Storm in a Swimming Pool
So a new instructor is in town, Ocean College gains another member of staff and DiveBunnie gains another dive diva. So... we thought we would have a little chat with the latest addition to our team. Finally DiveBunnies Jilly and Clare manage to co-ordinate their schedules with Ashley's... and sit down over a couple of cool drinks, it's incredible how hectic life can get out here!
How old are you?
I’m twenty three years old.
Where are you from?
Originally, I am from Weybridge in Surrey.
What was your previous job?
I was an events organiser for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, hilarious! Not that I know much about mechanical engineering itself. I organised events, conferences and seminars, specialising in the Railways division.
What brought you to Sharm el Sheikh?
I first went to Egypt four years ago, to Hurghada, and then Dahab later that year. I had heard good things about the diving in Sharm, and as that was what I wanted to do, I decided to go there to see for myself.
Was SCUBA diving always your plan?
Yes, I had always been a waterbaby, and having seen SCUBA diving on television, had always wanted to give it a try. I learned at the same time as my Dad, and immediately the course was over, had said “That’s what I am going to be... a diving instructor”. It all took a bit of a back step though, when I went to University, as things do.
Anyway, my brother had hopes of becoming a Navy diver, so when he finally did his PADI Open Water Course, I promised him we would do a trip together. So we both did our Advanced courses in the UK, before coming out on our trip last year.
The desire to dive had always remained, I'd just needed the time and money to do it. After our joint trip, I went for it big time.
How did you find leaving the stability of a regular job for no guarantee of work here, especially regarding the current financial climate?
I couldn’t wait? I had worked full time in an office for 18 months and this had been my first proper job since my graduation. To be honest, I am impressed I lasted that long.
As for the current climate, well that prompted me even more. I thought “You know what… why not?” The timing was also good, as I had no ties holding me up. I was living at home, so no flat to keep me in England.
Did it take you long to come to the decision?
No, after the trip with my brother, it only took six months really. I continued with some more training, doing my Rescue course, and a few specialities with a dive centre in the UK. And I did want to stick at the current job for the full 18 months, so that I had something to show for it on my CV.
What was the deciding factor?
A bit of everything really, and I was really unhappy in my current job.
How did your family and friends react?
My friends thought I was a nutter. They thought I was mad to leave a stable job in order go off and become in their eyes, “a beach bum”.
Now you’re here how does life in Sharm differ from your life in Weybridge?
Hmmm a lot! Hugely! Commuting into London every day had been a bit of an adventure for about three months, but after that, became a stressful drag. Life here is generally chilled and calm. The sunshine helps keep people happier. As does doing something you love. Enjoying what you do makes such a difference. If you hate your job, those 12 hours out of every day, take over your life. I used to see my colleagues more than my family.
In particular how do things vary from a woman’s point of view?
I miss Boots the Chemist, hehe. But sometimes lack of choice keeps things simple. I don’t really miss shopping that much. It is very different here, the culture here is very male orientated, so it is a bit hard to earn respect, especially from the boat crews.
Is that because you are a woman or because you are new?
Probably a bit of both.
What are the good points?
I get to dive most days, the sunshine, and the fact that on my day off, I can go to the beach or pool. And everyone is usually quite relaxed.
And not so good points?
Money has been difficult. I was too impatient to save up enough to see me through the initial stage of not working. Maybe I should’ve had a bit more cash behind me, as I’m now having to pay back for my courses. But to be honest, it was so expensive living near London. My annual train fare alone was £3000 and spending £6-7 on lunch every day. I would end up with nothing to show for all my hard work at the end of the month. Had I stayed, I might not have even saved anything anyway.
How long did it take from first learning to dive to becoming a fully fledged SCUBA instructor?
Four years, my first course was in June 2005 and my Instructor Development Course was in June 2009.
What was your biggest challenge during the process?
The Divemaster course, because it was long-term and I was on my own (I had no fellow students). It is a lot to take on board all at once and I had only just moved out, so was also getting used to life here. By the time of the IDC (Instructor Development Course) I was a little more settled. And I guess the transition from Rescue Diver to Divemaster is just a much bigger step than the change from Divemaster to Instructor. On the Divmaster course, suddenly having to work hands on, with real students and real divers, even though you are under supervision is tough. A big change.
What does the Divemaster course involve and how long does it take?
I took six weeks, which is longer than normal out here, and I am glad I didn’t have a limited time scale. I did have a problem with my ears, so it was good to be able to take some time off to recover from that. I was glad that it wasn’t a rush. However, even though I had come out prepared, having read everything through before hand, there was still so much to take on board. I had several exams to complete, practical and fitness assessments. I had to learn hands on, the basics of guiding and teaching as well as the logistics of how to run a boat full of divers. I am really glad I was able to do the exams in the first couple of weeks, otherwise I would have been revising every evening on top of all this.
Was it easy?
And how long was the Instructor Development Course?
The instructor course was actually only 9 days, added to which, we did the Emergency First Response Instructor Course for a day prior to that (which was the funniest course ever), and a two day Instructor Exam at the end of it all.
What was involved?
We had pool and classroom sessions, and the days really felt long at the time. It was much more intensive than the Divemaster with only the nine days to complete, however that did give you an end in sight, so you could pace yourself.
Was this course easy?
No again it was not easy, however it was very rewarding. The feeling of achievement at the end of it all was really quite amazing. It was great at the end of each section when the examiner said
“we’ll see you at the next stage” meaning that you had passed and through that section. Knowing that you had finally done it at the end was totally fantastic.
So… now what?
Ooooh! Hopefully I’ll continue to get more work and experience. Who knows where the adventure will take me.
Have you had any work yet?
Yes my first day’s work was a month ago, and I have had a few bits since. I have just had a nine day stretch which was great.
How do you find the freelance lifestyle?
It is quite hard not knowing when you will next work, and having no security. With the current climate and winter coming too, it could be interesting, but some of the longer term staff do go away in winter or for Christmas, so maybe I will get an opening then.
How did your first day’s work with Ocean College feel?
Scary! I was teaching Discover Scuba Diving. I know I had done these on my Divemaster course, however this time they were my own students, and my responsibility. It was very rewarding though, by the end of the day, thinking “I’ve done it!”
How was it the first time you taught your own full Open Water course?
I had already taught parts of the course (finishing off where people had learned elements in the UK), but the first time I took a student from total novice to diver was really good actually. I only had one student and he was fantastic. I am a bit worried he lulled me into a false sense of security. Again it was very rewarding.
What are you most looking forward to?
Getting more work and experience. Getting the opportunity to guide divers around the reefs here and teaching a few more people at a time. Everything really, it has only been four months and I am still new and getting settled.
What are you most dreading?
The winter when it gets cold and windy and I don’t have a drysuit!
No definitely not.
How do you keep in touch with family and friends back in the UK?
Mum will say that I don’t. She will tell me off. I do try to email and I text quite a lot, but the time difference doesn’t help as she works late. I did promise to Skype and MSN regularly but don’t think I have done either since I’ve been here!
Do you have any plans to return home?
I would like to go home for a visit, however I need to get my foot in the door here. It is a bit difficult really to ask for work, and then take a couple of weeks off to pop home. Maybe towards the end of the year once I am more settled.
Are you enjoying it?
Yes I love it. I love what I am doing, the place and everyone here.
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