I like breathing. I’m not big on swimming. Obviously, I should learn to scuba dive.

Hey mates! Sorry I’ve been MIA. I caught tonsillitis RIGHT before final exams, and now I’m on the road traveling eastern Australia! Hostel internet is always a bit shaky, but I’ll do my best to keep on the ‘net.  

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I was really gung-ho when I got to Australia. I wanted to try everything. New city? Sure. New people? Come at me. New food? I’ll eat it all up.

New sport?

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This was back in August; however, we weren’t able to actually book the course until the end of October. The course takes an entire weekend, after all, and it was hard to find a date that fit everyone. So, three months later…

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While diving had sounded like a great idea when I bought the Groupon, I began to have some reservations as the date came near. I mean, before I could even enter the water, I had to go through a 7-hour online class and pass an exam at the end.

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This course educated me on all sorts of fun and exciting aspects of scuba diving.

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So while I felt confident back in August, I was more than a little nervous once the day finally came.

But I wasn’t going to back out now. My friends and I headed over to Manly Beach at the fine, fine hour of 6AM in order to make it to the class on time.

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The course itself started at 8AM. Our instructors started us off by making sure everyone could actually swim.

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Then, they showed us how to set up and put on our gear.

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And then, all 12 or so students crowded into a tiny pool, where we proceeded to practice various diving skills.

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Now, I was probably supposed to feel more confident after learning and performing all these skills. Instead, I was pretty stressed. The instructors would demonstrate each skill once or twice, and then expect you to do it. Perfectly. Hey, don’t I get a few practice runs at least?

As expected, then, a lot of people ended up messing up once or twice the first time around. I sure did, particularly during the “take out your regulator and put it back in your mouth” exercise.

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Luckily, the instructor grabbed my regulator and shoved it back into my mouth so I could breathe again. Even when I could breathe underwater, though, I was a bit freaked out. I’m used to being able to breathe unconsciously. I don’t think about it. While scuba diving, however, breathing took effort. It was always on my mind. Especially since I often felt like I wasn’t getting enough air.

I later learned that this feeling is normal. WHY DIDN’T THEY TELL ME?!

Best of all? We were in that pool doing diving skills for hours. I tend to get hungry within 2 hours of a meal, and we went for 8 without food. I didn’t even realize how hungry I was…

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…until I ate lunch.

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Thus, I felt a little better before our next session.

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…until our instructors informed us:

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Ready or not, I was going to have to do it. In order to get my scuba certification, I would have to perform all those diving skills again– but in the big blue sea, not the tiny swimming pool. We’d begin doing these skills on the second day of our course.

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I had underestimated how challenging diving would be, I guess. My nerves were really getting to me. Therefore, on our first dive of the second day, I had a rough start.

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WHY WAS I NOT DESCENDING?! After deflating my big ol’ inflation device, I was supposed to naturally sink. Yet, somehow, my friend and I were not sinking. We soon found ourselves alone on the surface. WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!

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My mask somehow slipped off my head. I began to splash about, getting water into my eyes. And then, the grand finale:

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So there I was, flailing and hyperventilating and basically having a panic attack. Thankfully, the instructor noticed that my friend and I were missing. He came to the surface to help us out.

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I stopped kicking and immediately sank to the bottom.

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Our group proceeded to repeat everything we had done in the pool, but in the ocean. While I was still frazzled, this time, I was able to perform the skills successfully.

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By the last dive of the weekend, we had finished learning all our skills. Our final dive was just for fun: instead of sitting on the bottom of the ocean messing with our weight belts and BCDs and regulators, we actually got to swim around and look at fish.

While Sydney isn’t that well-known for its diving, there’s some cool stuff in the water.

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My friend brought her underwater camera along.

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By the end, I was able to actually calm down a bit, and… enjoy myself?

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And that’s how I became a certified open-water diver.

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The diving signal for, “OK!”

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Double OK!

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V for victory!

It was a stressful, physically demanding, panicky weekend. At moments, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to dive. To be honest, I’m still not sure how I managed to overcome my fear. But I somehow managed to stick it out, survive the weekend, and get my scuba license.

Which is good. Because, a month after my scuba course, I had a trip booked at the Great Barrier Reef. Coming soon!

Wind? Fog? Torrential rain? Time to drown our sorrows in free coffee. (Doubtful Sound, New Zealand)

Doubtful Sound, a fjord in the southwest of New Zealand, is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. At least, that’s what our German friend told us when my group was planning our New Zealand trip.

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So we booked a day tour of Doubtful Sound as part of our trip. Doubtful Sound is quite out of the way from… anything, really. To reach it, we first had to cross Lake Manapouri. We boarded the boat in high spirits…

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…but soon, we were hit by typical west coast New Zealand weather.

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By the time we reached the other side of the lake, it was pouring rain. You could sense that the tour group was becoming more and more downcast. Regardless, we had all paid for the tour, so we were going on with it. The tour guides ushered us into buses, where we rode to the Doubtful Sound bay.

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Our tour guide futilely tried to comfort his passengers.

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An hour later, everyone sprinted from the bus to the next tour boat. The rain was getting heavier and heavier.

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My friends and I took shelter inside, where we drowned our sorrows in the complementary tea and coffee.

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Everyone was a little frustrated at this point, including myself. Our one chance to visit the most beautiful place in the world, and it was raining! On a normal day, I’d be out on the deck, snapping photos like a madman.

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This kind of weather was a normal day in western New Zealand, right? What’s a little water? My friend and I ventured outside.

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As it turns out, our tour guide wasn’t lying: the rainy weather, while gloomy, created huge, cascading waterfalls.

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And as the rain continued, more and more waterfalls started to form.

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My friend and I rushed back inside…

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…and then back outside.

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Even in the fog, clouds, and rain, Doubtful Sound was stunning. 

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No wind or rain was going to keep me from enjoying this ride. I spent the rest of the trip running around the boat, snapping photos and getting pummeled by rain.

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Getting cold and soaked seems to be a common theme in New Zealand. Still, by the end, we all agreed: Doubtful Sound is a beautiful place. We left the Sound happy with our experience.

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…or maybe it was just denial. Because, as we started back across Lake Manapouri, the sun started to come out…

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And man, you have never seen any five kids so excited to see sunlight before.

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I guess we really needed our Vitamin D.

You know you’ve gone crazy when you’ve decided that running 13 miles nonstop is a good idea.

When I first got to Australia, I immediately looked up gym memberships.

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Gym memberships can get kind of expensive, especially when you currently have no source of income. I was a bit of a group fitness class addict at home, but here, it wasn’t going to happen. Not at these prices!

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I have a Danish friend here who is maximally fit. She’s a lifeguard. She does all sorts of adventure sports. And she runs. Seeing my predicament, she decided to ask me to go running with her.

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I had to stay in shape somehow. I reluctantly agreed to go running.

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But it seemed as though all my gym-going back in the States had paid off.

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And that’s how we became running buddies.

A picture I drew for her in class. Because drawing > developmental genetics

A picture I drew for her in class. Because drawing > developmental genetics

My friend is a hardcore sporty girl, though. Running casually wasn’t enough.

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In order to do a half-marathon, she had to train. And as she trained, she sneakily started to make our runs longer and longer.

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As much as I hate running, though, there’s something satisfying about being able to run longer and longer. We started at 5, then 7, then 10, and finally…

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Here’s a photo we took at the Opera House! Yeah…. I’m short.

I didn’t always run with my friend, though. She continued to run greater and greater distances in preparation for her half-marathon, distances that I couldn’t keep up with. Finally, the day of her half-marathon rolled around.

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So, at an ungodly hour of the morning, my friend and I traveled to Sydney Olympic Park.

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The race began, and my friend took off.

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An hour later, she was still going strong…

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…and kept going…

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…until she crossed the finish line.

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It was awe-inspiring to see all these runners push themselves to the maximum, especially since one of them was my friend. I’ve always thought of runners as almost another breed of people. Runners are unobtainable. Runners are people who are more fit and motivated than I will ever be. I’ve never thought that I’d be a runner. But really, runners are just like anyone else. My friend wasn’t born with the ability to run; she had to put time and effort into her training. And so, when I saw my friend’s victorious face…

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I couldn’t help but think:

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I haven’t been able to get it off my mind. I want to do it. I COULD do it… right? If only I could stay motivated when I got home.

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But it seems like I’m the only crazy one.

Still, I have promised myself that I will run a half-marathon when I get back to Boston. Do you think I could do it?

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Which is why I’m writing this now. Remember this well, readers, and hold me up to this promise: I, Vy, will train for and complete a half-marathon in 2014. Yes. It’s going to happen. I’LL MAKE IT HAPPEN!

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Maybe I’ve just finally gone off the deep end.