- Associated Press - Sunday, February 8, 2015

MAROA, Ill. (AP) - Finding a new and fascinating hobby when you’re far from home can create an adventure.

And it can help you make lifelong friends.

Kyle and Rebecca Cline learned in 2011 they were being sent to Brazil for three years by Caterpillar Inc., where both work as engineers, and arrived in Piracicaba on Sept. 30 of that year with their two dogs, a lot of suitcases and, eventually, a shipping container with their furniture.

The name of the city means “where the fish stop,” and comes from the Piracicaba River, where fish come to spawn.

CAT sent the Clines to Brazil to help introduce new models of machinery worldwide and new emissions standards that would affect the manufacture of those models.

“Every time you bring a new model into the factory, it’s kind of chaotic for a while,” Kyle Cline said. “They were introducing some models in Brazil for sale in the United States and Europe, so they started an exchange program where they were sending a Brazilian manufacturing engineer to the United States, and the United States design engineer to Brazil. My job was to make sure that the introduction of these models would go smoothly.”

Before they left, the Clines took an intensive language immersion course in Portuguese, but as Becca Cline said, until they were forced to use those skills daily in a variety of situations, they weren’t totally fluent. Communication was difficult for a while. Most of their friends at first were work friends and they kept in touch with their American friends and family via the Internet.

When Becca Cline’s parents came to visit in September 2012, the Clines asked Brazilian friends for suggestions on can’t-miss sights, and someone told them to visit Fernando de Noronha, an island of unspoiled beauty that is a national park. Because the protected area extends into the ocean, it’s also the perfect place to see underwater life.

“Everybody said, ‘You have to check out the scuba diving, because it’s just as beautiful under the water as it is above,” Kyle Cline said. “It’s basically an ecology paradise.”

“We said, ‘Do you think we can take the course in time to be able to go (diving)?’ ” Becca Cline said.

They found a dive shop with the name Keep Diving in English, with a franchise in Piracicaba. Students must pass a written test and learn diving in a pool and in the ocean and prove their competence with safety skills for basic certification. Their instructor wanted them to do all of their certification tests before leaving for the island so they could simply enjoy the trip.

The Clines had 16 hours of classroom instruction, and they took this training in Portuguese, with all the attendant specialized vocabulary.

After their two-week home leave in September, the Clines booked a trip on a “live aboard,” which is a floating hotel. Rather than spend time getting to and from a diving point, divers can sleep, eat and rest between dives at that point. Because of decompression issues, divers can only stay underwater a certain length of time and have to be out of the water for rest periods to allow their bodies to recover.

From their initial diving experience, the Clines were hooked.

“It’s the first interest we developed as a couple,” Kyle Cline said. “We had our own interests, Becca likes singing, I like photography, but this is something we learned together.”

It also helped them make a host of friends outside their workplace. In going on dives, they met people with similar interests. Thanks to Facebook, they can stay in touch, even though they’ve moved back to the states.

To date, the Clines have logged 175 dives and 128 hours underwater. They continued upgrading their skills and both hold certification as dive masters, after an exhaustive three months of studying for the extensive written test that Kyle Cline described as “encyclopedic.”

That means they can dive to a maximum depth of 130 feet, which is considered “recreational” diving, and can act as assistants to a certified instructor. Their dive logs are filled with entries.

The Clines returned to Central Illinois in November and bought a house in rural Maroa but aren’t ready to give up diving. They’ve talked about opening a dive shop of their own one day and organizing weekend and summer trips for fellow enthusiasts.

And they have tons of photos and videos, first using an inexpensive underwater camera, later with a better one.

In Kyle Cline’s favorite video, they tried to sneak up on a large sea turtle sleeping under a rock outcropping so they could photograph her without disturbing her, but the light woke her. In the video, she comes out from under the rock and straight at him, though he’d moved aside to give her room to pass, and he had to lay back in the water, getting a nice close-up of the underside of her shell as she went over him.

Night diving, the Clines said, is a different world, with a host of living things that aren’t around in the daytime. It’s easy to get disoriented in the dark and best to wait for night diving until gaining more experience.

“People ask if you get tired of diving in the same area,” Becca Cline said. “You don’t. You always see something different.”

The fascination with sea life led them to learn about the various kinds of creatures and how to recognize them, even though many are masters of hiding in plain sight. Her favorite is the octopus because they’re so adaptable.

Referring to a photo of what appears to be just a rock, she pointed out the octopus attached to the rock by suction cups on the animal’s arms and the barely discernible features of its face.

“They can camouflage themselves to look like whatever they’re on,” she said. “You can be right next to one and never see it.”

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Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/1J57LKJ

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com

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