And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for—the snorkeling trip post.
Last Sunday (our free day) we all rose up early in the morning and took in a very early breakfast—around 5:30am. We all grabbed a lunch, packed our suits and our ANE study guides, and boarded the bus at 6:45. Everyone on the program went except one—Stephen—and I never was really clear about why he had decided not to go. It ended up being a blessing, though—but we’ll get to that later. We pulled away from the center in the early hours and started for the Red Sea. I occupied my time with reading, eating the banana bread I suck out of the oasis, joining some nearby bus riders in going over the history of the near east from 8000 BC onward for Dr. Stratford’s midterm, and slept a bit. I also joined a few girls in a fascinating conversation with our bus driver, who turned out to be not only a very friendly person but also a Quran chanter. He chanted us a few aya right there on the bus.
It took us nearly four hours, but we finally ended up at Eilat (ay-lot) on the very southern-most tip of Israel (we found out in hindsight that if we had driven another three miles we would have been in Egypt—but I’m glad we didn’t know that then. Brother Jackson would have killed us if anyone had even attempted it). We got our snorkel gear and found a pavilion to call home base. We were divided into three groups to take turns with the snorkels, so as my group wasn’t scheduled for a couple hours I entertained myself in other ways.
First thing, I walked down to the shore and took in the view. It was breathtaking. The water was the bluest I have ever seen, light near the shore and dark further in. The sky was clear, with only a few scattered cotton ball clouds. Wind surfers and paragliders dotted the sky with their multicolored sails. Where the water began, I discovered hundreds of multi-colored pebbles shimmering under the water instead of sand. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze blew, and the water was cool and inviting. It was all so vibrant and colorful and perfect it hardly seemed real. It felt like I had jumped into a painting.
I went swimming for a bit (succeeding in elevating the salinity of my entire body, I imagine) and ate lunch with some friends at the pavilion. Before too long it was my turn to snorkel. I walked to the end of the pier, pulled the mask tight over my face and popped the snorkel into my mouth, and slipped into the cool, blue sea. Instantly a new world opened up before me. A wall of a coral reef stood before me, teaming with life. I swam slowly along, feasting my eyes on everything—every colorful fish (beta fish, blue rays, you name it), every sea cucumber, every coral. I even saw a huge school of tiny silver fish swimming as one great cloud. I found myself having thoughts that would have instantly qualified me as either a nerd or slightly crazy if anyone else could have heard them. “Hey look—brain coral! Cool!” or, upon seeing a little clownfish , “It’s Nemo! I found him!” Every now and then I would splash around a little from the surface just to create beautiful silver air bubbles and let them tickle my face. It was all so beautiful, and so quiet (all except for the “hss—hooh—hss—hooh” of my breathing through the snorkel. I stayed down almost the whole hour, coming up only to spit salt water out of my snorkel or clear my goggles. It was amazing to be part of such a beautiful little world—one that I would never have discovered otherwise.
After I had dried myself out and hydrated my system again, I took to the beach. I sat in a plastic lawn chair on the shore and sipped mango juice and did some reading and let the golden afternoon sun warm me up and dry me off. I had previously been severely disappointed to discover that I had left my novel on the bus—so instead I read my Israel class assignment about the holocaust for a bit, but ended up giving it up. The article was fascinating and I enjoyed it. Still, as I glanced from my homework packet to the beautiful ocean view, I could just picture a young lawyer-to-be sitting the stands of Lavell Edwards stadium reading a Torts book, and wondered what my father would think if he could see me now.
After a while I joined a circle of friends swapping “most rebellious thing you’ve ever done” stories and stayed there until it was time to leave. We regretfully left the beach at around 4:00 and boarded the busses again. I watched the shore as we left—I knew that although I was tired and ready for dinner now, it would not be long before I would long to be here again.
We did dinner on the way back (including ice cream—yum). I studied some more on the way back (though admittedly I was not very efficient), read my book some more, and did a little sleeping. Eventually we made it back just past 10:00. We all promptly went to bed—but a part of me was still in Eilat, discovering a magical world of fish and dancing with the paragliders over the waves of the Red Sea.
As a side note, I told you about the one student who didn’t go with us and stayed behind at the center--Stephen. He became violently ill late that afternoon, and over an hour before we reached the center he was rushed to the hospital and had his appendix taken out. We were all very happy that he hadn’t joined us—we didn’t have the center physician with us and wouldn’t have been able to help him. Everyday miracles again—we’re so glad Stephen is alright.
That's all for now! Ciao!!!