Baja Day 8: I surfed with Mario– well, Chewy actually. He’s one of the surf instructors. He has two Daschaunds with impressive testicles and a beagle-thing (every dog in Mexico is a thing because all of them are mutts. Except for Daschaunds) that his grandma gave him. He hates that one. I asked Chewy how he was doing when I saw him that morning and in return I learned how to cuss four different ways. Yeah, dumb beagle-thing.
I surfed well that morning with Chewy’s help– he helped me time my waves right and as I result I was up and riding more than I was in the water, gargling sea-swill. The waves were much bigger that day and I took several mighty tumbles and was crushed and bashed by mountains of seething liquid.
After my lesson I talked with the other folks who were in the same lesson as me: a family of four from San Francisco and a mother and daughter from New York. I struck up a conversation with the daughter and learned she was a student at North Eastern and about to start a summer internship with a fashion PR company. We proceeded to talk about school, our home towns, what we hope to accomplish. I add this because I encourage everyone to talk to strangers as if they’re meeting an old friend. I am usually tremendously outgoing but sometimes I hesitate to surpass playful banter and ask questions of substance. Do it, though. You meet interesting people. More rather, you’ll realize the person you’re talking to is really cool.
Baja Day 9: Bryan woke me at 7 with her routine holler through the screen door of my bed room. I had 30 minutes to get ready. Bryan, Molly and I were driving into La Paz that day to scuba dive in the Sea of Cortez. When Bryan had said scuba diving the night before, I thought she misspoke and mean snorkeling. No. It was scuba diving, I soon learned. I’ve never scuba dived. We joined a boat with a young and beaming couple from York, UK, named Liz (an red-headed optometrist) and Rob, (a self-employed computer something). Our Mexican crew consisted of Nelson (the dive master) and Ricardo (the boat man.) We boated for an hour and a half out to a sea lion sanctuary where Liz and Rob who are long time and experienced divers, dove around a sea-mound for about 40 minutes. Once they finish we move closer to the sea lion sanctuary where I was taught how to dive– through a 10 minute class consisting of flash cards. Baby, this is Mexico! We don’t need no stinkin’ certification!
I was nervous to say the least. We had to demonstrate a multitude of tasks such as removing our mouth piece under water, replacing it, clearing it, breathing again. Filling our goggles half way up with water and then clearing them. Pretending we run out of air and demonstrate how to partner breathe using Nelson’s secondary (I forget the legit term) respirator . And all of this is under about 40 feet of water. It’s bizarre to open your mouth under so much water. It feels anti-evolutionary. Biology yells, “YOU IDIOT,” the entire time.
Once I got down there, equalizing the pressure in my mask and my ears every meter down or so (like my flash card course taught me!), all my fear and anxiety was gone. The world of “under-water” is a universe unto itself. Schools of orange striped fish, parrot fish, angel fish, vibrantly marked sea slugs, puffer fish as big as grape fruits (deflated), sting ray, sea stars. And not to mention the sheer experience of being under water at such a depth. It’s beautiful, disconcerting (you’re body will keep telling you it’s all wrong) and freeing to explore a territory so foreign.
I ran out of air first so I surfaced and commenced to snorkel with the sea lions in the vicinity– keeping a respectful distance. Later, we climbed onto the boat and made our way back to the Cortez Club harbor in La Paz. On the way back we stopped in a bay to look for an adolescent whale shark that was purportedly still in the area (the one we had tried to look for in a previous post of mine). Meanwhile, I was napping in the sun.
“There’s the whale shark!!!!! EVERYBODY INNNN!!” That’s how I woke up. I had no time to think as I automatically zipped up my wet suit, snapped on flippers, and spat in a pair of goggles and put them over my head.
“Go! Go! GO! It’s swimming away! Swim after it!!” Like an obedient dog retrieving a stick, I threw myself from our vessel, lunch sloshing precariously in my stomach, and sprinted like a mad man in the direction Nelson had pointed. A 20 foot behemoth suddenly loomed from the aquamarine gloom of the water. In front of me was the baby whale shark. In all its krill eating glory.
Let me take a step back now, and say that you’d think nothing would sound compelling enough to induce you to jump, unarmed, into a sea and swim straight for a 20 foot fish, bigger in girth than a very sturdy tree. Luckily, I was so jostled from sleep that my instinctual rationale had no opportunity to warn me of the foolishness of swimming blithely with a giant sea-creature. As a result, I surprised myself my swimming right up to it, swimming with it (man was it fast) and touching it (very firm, very sharky.) It lost me quickly and swam off into the blue. I was ecstatic! All of us (Molly, Liz, Rob and me) swam back to the boat and celebrated our magnificent encounter with a true ambassador of primal nature.
“Let’s do it again! Get ready!” Nelson cried and gunned the engine again. Ricardo was at the bow, scanning the bay for a tell-tale fin. And we did it again. 3 times. I was the fastest swimmer out of our group and so each time I was able to swim exactly along side the giant fish before I would tire and it would decide it’d had enough of my silly human antics and swim away to get on with its life in peace.
Any day you swim with a whale shark is a perfect day.
Baja Day 10: Art with Eric and kids at 9:30. Mixed paints. Was covered in white paint all day. Ruined some shorts as a result (oh well) and finished the art installation. Looks great. Have to find a way to display the art pieces left over. And all the kids are used to me now so they don’t avoid me, look away shyly when I say hello, or ignore me anymore! As I hot glued hangers onto the backs of wooden canvasses for hanging, almost each kid walked by and pointedly said thank you– one of my favorites, a little petite thing named Mildre, saying thank you, running outside, running in, saying thank you again for the sheer pleasure of it, three times. On the way home I stopped at a cafe along a street I had never ridden down before (because of the sign out front advertising an iced chai and a bagel for 78 pesos. Sold.) So I sat at a table on the sidewalk, enjoyed slowing down, basking in the sun, saying hello to the passersby and relishing my tasty viddles. Sergio was not feeling great today so we did not go biking near El Triumpho in the boonies near La Paz as planned but instead we took the dogs for a walk on the beach (another pelican tragedy!), and got real Italian pizza made by real bonafide Italians at Il Giardino. A vegetarian and a shrimp and mushroom pizza family style. Divine.