Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jordan Challenge 39: Remembering the Red Sea Dive

For months I've been meaning to write this post.  It's the very last challenge I did before leaving Jordan, and it makes no sense that I didn't write about it the week I got home, or the next week.  But I didn't. I think on some level I knew that writing it was acknowledging that my year in Jordan had ended and my life in Vermont had picked back up again.

Something's changed, though, and now I felt like writing the post, and I think it's because my excellent Fulbrighter friend Grace recently came to spend the weekend in Vermont.  Grace was a part of many of the adventures I posted about last year including our Christmas-y Madaba excursion; my first trip to Beirut; our Wadi Mujeb wet hike; camping at Dana Nature Reserve; and perhaps most memorable of all, our trip to Cairo. Throughout the year last year I annoyed my fellow Fulbrighters to the point of distraction by insisting that not only was Vermont the best state of the Union, but that Camel's Hump was quite possibly the best place in that best state. So when Grace yielded to my arm-twisting and agreed to come see Vermont for the very first time, it was only obvious what hike we needed to do. An additional bonus came when my friend and former student Alexsis decided to come for a visit as well, with her roommate and friend Meghan in tow.  (Alexsis has participated in plenty of other projects on this blog as well, including among many others, a trip to Jordan, the West Bank and Dubai; snowshoeing at night; and helping me become a better skier in winter 2011).

Grace, Meghan and Alexsis all agreed with me that this bench near the beginning of the trail was pretty cool.

Alexsis, Meghan and I on the top of Camel's Hump complaining only a little that it seemed pretty snowy for early November!

So, I think Grace has helped me accept the fact that it's past time for me to fully reorient my life back to living in Vermont.  I'm going to do this final post, and after this I'm going to move into my new blog project for 2013 (and the part of 2012 that's left), which for now I'm calling Focus on Five.

But before that happens, here's a short story and some pictures from my final adventure in Jordan, doing a "try dive" complete with a scuba tank in the Red Sea.  Grace and I had agreed that we'd squeeze this one last experience in before I left the country and her office colleague and friend, Lucy decided to join us for good measure.  Because we didn't have time for a full-fledged (or even a half-fledged) course, we opted for the baby version, a "try dive".  In this version, the dive master cuts straight to the chase and runs through the most basic of basics -- mainly what to expect in wearing a tank and how to communicate via hand signals under water. Thus oriented, we strapped on our weights and surprisingly heavy tanks and other gear and explored a coral reef with the luxury of breathing under water.  Because there is so little instruction beforehand, in a try-dive the dive instructor literally leads his or her charges by the hand (and never lets go).  Grace and I swam on both sides of one instructor, and Lucy swam with the other one.

Most important sign we learned: I'm not drowning (yet).
Pulling off my diving shoes at the end of our try-dive adventure.
Everything about the experience under water was amazing.  The red sea coral reef was alive with a huge array of colorful tropical fish, corals and sponges.  It really was like visiting another planet where the atmosphere was completely different, and the movement was so much more three dimensional than ordinary life.  At one point I thought about the fact that this reef might, like so many others, be killed by our human activities that are destroying the oceans, and it just felt so incredibly tragic.  How could we destroy such a beautiful alternative universe?

Lucy checking out the coral at close range while snorkeling

Grace and I attempting (badly) synchronized snorkel-swimming for the camera.

After the dive was over, we were allowed to keep our fins and masks, and given snorkeling equipment so that we were able to pass a good chunk of the day snorkeling around the same reef that we had done our dive in.  Grace had a waterproof camera, so we were able to take some pictures then as well, though they didn't really do justice to what we had experienced previously.

Spending my last weekend in Jordan in Aqaba, the only seaside town in an almost entirely landlocked country, was a great way to experience one last facet of the fascinating country that was my home for ten months.  Doing it with my friend and fellow intrepid explorer Grace made it that much more outstanding.  And now that Grace has been to Vermont and started to explore the wonders of my chosen permanent home, it feels like the pieces are starting to settle into place.  I've been reminded that the world is full of amazing places and friends we haven't met, but who when we do, have the potential to become lifelong fellow explorers of still more exciting new and returning destinations.  It's great to reminisce and exciting to look forward and imagine what might lie ahead.

A perfect reminder that life is always changing, and that there's nothing wrong with that.  Grace and I, posing with Lucy in front of the Red Sea in Aqaba, Jordan in June, 2012...
...and less than six months later, Grace and I standing with Alexsis at the trail head to Camel's Hump in Vermont.  Halfway around the world, still having adventures with great people in great places.

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