La Pedrada de Noemi Residency Journal 2

The fourth day I took the bus (called la guagua here) down into Arinaga to meet with Silviu.  This in itself was more complicated than I would've thought as no one sold ticket cards in the station until later on and also while Noemi thought buses ran every half hour, they actually only run once an hour.  I had planned on taking the 10:30am bus, but since that wasn't actually an option I had time to hunt down a different card vendor.  I could also have just paid in cash, but that costs more.  Finding the open vendor took a bit, since all I had to go on was that it was on the Parque de los Moros, and I had no idea where that was despite some iffy verbal directions, but I found it and purchased the card.  Sadly, the best card is only sold in Las Palmas and requires a photo of you (it is good for whatever destination you want) so I just got a ten-trip Agüimes-Arinaga version and got back well in time to take the 11am bus.

I got to Silviu's place around 11:30am and he invited me upstairs for breakfast.  I had already had breakfast, but his version involved tea, cookies, and a friend, so it was all good!  His friend was a biochemist retiree named Trev from England who moved here very recently.  Due in part to Trev who doesn't speak much Spanish but also because of my not-full fluency, we all spoke in English.  Silviu is fluent in at least Romanian, Spanish, English, German, and conversant in Italian and French and possibly more?  After our very lazy breakfast (my second) we went down to the beach at Zoco Negro, which is a tidal pool with a manmade rock barrier to calm the waves and allow for a more relaxed beach experience.  Silviu left us there to gather more stuff, and upon his return he and I went snorkeling in Zoco Negro.  He very kindly lent me all the gear, including a mask, the snorkel, a swim cap and hood, and a neoprene short-sleeved/short jumper that was his partner's as I had expressed my fear of being freezing (the water is quite cold and the weather is so temperate with so much wind that you have to sit in the sun for some time before you even want to get in the water, and then if you are me you want quickly to come back out!).  The neoprene helped with the warmth, and also lent an extra level of buoyancy that was helpful in letting me not work at all at floating but instead focus on taking photos with my new underwater camera.  My mask initially didn't work and kept letting water in but then Silviu switched with me and it worked perfectly.

We stayed out for a while - maybe 45 minutes to a hour - and then hung out on the beach for a while longer.  Then we ordered some pizza.  Silviu is mostly vegetarian himself and he's also the most hospitable person, so he just ordered vegetarian ones and we had some wine with dinner.  He told me to come back tomorrow at the same time, and then he drove me to the bus stop and I took the bus back into Agüimes.  I looked at the photos from this first snorkel and while a few were good, a lot were out of focus.  It requires a lot of multitasking to take good underwater photos and I need to learn how to do it all!

The following day when I came in we ran some errands first - we stopped at Trev's to pick him up, and went grocery shopping at Lidl (a German chain of supermarkets) where I picked up a few extra things as well.  We then went to a dive shop (!!) and checked how late we could get equipment to go scuba diving (!!!!).  The shop is open until 8pm, so there was plenty of time as Silviu thought a late afternoon dive would be nice.  Then we went back to his apartment and unpacked the groceries and had some tea, and Trev came over, and then Silviu said he had to run some errands so Trev and I talked while Silviu picked up some goat milk and other items.  When he got back he made a late lunch of pasta, and by the time we were all done it was around 7pm!  He got out his own scuba supplies (suits, flippers, hoods, gloves, shoes, masks) and I tried to get in my 7mm neoprene suit, which was again actually his partner Ricardo's.  Ricardo is, I'm told, heavier than I am, so from what I gather it should be easier to put his suit on than one that actually fits me... if that's the case, I don't know how on earth I'd get into one that fits me.  Even with Ricardo's, I couldn't get into it the way I needed to and skinned a finger trying to pull it on!  Silviu however is magic and also strong and managed to get me into it, in part using the aid of plastic bags to get my limbs to push through and then managing to pull the bag out the end.  He said it's easier to get into wet ones than dry so that next time it wouldn't be as bad, which I hoped would come true!

Then he left to the swim shop - at about 7:35pm - to get the air tanks and regulators.  By the time he got back, it was about 8:15pm or so, so we were officially doing a twilight dive for my first one as sunset is around 8:55pm here.  Then Silviu showed me the tanks, and mine looked enormous!  I learned later that it was in fact bigger, and that was because a first-time diver might freak out and hyperventilate the whole time and use up the air very quickly.  The enormousness meant it was super, super heavy.  The whole jacket rig was 45 pounds.  It was a lot.  Then Silviu added 6kg to the pockets, so approximately 13 pounds, as divers need weight to counterbalance the neoprene and their own fat reserves' buoyancy.  Then we had to walk down two flights of stairs, across the promenade, down another flight of stairs, and down a ramp.  I was already tired from wrestling the neoprene on so the walk with around 58 pounds of weight on my back was brutal.

We decided to do my "baptism" in Zoco Negro, a somewhat familiar stomping ground since I had snorkeled there before.  I didn't take my camera on this first trip to focus on just being present and safe in the gear, watching the pressure and popping my ears, and so on.  We got into the water, Silviu put my fins on, I got my mask on, tried out the regulator, and soon enough we went under.  I didn't love breathing through the regulator above water, but doing it below is actually much better.  The first few minutes I had issues with water getting into my mask, but we figured out it had an improper seal due to the swim cap getting under it so we fixed it and then I had far fewer issues.  Silviu controlled all the depth and pressure-related decisions and also watched the gauges, so I didn't have to learn about that part, he just made it happen.  Zoco Negro was magical at night - all the sea slugs were out in force - and by the midway point of our dive I really wanted my camera but the first half I would've hated having it so it was probably good I didn't bring it along.  The latter bit of our dive it started getting quite dark and we soon wrapped it up.  The whole thing was probably around 35 minutes or so.  Getting out of the water, my tank and weights felt so very heavy!  Silviu offered to carry it in addition to his own, and I didn't know how he'd manage and said I thought I could do it but he insisted.  He did get both of them back, but it clearly surprised him how hard it was to do!

That evening he suggested it was late enough I could just stay over (he has a second apartment in the complex I could use) but since I hadn't planned for that I didn't have anything including nightly medicine and stuff so we decided he'd bring me back that evening and the following night I would spend the night.

The next day I actually felt rather ill with stomach upset and frequent trips to the bathroom, and I considered canceling, but then Silviu had to delay our start time and in the hour-long delay I felt pretty crappy so I figured I'd feel crappy wherever and I might as well be doing cool stuff instead of laying in bed.  So I went in, and we had some tea (I did not eat anything though!) and we went for a late afternoon scuba dive - around 4pm.  I still had a lot of air in my tank since I did not hyperventilate the first dive so we used the same equipment.  Getting in the neoprene was slightly easier since it was wet, but that just meant it went from impossible to slightly less impossible.  I still had to have Silviu's assistance to get into it properly.  This time, I carried my tank but he didn't put the weights in until we got to where we were going, which made it better.  He mentioned his air was low in his tank so he might need to use my emergency regulator.  We saw a different area, actually in the ocean proper and not just a sectioned off pool, and it was really neat.  On this dive, I did take my camera.  At some point Silviu did need to switch to my regulator, and I thought the dive would be over, but then we kept on!  One trite but true takeaway - the ocean is huge.  Really, I know it is, but being in it and just swimming about underwater and seeing it just go on and on and filled with life is amazing.

After our dive, we got out of our suits (not as hard as getting in, but still quite a workout) and rinsed off, got dressed again, and then went to Moya in the north to run an errand and then went back south a little to an all-inclusive hotel where Silviu sings (that's his current job - he's a singer in a few different places, and earns enough at each gig to only have to work like four times a week for a couple hours).  I watched him perform - I recognized some and I know several were Sinatra - but also took in the all-inclusive vacation atmosphere, which was interesting because since it is not to my personal taste when traveling, I don't have much experience with it.  Then we drove back to Arinaga, got late night tapas from a couple different restaurants, and then went back to the apartments at around 1:30am (!) and Silviu showed me the one I'd be staying in.

I got to bed around 2am and woke up at around 9:30am, still tired, so I leisurely got ready and left the apartment at 11am.  Silviu was coming back shortly, so I beachcombed for around half an hour and then we had breakfast together, returned the dive shop tanks and regulators, and then he drove me to catch the bus... but as we were waiting for the bus, I mentioned I was going to try to find a pharmacy when I got back to Agüimes as my skinned finger had gotten a bit infected and somehow I managed to forget to pack band-aids.  Silviu thought we had time, so we caught a pharmacy just as it was closing for siesta and I bought a package of band-aids, but then when we got back to the bus stop the ladies waiting said my bus had already gone.  So then Silviu, who is a complete gentleman, just drove me back instead.  I invited him in and gave him a choice of the greeting card reproductions I'd brought along (he selected two) and an alcoholic chocolate bar I had purchased for myself in Ireland since I felt like I needed to attempt to balance at least a little tiny bit the amount of kindness he gave to me.