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October 29, 2014

Disappointment Turning to Joy

Tom McLaughlin

Monado, Indonesia – Back in Kuching, I had searched the Internet for a hotel on the second leg with a beach. I finally found one – or thought I did. The ad on specifically said a beach. We were going gave our son Dzul a place to play in the salt waters and just relax after the stress of traveling.


To our sad dismay, the beach turned out to be white sand spread across an area fronting a lagoon. The water extended only to about a quarter of a football field to a stone wall about four meters high (12 feet to the Americans). There was no way one could swim or play on this narrow spit of sand.


The hotel, though, had a magnificent gardens and a pool. Palm trees, flowering yellow and red bushes and expanses of lawn almost made up for the lack of an area fronting the sea. One could, after a small hack, walk out onto the wall and view the sea which splashed onto the rocks keeping the wall in place. Looking out to sea, one could view a large volcano and small flattened one. A place of extreme tropical magnificence.


We signed up for a snorkeling trip the next morning to visit the reef located near the almost flattened volcano. We arrived at the dock to find a Dr. Lilly, a middle aged psychiatrist from Holland having a debate with the island people. It seems she had reserved a private boat for her and three colleagues and was insistent she have it. We told the crew that we would take the other diving boat and let Dr. Lilly have our boat instead. I asked Dr. Lilly if the other three were her patients and her reactions was “How did you know?”


The boat was about eight meters long (24 feet) and was a former fishing craft. The center held 12 diving tanks with as many divers, all Chinese except for Dzul, Suriani and me. We headed about an hour ride to the low flattened volcano. It was a perfect day with a gentle breeze. The chattering was all in Chinese, but we made ourselves understood using sign language. There was one very rich lady who spoke English and translated out respectful talk.


We anchored about 2 km (1.6 miles) and waited for the drivers to dress in their black suits, masks and tanks. They went over backwards into the water. We donned a bright orange life jacket, goggles and mask plus flippers. We had somebody watching Dzul who was playing quietly with his rectangular two clip blocks. Swimming atop the water and holding hands we both looked down.


A cliff cascaded down into the sea with the most awesome corals we had seen since our trip to North Sumatra about two years ago. Black fish swam around our heads. Fish with red triangles on an oval body with yellow backing glided just below us. Individual types poked around the corals. We saw a lion fish. The corals were a cascade of colors of muted reds, blues and marine green. We swam along the reef with air from the divers below us bubbling up through and over us in a surreal moment. We had two such snorkels over the divers.


Meanwhile, Dzul, my three year old, had made friends. The crew watching him had not seen the blocks before and was busy making things like submachine guns and tattering away. They seemed to be having as much fun as Dzul. We ate lunch aboard ship on our way back while the crew took turns building with Dzul directing. It was amusing to watch them enjoying themselves with blocks they had never seen before.


We smiled and chattered in Indonesian. A good time had by all.


…Life is good. . . . .


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