Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Islands make my heart sing

I think I'm in love. It was a whirlwind romance, but sometimes, that can't be helped. Besides, common knowledge dictates that it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. And with a weekend of loving and loosing under my belt, I feel more complex. Since I don't even have a picture to remember him by, I'll have to weep fondly over a picture of a different-but-similar-looking-fellow.

We met on a tropical island in Malaysia. I've never seen water as clear and blue and beautiful. It's one of those hideaways where time seems to slow down as soon as you step off the ferry and walk out onto the pier. The interior of Tioman island is a heavily forested jungle, but diving shacks and rickety resorts have sprouted up on the beaches to accommodate the island visitors. Transportation consists entirely of boats and trekking through the overgrowth on foot, but even on foot you can't get very far. Landlubbers must accept the confines of a hundred feet of beach and a hundred feet of pier for the duration of their stay. If you're willing to venture into the stretch of the South China Sea that envelops the island though, the exploration is limitless. There's a nice contrast between the serenity of the surface and the chaos going on underneath.

I spent Sunday sloshing about with my pink flippers and yellow snorkel in the waters near Coral Island. Every so often, I would forget how long my snorkel was and dip my chin too far down, then pop my head up to expel a mouthful of salt water. Then I would plant my face back in the ocean to observe how the sun rays pierced through the water and struck the scales of schools of fish. They twinkled at me like underwater stars. I watched sea anemones and clownfish dance together. The sea anemones looked like clusters of purple-tinged, spinach fettuccine. Clams of a million different colors snapped their shells shut when I tickled them with bubbles from kicking my flippers. They looked like these. I swam over a school of fish that was lined up in a trench, busy not going anywhere--a mock traffic jam. A sea turtle passed by underneath me and slipped away silently towards the deeper water. I watched a ray propel itself by ruffling its edges and followed him until a tiny squid shot by. He darted through the water, and I felt like a lumbering giant when I tried to follow. It was all so beautiful.

The coral reef world was almost like swimming in Finding Nemo, but with less colorful coral, more colorful fish, and stimulation of all five sense. I could hear the fish munching on the coral. It sounded like hundreds of tiny Rice Krispies popping. Some sounded like they were purring. I oscillated with the gentle waves and touched the fish when they flocked to divers with bread crumbs. I smelled the salty air every time I took a breath.

Jasmine met Mr. H. Wrasse first. She was casually gliding along watching normal sized fish pass by (about 2-10inches) when he appeared. She thought he was going to eat her. She didn't understand his gentle heart like I did. Her muffled shouts through the snorkel summoned me over, and it was then that H. Wrasse glanced at me and swam away. It was a brief moment, yes, but one I'll treasure always.

After such an encounter, I didn't even mind the fact that the backs of my legs and arms were burned from floating face-down in the water all day. The biting sand flies couldn't wipe the smile from my dreamy face. I lazed in a hammock and hoped to meet again.

Leaving the island the next day without so much as a "Farewell!" from my H. Wrasse has left me with a broken heart. But, I derive some consolation from the fact that, "There are plenty of fish in the sea!"

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