Friday, April 30

Two and a half months in Indonesia: The ocean

Without fail, every morning before it is light and before I am completely awake I am terrified that a massive windstorm has moved in. I hear the gusts and wait to hear the crash that means the wind has tossed a branch or child or motorbike through every window at the center. I imagine the palm trees bent horizontal and their coconuts cannoning into the stone walkway. I imagine the roof freeing itself from its terrestrial restraints.

Then I remember that the Pacific Ocean is not more than a hundred meters from the gate. Those are the waves breaking on the shore. Everything is good because late that afternoon I am going swimming in it. It doesn't matter what day it is. It doesn't matter what is going to happen that day. I am going swimming in the ocean. I moved from a land-locked state to the wrong side of the Cascades to the wrong half of Kenya. I am going to appreciate this ocean every day. I will walk along its fine sand beaches with only a sprinkling of stones. I will frolic in its shallows. I will sit and let the waves crash down around me like a punch in the face. I will tread in the deeps and race back in.

And it absolutely kills me to see the locals kicking soccer balls on the beach and playing in the sand. The most adventurous stand in the shallows. Only once have I seen an Indonesian come near to half as far out as I normally go. Not coincidentally, this was also one of the only two I ever saw take a single proper swimming stroke.

It blows my mind. Come on, you guys. You live on an island. I can see two others just from our little beach, no more distant than Britain and France on the English Channel, I'm sure. You should have to swim to one of them to qualify for secondary school. You should not be focusing your Olympic efforts on badminton but on knocking out Phelps and Thorpe. It should be no problem with free access to the only requisite for training facilities (deep water). You bump up your GDP a point if you started installing Indonesians as beach lifeguards. Seriously. You may feel safe in the shallows, but what happens when a wave pulls you out? What about those canoes that glide past me? I don't see lifejackets in those. What happens when some falls out or the whole thing capsizes?

I think it would be great if the IHF center began swimming classes for the kids. It's a safety issue. It should be a matter of national pride. Whether it would be cool for me or someone like me to see girls in bathing suits or be touching them to improve strokes, especially in a heavily Muslim nation where the local mosque is even closer than the ocean, is something else entirely.

Of course there could be great reasons for the locals' hesitancy in swimming deep. There might be sharks. There might be jelly fish. Seems like something I should check up on. But I won't. I'm not going to let anything spoil this.

1 comment:

Emily said...

Okay, that's it. I'm flying over there and lazing around on the beach with you after graduation in 10 days. You make this sound amazing!