Posts Tagged ‘snorkeling’

Surely this is heaven.

Cradled in a wooden boat,

We cross over, our cares and Patrick’s phone behind us.

You really want me to get out now?

We slip from boat to ocean, shoeless, laughing.

Ask him to bring out bags to the villa.




That feeling comes up again,

Some call it disbelief.

Pinch yourself, this is real. 

Warm sand, tide pools,

Blue and pink whorls, shiny black stones,

Sea glass, broken coral.

Driftwood, stray dogs.

The jungle barely held at bay.

The water laps gently,

I can’t picture a killer wave to save my life.

Our beach is perfect.



Things go wrong in paradise.

You can snorkel, honey,


Rung by rung, I am submerged.

I bob on the surface, paw through a milky web,

pull something that looks like rice noodles from my shirt. 

Needles of fire in this aqua splendor,

My collarbone burns, welts up.

I pay a price for laughing with the fish.

Urine is the only thing that helps, the boys swear.

But I’ll be damned if they can pee on my neck.





Hot water chases off the ocean.

in the ubiquitous outdoor shower.

I look for mosquitoes.

Soap, lather, swish, swipe,

dash, wrap, light, spray.

Spray again, spray more.

Goddamn you little horrors. 

Damp hair for seven days,

nothing dries around here.

Where is the fan?

My dress is tight, body swelled in the heat,

Skin sticky, salty, resists clothing.

But I squeeze in anyway,

leaving the glamour for the girls in the movies.

A girl at odds with nature,

dressed for another night of pad thai.


Meeting Sue,

friendship sparks in an instant.

Have you tried this lipgloss?

No, but my favorite is Chanel. 

Funny, mine too.

We love dogs, kids, books.

We only take green or blue ski runs. 

Collecting shells and fashion tips,

Whiling away the tropical hours.

A comrade in arms against the jungle,

She sees it my way.

Sue, I like everything about you,

Especially the way you ride a bike.



Games of skill, feats of strength,

Boys will be boys they say.

Even grown men succumb.

Screw you, with your tight rash guard.

Hey, I make more money.

I’ll race you to the platform.

We’ll climb that mountain without a machete or a guide.

A fistful of thorns later,

Angry, puffy skin.

Maybe antibiotics will help?

Nah, just suck it up.



Boys dream things up,

Fueled by testosterone and lack of work emails.

We’ll pedal to lunch.

No, we’ll paddle.

The best seafood is always around the way,

the hot, sweaty way.

Don’t make me ride over potholes!

Don’t go too far from the shore!

Our pleas useless,

our lunches delicious









You like spicy?

Sure, why not.

Bragging, puffed up, the boys claim they can cook.

Coconut milk, peppers, curry paste, no problem.

Aprons on, wine glasses full.

Soak the noodles, seer the shrimp.

Is that how you use the egg?

Thank God for Mei,

Someone with skill around here. 

We gobble it all down,

Geckos eat too, dashing from light to light.

The sun sets orange, glowing.

Dinner in our villa feeds everyone.







Shrouded in nets, lulled by fans,

We sleep like babies.

Mostly, until I hear something buzz.



Goodbye, ankle deep in water,

A kiss on each cheek

And a promise to return.

Going back is as easy as closing our eyes.


Thanks again, Po, for the photos!

To stay at Koh Jum Beach Villas, click on














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We approach Tioman Island on a ferry, speeding over the rippling, greenish sea.  I think I have arrived on the set of Jurassic Park.  Rainforest foliage chokes the rocks and the island rises steeply out of the water, shrouded in mist.  A small sandy beach sprinkled with cottages and huts appears.  The saltwater spray sticks to my skin.  My hair is plastered across my forehead and I am exhilarated. For a minute, I forget that a bit of snorkeling awaits me, and for that, I will need to get into this resplendent, jade colored water.

On Po’s birthday, we ride out to the reef and put on our gear. I am a Pisces with one swimming lesson under my belt, plus a few floating sessions in the confines of a pool. I reluctantly let go of the boat ladder and plop into the South China Sea.  We’re here for you, the boat crew says.  Main thing, just relax.  I’m told to circle Coral Island and enjoy the sea life.  I peer down into the water and it is deep, periwinkle, gray. I can’t see the bottom.  I hang motionless and suck air through my snorkel.  I don’t see Nemo anywhere.  I don’t see the island I’m supposed to swim around.  I thank God for my lifejacket and no longer feel embarrassed for wearing it.  I see a knee, then a flipper, then nothing.  Am I already alone?

I start swimming.  My arms flap forward, legs pedal like a bike.  I pass through currents of cold water then warm.  I can hear my heart beating in my ears.  I angrily remember my Everest trek performance, struggling to keep up, exhausted, lost, and dead last.  I have a massive underwater counseling session with myself.  Jillian, you’ve been here before and you will be fine.  Plus dive master has his eye on you.  Then I picture him enjoying a cigarette on the boat, completely oblivious to my location in the water.  I breathe so harshly that I fear I will pass out.

When I finally see the underside of the island, I am downright stunned.  Fish are flashing about everywhere.  Corals look like platforms or pointy castles.  Tentacles wave in the current.  Sunlight pierces the water and shoots laser beams to the bottom.  This is less ocean, more discothèque.  Out of nowhere, hundreds of fish engulf me. They are silvery with blue lips and red fins. They dart right, left, right, left faster than I can follow. So this is a school of fish, I marvel.   I try to imitate their movements.  They invite me to follow them, schooling me.  OK, why not?  How did you guys get out of the aquarium, I ask?  I keep the large shelf on my left and swim until my shins and arches cramp.

One of the dive guides taps me on the shoulder.  I look up above the water, blinking at him from behind my mask.  You take break, miss?  I shake my head no and lay my face back into the water.  He offers to tow me around on some orange float.  I decline, my pride getting the better of me.  A thrill shoots through me to know I am not alone.

I look up again and I see Po!  He says we have to stay with the group. If we spread out it’s too hard for the crew to keep track of us.  OK, I say, I’m swimming as hard as I can.  That’s the problem – why are you going so fast?  Everyone else is back there.  He points behind me.  I’m not last, I gulp?  We laugh together.  I’m speed-snorkeling and awash in delight.

Sun burns the tops of my ears and sparkles on the water. I drift over coral so close it could scrape my knees.  I hollow in my belly and skim over it barely breathing.  Yellow, zebra stripes, blue, tiny, flat, spiny –I twist around to see them all.  Sharks pass by, though only my companions see them. Po points out a turtle and I watch it feeding near the bottom. I slow my breathing a bit, laugh, talk through my snorkel.  Then I finally see Nemo.

I crawl shakily back into the boat, peel off my mask and rash guard, gobble a handful of salty Pringles. It’s done. I’ve snorkeled and stayed alive.  I ride back to the resort, drowsy, wrapped in a towel. I look over the side of the boat and remember what is below us, flooded by tenderness for our amazing world and how gently it accepts our presence, shows us into our own hearts. The color of the water is so blue-green beautiful it hurts and I pretend it is the speed of the boat and the wind that makes me cry.

Thanks, Po, for the encouragement and the photos.  Happy 43rd Birthday!



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