Nice as PIE – not quite….

Posted on April 17, 2019


I left Thailand in January and headed to Sulawesi in Indonesia for ten days. It was a trip I was hugely excited about because it would be my first proper taste of macro diving. Scouring the sea bed for small critters with my nose pressed up to the black sand. These are the underdogs of the marine world, the creatures you miss without a microscopic lens or a trained eye. The ones that most people don’t automatically say, “Awwww, how cute,”.

My beautiful friend from Ireland BQ flew over to meet me and we buddied up and took in the wonders of The Lembeh Strait. We ticked off pretty much everything: Bobbit worms on a night dive, flamboyant cuttlefish, blue ring-octopus, wunderpus, coconut octopus, hairy frog fish, Pygmy seashorses, emperor shrimp, more nudis than a porn show. We did four dives daily and didn’t want to leave. I love Indonesia the diving is so varied. It was the perfect way to conclude my ten weeks in SE Asia.

I hit London in February and flew out the same month. Hospital, check, leave. I decided to head back to Thailand to see if I could make it work for six months. I’m craving stability. I’ve been on the move for the last three years. I’d like a base but so far I haven’t been convinced I’ve found one.

I was hoping for an easy transition back to working as a dive instructor. Sadly it wasn’t to be. Story of my life. I always seem to go through hardship first, despite trying to avoid drama.

I loved my team teaching at Crystal Koh Tao. I learnt loads and have full respect and admiration for the senior team there. I was even awarded a certificate of “excellence in teaching standards” during my stint there by PADI after a student nominated me, which came as a surprise.

But I was asked to do an unpaid internship for ten days (everyone has to do it). It’s to learn the nuts and bolts of what goes on daily and how the machine operates. It was 11 hour days starting at 6.30am and finishing most days at 5.30pm. It was physically and in my case, mentally draining. Hard work has never been a problem for me. But I need to know I have the support from the team I work within. This didn’t happen.

I was like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole and I was miserable as hell. I felt isolated and shunned. It’s not easy starting a new career at 43. In my old profession I’m top of my game. I’m treated differently because of my experience. But now I’m starting out all over again and I’m working with 20-something’s who think nothing of patronising me or anyone else they don’t know. Despite the fact I’m an educated human being with common sense. I am not stupid but I need to ask questions to know what I’m supposed to do. Enduring their infantile behaviour ground me down. When was I transported back to the schoolyard? I was left feeling like I’d come back for nothing and wasted time, energy and money I didn’t really have. Needless to say the placement didn’t work out.

I don’t like failing at anything. I put 100 per cent into everything I do. I don’t see the point of being half arsed. It’s futile. So I was very upset but mostly frustrated as hell. After nursing my wounds for a week, I took a gamble and I answered an advert. I was apprehensive and nervous that I’d end up at yet another school with a similar scenario and demographic. Koh Tao is a young island. Thankfully I’ve turned a corner. After a brief interview I was offered a chance to teach a course the very next day and I’ve been there now for over a month.

The dive school is at a private resort where it’s more customer focussed, smaller groups with an older peer group. It’s under new management, so there are some teething problems as my boss has an uphill battle; but it’s an intimate team of core freelancers and everyone tries to pull together. I’m teaching lots even in low season and the weeks have flown by.

Just over a week in, I was asked by my boss to have two PADI instructors follow me for the day while I taught and guided a mother who hadn’t dived properly in over a decade and her two children (age 10, 13). “Oh god minors and a nervous, anxious woman while being watched like a hawk by evaluators,” no pressure whatsoever I contemplated. It wasn’t so much as an ask, it was more of a, you’ve been picked, kind of statement.

I decided if I screwed up, this was a sign to pack up and leave. Thankfully the PIE (Professional Image Evaluation) albeit the most stressful five hours, went well and the dive school got their rating, my boss was delighted and I was commended. Huge relief and a little confidence boost to keep plodding on.

It can be hard to keep going when your far from the people who really know you, who can give you that emotional support and a hug when you’ve had a crap day. But I’ve chosen to be here so I remind myself that I have to keep going. I still haven’t found my tribe here eight weeks in. There are some good people i have met and I hang out with, but I feel it’s a transient friendship. By August I think I’ll know for sure if Thailand is likely to be my base for a bit longer or just another chapter in my dive career.