The day started stormy. Not a single patch of blue could be seen in the sky, and visibility both on land and under water was poor. It was a miserable day, and the forecast was not promising – four more days of heavy rain on the island of Beqa, a tiny piece of tropical rain forest south of Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu.
Eduardo and I had two options – succumb to the weather and stay in the hotel reading books and magazines, or face the storm and go snorkeling in the ocean. The choice was clear to us. We packed our snorkeling gear and jumped on the boat under the rain. As the boat sped, the rain drops became sharper and stingier. The two of us plus three other hotel guests did what we could to protect ourselves from the cold water and heavy winds. Most of us were shivering.
After ten minutes that felt like half an hour, we arrived in our destination – a coral reef not too far from the island. On a sunny day, we would be able to see the hills of Beqa or even identify some tree specimens. Today, we could only see a gray silhouette beyond the watery haze.
I removed my soaked rain coat, put my mask and fins on, and jumped in the water. As the water enveloped my body, the shivering from the cold vanished immediately. The tropical currents that surround the Fiji archipelago are body-temperature. Strangely, the ocean felt homier and cozier than land.
As I snorkeled around the reef, everything below the surface seemed peaceful. I could no longer hear the rain or feel the wind. The sounds underwater are of a different nature. Corals clicking, crabs pinching, fins splashing, bubbles and my own breathing were the only noticeable sounds. The wind underwater was also imperceptible. Instead, the waves and currents were the forces moving all matter below me. The only reminder of the storm above was the rain drops hitting my back.
The contrast between air and water couldn’t be sharper. While the land was hitting me with powerful winds and spitting rain with anger, the ocean embraced me with warmth. It welcomed me with abundance of life and made me briefly forget the storm. A fleeting thought went through my mind – couldn’t I stay underwater forever?
Above the water line
Below the water line
No… I cannot.
Reality hit me and reminded me that despite the weather hostility, land is my home, while water is not. I’m supposed to hop on that boat again and face the cold rain and fierce winds. In the same way, Fiji is not my home. In a few days, I’m supposed to hop on a plane, endure an 18-hour trip go back to the US and face the gray, freezing Seattle weather.
While there are things I cannot control like the weather, one thing that I can control is my choices. Today my choice was to brave the storm and the cold and jump in the water. Tomorrow, when I leave Fiji and go back to Seattle, my choice will be to defy a different kind of hostility. Just like I braved the weather and found peace underwater, in my home, I’ll face the ones who spit on my face and find my ground.