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OK, I've been out here for two weeks now, and here are the details so far.

I flew in on Britannia on August 10th, landing at around 9pm.  The plane was on time thankfully - the last couple of times I've been out here we were 6 hours late.  

Managed to keep inside the baggage allowance despite packing for a two month trip.  The staff were generally helpful, the food was at best acceptable and the tv wasn't all that.  Didn't bother me though as I was working through the knowledge reviews for my Rescue Diver course.
I'd forgotten how much I hate the PADI reviews.  Trying to condense two pages of information into the amount of space provided, whilst retaining the salient points is pretty frustrating.

Anyway, checked in at the Rosetta, dumped my bags and sidled round to the Hilton Dreams next door for a couple of beers.  Actually, since excessive consumption of the amber nectar has been a point of recent debate here, I will henceforth refer to this activity as 'studying'.
The bar here is pretty nice for relaxing, generally popcorn is available and Stella is 16LE a bottle.

Monday, checked in with Emperor Divers and met my instructor for the up-coming courses.  She's very amiable with an engaging gallic accent and has fantastic teaching assets.  A good start to the week.

Straight into the classroom for the first course - Emergency First Response as this is a pre-requisite for the Rescue course.
The only other student was a Russian guy with a very limited English vocabulary taking the course for the third time.  This proved somewhat useful for me as I got to hear the same stuff at least four times over until he understood it.  This was of course highly vexing for our erstwhile instructress.

We watched the ubiquitous training video and got some practice in with the various medical scenarios.
Successfully completed the exam and left, happy that I was now a more useful person to have around in an emergency.

Cleaned up and removed myself to the Camel Bar, legendary home of Sakhara and peanuts.  Beer 15LE, although the manager, Mike is a good bloke to know.  Discount vouchers make the cost a more palatable 10LE.  Quid a beer anyone?
A decent line in 80's tunes provided a pleasing backdrop to some studying and Divemaster knowledge reviews.
Naama seemed pretty quiet though.  Only about half as busy as last year.

Tuesday, lugged my gear over to Emperor for the first day of the Rescue course.  More class work and some work in the pool for rescue scenarios.  The inability of my Russian comrade to understand directions was again a source of agitation.  Lunch at the italian restaurant next door was fine, although the cheese salad appeared to have a whole cheese contained within it.
Spent the evening with a couple of other DM trainees and some of the customers.  A little studying in the Camel followed by dinner at Tam Tam, an Egytian restaurant on the promenade.  At about a fiver for dinner with beer, it's pretty good here.

Wednesday.  Finally time to get wet!
Open water rescue practice at Ras Katy and Temple.  Under the watchful eye of the Emperor course director we practiced various rescue situations like panicked divers, tows, unconscious divers, searches etc.  Trying to get an unconscious diver back on a boat on my own was a real challenge.
Drank a fair bit of salty water in the course of these events.
At Ras Katy we did an underwater search which didn't take too long.  20m vis is a definite plus.  After locating our quarry, had a fun dive.  All the usual suspects including lionfish, cornetfish, a napoleon, giant puffer etc.
There were dolphins around and the snorkellers played with them, but we didn't get to see them.  Actually there were dolphins at Temple as well.  Just not my day for seeing the big stuff.
Spent the evening studying in the Camel.

Thursday.   Rescue scenarios at White Knights today.  A site I hadn't done in Sharm yet, hurrah!
The first scenario was a search and rescue.  I spent a couple of minutes standing around waiting for our Russian friend to kit up.  We jumped, got to the bottom and he lost his weightbelt.  Did a search, found an unconscious diver and got him back to the surface and towed him to the boat.  After a 14 minute rescue, I didn't fancy his chances of survival.
Managed a 20 minute fun dive, swimming around the canyon with the course director.  Nice swim through with a crocodile fish sitting on the bottom.
Underwater scenarios at Middle Gardens went well and after the exam, I became a certified Rescue diver.

Friday.  My first day as a Divemaster trainee.  Scary.  Spent the first half of the day in the water with my instructor and three new Open Water students.  Having to wear a snorkel again is a pain, but as a PADI role-model it is a burden I shall have to learn to bear.  The students were pretty good anyway, so no major problems thankfully.  We then went down to the beach for their first taste of the real thing.  Emperor have just opened a shop here, so the logistics of diving off the beach are a lot easier now.  A fun dive just to get used to it and then another dive to deal with the skills such as CESAs.  My first time as a DM 'back marker'.
An evening of serious studying at the Camel bar and then The Tavern with one of the Emperor Assistant instructors was very pleasant.  Actually I hadn't been to the Tavern before but it's pretty nice in there.  A good place to boogie at the weekends if the Bus Stop (night club) doesn't appeal.

Saturday, and the concept of the weekend doesn't really apply here.  Back to White Knights with the OW students for skills like Navigation.  I spent most of the dive trying to find a good position to keep an eye on all the students while buddying one of them sitting on the instructors fins.
In the afternoon we went to Middle Garden.  After a few minutes of the dive, one of the students had a big problem clearing her ears.  The instructor took her up and I followed at a rate of knots.  Towed the distressed student back to the boat and looked after her - glad to have had the Rescue course at this point.
Spent the evening with some of the DM trainees and customers.  A hard night of studying at the Camel and then my first taste of the Bus Stop club.  At twelve pounds sterling to get in and with a peculiar tokens system for buying beer, it's an expensive night out.  The best dance floor around though, although the style of music wasn't exactly to my taste.
Rolled out at about 4 in the morning.

Sunday August 17th.
I had only booked into the Rosetta for a week so today was check out.  Waking up at midday with a bit of a hangover wasn't really ideal as I didn't have anywhere to live now.  A lot of the dive guides live in apartments in Hadaba near Sharm old town, but the apartment agent said that everywhere was full.  The hotels around Emperor were similarly unavailable.  Jumped in a taxi to Delta Sharm and the very helpful taxi driver had a friend there who could help me out... Delta Sharm is a complex of apartments about half way between Naama bay and Sharm old town.  It has some shops, a restaurant, three pools and there are lots of plants so it's pretty green.  It doesn't however have a cash machine.

Negotiated a rate of 250 Euros a month for a reasonable studio apartment with air con and cable tv - plus water and electricity so 350 Euro a month.  Plus a 200 Euro deposit.  Went off in search of hard currency with my best friend the taxi driver.  Nowhere to get Euros so they had to settle for LE.  Signed a contract written in Egyptian, translated by the taxi driver...
Dumped my stuff and took the taxi back to Naama where he took his compensation in my remaining Euros and Sterling.  If you ever get asked by taxi drivers how much your mobile phone/sunglasses/sandals cost, I wouldn't tell them.
Spent the evening with friends and then went back to my new apartment.  A Taxi to Delta should be 10LE max although they always want 15LE.  A taxi to Sharm old town from Naama should cost no more than 15LE.

End of chapter 1.
In the next thrilling installment, marvel at daring exploits 48 metres down, share the fear of the first briefing, be awed at the first encounter with an oceanic black tip and wonder at the seeming limitless capacity for studying by your correspondent.
 

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Ahh yes, indeedy.

I decided that, having taken an oath to dive more in the UK, I would make prudent preparations for the cold, dark green stuff.  With this in mind, a couple of TDI courses seemed to be the way forward.

Monday August 18th.

First day of the TDI courses Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures.  There were three of us doing this course with my usual instructor who enjoys 120m dives apparently.  The other students were Bob and Debbie - doctors from the UK.

Spent the morning covering Nitrox issues like tables and physiology then into the pool to play with the techi gear.  OMS wings, twin 12s, poseidon regs, long hoses and sling tanks.  Learnt how to set up the gear and practiced buoyancy, moving the sling tank around etc.  In a small pool, it's a bit like manoeuvering a bus rather than a car with all that gear on.

Tuesday, we got out into the open water at Fiddle (Far / Middle) Gardens and Near - Middle Gardens.  Calculated a multi-level dive using 98% Oxygen as a deco gas at 6m.
No problems with that really.  Max depths 32m.

Wednesday we start to get to the interesting stuff.  Planned a multi-level dive to 45m with EANx32 as a deco gas.  Went to Thomas reef in Tiran to take a look at the canyon that I always gazed at longingly from 20m above.  Definitely got a bit narked at 45 swimming under one of the arches in the canyon.  Also managed to lose the instructors slate with the dive plan on it.  Oops.  Managed to remember the plan anyway.
Second dive was on Jackson to a max depth of 24m.  Had to calculate air use, practice shut-off drills and deploy a reel and smb for the first time ever.  The smb made it a lot easier to hold the stop at the required depth.
Went shopping in the evening to replace the lost slate and bought a nice shiny new one for me that ties to the arm with three hinged slates.  Groovy.

Thursday found us in Ras Mohammed for a dive on Shark/Yolanda reefs.  We jumped in first a dropped rapidly to a max depth of 48m.  Looked up and saw a swirling school of barracuda with a shark cruising around them.  Magic!  There is some disagreement as to the type of shark, but we were the only ones to see it ;-)  Swam across to Yolanda and saw a Napoleon, a Turtle and an italian sitting on the toilet.  Hmm.  He definitely understood the gestures I gave him though.  Deco on 60%.  A dolphin a few feet from the boat finished this dive off nicely.
Ras Ghazlani as the second dive.  Mostly skills and drills here with shut-offs, sharing spare regs and my least favourite 'take off mask in salty water and deploy an smb from 9m while maintaining buoyancy - wait 5 mins'

So that was the techi  courses.  A couple of exams and I'm now qualified for 45m although in the UK I'll want to be starting a lot shallower and working down.

On Friday, one of the other DM trainees asked me to dive with him from the beach in Naama as he need more dives to be certified.  Actually, this guy has just left after being certified with exactly 60 dives.  He managed to upset just about everyone at the centre.  While his diving wasn't bad, his attitude to the DM course was a real problem.  One of the best was when we were with an instructor and some OW students.  When the instructor told them what we would be doing, his response was basically 'your description was crap'.  In front of students not good.  Quite a few people here are more than a little surprised that he actually got certified.
Anyway, the beach dive was fine after I organised the logistics myself - loads of lionfish, anenome fish, box fish and even a Titan Trigger.
Spent the afternoon in the pool demonstrating the 18 key skills to the course director.  This was the first time I'd done these since my OW course so I think we can safely say I need a lot more practice.
Friday evening I think involved a fair bit of studying in the Camel/The Tavern but I can't quite remember.

Saturday

Back to Tiran at Woodhouse and thrown in at the deep end with 'go brief the divers'.  Had to wing it with borrowed maps and reference to my last dives here out of the log book.  More practice required here too.  Ended up as back marker on a guided dive.  Plenty to see including a Napoleon, grey and white tip reef sharks and lots of small stuff.
At the end of the dive there was a real mean Titan Trigger - swimming menacingly at every diver and even chewing some fins.
We surfaced a little too close to the end of the reef and the 'washing machine' and getting back on to the boat was a bit of a drama.
Gordon Reef after lunch although not so much to see on this dive.
One of the senior instructors Margaret was really helpful, giving assistance on briefings, running the boat and determining which sites to use given conditions and diver preferences.
Another night on the town ensued.

Sunday was a day of rest and practical matters although with no cash point out here in Delta Sharm, a trip into Naama for cash and food at the Pirates Bar in the Hilton was required.

The end of the week and pretty busy on reflection.  I'm starting to get to know the characters here at Emperor and beginning to understand how the business works a little.  Also the amount of work required to get really good at the guiding/briefing/teaching stuff.  Handy.

Next week:

Demonstrate skills to students for scuba review that you hardly know yourself, into the DM exams and physical tests, understanding that a day off is never a day off for a DM trainee, getting back to the centre to find that the other boat had a dolphin for the whole of two dives and more.
 
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