Roll With It

Anita Yan Chen - Senegal


December 5, 2015

PREFACE

I suppose I’ve been running on Senegal-time for a while now, even before I knew what it really was. In other words, my blogs are very late. But hey, you can’t rush art, right? The order of my blogs will not be chronological and they will come as they will. The way waves do.

ROLL WITH IT  – September 17, 2015

Today, I swam in the ocean for the first time. A few other fellows and I made the short trek to the West African coastline from the neighborhood we’ve been living in for the past few weeks in Dakar,  just before sunset. We kicked off our sandals and let the soles of our feet dissolve into the sand. It had been a long day. We were weary, wearing sweat-soaked clothes that clung to us.

Heat is different here. It doesn’t leave you. It seeps into your skin and makes a home there.

But the ocean is a faithful thing, and it waited for us at the shore. Me, being the world’s most talented and graceful swimmer (my idea of swimming is flailing my limbs and hoping for the best), was pretty hesitant about getting in the water. Thoughts of riptides, (shut up Vance Joy) and sharks filled my head. But the urge to cool down won over my reservations.

Like a lot of things, the hardest part was deciding to go.

I slowly waded in, slipping over the mossy rocks under me and losing my balance more times than I’d like to admit.You could say things started off a bit… rocky. I must have looked like a baby calf just out of the womb, but eventually I stood –  immersed in cool water coming up to my waist. I closed my eyes, breathed deep for the first time in a while, and welcomed the refreshing waves.

So apparently, I forgot about this thing called high tide. And soon enough a tall and forceful wave knocked me off my feet and sent me pummeling into the sand. I’m sprawled out on the shore, confused, gasping for air, aching – and another wave hits. BAM. Man down. I’m coughing up salt and sand everywhere there should not be sand.

By this time, I’m feeling pretty betrayed by these absurd waves. But for some reason, I decide to give it another go, and this time swim out further to avoid the wrath of the waves that crash hard and fast onto the shore.

So there I am, baby calf-ing and limbs flailing. When the waves come, I hold my breath and I paddle over them.

“Okay, I can do this.”

I swim out further and further until I’ve lost the ocean floor. I look to my right and am rewarded by a bold marigold sunset. The golden orb, the fullest I’ve ever seen, dips into the horizon. Its rays reflect off the dancing waves before me.

The waves still came, but with time I got the hang of swimming over and through them, or letting the wave take me where it decided to.

I am learning to love the way waves come. Without pattern, without governance, without restraint. Different waves wash over me daily: waves of laughter, of confusion, of homesickness, of doubt, of joy. They come and you must allow them to.

For the rough ones, swim through and just keep swimming just keep swimming just keep swimming just –

For the good ones, let them wash over you.

And when you get knocked down, ’cause you will, take a breath.
Get your oxygen back. Go on.
Spit out the seawater, wipe the salt from your eyes. Go on.

I have come to find it’s worth it.

 

 

 

Anita Yan Chen