It was finally Sunday! Time to go diving. It would be my 150th dive exactly, and I am happy this number is celebrated in such a unique place. Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I would visit Saint Helena in my life, let alone by tall ship. And if I had imagined I would be here someday, I never thought I would go diving.
The owner of the dive shop was happy for us (Niels, Terry, Abi, and I) to join, but seemed surprised we were there in October. He kept telling us how it is the worst time to dive on the island. We found the visibility very good, but the locals were used to a crystal-clear ocean and would yet again guarantee us it was better for us to be here in January. We did, however, have some difficulty explaining it will not be so easy for us to return in January. We are excited and happy to be here at all, even in October and even outside of the whaleshark season.
We headed to Long Ledge, a dive location with a cavern. When you go through a special experience, it is always hard to explain it afterwards. And so, I am struggling to explain the cavern, or the experience in general to you. I guess I can tell you the size of the trumpetfish was astonishing, the number of fish and the architecture of the cavern incredible and my dive buddies fun company.
Terry did not manage to get to the bank yet, which is the only way to get cash on the island, and cash is the only way to pay on the island. With only 15 minutes to spare after returning from the dive he ran off to town, still in a wetsuit. We got dressed and were a bit worried it was taking long, so we followed suit and headed to the bank. And there he was, soaking wet standing in a very long line of people waiting to get some cash out just before closing time. Funny enough nobody in line seemed to be confused, surprised or even think anything special was going on. Him standing there in full diving gear seemed like a normal thing people do. I really had to convince the lady at the entrance that it would be nice if I could take his place in the line, since it would be nice for him to get normal clothes on. Luckily, she finally agreed and Terry could return to the dive shop to get some normal clothes on.
I think the highlight of our visit are the Saint Helenians. They surprised us at every turn, always being even nicer than we would be ready for. It confronted me with my world view and perception of humans. Being exceptionally friendly has apparently become something unexpected. They are ready to help out and several crew members have been brought around the island to see the highlights or even welcomed into the homes of people they just met on the street. On my last evening I wanted to send some post cards, but it was late and the post office was already closed. I got engaged in conversation with some friendly men on the street. They noticed I was holding some post cards and immediately offered to post them the next day for me, as they lived close by anyway. A few days after leaving the island, I received an email from the office. The man had reached out to them, asking if they could let Marretje know her cards had been posted. It is really heart-warming he went out of the way to tell me this. When I thought they could not get more friendly, they surprised me again.