My dream job
YIANIS (A TALL, MOODY GREEK GUY who never takes off his shades or smiles) and Penny (a young, enthusiastic Rescue Diver) collected me from the airport. After half an hour of silence in the car, they told me that we were going to be a good team.
I smiled, and said that I looked forward to meeting the rest of the team. They told me that we were the team. No other instructors, dive masters or anyone else worked for Yianis!
On the website, which I had studied for ages before accepting this job offer, several big hotels were connected to the centre and all the usual courses offered, in French and German as well as English. There were several shots of different pools, boats, groups of students and a couple of instructors.
Yianis had told me that he had seven dive centres, and I had looked forward to being part of a busy dive community.
Penny started telling me how great my dive centre was, and where it was in relation to the one where she worked as Yianiss PA and DM.
So Im on my own in my dive centre
No, you share with watersports team, but they dont work for me and you shouldnt talk with them, Yianis told me.
Right. It wasnt sounding perfect, but Id spent enough time in random dive centres not to be expecting perfection.
We dropped my stuff at the house, which I was told was just 2km from the dive centre. It took half an hour to drive there. Penny showed me around. There was plenty of kit and a compressor, a shaded terrace with tables and chairs, and the sea was just there. It looked fine.
Then Yianis gave his welcome speech. You talk to me, if anyone else talks to you, you tell me. You dont take drugs of any kind or drink any alcohol and no trouble with men - you understand Any questions
Tell me how you run your courses here.
Discover Scuba you teach them how to clear a mask and...
Yes, I know what Discover Scuba is, but where do you do it, and how long do you usually take...
You do it in the sea and you teach them to clear mask, no regulator, then take them for swim, in and out of the water 15 minutes, always give them the smallest tank so they want to get out of water quickly and not waste your time, always give the customers the smallest tank and get them out of water quick as you can.
I was obviously tired and mishearing him. He wasnt really telling me to get the students to run out of air as quickly as possible, was he
Where do you keep your teaching stuff
What do you mean, you do everything in the sea.
Yes, but where are the students manuals, record files, videos, stuff like that
He glared at me for a moment and then said: Ill show you where you work now.
Its all over there, is it
Yes. Good for you to teach without manuals, also you dont have classroom where you are, or TV or video, you get them through the course quickly, they dont want to waste time reading anything or doing tests, you just tell them what they need to know.
I was taken to see where I would be based for the next five to six months - a small wooden hut surrounded by watersports equipment.
Four bored-looking men with a Doberman puppy looked up and said hello when we arrived. That was it.
Convinced that it would all make more sense when we started working, I was really looking forward to my first dive and seeing how Yianis operated. He gave me and my kit a lift to my dive centre and gave me the uniform T-shirt to help me become part of the team.
He proceeded to snap orders, mutter and question everything we did. Why have you put your kit together already... Why have you got the customers kit ready for him... Why havent you brought my tank out
The customer was a young Frenchman with as much English as I had French. We chatted, and I found out what I needed to know about him and helped him get ready, much to the annoyance of Yianis, though there really was nothing else for me to do.
I brought out a medium-sized BC for him, and Yianis shouted that he would need a large size. I swapped it for a large that was too big, then swapped it again for a medium, which fitted. So it continued.
Eventually we got to the dive site, which, luckily, was exactly where the boat had stalled. After more grumbling, Yianis gave a surprising briefing, talking more loudly at the Frenchman when he didnt understand.
Eventually we got in the water. Penny stepped in with her right hand over her face, as someone had obviously taught her, but not wearing a mask, and with her reg hanging down by her side.
The Frenchman jumped in rapidly without inflating his BC, to get away from Yianiss loud instructions, which he clearly didnt follow, and then Yianis stepped in, complained to Penny about the state of her hood, and descended.
The dive was mostly over sand and some unspectacular rock, remarkably similar to a quarry that I sometimes dive at home, but without the ducks. There were a couple of fish and some shells.
It lasted 45 minutes, during which time our Frenchman went up and down and was clearly a bit put out when Yianis grabbed him and turned him the right way around after he had inverted to look at a lonely clam.
After being told that wed got things wrong (passing the right fin up before the left and other equally important matters), Yianis turned angrily to the ignition key and swore when the boat refused to start.
He turned and walked straight into the hard roof of the boat. Then the atmosphere became even more tense as he worked at getting the engine to work, amid random shouts.
The Frenchman smiled nervously at us and pretended to be having fun, sitting unprotected in the hot sun, surrounded by exhaust fumes.
When we finally got back to my base, Yianis helpfully showed us exactly how to rinse kit in fresh water and dry the first stage (I had only been diving for eight years and was an instructor). Then he took Penny and the forlorn customer away.
He came back a few minutes later, shouting at everyone to find his keys, before speeding off back to his base.
No one spoke to me for the remaining six hours of the workday. I sat watching the sea, wishing that there were some divers around or that I was somewhere where there were.
One of the watersports guys walked past wearing his Live The Dream T-shirt.
Sitting doing nothing but look at the sea wasnt my dream.
It had begun to get cold by the time Yianis came and took me to the other centre. He wanted to have a meeting.
What do you think about today
It was very quiet.
What about this mornings dive
It was OK.
Some people say that this is wonderful place to dive.
Im sure they do.
Yes. Why in your briefing did you say that the max depth was 26m The man was only just qualified, and only to 18m.
The response was a long tirade of which any politician would have been proud, as it avoided being any sort of answer.
That doesnt answer the question, I said.
Eventually he came up with two answers that pleased him: For one, I didnt know he was only just qualified to 18m and secondly, thats where the bottom is...
I got a lift to my dive centre with one of the watersports guys. Forgetting Yianiss rule,
I talked to Giorgio, who had apparently been an international jet-ski champion before having to make a living to support his recently born daughter. Giorgio was friendly and chatty about everything except Yianis. I said Id had a few job offers, and he suggested politely that it might be a good idea to take one of them.
Yianis met us with his customary glare, and told me to reorganise the kit store and to phone him if anyone wanted to dive.
I took as long as I could over the job, as there was nothing else to do. To be fair to Yianis, there was never a shortage of kit.
There were no divers or potential divers anywhere near the watersports hut. The highlight of the day was helping Giorgio test the inflatable banana - not really the aim of completing the instructor course, but Im reasonably adaptable.
When we got back, Yianis was there. He wasnt happy.
Why you go with him
There was nothing else to do.
You need to know the dive sites.
Great - when can I go and dive them
Ive arranged for you to go dive with another dive centre. My friends. But they are German. Watch how they dive. They dont dive like me.
A rival dive-centre boat pulled up and
I hopped on. Four divers, a skipper, a DM and an instructor were on board. They were friendly and we all chatted as we kitted up.
A full dive briefing was followed by a relaxed entry to a pretty and gentle dive site.
On the ascent, I was surprised to see that a bar and spare tank had been dropped to 5m. Back on the boat I questioned the need on such a dive site, and was told with a smile that theyd rather do this on every dive than take any risks with their paying guests.
Yianis was waiting back at my dive centre. What you think of their dive
It was fine. I enjoyed it,I told him.
Wrong answer. He walked away, shouting something in Greek that got the full attention of the watersports guys.
Giorgio told me in some embarrassment that they had all been told not to talk to me - it distracted me from my job.
No divers came near us. Yianis paced around for a while before leaving.
I sat looking at the flat sea - wishing I was diving, or teaching diving - as I had planned to spend the summer. I spent that evening at an Internet café, looking for jobs and flights.
I got my kit together and told Yianis that I was leaving.
Two days later I got a flight back to London, waited a few hours and got another flight to Sharm el Sheikh. It was a place I knew well, where I was confident of getting some work with a real dive school, with real divers.
The following week I began working for Emperor Divers in Nuweiba and never looked back - except with gratitude. If Yianiss dive centre hadnt been as awful as it was, I might have stayed and missed the opportunity of achieving my dream job in the Red Sea.