Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Easter Weekend - 14 Years Ago

I think that's me in the middle. Not 100% sure though.
Much of the blogosphere this week, especially the Christian blogosphere, is full of our Savior and meditating on His glorious resurrection (Praise His Name!), but I wanted to take a different track. As I was pondering what kind of “devotion” I can give to my readers this week, the memory of celebrating Easter learning to scuba dive almost 14 years ago came to my mind. It was for college credit, and it was during the semester I was studying abroad in Thailand through Cal Poly. 

And so, I present to you a letter I wrote home to my dear family and friends after this wonderful experience. For your sake, I did edit it and massage it in some areas, but about 95% of what follows is the exact letter I wrote to my family on April 29, 2000, after I came back from spending time under the sea.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did rereading it.


Hello everyone! It’s time for another one of those mass email letters. As I sit and scratch my mosquito bites, I ponder over which tale to tell. Which story to focus on. How many words to write. And how much energy I have to write those words.

I guess the only way to start is to begin, so here goes.

I came home today at four o’clock in the morning. Tired? Yes. So, to bed I went, with my mind filled with the last six day’s events. What did I do, you ask? I scuba dove!

When my head connected to the pillow this morning I kept having these mini flashbacks.

The turquoise color of the ocean and its glass-like perfection when looked through.

I saw fish swim by. Two angel fish, always two together, swimming near my mask – beautiful yellow, white and black.

I saw little fish dive into holes in the sand and wondered again in my mind, where on earth could they have gone?

I also recollected my encounter with Mr. Mean and Nasty Triggerfish, with his trigger way up and his teeth way clamped on my fins. Bye-bye Mr. Triggerfish, as fast as I can.

But most of all, with my head on the pillow and my body on the bed, I still felt that magical weightless feeling of being in the water. Of swimming with fins side by side with all kinds of life I have never seen before. Floating, floating … off to sleep.

The Thai island of Ko Toa was gorgeous. I saw the ocean and said to myself, “Yes, this is going to be a vacation.” Wrong. This was going to be the prettiest P.E. I’ve ever had. But P.E., nonetheless.

My bungalow was one of the ones closest to the ocean, with a dungeon for a bathroom. It was connected about seven steps down from the room and was a bit scary, with bugs lurking in every corner.

If memory serves, my bungalow is the one pictured here on the bottom left.
In front of my bungalow, there were boats on the water swaying peacefully under the hot Thai sun. Gorgeous stones lined the island giving it a sense of independence from all other tropical locations. And I can’t forget the towering palms, indigenous and well-nourished from the tropical climate. It was simply gorgeous, despite the creepy crawlies.

But the whole reason I was there was to take the Open Water Diving class. When I saw we had to do homework and actually read a book, I’m not going to lie, I was a little bummed. When you’re halfway around the world in such a gorgeous location, the last thing you want taking up you’re precious discovery time is homework.

The first day in the water was the day after I arrived. That was a little intimidating. You are wearing so much weight; my weight belt alone weighed six kilos. I can’t tell you how much my 12-liter aluminum tank on my back weighed but I imagine it was a lot. Getting in the water with all that equipment on for the first time was bizarre, but I immediately loved that weightless feeling of floating in the water. I remember little fish, an all of two species, would swim by and I thought WOW! Little did I know I had many more amazing visuals in store for me!

We learned some scuba diving skills. Confidence building they call it. I won’t bore you (or me) with the details. Just know that despite my awe under the water, I was a little anxious. You know that whole air-and-what-if-it-runs-out thoughts? Yeah, those thoughts. But, I pressed on.

The next two days were the same. Only the skills were a little harder and the destinations were a little deeper.

The open water diver is qualified to dive 18 meters or 56 feet. With much lazy studying and barely passing the final test, I was certified. Yay! And I had fun despite the homework.

So when they offered a two-day Advanced Open Water diving course after that, I decided to stay, albeit a little reluctantly. You see, an Advanced Open Water Diver is certified to dive to 30 meters, which is about 100 feet below the ocean. That was a little daunting to me—to have 100 feet of water above my head—but I thought, okay, I'll give it a try.

The fact that there would be no homework for this certification happened to be a strong selling point. Not to mention, that in order to do any other diving, Ocean Photography being one of those, I had to take the advanced class. 

We had five dives to accomplish: a deepwater (30m), and multi-level (which we plan), a night dive (a little freaky), a peak performance buoyancy dive (where you go through loops with all of your gear under water much like a circus animal – this one I had the most fun with and did the best—impressing both my instructor and my learning mates), and a navigation dive (using a compass).

They were actually more fun than the dives in the previous certification class, and by the time I was done with them all I was one exhausted person. So, as of right now, I’m a forever-certified advanced open water diver! I would never have thought I would ever do something like this, let alone in a location halfway around the world I know.

And now, the more interesting stuff: what was under that gorgeous crystal clear ocean? I have to be honest, I think I spent more time under water watching where my buddy was and looking at how much air my air gauge said I had. But when I wasn't preoccupied with those things, I saw some spectacular sites.

I saw this school of fish (of 50? 100? or more?) so close together, not really moving in any direction, but still enough to be organized in such a way as to look as if it were some larger fish, a whale maybe – just suspended in the water for the eyes to see.

The cutest things I saw were these clown fish in their “homes,” their homes being these gorgeous anemones. How to describe these anemones? Well they were kind of Dr. Seuss-like. They were clothed in bright turquoise and beautiful blue colors and had these Raggedy-Ann-like hairs coming out of the top, a kind of mustard yellow. And the clown fish resided in them, played tag around them (I would have liked to watch that more) and even cleaned them. When our instructor dropped a shell in the anemone, a clown fish would pick it up and throw it out. So precious.

I think if I were to come out of this with a main thought in mind it would have to be that I was swimming in God’s fish tank, and it was a marvelous site to behold, not to mention just as fun to be in. If you like the idea of flying – you can do that in the water. If you love fish – this is the best way to see them. If you like to try new things – this is an adventure worth having.

So, when my days were over, my nights would begin, and I would sit on my balcony, listen to the ocean waves, and reflect about the days spent in such beauty both inside and alongside the Thai ocean. Peace would fill my soul with each breath of wind, and my closing thoughts melted onto the pages of my journal beneath my candle-like lighting. My eyes would absorb the ocean’s reflection of the many lights on the island, and my heart would fill with joy.

One of the most peaceful and relaxing views ... a boat on the water.
(Ko Tao Island, Thailand)
Truly, this was an adventure given to me by God, and it was a very unique way to celebrate Easter with my Savior. Here, He was showing me a little more of Himself in His artistic and majestic ocean and the beauties within and beside it.

What a privilege to travel with God. You never know where He might take you when your days end, your nights begin and your sleep becomes just the beginning of what's ahead.

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