Sunday, April 17, 2011

Life and Its Obstacles Can Make A Beautiful Story

From Asri's Dive

Oceans deep, mountains high, I’m excited about life.
For some people, things are easy to reach. Almost effortless, almost look like its written in their destiny, they are strong, and they seems to just be born to a thing so easily. I believe I was born a fighter and I am grateful about it.
I was born as the lightest baby in comparison to my sisters. I only weighed 2.8 kilograms while my sisters arrived to the world with chubbier cheeks. They all weighed more than 3 kilograms. I grew up as a skinny girl who got ill easily. Out under the sunshine for more than one hour in the afternoon would get me headache and high fever. I was sent home after an exciting day at a scout girl camp. My teacher was worried when I caught a 40° fever in the evening, and decided to take me off the camp immediately.

Understanding my physical condition my parents did not allow me to go out too much. However, my dreams roamed far and high whenever I read children adventure books. I imagined the excitements of crossing the creeks, hiking up the hills, sleeping under the stars at night, or swimming in the lakes. I ended up exploring my parents' home backyard, climbing the trees, making an observation point from the ropes on our mango tree where I could hide or chill out reading my books in the afternoon, or doing some biology experiments with practically almost every trees growing there.

As I grew up I decided to fight my physical weaknesses. In senior high school I joined the Scout and Red Cross. I went to every camps, I started learning search-and-rescue techniques, including practices of evacuation in extreme environment. I started learning about survivals, about how to walk correctly on steep and slippery slopes, and I practiced rappelling. I wanted to help others instead of being the weak girl who was helped all the time.

Sometimes I felt weak. I even fainted when I got too exhausted. Doctor told me I that my blood pressure tends to drop suddenly under physical or emotional stresses. I loved camping out with my friends but sometimes I still got ill during and after some good days in the camps. But I have learned ways to handle them: just move on and enjoy every milestones that I reached.

Good news is, doctor told me that cardio exercises could help improving my blood circulation. When I turned 24, I started hitting the gym frequently for aerobic workouts. Today I feel much, much better than I did when I was a teenage. Beautifully-toned muscles are the bonus of the exercise. How good is that? :)

As I began to fight my weaknesses, lack of physical exercises when I was a child contributed much to my clumsiness. It took me four times slipping, then hanging upside-down on a 40-meters cliff  until my trainer rescued me during my first rappelling training. Once I went home piggybacking on my trainer’s back as I couldn’t walk after spraining my right ankle during the night search-and-rescue trainings. However, those never stopped me from fulfilling my childhood dreams. I rarely slept in the tent. During every camping, I always slept in the open air, fulfilling my wish to gaze the stars before I sleep.

Nevertheless, some dreams come with a cost. I always wanted to learn swimming. Yet I could not make it when I was a teenage because it was too expensive for my family. My father passed away when I was 12, leaving us with our mom, who earned only Rp. 300,000 per month (before 1997 it equaled to US $ 120). The monthly cost of the swimming lesson was Rp. 30,000 per month, and the single entrance fee to the swimming pool was Rp.5,000. Accumulatively, it was way too expensive for us. Swimming lesson was luxury we could not afford. I also gave up my dream to go to the college of fine arts, and somehow set aside my dreams of becoming an artist. I always wanted to travel and see the places I read in my books. I could not wait to grow up.

The only person who had a privilege to go to swimming class was my little sister. She learned swimming when she was 17  because she needed to be able to swim prior to joining the Marine Science Department. She was a fast-learner, and she dived a lot for fun and to do some researches. I loved to listen to her underwater story. I started dreaming of diving with my beloved sister one day. :)

When I started to work and earned my own income, my first after-hour plan was taking a graphic design school. I made it. It redeemed - though far from satisfying - my dream of learning arts. I made it to travel to my dream places through some exchange programs. I think I am blessed that I never lose sights on my dreams.

Now that I live again in Aceh, I enliven my old dreams: seeing the underwater world. I want to celebrate my 32nd birthday underwater. To be confident in the water, first I had to I redeem my used-to be-too expensive dream: learning how to swim. With some friends, I spent Saturdays and Sundays learning how to swim with many (much) younger swimmers in pool. My youngest classmate is five year-old, and the oldest student after me is ten years younger than myself. :))

Some people asked me if I was embarrassed to be seen learning the basics of swimming with kids in a public pool. I told them that instead of feeling the embarrassment, I was happy to be able to fulfill my dream. Besides, I believe that we are never too old to learn.

I learned quickly. I think just love being in the water. There is some kind of serenity in every waves, and bliss in every splash of it. In my 6th swimming session, I made it to swim across the pool. My instructor welcomed me at the corner of the pool with big eyes and big smile. I thought I was ready for the dive.

So two weeks ago, I subscribed for the diving class. Was it difficult? Not really. It was just full of details and it takes so much composure to be able to stay in the water, breathing calmly with all the equipments.

In my first dive, I plunged into the open sea water around Pulo Tuan, a tiny, rocky islet off Ujong Pancu shore of Aceh Besar. I wanted to cry. I felt like the richest girl on earth. The earth is so beautiful inside out. I have been in love with the beauty of earth; the sky, the ground, and now, deep down in the water, everything also looks so beautiful.

It is quite mind-blowing to recall that in the beginning of this year I couldn't swim, but now I already dived. I am still mesmerized by hundreds of beautiful fish and corals. Not to mention the sensation of splashing sea water as we crossed the currents with our speedboat to be back to the shore, while the sun gracefully set towards the horizon, the hills stood still, and the big, black eagle flew graciously above us, crossing the patches of newly-grown mangrove trees.... There is something powerful about the nature that makes us feel strong and peaceful at the same time.

Life reminds me again its greatest lesson: if we put an effort to something, we would be awarded our deserved rewards. And, the more skills and knowledge we have, the more good things we can do for others. And it is true: my diving instructor already told me that next June we are going to work on coral reef conservation project: we will do a coral transplantation project to give a new life to our underwater world. :)

I dream of exploring more diving sites on earth. Above all, I still dream of diving with my sister.

It is our efforts in life that shape our abilities, and it is the achievement that shapes our confidence to win our next fights. I learn, once and again, that life and its obstacles can end up into a very beautiful story.


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  2. Mbak Asri --> Fun fearless female! :)