Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Calm and Endless

I am standing on the bow of a garish tourist boat called the Phi Phi Cruiser III. My mind is flush with memories and anxiety. Kaia stands in front of me, her hair alive with the wind, shines a shade of gold reserved for fairy tales. Below us on a lower deck a gang of young tanned young men bask in the ease of irresponsibility.

The ocean is calm and endless. I see such beauty in its bleak emptiness. Kaia seems a bit bored; she squints her eyes and stares forward searching for the islands I promised her. Last time I was in this spot of the earth, I was leaving Phi Phi a bit shell shocked. I am not sure why I need to go back. Not sure what I hope to see.

I spark up a conversation with a rosy red rotund woman from South Africa. She compliments Kaia on her manners and beautiful eyes. I thank her, as if I have had anything to do with either. The conversation travels to Mozambique, Madagascar and the her trip on a fifty foot catamaran leaving the Seychelles. She seems to have a difficult time deciphering our life. Usually where are you from is so much less eventful- born in Iran, raised in California, wife from Milwaukee, met in Mozambique, one daughter born in Malaysia, the other in Qatar, now living in Jakarta. 

I can't help but tell her about the Tsunami. Not sure why I do it. People seem to weave such drama about that day, and who am I kidding I enjoy it. To see their eyes light up as they place themselves in the halo of what happened to us. I guess I have never really felt as blessed as how others feel when they hear our story for the first time. They concocted tales of faith and destiny. She is silent. The wind blows. I am not sure if Kaia heard the story, if she did she doesn't say anything.

"You are doing good work," she says at the end of her thoughts. "I don't know you, but I can see it in your face and your voice, by your lovely daughter, whatever you are doing...it is good and important."

I feel loved. Here is it, on this perfect Tuesday morning, but by this complete stranger I feel loved. It feels nice. "Thank you," I say. "I am doing the best I can."

"You should write a book!"

"I am!" I cannot control the excitement in my voice. We stare at the sea in silence for a few minutes more, before I head back down to the lower deck to get Kaia out of the sun. She said that she would look up my name, so she can look for the book, but I do not see her again.

Phi Phi itself was quiet and drab. The luster and the shine left behind in nostalgia and broken memories. We ate a mediocre lunch. I walked Kaia out into the lagoon, looking at where the wave came in and thought about luck. It all sounds too dramatic even for me. I was here years ago and I am here again now with this beautiful young child, what else does this story need?

Coda: The back of the boat is crazy as Arabs and Indians who have never swam, scream jumping onto the dead reef. They are covered in clothing and head scarves. Kept a float not by any sense of buoyancy, but by artificial orange devices none of them seem to trust.

Kaia and I quietly put on our masks and fins in a corner. I jump in and ask her if she is ready. She places her mask on her tiny face and deftly makes sure there is no hair at the edges,  just like I have taught her in the pool.  She nods her head. I can tell she is scared, but before I can double check, she is in the water and swimming away from the crowd. I can see her little finger pointing at the school of fish who flock to us and our soggy pieces of bread.

We swim away from the crowd and I have never been so proud. Here is my beautiful little mermaid swimming all on her own, without a life jacket because she said it made it hard for her to swim, in the wide open ocean. She takes a few dives and bobs effortlessly at the surface.

"Look dad! There are thousands of them."

We swim a while as I watch her gain confidence. I think about fear and what a wasted emotion it is. I watch the others bob like orange turtles stuck in their shells. I think about the work I do.  I sum it up in one simple line, "Live fearlessly."

Later, some guy jumps off the deck. A little five foot jump, but I can see that Kaia has noticed. "You wanna jump? I'll hold your hand." Hands in her mouth, nervous, smiling devilishly, she nods.

Standing on the edge, holding hands, I say, "You don't have to you know. I know it feels scary. All I have to say is that sometimes, usually actually, when we do something that scares us, it feels really good afterwards. It is your choice. You have been brave enough for one day."

I am holding her hand and we are ten feet underwater. We kick our feet and shoot to the surface and hear a cheer from a young couple who watched us jump. "Atta girl!" The man shouts. Kaia smiles and asks if we can do it again to show mommy.

Who know, maybe the lady was right. Maybe I am doing something right.

Cross posted at Intrepid Flame

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