughout, and he’s a much better instructor..
After class, the fighter in me decided to buy cleaning supplies to scrub my room down.
Spent the next 2.5 hours listening to avenged sevenfold while scrubbing the shit out of the bathroom. AA came over and it was quite uncomfortable having him in the room but he did help me move the bed and aid my cleaning task.. Oh well. I just don’t feel comfortable around AA. He’s really nice to me but we’re just of different frequencies. Moreover, I don’t trust him with my life.
Today’s day four…
Didn’t dive today because my period came. Went to school to study instead. Completed all 9 knowledge reviews. Then AA came into the room and asked me if anyone had gone through the course schedule with me. I told him F briefly told me some stuff, and boy.. AA got so pissed. Called F into the room, started scolding him in front of me (awkward much? not to mention, rude…). Both F and I had no idea why AA was so pissed. Dude, you can’t answer my questions, I get someone else to, and you get angry? you mad bro?
I went to the course director and told him that I didn’t wanna be under AA during the course, and if he put me under him, I’ll want a refund, and I’d rather not do the course.
So here’s my eventful week. Full of FMLs. I’ve spoken to F, told him to concentrate on training me, and I’ll be the best student ever who’ll do everything to gain experience. I’ve already decided not to do my IDC here because I can’t stand this place. Everyone talks about how amazing Redang is but it’s probably because they stay in a fancy hotel, don’t have to find a particular place to do a specialised course etc. And they aren’t here for long.
I have to admit, the view from my school is amazing.
But is the view worth my sanity and frustration? HELL NO.
I can’t wait to get out of this place. I really don’t know how next week is gonna be like.. but we’ll see. As for AA? I’m going to email PADI once I get my hands on his instructor number… no one should have to dive with someone who doesn’t give a shit about them.