TRIP--My Bounty from Bali
By: Edward Ormond
When life gets tough, as it occasionally can be teaching here in China , I remember to “drop the rock” as I think of the time I almost drowned while body-surfing in Bali during the Chinese National Day Break. The beautiful water looked calm that day with just a few small breaking waves, so after trying to ride each wave I swam out further to find a wave with more power. Soon I was further out than I had planned.
Before starting out, the Balinese man who rented lounge chairs to us crossed his arms in an “X” and pointed to two red flags in the water. I understood that to mean that I should not swim between them. So, I left my non-swimming Chinese friend to lounge beneath the umbrella as I set out to swim near a man who was teaching his daughter how to surf. I figured that if I stayed near them, I’d be safe.
After a while, I began to tire as the current was really very strong. Realizing that I had drifted dangerously close to the red flag area I dug my toes into the sand like an anchor. I did not know what was in the red zone – coral reefs, rocks or a rip tide, but I was struggling to swim in the opposite direction to avoid it. Soon, the water was above my head and my toes left the ground as I battled to swim against the current and away from the flags. I looked for my surfing buddies, but they were gone. I was alone.
I waved to my friend on the shore. He waved back. I remembered he couldn’t swim, so I waved again just to alarm him of my peril. He nonchalantly waved back again. I panicked. Didn’t he see I needed help? I weakly raised my arm and made a beckoning motion to tell him to come closer. He simply waved back again. NO! “Come closer,” I signaled again. Now I just needed the moral support as I might be going under the third time. He waved again! This time it might be goodbye.
I looked around and saw no lifeguard chairs, nobody nearby, nor any sign of rescue. I saw only one choice. I had to risk the dangers that lurk between the red flags and let the current push me into the red zone and hopefully wash me ashore. I had to let my fears go to relax into a dead-man float and indeed, the current brought me to where I could put my feet safely on the sand and I tiredly walk ashore.
I dragged myself to my rented lounge chair and plopped down. “Didn’t you see me drowning out there?” I questioned my friend.
“You should never go swimming alone,” he said calmly. Drat! He was right. I had gotten so carried away by being on the beautiful foreign beach that I neglected some basic safety rules. Not to mention, he could not swim! I tried to release my pent up feelings by silently chanting “xiqi” (shee-chee), “huqi” (who-chee),” or “inhale, exhale” as they say in Chinese during the daily exercises in school, and concentrating on a man nearby who was sweeping the beach clean of all debris, including shells and pebbles.
Sand was weighing down my shorts so I stopped my meditation, got “back on the horse” and went into the water again to rinse myself. I had really wanted to pick up a shell for my 4th grade colleague back in the United States, Linda, but as I mentioned they swept the beaches there to keep them pristine. Then it happened. A fist-sized rock rolled over my foot with the incoming wave. Tickling my ankle, it tumbled backwards with the undertow – my undertow. I had to have it! I scurried after it and quickly grabbed my prize. Holding it down to my side, I promptly brought my secret prize to the chairs and showed it to my scowling friend. “Why do you do such a thing?” he asked.
“This is my rock from Bali!” I declared. “Whenever things get tough, I will look at this rock and remember that life could have been worse because I could have drowned here today. When I fret about things too much or life in Asia seems to be overwhelming, it will remind me to ‘drop the rock,’ so I will be light enough not drown in the burdens of my own negative thoughts.” He shrugged his shoulders as if this was not news to him, but I feel the idea is important to share with my colleagues here in China who might need the pick-me-up.
My life in China has heightened my awareness of life’s lessons and I’m still learning. Patience has been one of the unforeseen joys of coming here. I have begun to understand what many, like my Chinese friend, already know- That it is important to lighten up, go with the flow, and love where you are in the moment. For now, I’m still happily swimming along on my Asian adventure and occasionally remembering to “Let it go…”