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Let’s talk about our down time in South Africa

We’re still right smack in the middle of DMT here in South Africa (final exam coming tomorrow, woo!) so I thought I’d deviate from the usual topics to talk a little bit about what we do for fun around Coral. Obviously, it’s a bit difficult to go out and travel long distances from Coral because only a few people have cars and petrol is expensive. The furthest we ever tend to get is driving the ten minutes into “town” where there are about four restaurants, two bars, and a club. If we’re feeling special, we drive to one of the restaurants so we can eat actual people food instead of the staff meals they prepare in bulk here (it’s not horrible; it’s just bland and very repetitive). We like to go out in big groups because it’s one of the few times during a week when all of the CDCs, DMTs, DM, and Instructors can get together as a group and have fun.

During the day, post-diving, things are relatively calm. We spend a lot of time reading and swapping books (hard-copy books are worth their weight in gold here), or those of us who are more creatively inclined will find a quiet place with a cool breeze and write. If it’s a hot day, we’ll trek up to the pool and sneak a cylinder or two away so we can drop to the bottom and play around with breathing techniques, or just fool around without the full weight and restrictions of a BCD. In B-camp, they’ve knocked down one of the existing houses and are building a new one, so we’ve been holding balancing competitions on the exposed framework (Kai learned that it’s important to also look up when balancing on a beam. Spiderwebs tend to not get out of your way as you walk into them). We also realized a few days ago that the trees planted in front of B-camp are perfect for climbing, so we spend a fair bit of time nowadays with our feet dangling above the ground. Most of the time, though (especially now as it’s starting to get very hot in the afternoons) we spend our afternoons asleep. Diving is a strenuous activity, and we find that a nice nap for one or two hours after lunch is the best.

At night, after we’ve finished with dive planning, we tend to group together and spend the evenings enjoying each other’s company. You’ll most often find us grouped around the few hammocks in the staff quarters, camping chairs pulled up in a tight circle, listening to whoever’s music got hooked up to the Bluetooth speaker. There’s a soccer ball and a rugby ball that gets passed around, though if we can’t locate either one, we throw a lighter back and forth across the circle and play a game similar to Picnic. If it’s a special occasion, we haul out a makeshift fire pit made from half an oil drum and scavenge for wood (and lighter fluid) before making a bonfire in the middle of camp and having a braai (similar to an American BBQ) once the fire’s died down a bit.The best nights are one of two types, though. The first is when there’s no moon and not a cloud in the sky, so you can see every star laid out against the velvet sky. On nights like that, I find myself standing on the fringes of camp, away from the lights, just staring up at the constellations. I recognize all my favorites from home: Orion, the Little Dipper, the Pleiades. But the second best nights are when the thunderstorms roll in. You can see them building from across the bay all afternoon, and then they crash across camp with wild abandon. Remember, we live in reed houses with mesh for windows, so the wind whips through our rooms and the thunder crashes through our heads like we were standing outside (plus the roofs all leak, so it’s pretty mush like being outside). What makes the storms so great though is the fact that the power always goes out. You’ll hear a big cheer go up from the guests when the lights drop, and we all come out onto our porches and watch the lightning.

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