Chocolate Maker was an exciting title for me at Maison Marou. This place was a combination of a showroom, a cafe, and a mini-factory where I worked with raw cacao beans and turned them into chocolate bars. Aside from running bean-to-bar production, I spent every weekend teaching Chocolate Tasting Classes.
Earlier this year, I decided to take a break and quit my job. A few months later I was introduced by a friend to Nam Anh, an amazing diver, who was on her way to becoming a flight attendant. Nam Anh was working in Sai Gon office at Rainbow Divers, the PADI flagship in Vietnam, which has been in the business for over 20 years.
I was intrigued by the way she talked about her experience at Rainbow Divers and her journey from her first dive to a certified rescue diver. It then transpired that there was a window for me to be a part of the team as Nam Anh needed someone to cover her position once she’s up high in the sky.
I am not a swimmer. When I was 5 years old, I nearly drown in the pool and was unconscious for some minutes, which was a terrifying experience.
In high school, I had another bad experience when I jumped in the water and my life-jacket came loose leaving me panicking. Ever since then, I have never gone into the water without my life-jacket as tight as possible and I always stop when the water rises above my chest.
When I joined Rainbow Divers, I had the opportunity to take my PADI Open Water Scuba Diver Course. Given my previous experiences in the water, I initially felt this wasn’t for me. But I have never been one to pass up on great offers and I decided now was the time to put my fears behind me.
I had theory learning and pool training with Cameron in D2, Saigon, an incredibly patient instructor. He eased my fear and helped me gain confidence in my capability.
Soon the day had come for me to take a giant step to the ocean. It was not something I thought I would ever do. On the boat, the ocean views and cool breezes distracted me from my anxiety. I tried to remember my training and listen to my instructor. That day my instructor was the wonderful Matt, who was so friendly and nice.
We had a floating test, in order to pass this course, I had to be able to float for 10 minutes, with no gear, just me and the water. Matt taught me to lie on my back and relax as it was the easiest and least energy consumed way to stay floating.
I was floating. Some minutes passed by and I started to get scared and conflicted. All the memory of my near drowning came back. Though I knew that if If I chickened out and quit, I still have another 10 minutes to start again. If I try to hang on for some more, I can just get through this. Matt was so encouraging, he kept talking to calm me down and giving me helpful tips. And I floated for 10 minutes.
I still had more skills to do underwater. My instructor did them first, I watched him and then repeated. All of these skills had been a part of my pool training, I did them before and I just need to do them again, in the ocean.
However, one of the toughest skills I had to do was clearing my mask. Basically, it means that I have to deliberately let the water fill my mask and then blow all the water out again with air from my nose, a challenge for sure. It’s an essential skill though and one that I had to master in case my mask gets foggy and blocks my sight.
Matt did it so easily but I was a having a hard time as it’s an essential skill, though not a comfortable feeling for me.
When Matt signalled me to do it, I signalled back “Wait.” My fear came again, I wasn’t ready, I needed to stay calm. So I sat down on the sand, 5m underwater, and just breathed.
I don’t remember how long I sat there, I wasn’t doing anything but taking deep breaths. Finally, I took a long inhale while letting the water in my mask then I exhale forcefully through my nose. I repeated it a few times and when I open my eyes there was no water in my mask. I did it. Matt gave me a high-five and shook my hand. And soon after I had completed all the skills required and was ready to go exploring.
My second day in the ocean exercises were much easier. I didn’t hesitate to take a giant step. Quoc was my guide and he lead me to this fish cave. It was made from big rocks falling on each other and form a narrow space where a school of fish gather. I have never been so close to such scenery. We saw such varied fish and it was super fun. It felt like I have gained some kind of superpower to find myself sliding through the water and observing the nature underneath.
I felt really lucky and you can too – Come into the Saigon Dive Centre and let me get you started on an amazing underwater experience.