04 February, 2007

Part 4: The IDC and IE

Monday 29-January:
The Instructor Development Course (IDC) pre-study starts
here in Phuket, Thailand. Finishing dive theory exams A & B, and 16 Knowledge Reviews. "Emergency First Responder (EFR) Care for Children" DVD. I'm developing discomfort in my left ear and, after ignoring it for a day, I start using "Swimmer's Ear" as a drying agent.

Tuesday 30-January:
IDC pre-study Day 2: Pool session to show (Course Director)
Bjorn Tackmann and (IDC Staff Instructor) Stephen how the five IDC students perform demonstration-quality skills. Gary and I score 5 (out of 5) on most skills, and although the other three students go through the skill circuit too quickly, Gary and I are admonished to actually go faster, and only slow down on the trickier attributes of a skill. We all complete an 800-meter mask-and-snorkel-face-down swim, in about 20 minutes.

Pontus, an intelligent (but smart-alecky) Master Instructor with a hilarious
Sweden accent who's renewing his teaching membership, and he brings even more fun into the class.

After a lunch of papaya salad and amazing red curry pineapple chicken. Back to class to continue studying Q&A on physics and the use of the Recreational Dive Planner (RDP) in its three current formats:
  • Tables
  • The Wheel
  • eRDP
After some practice, I'm remembering how to "work" these dive planning tools.

After cramming on the couch in my "spacious" living room tonight for the first official theory exam tomorrow, I lock myself out of my bedroom. Contemplating a night on the (small) couch, I bust out at 11pm to hunt down Chris-the-Swiss who luckily has a spare key. I return happily to my bungalow and smoothly insert the key -- which doesn't turn. As I'm jimmy'ing the damn thing, I suddenly realize how thin the door panels are and simply reach inside and unlock.

Ear pain getting worse. I'm now trying to "catch up" with increasing applications of "Swimmer's Ear". Its alcohol stings (a bad sign). I'm losing.

Wednesday 31-January:

Awaking, I recognize the "form" of the increasing earache because I endured a similar event in Cairns Australia after a 33-dive 7-day live-aboard
Nitrox dive trip with Dave Cole in 2004. The infection then was treated neither quickly (nor correctly) enough, and became a week-long hell. I must avoid a recurrence, as the fuse has been lit on this dive instructor training.

At breakfast, Chris-the-Swiss recommends a doctor in Kata Beach (2km away). The moped delivers me to a quick diagnosis by the peaceful Dr. Chusack of outer ear infection (otitus externa) caused by pool use and worsened by Phuket's moist environment. The good doctor prescribes:
  • Antibiotics (penicillin) orally twice daily
  • Topical antibiotics (Sofradex) by ear thrice daily
  • Pain medication (what's in it? who knows): every six hours
Our IDC officially starts.

Pontus, Gary and I prepare for a pool session before lunch to refine open water skills 1-20 at demonstration-quality. But upon doctor's orders I learn I must now avoid water for three days, and so I postpone any pool practice until Saturday. Fortunately, my skills are (mostly) demonstration-quality already.

Applying the first topical drops, I stare at the fast-talking Course Director with a tilted head. We asses our knowledge of dive theory by with a two-hour dive theory examination:
  • Physics: 95%
  • Physiology: 100%
  • Equipment: 95%
  • Skills and Environment: 95%
  • Recreational Dive Planner: 85% (would've been 95% if my Wheel was aligned/calibrated)
My buddy Rich Kirk (from Manhattan Beach) is now in Patong Beach (15 minuntes from here) until February 7, and coincidentally suffering from a virus infection he picked up in Hong Kong. I don't ask.

Thursday 01-February:
IDC day 2. Micro-Teaching exercise: Neutral Buoyancy. Despite having given hundreds public presentations during my career in the software business, I am strangely nervous.

Friday 02-February:
IDC day 3. My Thai language skills are coming back enough to say:
  • Hello
  • How are you?
  • Good morning
  • Good afternoon
  • Good evening
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Let's have breakfast
  • Let's have lunch
  • Let's have dinner
  • A little bit
  • A lot
  • Delicious
  • Yes
  • No
  • I'm sorry
  • See you later
...and Open Water demonstration skills from the Divemaster course are returning as well, although the earache prevented three days of potential pool time, so practice is sparse.

Saturday 03-February:
IDC day 4. Micro-Teaching exercise: Nitrogen Narcosis
Much less nervous today, and I aced all the performance requirements of this classroom teaching exercise.

Finally allowed back in the pool by Dr. Chusak, just in time for o
ur first day of confined water training, where I was assigned to conduct:
  • Skill 1: Clear regulator, purge method
  • Skill 2: Alternate Air Source (stationary)
I join the talkative Pontus and the quiet Vincent (a brilliant divemaster with a master's in Computer Science and Second Lieutenant in the Taiwanese army) for a 30-minute tuk-tuk ride to Patong. I need to replace a (misaligned 18-month-old imperial) Wheel with a correctly-aligned metric one which I'll need to correctly calculate decompression questions during the Instructor Examination (IE).

Sunday 04-February:

IDC day 5. Our second day of confined water training, and I was assigned to conduct:
  • Skill 1: CESA (shallow): (my score: 4.2/5.0)
  • Skill 2: Hovering: (my score: 4.8/5.0)
The days are becoming increasingly fast-paced and my former fantasy of an IDC-meets-Thai-vacation has not materialized ;-) Fortunately, the Course Director (Bjorn Tackmann) is as efficient and experienced as the instructors I had at Dive-n-Surf in Los Angeles (2002-2005).

The past two days, m
y experience has resembled being thrown out of an airplane with only:
  • a parachute in my hands
  • a little knowledge
  • a little experience
...and then assembling/donning the parachute as I fall, thinking about my:
  • goal/mission
  • deadline
  • required response
  • consequence of failure
Lately I've thought "What am I doing, there's no hope" but then I see big improvements in skills and confidence between successive training days. I hope to wear a functional "parachute" before the Instructor Examination (IE) Sat/Sun Feb 10/11.

Monday 05-February:
IDC day 6. Our first open water training exercise is Briefed before loading all gear into our small truck bound for the unsuspecting sun-bathers on Kata Beach, 3km away. After a 10-minute surface swim, with Joe and Vincent towing two heavy floats, we set one (and somehow lose the other in the strong current). I'm then immediately asked to conduct:
  • Skill 1: Five-point controlled descent (S-O-R-T-E,D) (my score: 4.0/5.0)
  • Skill 2: Fin pivot - oral inflator (my score: 4.5/5.0)
We debrief our skills back at the dive center, grab a quick lunch, then it's back in class after for Prescriptive Teaching session #1 where I'm assigned:
  • Helping students understand how to fix a mask squeeze (my score: 5.0/5.0)
Tuesday 06-February:
IDC day 7: Prescriptive Teaching session #2 where I'm assigned:
  • Helping students remember equipment for a Deep Dive course (my score: 4.8/5.0)
Wednesday 07-February:
IDC day 8. Before lunch we have our second open water training exercise, and I teach:
  • Adventure Dive lesson: Efficient Finning: During the surface swim from shore to float (10 minutes), I officially brief/teach fellow-student Vincent long, slow finning techniques. Easy.
  • Open Water Skill 1: Buddy-breathing (stationary) I organize the group, control the students to keep them safe, and find/solve most problems, but I get confused on which students successfully demonstrate Buddy-Breathing as both Receiver and Donor. My final score therefore drops from (4.75/5.0) all the way down to 1.0 because I didn't ensure all students met performance requirements. Bummer!

  • Open Water Skill 2: Mask removal, replacement, and clearing (my score: 4.0/5.0). I catch Vincent looking down and show him how to look up. So far so good. But Gary removes his mask quickly and when he successfully replaces/clears it, I give him a handshake which causes my (4.74/5.0) to drop to a (4.0/5.0) because I didn't ensure he removed it slowly enough to show flooding before removal. Chintzy!

  • Rescue Diver lesson: While Joe and Gary undid the float/line/weights, I teach fellow-student Vincent how to give rescue breaths to an unconscious diver via pocket-mask and then tow him. Good enough.
...and back to class for Teaching Children and the Business of Diving. This is my last update to this blog until after the Instructor Examination ends Sunday night.

Thursday 08-February:
Emergency First Responder Instructor (EFRI) course: Theory and Skills

IDC day 9. More tests to practice for the IE:
  • Physics
  • Physiology
  • Equipment
  • Skills and Environment
  • Recreational Dive Planner
Two-hour pool session to practice skills.

Friday 09-February:
The PADI Instructor Examination starts with an Orientation at Kata Beach Resort where we're given our teaching assignments for the weekend. In the evening, we all "enjoy" a three-hour...

Theory and Standards Examination (5:30pm-8:30pm) and I score:
  • Physics: 92%
  • Physiology: 100%
  • Skills and Environment: 100%
  • Recreational Dive Planner: 100%
  • Equipment: 92%
  • PADI Standards and Procedures: 98%
Our newly-minted Instructor friend David from the previous IDC visits us onsite to offer moral encouragement (an act he repeats during all three days of the event :-) He's a good spirit who's enjoying the warm winter here with us.

Instructor Candidates include:
  • Gary Draycott (Lives in Tanzania) garydraycott@yahoo.co.uk
  • Pontus (Lives in Sweden) rokdoktorn@post.tre.se
  • Joe Merrell (Lives in Taiwan) joemerrell@gmail.com
  • Vincent (Lives in Taiwan) HonestLiar.tw@yahoo.com.tw
  • Joss Ledan (our IDC "mate" from France) JLedan@yahoo.com
  • Rob McKenzie (shop owner in Phuket) RobMcKenzie99@hotmail.com
PADI professional staff:
  • Bjorn Tackmann (Phuket) bjorn@idc-phuket.com
  • Yung Hee (Korean/English Examiner) YoungHee.Haniss@padi.com.au
  • Hans Ullrich (PADI S.E. Asia) hans.ullrich@padi.com.au
  • Ian (IE, Rescue #7, lives in Krabi) IanTo2000@gmail.com
  • Guy Scott-Robertson (DiveAsia OWSI) guysr@hotmail.com
Despite all my practice for Open Water skills, I've been assigned a Rescue exercise, so at the end of the evening I ask Bjorn "Is the uncertainty/stress an intended part of this examination?" He replies, "Matthew, You don't know what stress is. Try ascending into 2m swells with eight Open Water students and one is missing."

Saturday 10-February:
Instructor Examination, Day 1

After staying up until 2am preparing plans/notes/slates for all four dive exercises, I wake up to a breakfast of black coffee. We're all rushed into the pool before we'd planned to enter, and everyone is stressed (including our Staff Instructor), but Bjorn is calm and efficient. He's probably seen well over a hundred Examinations.

1. Skill Circuit:
  • Recover and Clear Regulator
  • Free-Frowing Regulator
  • Alternate Air Source
  • Neutral Buoyancy (Fin Pivot)
  • Controlled Emergency Swimming Ascent (CESA)
Score: 21 out of 25 (during my CESA I bounced off the bottom a couple times)

2. Confined Water Training exercise:

Rescue Course: Rescuer to help a distressed Victim out-of-air by providing Alternate Air Source to Victim. During the skill, my two problematic students are:
  • Joe, who takes the octopus from Pontus
  • Pontus, who presents his octopus upside-down to Joe
Score: 4.7/5.0. The Examiner confirmed that although I covered everything, I conducted the exercise with the Victim facing the Rescuer (instead of facing away, as would be the case in a real rescue scenario)

Prescriptive Teaching Session where I'm assigned how to help a class of Open Water students understand how to use The Wheel to find a No-Decompression Limit (NDL). We're all did well on this presentation. My score: 4.7/5.0

Sunday 11-February:

Instructor Examination, Day 2:

Rescue Diver Course, Exercise #7:
Slowly demonstrate how to give rescue breaths to an unconscious diver (Victim) via pocket-mask while both removing his/my gear and towing the Victim. Emphasis is on initiation and maintenance of the airway, and continued ventilations. We all do well, and it helps to have some easy-going conversation with Ian, PADI staff member who's lived in Krabi with his family for the past eight years. He's figured out how to live in Thailand "permanently" without doing semi-monthly border-runs.

Open Water Training exercise (Skill #1): Neutral Buoyancy Fin Pivot using Low-Pressure Inflator.

While Divemaster Pontus maintained control of my non-demonstrating students, I kept things flowing and caught problematic student Joss (from France) incorrectly pushing off with his hands and holding his knee bent. Score for the Brief/Dive/Debrief: 5.0/5.0

Open Water Training exercise (Skill #2): Tie a bowline knot at depth.

I watched problematic student Vincent tie the wrong knot. He purposely failed twice and, after each failure, I asked him to redo. The Examiner cut me off and wrote "show" on his slate, so I showed Vincent how to tie the knot. The Examiner told me later, after my debrief, that I should've corrected Vincent after his first failure, rather than wait for his second. He evaluates me as 4.25/5.0 which is ironic since:
  • Our Course Director suggested during our IDC preparation that we wait until a student fails five or six times before interrupting.
  • I'd asked the Examiner yesterday how many knot-tying attempts we should allow a student and he said "Don't worry, they'll tie it correctly the first time".
After receiving my (passing) combined score of 4.6/5.0 however, I choose not to argue about mixed messages. I'm not the only student who encounters fallout from our Examiner.

I've now passed all required exercises of the Instructor Examination (IE) and can teach as an Open Water SCUBA Instructor (OWSI) when my paperwork is processed in Sydney (HQ for PADI Asia Pacific).
Bjorn hosts a celebratory team victory dinner at a Swiss restaurant in Patong, and afterward venture into a Thai nightclub to watch beautiful Thai lady dancers (most of whom are female).

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