Monday, May 1, 2023

American Samoa: The Endless Possibilities of Discovering and Excavating Our Own Oceans

     Celebrating my birthday on a perfect day in American Samoa at Sadie's Beach

    I have always liked this painting Elias painted when we lived in Doha--conveying all the diverse unseen, undiscovered layers under the ocean. And it is the same with us--so many endless possibilities that are often hidden until we decide to uncover them.

Until I got here two months ago, I had not snorkeled for a long time. Up to this point in my life, the Red Sea had always been my favorite memory to snorkel, but now it would definitely be American Samoa. You don't have to worry about big waves, or riptides (as long as you choose the right beach and watch the tides), and the reef is very close. The fish and coral are different each time you go under the ocean's surface here. The experience of discovery is different every time: a new fish, coral, or seeing thousands of fish at a time feed on fish eggs. On a few occasions, the ocean has been churning and the visibility is murky, but most of the time it is invitingly clear. But isn't life like that too? Cloudy, shadowy, but then wala, a ray of sun suddenly shines through to lighten up the dark crevices all around us. 
Last week, I was snorkeling in the late afternoon with my son. After I had only been in the water for about ten minutes, a sea turtle swam past me. I gleefully followed it for a minute or two. It was almost like he was turning his head around, and inviting me to follow him. I thought, "I wish Elias could see one too." No kidding, but about five minutes later, another turtle came drifting by, and I motioned to Elias to come and see my discovery. We accompanied him for about two minutes, as he escorted us to underwater reefs that brought more awe. 

Swimming with a turtle is the most magical experience. But to share the memory, of course, gives you this magnificent connection with another person. We came up, elated, that we had been able to follow this turtle and have an adventure with him. This fun-loving turtle swam like a bird, but playfully glided, back and forth, zig-zag, like he was enjoying himself too as he welcomed us into his underwater territory. 

Every time I snorkel and peer into the layers underneath the ocean, I am reminded how each of us has so many untapped, unrevealed layers to find. And just as we have many possibilities of potential to discover, every person around us, for that matter in the world, has that same promise. Often, we don't see beyond the surface; the layers are often invisible to ourselves and others. But as we are willing, humble, and determined, we can unravel our own potential and even see others' latent capacities. 

One of the things, I think that holds us back is fear. We are afraid of the initial plunge to truly see; sometimes that fear paralyzes us. I remember a young man who was in my semester abroad long ago. One day, he told me he could not swim and was extremely afraid of the water. He was overweight, but desperately wanted to see the world under the surface since he loved drawing landscapes. As an artist, he was captivated by the beauty of the earth and wanted to see the wonder underneath the ocean. 

Several of us encouraged him to learn to swim so he could view the world under the ocean. In those months we were there, he lost weight and learned to swim because he was so compelled to see the colorful fish and coral we all raved about. I will never forget snorkeling with him in the Red Sea and coming up to see his smiles of exhilaration and joy. He was not the same after breaking the surface of his accustomed vision. Immobilizing fear was pushed away so he could excavate new layers of discovery in himself.  
If we take the time, there is so much beauty to be seen in ourselves and others. Just like my turtles who occasionally glide by, we also can have beauty and wonder be revealed to us too. It's all about being willing to go under the surface to really, really see. Otherwise, we just keep seeing the same known things.

I believe God wants us to unlock the divine mysteries and awe in ourselves and try to behold others in new ways. The joy we find in unveiling potential in ourselves and others is our birthright if we choose. It is the happy way to live. 

                                  Snorkeling with friends and family. It was a bit murky that day. 

 As beautiful as the seashore is in American Samoa, even boasting a National Park, it is a must to go and see the layers under the ocean--a whole new world to discover. 

                                                               A favorite snorkel beach

                                     Joseph, a kayak surfer, takes it to the limit with the waves.                                       

                 This New Zealand man and his wife own an eco-lodge in a secluded cove that is a marine sanctuary for fish and coral. As I spoke with him, I was fascinated by his life. He trained as a swimmer for the Olympics in the 1980s but then came to this cove and found work and decided to stay. In the past over 30 years, he has rescued 150 people in the small bay near the restaurant and eco-lodge. A few did not make it, he sadly said. His knowledge and respect for the ocean inspire me. He has learned to see when someone is in trouble: he runs down the beach, out to rock, waiting for the right moment to jump in and catch the current under the riptide. And then he holds his breath all the way, to rescue the person who is no match for the sea. Now, he insists if you want to go out to the cove to see the fish, you must go with some floating devices while he accompanies you.  I told him saving 150 people from that inlet was better than saying you swam in the Olympics. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh my- what a beautiful article! What an amazing life you are having! 🥰🥰🥰