For our last day in Indonesia, Aunt Kathy and Uncle Peter have planned a surprise for us. Quentin and I have no idea what it is, but we are both uber excited. We get up really early and Uncle Peter tells us to wear our bathers under our clothes, which gives us a really big hint on what the surprise is going to be. Something to do with water, but what? Even though I’m nervous, the suspense is still killing me.
We all make our way down to the lobby before the restaurant is even open for breakfast. The sun is just starting to peek and the sky is splashed with an array of brilliant colour. It’s surreal. We are all quiet as we wait for our taxi, sitting outside the entrance to the hotel in absolute awe of the beauty of the day. Even Quentin is quietly watching the sun rising. Wonders will never cease.
The drive is long and despite the early hour, the roads are no quieter than usual. By the time we reach our destination, we are all famished. Aunt Kathy stops in at a small restaurant and lets us have a ‘light’ bite to eat. She warns us not to eat too much or scoff our food, as we are going in water and she doesn’t want us to get a stitch. Quentin’s face is screwed up in concentration as he chews his food until it’s almost a liquid before swallowing. I try not to laugh as I watch him, who knew that eating would take such focus.
Eventually we are ready and we all walk a few blocks to a short jetty, where a long boat is tethered. The boat is white, with a blue canopy attached and pictures of blue fish along it’s side. There are white plastic bucket chairs along both sides of the boat, with only a little room to walk around. My heart begins to pound through my ribcage, I am utterly petrified at the mere thought of getting on that boat, but I don’t want to seem like a baby, so I flash a nervous smile at Aunt Kathy. Uncle Peter pays and we all make our way to the boat and choose our seats. I can feel my whole body shaking, but move about as much as possible so that no one notices. Maybe I should have told Aunt Kathy and Uncle Peter about my fear of boats, but it’s too late now. I swallow down the hard lump in my throat as we make our way down the centre of the boat. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Peter are on one side, while Quentin and I rush to seats on the opposite side. My tummy is churning and I grip my seat until my knuckles turn white. I’m so frightened of being on the water, yet still a little excited at the same time. It’s a confusing feeling. I look over at Aunt Kathy and she smiles and asks me if I’m okay, to which I nod, but my mouth is too dry for me to speak.
A few more people join us on the boat and everyone strips down to their bathers, ready to go. The boat starts up and a billow of smoke spews from the roaring engine. An Indonesian man, who tells us his name is Agung, helps prepare us, as the boat bumps along the water to our destination. He shows us how to use the clear helmets they have on board the boat, with long thick cords streaming from the back. He explains that the cord is how we will get our oxygen when we are in the water.
Eventually the boat slows and the motor is switched off. My ears are ringing in the sudden quiet, but I am too mixed up in my own fear and excitement to worry about it. Agung places one of the helmets over my head, then does the same for Quentin. We all make our way to the back of the boat and gently slide into the cool water. The sun is high in the sky now and the day is hot, so the water should be inviting, but I begin to shake and can’t bring myself to let go of the boat. Uncle Peter swims over to me and lets me grip onto his shoulders and he gently lowers me into the water. Quentin goes to jump off the back of the boat, but Agung stops him and tells him he has to be slow, so as not to break the large helmet.
Once in the water, Agung tells us to slowly lower our heads beneath the surface and make sure our helmets are working properly. They all are and so we all make our way down under the water, towards the ocean floor. There are bright corals moving about in the waters current and lots of little fish are swimming about , some of them come so close to me I could easily reach out and touch them, but I don’t. I’m so amazed at the epic colours of the ocean and the sea life to even panic about being in the water. Eventually I loosen my grip on Uncle Peter’s shoulders and give him a nervous smile, as our feet touch the soft sand at the bottom of the ocean.
We all walk along the ocean floor, watching the amazing sea life swimming around us. A long, skinny eel pokes it’s head out from beneath a large jagged rock, its face is pulled up to look like a constant smile. It eyes us suspiciously, then darts back under it’s rock, leaving a cloud of soft sand in it’s wake. Agung takes us along a makeshift sandy path through the reef, then he approaches me and smiles, pointing to another Indonesian man, who had been on the boat with us. He is holding an underwater camera in our direction and Agung holds up two fingers in a peace sign and I do the same, smiling in the photographers direction.
Before I know it, our tour is over and everyone is making their way back up to the boat. I see Uncle Peter and Quentin swimming up to the surface with Agung just behind them and I feel instantly panicked. I look around and no one else is left on the ocean floor, they’re all making their way back up to the boat. I push myself off of the ocean floor and kick my legs with all my might, flailing my arms about in panic as I try to follow everyone back up to the surface. My heart is pounding in my chest and I suddenly feel like I can’t breathe, even though I know the helmet is still working and I have plenty of oxygen, my panic blinds me and tears poor down my face. I try to wipe them away, but the helmet on my head prevents me. The muscles in my legs begin to burn, as I use every ounce of energy to force my body to the surface. I can no longer see anyone around me, not even any sea life. All I see is darkness, the darkness of my own fear and panic as it wraps around me like a suffocating blanket.
I feel hands on me, but I don’t know who’s they are and I feel myself moving through the water. I hope I am moving to the surface and not back to the bottom of the ocean. I have lost all sense of direction. Finally, I feel the warmth of the sun on my face and it blinds my eyes. I can feel the helmet being lifted from my head and I can hear Uncle Peter’s voice telling me I’m okay. All at once my senses come back to me. I see the boat, with Aunt Kathy and Quentin standing over the edge looking at me, worry etched on their faces. Uncle Peter has his arms around me, as he pulls me through the water towards the boat. Agung is holding my other arm, calling out in Indonesian to the other workers on the boat. I am lifted out of the water and Aunt Kathy wraps me up in a towel and rubs my back like she’s burping a new born baby. I work on slowing my breathing and try not to look at anyone, embarrassed about panicking so much. Uncle Peter keeps saying ‘sorry’ over and over again and eventually I am able to smile at him and say “It’s not your fault, I’m sorry I got scared.”
“Don’t be silly, it’s perfectly normal to get scared. Fear is a part of life.” Aunt Kathy is always pouring with words of wisdom.
“I still had fun. I’m glad I did it, but never again.” I laugh nervously, as the boat edges closer to the shoreline. We tap the side of the jetty and before Agung has even tied the boat to the pillars I leap from it and run along the jetty, eager to have my feet back on the ground. Quentin is right behind me laughing and racing me back to land. I am so glad to have him with me, making it all seem like a childish game, instead of me looking like a scaredy cat running away from the boat in fear. Sometimes Quentin is such a lifesaver, without even knowing it. In that moment I realise I love Quentin like he’s my own brother.