The sun dried the sticky layer of salt that coated my skin. I looked out at the sparkling water. Who knew what mysteries lurked underneath the beautiful surface? Costa Rica was a mystery and I felt like Nancy Drew. “Let’s go down under!” said my instructor, Jean-Paul, with a mild Costa Rican accent. He wore only a swimsuit and nothing seemed to worry him. His hair, waved from the sun and salt, flopped over his face as he turned and flipped into the water.
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I stood up with my wetsuit still around my hips before trying to slip my way into the rest of it in addition to my other gear. The Australians, who were on their first dive, were already in the water receiving their instruction. They chattered with excitement like squirrels preparing for winter. I stood on the edge of the deck and took one giant step into the water. The cuts I had received the previous day, from the rope covered in barnacles, burned as they hit salt water again. I used my fins to propel myself to the surface. Jean-Paul looked at me and revealed his equally cut up hands. “Let’s go down without the rope today,” he joked. I happily agreed. Taking one last look at the land, I glanced longingly at the petit beaches and their lush foliage before descending.
After we submerged below the surface I tried not to panic while I was disabled from seeing anything different around, above, or below me. Every direction had the same foggy appearance. I started to forget which way was up or down. Trying to focus, I watched the speedy bubbles escaping me float to the surface. The fear and anxiousness boiled in my stomach making me light headed. Finally, the bottom came into view, and my breathing became regular. I took in my surroundings and noticed the beauty of the universe I had just entered. Strange creatures and colorful fish swam by, and eroded rocks formed the unique landscape that was laid out before me.
The Australians descended, clumsily cutting their hands on that same rope. Once we were all buoyant, we began to explore. Jean-Paul handed me a bandana that was caught in the mounds of rocks. There was a hard-shelled stingray, called a horseshoe crab, scuffling along the bottom. Suddenly, Jean-Paul grabbed my arm and dragged my attention away from the prehistoric fish. When I looked up, I saw two eagle rays gliding through the water above. Their graceful wings silently and beautifully propelled them, while their deadly stingers floated behind. Their gentle movement did not match the speed at which they traveled. I watched as the entrancing beasts and their omnipresent unworldliness slowly disappeared into the distance. They became part of the fog. I recovered enough to realize that Jean-Paul had signaled us all to start our ascent. Looking up, I inflated my vest, and started to rise. My lungs filled with the rich, salty air.
“How was that?” Jean-Paul asked with a wide, relaxed grin.
“Amazing,” I breathed. “How did I do?”
“Fantastic, you were like a natural.” He responded without hesitation.
I beamed with pride, and pure joy from the experience poured out of me in a laugh. I had grown to love the wetsuit that clung to me and looked forward to the smell of sea and salt that I would not wash off of myself. I settled down on the deck, and looked out at the sea, knowing the beauty it held below.
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