Bocas Del Toro

(this is pretty long, but there are pictures at the end)

This is where we went this past weekend. It’s an island that’s part of Panama for those unfamiliar. We’ve been planning this trip for almost a month and half now. Justin and I both took at 5 week class to begin our scuba certification process that was to be finished this past weekend with 4 dives in Panama. We were excited.

We actually debated whether or not to go a couple of weeks or so before the trip for a few different reasons, but we ended up deciding that we had invested enough already in it that we were going to go through with the trip.  It was about a 9 hour bus ride there.  We took Cailyn.  She was literally WONDERFUL on the trip.  I prayed the week before about that, because the only other students going that had kids on the trip were parents of a 9 and 10 year old.  God was so gracious to us!  I actually think Cailyn enjoyed riding on the bus.  It was a blessing.

There were 14 of us on the trip, including the instructor,  and 3 other experienced divers.  The group was full of other students from our school that we really hadn’t gotten to know as of this past weekend, so we made some great new friendships.  

Before the trip, we were supposed to have 2 practice dives in a swimming pool here in San Jose.  Unfortunately, the filter in that pool was broken, and we didn’t have time to fit our 2 dives in before we left this past Friday.  That meant our practice dives were going to be in the ocean.  Hmmm…my first reservation.

When we got there, we had to unload our luggage off of the bus and onto a boat that took us about 20 min. to the island and hotel where we were staying.  When we arrived, the town’s electricity had been off for a bit, so none of the air conditioning units in our rooms were on.  We had to unload our things, get our bathing suits on, and walk down the road to the dive shop that we were working with while there.  By the time we had all of that done, I was sweating so profusely that I felt like I had already taken a dive in the ocean.  I pretty much had to pray through having a good attitude.  Poor Justin probably wondered why he ever even brought me on the trip.  He was a trooper.  Cailyn, poor thing, was drenched as well.  At least she’s young enough not to complain about it…that was a plus.

One of the reasons we had considered not coming was because we didn’t know who would watch Cailyn while we both were doing our dives.  It turned out that the instructor’s wife and 8 yr. old daughter were going to be coming on the trip, and they said they could watch Cailyn for us.  That was good, except for the fact that we found out that morning on the bus (due to noticing they weren’t on the bus) that they decided not to come because of the impassable roads between their house and the school, our meeting place for departure.  It happened that on one of our bathroom stops on the trip there, the wife of one of the men getting certified (the family with the 2 kids) asked me what I was going to do with Cailyn.  I sort of laughed and told her what our plan was and how it was no longer.  When I finished she said, extremely matter-of-factly, “Oh, so were you just going to leave her with me?”  She looked totally serious.  I kind of looked at her and thought to myself, “uh, sure…do you really mean that?”  I told her we would see what the schedules were, and it might be that we would take her up on her offer.  Or had she just told me what I was going to do?  All I could do was thank God.  Had that just been that easy?!

So, Cailyn, needless to say, played with that mom and her daughter all afternoon while we went scuba diving.  What a blessing!  Otherwise, we weren’t sure both of us would be able to be certified.  It worked out well.

The first afternoon, we did our very first, EVER, practice dive (which was supposed to be in a pool…remember!), in the ocean.  Not cool for me.  We went down just about 12 ft., and we had to be tested underwater on things like, taking our mask off and putting it back on, filling our mask with water and then emptying it, taking our regulator (O2 source…aaahhh) out and finding it again to put back in our mouth, and other things like that.  The entire time I was nervous.  I kept holding up my finger when the instructor would get to me and motion to me what to do.  That’s not really a real “scuba hand sign”, but he sure knew what I meant when I did it…”Uh, hold on.  I for sure need a moment before I practice that move, buddy!”  When we finally all went up to the surface again, I was THRILLED.  I could not WAIT to be done with that experience.  It was at that moment that I really wasn’t sure I cared much for scuba…

The next morning, we woke up and headed out again for our first real dive.  We were sort of supposed to have 2 practice dives, but I guess due to our odd circumstances with the unavailability of the pool back home, we just had that one.  The morning was overcast, and once we actually made it to the place we were going to dive, the water was really choppy, and it was about to sprinkle.  Not the best climate to make me feel any more comfortable.  Everyone got their gear on, and they fell off the side of the boat into the water, except me.  I waited, and waited, and…oh, then it was my turn.  Geez.  I really have to do this, huh.  As the dude from the dive shop place was helping me put my gear on my back, I stopped him, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “listen, I am REALLY nervous.  Do you understand?!”  He sort of laughed and said, “Yes, I do.  It’s ok”  Um, no, it wasn’t, but whatever.  As he hooked me in, I was asking all sorts of questions.  “What does this do?”, “Oh, and if I need to come up really fast, I just push this?”, “Will I be able to see everyone?”…and more stuff like that.  I KNOW he thought I was a case.  Finally, it was time to fall into the water.  I really didn’t want to.  After like 10 times of checking to make sure air would come out of my regulator when I sucked on it, I just went for it.  For those who haven’t done this before, you have like a vest on that makes you float, so you pop up right away when you get into the water.  I didn’t care.  The water was hitting me on all sides…totally something I would not have cared about if I hadn’t have had all of that gear on me.  Things were not looking good.  I immediately found Justin in the mass of people (well, it seemed like a mass at the time), went up to him, and said very sternly, “I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS.”   Poor Justin just looked at me with this face like, “Uh, ok.  What should I do for you?”  I then began to cry.  Yeah…you read right.  I felt so dumb.

All of you women out there should know where I’m coming from on some level.  You know…when you are overwhelmed and you find someone you know and feel comfortable with (aka…your husband), it is SO easy to let your feelings take over.  Whereas, if I had been talking to someone else in the water, I probably would have held myself together.  My mistake.  Anyway, I was crying mainly because I was frustrated.  Yeah, I was scared, but I was more frustrated that I felt so unprepared.  I just knew had I had some more pool practice, I would have been more prepared.  So, after making somewhat of a scene, I got back into the boat.  Everyone else proceeded to experience their first dive ever.  Me…I got to know the other worker who had to sit on the boat and stand guard while they were all under the water.  He was cool.  He kept asking me if I was ok.  It was annoying, but I knew he meant well.

As I sat there, I played through hypothetical situations in my head.  The main one was this:  If my entire team was scuba certified (which they aren’t yet), and we somehow had babysitters for all of the kids (which is hard), and we all went on vacation together and had the chance to scuba dive all together…and I was the only one who couldn’t do it…would that make me sad or would I regret not finishing my certification?

Uh…I decided no. haha.

I convinced myself that I could go to a cool aquarium and probably see more than they would anyway.  So, when Justin got back on the boat after the dive, I told him.  He was so great and just let me feel the way I felt and didn’t try and convince me to do it.  I appreciated that.  He told me it was ok that our money was being wasted (actually, I used that phrase, and he told me not to feel guilty and to not say that)…haha.  Still, that was a thought in my mind.  I NEVER anticipated being such a chicken when it came to scuba diving.  I did anticipate being nervous, but I really thought I would get over it.  

So, to make a long story not longer, I tried it two more times.  A sweet, sweet lady, Sheila, on our trip helped me the 2nd time in shallow water, and the next morning, she was prepared to go very slow with me as we descended for our 3rd and 4th dives.  I did well the 2nd time, but the next morning, after getting geared up, descending about 10 feet maybe, ascending again because I was nervous, descending again about 15 feet, and ascending again determined that diving wasn’t for me this weekend, I quit.  Sad times, I know.  I got to sit in the boat with yet another dive dude from the shop.  He was cool too.  At least I got something out of my time.  Good conversation with some Panamanian dive dudes..haha, just what I was paying for!  

I will give myself credit here.  The water was really not very visible.  On the last dive, everyone said it got better when they reached the bottom, but the weather made it not as good of a dive for anyone.  Justin said he saw a lot of corral.  I don’t care too much about that.  I told him I was willing to try this again some day.  I know I will have to be able to see clear to the bottom, though.  Hmmm…surely there are places like that, right?

During their last dive, I went and sat on the beach with Cailyn, the sweet family that was caring for her, and one of the dive guys.  It was fun to watch Cailyn play.  She had a great time.  Before you get too excited, my beach time has somewhat of a down side to it as well.  I got bitten by TONS of these little sand flea things.  I’m not sure really what they’re called.  Cailyn had some skin-so-soft on, so that was good.  I have a picture of my bites to show you.  They are COVERING my legs, arms, and back.  I am miserable.  They didn’t show up until the next day, Monday, when we were driving back home.

We are glad to be home.  All in all, we enjoyed being with new friends, seeing the pretty scenery, and getting away.  I am sort of sad I chickened out, but there’s nothing I can do about it now.  Justin, by the way, enjoyed himself.  That is something to be happy about.

Here are some pictures we took while we were gone.  Many of the homes on the ocean were beaten down and very gross.  While we saw some really pretty things, it was evident that there are people everywhere hurting.

On another note, we look forward to the next couple of weeks.  Steve Allison, a counselor from Abilene Christian University, is coming to visit our team, here!  He will be here over Halloween.  He is staying with us, we are getting in some team counseling, a fun day that Saturday together at a place that has a zip line and white water rafting, and we plan to have a team Halloween “carnival” of sorts for our kids.  Should be great!  Anyway, here are pics from our trip.  Enjoy!

yeah…it’s a bit ironic.  the only picture we have of us and scuba gear is of me…

in these next few pictures, you will notice the small baby alligator behind Cailyn…amazing, isn’t it?!

just kidding.  that’s a log.  seriously, would i have taken this picture otherwise?

this is the scuba instructor.  cailyn had to warm up to him.  she let him pick her up, but she didn’t like her choice after it was made…

honestly, can you resist this…?


these next few pictures are of some of the houses we saw that were pretty run down…

and, I leave you with what my legs look like.  oh…and my arms, and my back…

(please excuse the fact that this picture above makes me look like i have severe cellulite on the left side of my leg (or at least I think so)…gross, i know.  it took a few tries even to get this picture!)

Well, surely this post is long enough.  We want to send out a special thanks to the Bobo family from TN for sending us an AMAZING package that we received today!  It was SO FUN to receive!  Hope everyone has a great week.




2 responses to “Bocas Del Toro

  1. Hey, sounds like a great trip. Not to worry about not scuba’ing. Probably next time, or not (as Randy Harris likes to say). Looks like Cailyn had a blast. Love you guys! daddyO

  2. Hi Alison, I am a friend of your Mom’s from our high school twirler days. I have been reading your blog for months (and enjoying immensely… you write and convey so much so well). I am a certified scuba diver (since 1986). Wait until later, go thru a six-week course, and do your check-out dives in better conditions (clear, warm water without rain storms). That will make all the difference, and you’ll love and appreciate it. You had too much to worry about that day and too much too soon. I admire all that you and Justin are doing. Cannot wait to read the next chapters. Sending my prayers.
    Robyn (Prouse) Tooley

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