Scuba Diving Makes Me Feel Like An Alien

 

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The bubble of resort life is hard to break. How could one be persuaded to leave the warm comfort of a resort, where food is everywhere and drinks are free? The answer is simply: scuba diving.
Scuba diving is the ultimate activity to mix things up during a tropical resort vacation. Leaving the nest of the resort, I can suddenly be swimming through what can only described as the closest thing to alien life that can be found on earth (outside of Roswell New Mexico of Course). Life underwater is a menagerie of sand and colorful living rocks, the fish flying like birds in swarm-like clouds above coral forests, the sunlight refracting through water on the surface to create a blanket-like patterns of shadow and light on the sandy floor below. Its awesome.

 

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Stepping off the sandy beaches of the resort and onto the narrow seats of a diving skiff, I found myself lurching over the aqua marine blue colored water. As we bumped along, the dive instructor was filling my Dad in on the do’s and don’ts of scuba diving. For instance, your life is sustained through oxygen that flows out of a little plastic tube. Dont stop breathing. Holding breath can lead to other health complications, and so on and so forth. Essentially, he told him that once he started breathing under water, the goal was then to never stop. Pretty basic stuff.

 

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Our captain somehow found the floating anchor amidst the rest of the open ocean, and once we were attached, it was time to get in the water. Getting over the idea of breathing out of a plastic tube, I moved the goggles over my eyes, and began my descent.
The water was close to 80 degrees farenheight. I cleared my ears of pressure by equalizing, and began kicking my flippers towards the swarm of coral life that teems like a miniature metropolis on the ocean floor below. A school of fish approached like a rolling fog, and then spread around me on either side as they continued towards their destination in the blue unknown.
I stopped my descent on the sandy bottom with an outreached hand. We were now 40 feet below the surface of the ocean, and would be going no deeper. Our dive master hit something hard against the side of his tank, and I looked over to see that he was leading us away from the anchor attached to our boat, and further into the underwater jungle. I kicked my fins and followed.
Weightlessness is another part of the space-like feel of scuba diving. I floated weightlessly above the coral, flying through the thick new aquatic atmosphere, where I could choose to either hover over an interesting scene of vibrant and colorful coral life, or kick my feet and fly to a new destination. My lack of weight made it feel like I was in space. The life around me made it feel like I had been abducted. Everything was interesting, like being in the setting of a science fiction novel.

 

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After what felt like 10 minutes, but must have been closer to an hour, our dive master hit something hard against his scuba tank again. We were now back at the anchors we had started at, and it was time to re-surface.
Waiting for 10 minutes at an altitude of 10 feet below the surface of the ocean, we did a safety stop for decompression, an added layer of protection between the diver and the bends, and one of the signs of a good diving company. The light blue color of the water glittered like jewelry as the sunlight shined in varying degrees of intensity along the waves.
After the 10 minutes was up, we rose above the quiet sanctuary of underwater silence, and burst into the sounds of seagulls and crashing surf of the surface world above the coral. One of the boat workers lent me his hand, and I returned up the ladder and into the quasi dry area of the skiff. Sitting down on the narrow seat, we were driven back to the resort.
Comfortably back on the beach, I got a margarita from the bar, and settled myself into the seat of a lounge chair. Looking out over the sweeping blue landscape of the ocean, my thoughts once again returned to the coral life down below. I almost wanted to stand up, throw my shirt off, and start swimming back into the alien world of coral beneath the ocean waves. But it was almost dinner time, and we were eating fish. I kicked my feet back into the sandals at the base of my chair, and stood up returning to my room for a shower. It had truly been the perfect way to escape from the bubble of our resort.

The Cultural Gift of a Coconut

 

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For some reason, I cannot handle resorts. After a day or two of sitting next to the relaxing sound of beach surf pounding powder white sand beaches, drinking free drinks, and eating whatever I want without paying a dime to anyone, I start to go crazy. In the past, I always thought that this was because I have some strange aversion to over-relaxation. But now I think that I have always disliked resorts, because they have no culture. And of course, there is a story that goes behind all of this.

My father and I were finishing up a very relaxing session of drink beer in the pool under palm trees and brilliant sunlight, and were going to head out for a little adventure. The plan: go through the other hotel next to us, designed to look like a castle, and eventually reach the massive beach near our resort.
We walked off the path of our resort, and into the strange limbo that made up a 5 star resort that people will pay thousands of dollars a night (equivalent to like 6 backpacking vacations) to stay in for a few nights.
Shadows danced on the walls under the light of fake torches attached to the wall. The hallway was wide and tall, full of echoes that appeared to come from shadows that clung to all of the corners.
Occasionally we would hear the dull echoing of a worker moving between rooms, only to have the noise and shadow of that worker disappear like a ghost the moment you took notice. And all through the while, a massive waterfall pouring through the middle of the hotel lobby, made resounding thunderous noises throughout the area.
All of these influences combined together and made it feel as though we had been thrust into the setting of a 5 star horror movie, full of delicious food and snowy white linens.
And then just as suddenly, we were thrust back under the brilliant light of the sun, and beach lined land of the Dominican Republic Coast. It was like we had walked through a very vivid and bizarre daydream.

We then walked the beach, past all of the cabanas trying to set up a beach party, different people trying to kite surf, and eventually to a shady grove of coconut trees at the end of the beach. We startled a security guard on our approach, who had been passed out in a foldable chair next to the ocean. Hearing us approach, he jolted awake and proceeded to tell us that we couldn’t go any further. We had reached the velvet-lined border of another resort, and were asked to turn away. Right before I could shrug the experience off as another reason why I dislike resorts, he called us back.
“Follow me,” he said, “I will show you.”
I thought that he was going to show me a little map that explicitly showed why I couldn’t go any further, but I was about to be mildly terrified, and then pleasantly surprised.
Reaching into the roof of his hut, he removed a machete. Before I could get the wrong impression, he pulled a coconut from the bottom shelf.
“Ah,” I said sheepishly nodding my head, still unsure of what was going on.
He swung the machete overhead, and split the top open.
“drink,” he said enthusiastically, looking excited to finally have some human contact during his long day of being away from people.
My father and I drank from the coconut, and it was amazing. It had to be one of the best forms of coconut water we have ever had. We finished drinking the coconut water while walking away, but were called back again just as suddenly.
“Please,” he said beckoning to me. I handed the coconut back over to him, unsure of what was going on. He cut the coconut in half, exposing the rest of the coconut meat for us to eat, and handed it back to me.
My dad and I were bewildered. Not only had we been only barely told off by the security guard, but we had also been given one of the most delicious coconut treats I have ever had in my life. But more than that, it had felt like a genuine gesture between human beings, than the actions of a hotel worker who was obligated to by money serve our needs.
We had to go to the end of the beach to get an actual Dominican experience. The gesture of giving a coconut to potential intruders reflected what I would later come to know as Dominican kindness and hospitality. Not to say that Dominican people are perfect, as we had driven through a riot the day before, but they are more than a country of resorts with servants.
So whenever I reflect on the reasons why I dislike a resort, and why I wouldn’t ever travel there, I think back to the man with a coconut. I cant ever be content with traveling around the world to have people wait on me, when I know that somewhere out there, maybe at the end of a beach, or in some obscure town, there is the unexpected chance that a man might be waiting to hand me a coconut.

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