I had the opportunity to go to Mombasa for a long weekend. I’m not a beach person. But, I’ve never seen the Indian Ocean and it seems like something to cross off a list. Because I’m not a beach person, I booked an excursion to go snorkeling. Again, shortening the preverbal bucket-list and saving myself from another day of working on my lobster impression.
The day started poorly. The touring company forgot to pick me up at my hotel. A call to the main office led to a high speed taxi chasing the bus full of my new snorkeling companions, as if the single tourist amongst families and newly weds needed additional notariety.
Because of the oversight, we were late getting to the traditional Dhow fishing boat. Most importantly, our tardiness caused us to miss the “light breakfast” promised in the brochure. A hungry Elaine is not a happy Elaine. It took me a good hour into our voyage to work up the nerve to ask one of the crew if they had anything left. Fortified with one small mendazi (Kenyan donut), I felt more prepared to face two hour-long snorkeling adventures.
I squeezed my feet into flippers. (The crewman was astounded by my big feet and told me so.) I popped my company provided goggles onto my face and lowered myself into the surprisingly chilly water. I stuck the snorkel mouthpiece in and ducked my head under. Immediately, I choked on a good amount of salt water. I assumed it must be user error and repeated the uncomfortable experience about five more times, rethinking my refusal of a life vest. I paddled over to a guide and traded snorkels with him.
Now able to breathe, I was excited to see what all the snorkeling fuss was about. But my goggles were pretty foggy, despite the fact that I spit on them and rinsed them as instructed. Additionally, there was a nearly constant leak from both temples and I was exhausted from dodging the darn teenagers who would dive down close to the reef and then pop back to the surface inches from my face.
I asked for smaller goggles once we returned to the boat. Orange slices were passed around like we were a little league softball team. We motored to a different spot on the reef and tried again. All in all, I wasn’t having an inspired time.
I could breath and I could see. I saw a huge sea turtle, an octopus, a stingray, a starfish, and a blowfish not to mention the beautiful reef itself and the fish. There were schools and schools of vibrant fish and my favorite teal and purple fish. There was a fish that had iridescent green polkadots. It took my breath away. I even emulated those annoying teenagers and dove down to get closer to the action. I kept hearing a loop of Psalm 139 playing in my thoughts, “If I make my bed in the depths, you are with me…”
What if I hadn’t chosen a tour that had two snorkeling experiences? What if I hadn’t said anything about the goggles being too big or the snorkel leaking? I would have walked away from the entire day saying, “Wow! That was dumb.” Or just died from sea water inhalation.
The whole experience reminded me of a quote that hangs in my bedroom. It reads: Try Again, this time with God. I don’t think this implies that God isn’t in some experiences. Or that he’s ever far away from us, though it can certainly seem so. To me this quote represents the redemptive power of our God. He takes the bad and makes it good. Dark to light. Despair to hope.
It was a good reminder at the midpoint of my second season in Kenya.
I can’t wait for all redemptive ways God is going to keep blowing my mind and enriching my life…even at the beach.