Wednesday, May 5

Two and a half months in Indonesia: Waves

Three days now I have not once gone swimming in the Pacific since my arrival. I like to think there are good reasons for this. The first time an unexpected call from a friend in Germany went long. The third time we got back from Bangli village at sunset. The second time it was raining. In retrospect, that does not sound such a legitimate reason. What? Was I worried that I would get wet?

I made up for it all today. It was threatening rain again, and the wind was going as hard as I have seen on the island. The shore was higher than I had yet seen, and the waves were beating in. I paused on the shore to consider. The waves were large. They were cresting regularly. I didn't know the force crashing in. I didn't know the force pulling back. It could be dangerous.

Then I saw some local squat in maybe a foot of water for a quick bath. If a local could do that much, I could manage to go in all the way. I went back to the house to change.

I know I've swum in waves like these before. My memory may be exaggerating their size, but those coming in when the school band made its trip to Florida were worthy of note. My memory did not exaggerate their thrill. We rode The Incredible Hulk and all those on the trip. They didn't compare in the least to the Atlantic Ocean, and they don't compare either to the Pacific Ocean. To watch a wave twice your height coming in, to feel the water pull away until what once covered your knees is now only at your ankles, to stagger up and have just time for a swallow before the next comes in, those are exciting.

Rush forward a few feet to catch it before it crests and be gently pushed along. Take a few steps back and feel it crash down on you. Turn your shoulder into it and plant your feet to try and withstand it. If the wave doesn't, the current pulling back from the shore does knock you. The small waves I jump just to say I can. The large ones I dive under and through. For a blink I feel that I have cheated the water this time, and then it all comes down on the small of my back.

I have a bruise on my right shoulder and cuts where the wave drove me into the sandy bottom. I should have more. I was lucky. This ocean can do better.

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