Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nha Trang – SCUBA Anyone?

As Chris mentioned, Nha Trang is pretty much a chill beach town to hang out a take it easy. It reminded me a little of Baja, CA with the parasailing, jet skiing, and party people. It was one of my favorite places in Viet Nam because of the nice people, food and all the Tet (New Year’s) celebrations. The one thing that Chris kindly glossed over was my trials and tribulations with SCUBA.

SCUBA – it sounds easy, I can swim, I hang out on the water a lot and don’t get sea sickness, tons of people do it – no problem. Our first day in town, Chris and I signed up for a three day open water SCUBA certification class. The operation was well run and a very friendly French gentleman, Jean Pierre, helped us out. At that point no one mentioned to me that there is actually a lower certification level, just SCUBA certification. Also, I didn’t know that I could just go out and try SCUBA and look around at the coral and fish and all that fun stuff to see if I like it BEFORE going to get open water certification. The instructors said that I could either start in the swimming pool or go straight into the ocean. If I went straight to the ocean I would get TWO extra dives. Why not? I’m not scared of the ocean. This is going to be easy. I mean, children SCUBA for goodness sake.

Early the next morning we got on the boat with a few other people. It turns out Chris and I were the only people in the first day of open water SCUBA certification so we had our instructor, Yance, all to ourselves. Yance was great and started showing us all the equipment and explaining the maneuvers we were going to be doing on our first dive. Basically just breathing and figuring out buoyancy. We put all our gear on and jumped in the water. We swam maybe 25 – 50 feet from the boat and then Yance wanted us to go under water. Huh? Just like that? Okay, if you’ve never done SCUBA before, I just have to say it is an odd feeling putting a little breathing apparatus into your mouth, deflating your life vest and slowly descending under water. It’s definitely different than snorkeling where at any moment you can just lift your head and breathe regular 100% normal air. It was at this point that I started to freak out a little, not a lot, just a little. Yance assured me that this was completely normal. This was my first time trying and it just takes some people a few minutes to warm up to the idea. I composed myself and we all made our way under water, completed a few simple maneuvers, looked at some coral and fish, and went back to the boat. Whew, my first dive over!

After lunch we got prepared for our second dive of the day. Yance started to explain the maneuvers we would be doing this time. Those darn maneuvers! One this dive, we were to descend to a depth of about 30 feet. Hang out on the sand and practice taking our breathing apparatuses out and putting them back in, and using our partners spare breathing apparatuses. Okay, that sounds like a good thing to practice. We started our second descent, after a few minutes of “adjustment time” for me and everything seemed to be going well. As we went further and further down and the water got cooler and everything was darker I started to feel the depth of the water above my head. I looked up – big mistake. The sky looked very far away and I began to realize that we were going to be under all of this water taking out our breathing apparatus! Why oh why do we have to do that? I’m getting air from that thing! Nooo!

Yance gave me the okay sign asking if I was okay (they are always doing this during the dive). I gave him the noooo I’m not so okay sign and then the let’s go up sign. He came over and looked at me and said ok again? Again – noooooo not so okay – let’s go up. He got the picture that I was serious and we decided to all go up. That took longer than I wanted, but I still did not freak out. When we got to the surface Yance said: “Ohhh, but Kayteee, you were doing so well. I do not see a problem, what is the matter?” Yance is German, not French. I explained that I got a little scared. We all took a little break and then somehow I managed to find the courage to go back down. We did ALL the maneuvers, including taking out the breathing apparatus, thank you very much, and finished our second dive! Woo hoo! Two dives down, four to go.

The next morning we got back on the boat, bright and early. We had some more SCUBA 101 lectures from Yance, in preparation for the written test, then got down to business talking about the kind of maneuvers we were going to be doing today. The list of torture, I mean training, included taking off our vests and masks under water and putting them back on as well as some sort of hover, yoga lotus position. After another little “adjustment time” on the top of the water we started on our dive. I lucked out on the first dive and we didn’t have to do any of the maneuvering because the water was so choppy and the current was very strong. While Chris enjoyed looking at all the underwater world and would go explore far away from Yance, I was like white on rice right near him. The whole time I was just trying not to think about the water above and focusing on being grateful that we didn’t have to take of our masks.

At this point I was half way through the dives in order to get open water certified and had spent close to an hour underwater, but I was still very apprehensive. I really did not want to take my mask off underwater because I was still accidentally breathing through my nose sometimes. Unfortunately, our second dive that day was in the same place as the previous day when I had to ascend to the surface because I was freaking out. This got me a little freaked out from the get go. We started the second descent and I felt the world closing in on me. I just didn’t like the feeling of being under the water and having to put myself in the vulnerable position of taking of the mask and vest, even though logically I knew that I’d be safe. I started to try to get Yance’s attention, but he didn’t see me. There is nothing worse when freaking out under water than not being able to get the instructor’s attention so you can go up, it just makes you all that more scared. Luckily, Chris saw me and we got his attention and safely went to the surface. I went back to the boat.

That night at the hotel, I decided that I wasn’t going to go back out the next day. I didn’t like the feeling I was getting and all of the different maneuvers we had to do under the water. It was a hard decision to make because I had already spent all that time trying to get certified. I knew that I would be able to pass the written part of the exam, but what does that matter when you don’t want to go back in the water? I hate giving up on things and worse feeling like a scardy cat, but I did not want to dive again that day. Chris left for the boat in the morning and I was lying in bed wondering whether or not I made the right decision. Then, I heard a knock on the door. It was Chris! He said that Jean Pierre said that he and Yance had spoken the night before and that I had done enough dives and although I didn’t want to do anymore, Yance said that I didn’t really freak out underwater and showed all the basic skills to get plain SCUBA certified if I took the written test! Apparently, even when I’m totally freaking out on the inside it doesn’t show much on the outside – thank goodness for that.

Chris and I ran back to the SCUBA shop and hopped on the boat. We took the written exam in the morning, which I passed with 100% :p, and I am SCUBA certified. This means that I can dive up to 12 meters with a professional with me. I’ll be able to save a little money this way, keep on trying SCUBA, and get open water certified in just one days time if I choose to do so. The rest of the day Chris went diving with Yance and they had a grand old time. They had an underwater photo shoot and we’ll post the pics as soon as we can get them off the CD-rom. I spend the day snorkeling and was happy to do so. I’m excited to give SCUBA a try again, but this time just enjoying the scenery and no maneuvers!!!



Anonymous,  February 24, 2010 at 4:06 PM  

Wow!!!...wild story and experience!!


Gordon February 24, 2010 at 5:35 PM  

Hey sis, i just got done reading the majority of your post, and i think i am going to start studying black magic and witch craft so i can switch places with you and have an awesome time.
When are you getting back because my pre-deployment leave is from late august to early september and i want to come out to California for a couple days to see you.
Take 'er easy. -G. Sloan

Ron G. February 26, 2010 at 9:57 AM  

Hey CB and Katie. Awesome blogs. Makes me want to sell the house and go to Viet Nam. CB, I've got an idea for your next career - you're own show on the Travel Channel. "Chris does the world". Love the scuba diving adventure.

Tina,  February 26, 2010 at 10:41 AM  

Hi Katie and Chris!

Katie, I totally understand all of your fears and issues! I've had people trying to get me to SCUBA dive for years. I love water, the ocean and all of that, but my claustrophobia kicks in and it's really tough to overcome it! I'm so proud that you kept trying and got as far as you did! You are my she-ro! Keep posting! It makes my day.
Love and kisses!


Andrea@sce,  March 6, 2010 at 9:30 AM  

I finally had some time to get caught up with your adventures. Your SCUBA experience parallels what I have seen so many times in working with SCUBA classes. It will get easier and you will get more relaxed over time. It looks like you and Chris are having great adventures. Thanks for sharing. Andrea@sce

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