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Scuba Stung

 Scuba Stung

Awkward scuba selfie

Awkward scuba selfie

So a little less than a month ago I had, hands down, one of the best weeks of my life! I was chosen, along with five other kids, to take a seven day trip through an amazing organization called Stay Focused. Their mission is to “offer a unique, transformational learning experience to teens and young adults with disabilities through a SCUBA certification program.” In other words, I flew down to the Cayman Islands for a week and earned my scuba diving license! I was all kinds of nervous prior to the trip because I didn’t know a single person going, and although I was very comfortable in the water, I figured scuba diving would be a whole new experience. Boy was I right, but I definitely made memories and friends that will last a life time.

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The divers!

The first two days of our excursion were spent in the classroom and in the pool. I had sorta kinda read the PADI scuba manual that we were all sent months before the trip (about as well as any college student reads assigned texts) … but thank goodness we had an amazing instructor who was able to teach us the entire textbook in two days, not to mention my group’s two mentors who kept us well entertained during the process! Putting on all of the gear for the first time in the pool was a little nerve-wracking, the jacket felt heavy with the weights and because I couldn’t use my legs to stabilize myself, I felt a tad bit like a Weeble. But once I had my regulator in my mouth and took my first breath underwater, I knew I would soon fall in love with the sport.

 

Right before our first dive

Right before our first dive

The next three days flew by so fast I have to keep looking at pictures I took with my GoPro to remind myself it really happened! My absolute favorite dive was on the last day, when we explored a shipwreck. The USS Kittiwake was a submarine rescue vessel (a whopping 251ft long) that was first commissioned in 1946. In 2011 she was sunk in the Cayman Islands to serve as an artificial reef, and we were lucky enough to get to look around. Before the dive, our instructor warned us that we wouldn’t go into any tight, claustrophobic spaces (thank god), we were just going to explore the deck. So my buddy and I were casually looking around about 40ft under, when I suddenly see our instructor start swimming into a giant, pitch black hole going deeper and deeper into the boat. Now I never considered myself to be afraid of the dark or small spaces for that matter, but my heart was definitely pounding out of my chest those first couple of minutes. We climbed up narrow ladders, and dove around her steel frame, going in and out of engine and propulsion rooms, ammunition lockers, crew’s quarters, and a bathroom where I caught a glimpse of myself swimming by in the rusty but functional mirrors. I think I loved the boat so much because if it was not 60 feet under water, I would have never been able to explore it. As much as I love the ocean and boating and everything beach related in general, boats are about as inaccessible as you can get, especially ones built in the forties. That’s one of the things I love about diving so much is it opens up so many new possibilities. You learn something new on every dive, whether it’s about the creatures living on the ocean floor, or something new about yourself. You also learn very quickly that taking pictures underwater is quite a daunting task so excuse my personal photography, these were sadly the best out of hundreds. (Thanks to https://www.facebook.com/pages/JenFu-Cheng-Photography/139533845037 for the beautiful ones!) But that just gives me an excuse to get back in the water as soon as I can to keep practicing. 😉

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At the end of our trip( which I’m still trying to process actually happened) we were asked to create a “legacy log” which was simply a single sheet of paper that we decorated in some way to commemorate our time on the island. Since my artistic abilities are about that of an ape, I decided to write something. I’ve wrote little poems in the past but never really shared them, needless to say I was embarrassed as hell to read this out loud in a room full of people, even if they were some of the nicest and most generous people I have ever met. Since our departure, a few members of my diving team asked me to send them a copy of this said poem and I’ve been putting it off, until now. I am still trying to get used to the idea of putting my writing out there so everyone can see, so I figured why not just dive in right? (haha pun unintended) Here it is…

Scuba Stung

Most people think that a sting is a bad thing
but when it shocks your body and electrifies your mind
How can something so beautiful be bad?
The magnificent feeling of floating in space
Awestruck as creatures glide in front of your face
no fins
for these feet have spent more time in sea than on land
extra weight
how else could this light hearted fool sink to the sand?
The kind of sting I have cannot be undone
sun on mask, wind in hair
It won’t go unsung
Seasons will pass, but I’ll never fear
thanks to Stay Focused I’ll be back here next year!

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Yes, I know it’s incredibly cheesy, but I just wanted to let the fantastic people of Stay Focused know how much I appreciate all they have given me, and how blessed I am to have taken part insuch an amazing organization. You can learn more about them here, http://www.stay-focused.org/index.php

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