‘Will they help us with our equitment?’ said Meltem. Every day we walk from the diving school to the boat with our tanks on the back, our weights and slippers along. At the boat the people on the boat help to lift the tanks on the boat. Now we’ve been waiting for a while – half a minute – and since we drank yesterday, the tank feels heavier.
Jah, sorry, we had to arrange things at the boot first,’ said the boy in response to Meltem’s remark. We looked on for a moment at how he understood us until both of us realised that he was from South Africa. Oops! What else did we say that we thought they couldn’t understand us?
Three of the dive instructors come from South Africa. It’s a small world, the diving world, and they call each other up if there’s a place somewhere free to teach. It is often boys in their twenties who do it for the ‘lifestyle’. You can dive as much as you want, there is a chill backpackers-sphere around a diving school – people often hang out in the school – there is sun, sea, beach, beautiful women and men and you get paid for it. What more could you want?
Will it never get bored? Getting to know new people, the same conversation – where do you come from, what kind of work are you doing, and where are you going? – I asked Josh, who is from South Africa. No,’ he said. The whole idea that you should solve an argument is nonsense, you can just walk away. Did I do it so many times, always works,’ he says. I do not know what this has to do with it. And when people aren’t fun, you just don’t talk to them for two days, and they’re gone. If they are fun, then your friends will be for life and they will go again. And the future’ I asked. I don’t think about it,” he says. So many of the teachers; they see, they love the life, the friends at the diving school and everything they experience.
Most of them have a girlfriend and they go out with their regular diving friends who work at the same or other diving schools. Almost everyone is non-Malayan. That is also the reason that the immigration service has been falling within cases a week and a half ago. Nobody has a work permit and so they were arrested. They have been detained for five hours and are free again, but it has cut in, almost all the teachers will soon be going on to Thailand, Indonesia or home.
New future for the island
The island is no longer going to be the same,” Josh says. It is good that they are doing something about the drugs, because that is a real problem, but the diving teachers are not going to tackle them, because they make sure the tourists come. The foreigners who work in the bar do want to tackle them. That work can also be done by a Malaysian. The police will therefore check much better, especially now that more and more tourists are coming. Josh is no longer as free as he wants to be and so he goes, making the island more of a tourist island and less of a backpacker island what it is today.
In the meantime we have had our portion of Perhentian island. We’re there for a week and we’re going to shift our course to Redang, our next destination. We leave by boat, but not before we have done a last night dive. I think that is a good ending.
We dive with Josh and are two students who have to do it for their advanced. Just as I did two days ago. Then it thundered hard, but now it’s nice weather and doesn’t look like it’s going to thunder. We leave at half past eight and lie quickly in the water.
My glasses are filled with water when we are downstairs. Especially on the left side. I empty it by holding my glasses at the top and by blowing out my nose. This allows air to enter the glasses and the water to come out at the bottom. This works, but it fills up right away – time for my own glasses, I think, but that’s of no use to me now. After blowing ten times I realize that this is too tiring, I don’t keep it up for an hour and I don’t see anything of the fish in the dark. I tap Josh and Meltem, my buddy, that there is something with my glasses and point to Josh’s second spare glasses. I take off my glasses and put on a new one under water. My glasses are then full of water; I blow out through my nose and so I have a new pair of glasses that doesn’t run under. Top!
This may sound simple, but two dives ago my glasses were also filled with water – that’s why I want my own glasses – and then I didn’t dare to do this. Then I was just in the water and went back upstairs. Now I saw no other option than to change glasses, so I dared to be underwater without glasses. Very well that you dared,” Josh said when we were back, “not many people can do that. Such a compliment feels good.
Once above it was raining, as it was the last time. Is this karma? I’m not going to go with you on a nightdive anymore,’ he says.