Day 9. The last day

Wow, well what an amazing and emotional day. I’m writing this in my room where I’m currently suffering from a horrible temperature and feeling really rotten. I think it might be one of those illnesses that strikes after a really long period of adrenalin and stress as your body just relaxes after a huge event. Yesterday began with a lecture about the role of the course director in the industry and also us going through the course director contract, it ended with a warning note about not heading out on a rampage in Punta Cana that evening wearing PADI branded stuff! Afterwards we headed back to do the last teaching presentation. This was just a standard prescriptive one so it was more to with evaluation. I scored a 5 and 6/6 on the evaluation so it was a great way to end the course. Then we had our lunch before heading back over for final counselling and to see if we’d passed. The whole group waited nervously outside a couple of rooms and we were called in individually. As each successful person emerged there were whoops and cheers and social media started going nuts. Finally I was called into the room where I met Fiona, she went through the scores, I managed 96% overall, and congratulated me before telling me she was looking forward to my work in London. And with that, it was done, I emerged to cheers from the team and we had a lots of group photos before heading to the pool bar for a celebratory beer. We then had time for a quick tactical nap before the graduation banquet at 6. Again unfortunately due to the hurricane, which was a bit of a non-event, the dinner had been moved from Playa Blanca to the conference room. The evening began with loads of team photos and then James congratulating us all again followed by a delicious buffet. Afterward James played a slideshow of pics from the course which was quite emotional and then we had the graduation ceremony. We all received a pack with a certificate, card and badge and then the celebrations really got underway. A whole bunch of us ended up in the pool with lots of rum and coke and I had a massive cigar which I pretty much smoked in it’s entirety which may be part of the reason I feel so wrong today! It was an epic party and a great feeling and we ended the day on a high.

graduation group photo

Team Greengos graduate!

Jen and I are here until Sunday, flying in the evening and arriving back home on Monday. We’re going to take the next few days to really relax and soak it all in. It’s been an incredible journey to get here and I was saying to Dave last night, it’s a strange feeling, in that I never quite thought I’d achieve this but in a way, I’ve always been heading here. See you all soon.

Alex gets certificate

Receiving my certificate


Day 8: Hurricane Chantal!

Alex evaluating

Evaluating in the pool

Today we were due to head back to Corales for the last confined open water evaluations but with the foul weather and wind in the morning they’d decided to cancel. James told us it was a ‘CDTC learning moment’ about using conservative judgement! Instead we were going to use the pool at the resort. This was a very popular decision until we found out we would all be doing different skills. I’d had neutral buoyancy LPI (no worries) but now I had no mask swim which has a distance requirement so a little more complicated. I went to get my reel but as we were getting ready in the pool I overheard Johnny talking to one of my teammates about the CESA. Johnny said, why bother measuring out 9m, just get them to swim for 30s. He said they’ll be going at least 18m per minute so 30s easily covers the requirement. I went over and said, ‘well can I just do the same for no mask swim?’ which has a 15m distance requirement. He said ‘sure’, upon further discussion he said that may of the distance skills will have their performance requirements changed to times on the new course, so you heard it here first! It was a much simpler way to run the skill, so I just got them to swim around with me for a minute. I scored a 4.8 only dropping one point on the demo for not emphasising the use of the LPI for buoyancy before starting the skill. I matched up 5/5 for my evaluation.

Due to being in the pool we actually had a decent lunch break so I managed a quick powernap before we headed into another round of presentations.

alex getting out pool

The end of another hard day at work!

In the afternoon we had to deliver 2 more instructor level presentations, one from the IDC and one from the speciality instructor manual. It was a long afternoon and after the first set of presentations we were slammed for all taking too long. I took it upon myself to burn through the next presentation in a box ticking exercise. It paid off and I scored a 4.6 and a 4.8 respectively due to not using enough training aids and not interacting. I was pretty sure the scores should have been the other way around because I barely interacted with the class on the second one and used loads of training aids on the first one but there we go.

In the evening Dave, Jen and myself headed into the village and had some delicious chilli cheese fries followed by a vile burrito. It was cool to just chill and hang out with Dave as well, he’s rapidly become a really good mate and support on the course and I was also in awe at his ability to work a euphemism about backdoor sex into his contact and value on his presentation and get way with it. Likewise I’ve managed a perfect run on selling my double ender in all the presentations too! We couldn’t believe that the course was ending tomorrow either.

Day 7: Marketing Presentations

This day was all about presentations. This was fortunate as I woke up in the morning with a raging head ache feeling really unwell. I’d basically got really dehydrated at open water the previous day and I just couldn’t seem to drink enough water during the morning. We started the day in the main conference room where each team had to deliver their marketing presentation. Dave began with a short comedy intro with various pictures of the staff implying that James was downtrodden at work and looking for a change. It was excellent and very well received; we then followed up with me telling James that our plan was essentially to come to him. Unfortunately our presentation was a bit disjointed and we didn’t get much branding or our Facebook page up on the projector. Other teams gave much slicker presentations but I still felt that we were the only ones to actually come up with a different strategy. Unfortunately due to the headache I wasn’t in the best of moods and the morning was pretty difficult to get through.

Punta Cana Resort

Punta Cana Resort

In the afternoon we had to deliver an instructor level presentation again. Fiona Fishbourne was evaluating us and she was really great, relaxing everyone and making it fun. After that I headed over to the main conference room to do my Emergency Oxygen Provider Instructor course which was run by Alan. It was very informative and also, thankfully, pretty brief!

In the evening it was a huge relief to not have to do any marketing stuff so Jen and I headed over to another part of the resort called Playa Blanca. The service was much better here and we had a lovely evening.

Day 6: Open Water at the Copacabana

A full day of open water presentations today as well as our rescue evaluations. We were taken  by coach to another resort. This one was mental busy with an animation team dressed in leopard print doing aerobics by the pool. The day was overcast and it was incredibly hot and humid so gearing up was pretty uncomfortable. I’m going to hold my hand up and say that I really should have a brought a 3mm with me as this is my first experience of really just being a bit too warm in a wetsuit. Also, we’re not spending that long in the water so it’s really not required!

We headed from the dive centre across the beach, as all the sunbathers looked on. However we then had a very long walk/swim through very shallow water until we eventually reached the buoy by which time I had been lightly poached. Our first task was an open water teaching presentation and also evaluation of our team mates. First of all I evaluated Johan on the 5 point decent with reference, I scored him a very competent 5. I had the sheet bend knot which I’m happy with. The examiners had only provided each team with one length of rope and a lift bag and a quick check with one of the CDs helping on the course confirmed we would be OK to just use one rope to demo the knot. I made my way through my students, one of them had a bit of a nightmare actually tying the knot which led to a lot of underwater laughter but we managed to get there in the end. Afterwards we were evaluated on our rescue demonstrations. When I was used as a body I was almost drowned by the large amount of water slopped into the mask at the end of the demo which was an interesting experience as my desire to not ruin my teammate’s demo conflicted with a basic fight for life.

After the rescue, which incidentally is the first time I’ve done a rescue demo to a banging euro trance soundtrack, we headed back in for de-briefs. My evaluation was spot on but I was marked down on my teaching presentation for a couple of reasons. First of all I had everyone tie the knot individually, the examiner argued that from a time management perspective I should have just got the whole class to do it together. This was a pretty valid point, so no worries there. Then I got marked down for using one piece of rope which kind of upset me, but hey, it’s a point so I definitely wasn’t going to be one of those people who argue every point endlessly with the examiners for no discernable result other than to piss them off. My score was 4.4. Then one of our team was debriefed on his surface compass swim. The performance requirements for this skill are to go for 50m. Sure enough we measured out the distance with a reel. I was his student and I was told my problem should be to look up and not look at the compass. It took my teammate a little bit of time to pick up on this as he was looking at the compass, but he saw it and corrected it. We completed the skill and he did his positive reinforcement and all was good. Except he was scored a 1 because by not making me repeat the skill, I hadn’t gone 50 m so it was a standards break. It was a salutatory lesson for all of us….

After a very quick lunch we were back for our second presentation. This time I was doing mask removal replacement and evaluating reg recovery which again I was very happy to have and this time scored a 5. Another of our team, however, had lift bag deployment and the scene was set for another nightmare. We were being examined by Alan. His style is dry and controlled, he wants things done quickly, efficiently and in order so a large part of his brief emphasised control and not everyone swimming around and stirring up the sand on the bottom. On the way out, my teammate with the lift bag had his weight belt buckle break which caused him a lot of stress. On descent he then stirred up lots of sand with the lift bag and I watched Alan’s face darken…. Unfortunately with all the chaos he then forgot to get the students to rig the lift bag and upon debrief was also scored a one. Needless to say it was all a bit unpleasant and there wasn’t the best of vibes in the bar at the end of the day. Still it was obvious that the entire exercise had been a kind of warning shot across the bows to do with complacency and a couple of beers soon repaired the damage.

All in all a very interesting and also very tiring day. I’ll get the action from today up tomorrow. Can’t believe there’s only 2 more days to go!

Post script to this blog post. Internet access is crap and is now limited to the lobby hence no pictures and the lateness of getting this post up. We also  have hurricane Chantal coming in! I’m going to try and get some more blogs up but it’s been so busy over the past couple of days. Tomorrow is the last day of the course so I’ll try and get some posts up before the graduation dinner. Only one presentation to go….

Day 4 and 5: Presentations, presentations. And some descent tips too!

A day of lectures today followed by our first knowledge development presentations in the afternoon. We had another excellent presentation from James Morgan about social media, a lot of the stuff we’re already doing especially following on from the business academy I did last year but there were a lot of great tips. After an amazing lunch at a beautiful location on the beach we had our first presentations.

The view at lunch

The view at lunch

Our group was set up in one of the hotel rooms which was a little cramped and also had hot water unlike many of the other rooms! There was a lot of tension in the air because for many of us, despite delivering this type of presentation on a regular basis this was the first time being evaluated for a very long time! My topic was from Divemaster about DSDs in open water. I diced with a score of one by using a boltsnap as my promoted piece of dive equipment which I had on my belt loop. I drew attention to it with the line ‘I notice some of you are interested in what’s hanging from my shorts’. Fortunately the examiner had a sense of humour and I scored a 5.

One of our fellow candidates then gave a full presentation about wreck diving in Flemish which was brilliant as you were almost able to score him just by following the structure, tone of voice and the fact that wreck is wrak in Flemish.

We had a chilled night as the next day we were heading to open water.

A lot of CDTC candidates

A lot of CDTC candidates!

This morning we met at the dive centre at 8. Imagine the faff of trying to transport 42 CD candidates on 2 boats to a dive site. There was a lot of the requisite faff before we all boarded the boats and headed out into some rather sizeable swell. After a lot of rolling around on the boat we finally got in. Our task was to evaluate the examiners as they took us through a descent and an underwater tour. For the instructors reading, they are really putting a huge amount of emphasis on supervision during try dives and open water training dives. This is because statistically most diving instances in training are actually happening during the tour portion of the dive. They are now saying that you should be swimming on your back or hovering above your students whilst leading them.

The Greengos!

The Greengos!

We had fun swimming around playing naughty students before we headed back in for a debrief. My evaluation score was out on a couple of areas because I was a little too harsh. I was reasonably confident but James clarified some areas of scoring and suddenly it just clicks. Afterwards we had a big buffet lunch on the beach. I’m really trying not to eat too much but it’s kind of impossible with such good food in massive amounts.

Man love

After the lunch we had to deliver our instructor teaching presentations. This follows the same structure as a standard prescriptive knowledge development presentation (sorry for the jargon non-instructors) but this time you actually have to present at large portion of the IDC curriculum so the presentation can go on for some time. I managed to work, Downton Abbey, Will Ferrell and the boltsnap into my presentation again and managed another 5.

Anyway, I’m just finishing my cuba libre before heading over to the bar to convince my fellow team mates to follow my marketing plan. Can’t say too much here in case of spying but if we go ahead it will be sink or swim!

Day Three: It’s the Apprentice

Another early start, but with eggs over easy and a giant pile of American style bacon as you look across the palm trees to the beach and it’s not long before life feels good! This morning we had an evaluation workshop on knowledge development presentations. It’s something I feel pretty comfortable with but a few interesting tips came out including the fact that as instructors we don’t necessarily need to do the ‘An interesting thing that once happened to me….’ Part of the presentation any more. After lunch we  came back to an excellent and inspiring marketing presentation by James Morgan. This involved an abortive skype call with a dive centre that shows that no one is immune to the vagaries of technology but it was one of those presentations when someone tells you a bunch of really obvious easy stuff that for some reason you don’t do, so it was very useful. We then were told that each group had to pitch an IDC to James and that by the end of the week one of us would be the winner. This led to a group marketing meeting in the evening which I am attempting to divert into a pretty outrageous idea. It’s just like the Apprentice again.  I’ll let you know how that one works out..

Team dinner

Team dinner

After the lecture it was back to the swimming pool for our first full teaching presentations. We had to take it in turns as instructors, students and evaluators whilst the PADI examiners looked on. We then had to compare our evaluation scores with them. As each day goes by I’m really feeling incredibly lucky to be in the group I’m in. I’ll introduce them properly later but special mention must go to Dave from Salt Lake City Utah and Sascha from Switzerland who are rapidly becoming partners in crime. Our team even has a Facebook group now so go and like us as it will help with the marketing competition!

I did pretty well on the evaluation only deviating by one small point where the candidate I was evaluating was marked down by the examiner on his choice of positive reinforcement during the de-brief. I got a 5 for my presentation so felt pretty smug about that.

alex getting evaluated

Me getting evaluated. Yes it is that warm I’m not in a wetsuit

Jen has become the official team photographer and has managed to get a number of great shots from the pool including the one below of me counselling Sascha on his skills….

Role model evaluation

Role model evaluation

Day Two: Dom Rep Wraysbury

Yesterday was a big day. We followed a similar setup to the first day with a morning in the classroom and an afternoon in the water. However this time it was our turn to start evaluating. In the morning the staff gave us 3 presentations which we had to evaluate. Just like Tommy Cooper playing the piano badly the presenters gave their presentations deliberately missing things out and obfuscating the subject. Now I think I’m pretty good at evaluation so it was slightly disheartening to practically flunk out completely on the first one. I gave a much higher score than the control one, something I put down to playing good cop to David and his ‘Gates of Lau-Kee’ on recent AIs! However as the presentations went along I eased into it and managed a perfect match on the last one.


The classroom

The classroom

After lunch we had a great presentation on counselling candidates although this also included my worst nightmare of ‘role play’. Fortunately it didn’t take long and we all piled onto a bus to be taken to confined open water. This turned out to be a beach with a breakwater upon which large waves were pounding. We swam out and an interesting skill circuit ensued that began on white sand in blue water and ended like Wraysbury on a Sunday. This very much played to my advantage though so I managed 5s across the board.


Gearing up for confined

The Greengos gear up for confined open water water

Anyway, just a quick one now as it’s back to lectures. I’ll get a fuller update this evening!