If you know me (Ryan) well, you know that I love to hunt. At this point in my 43 year old life, I have to admit that Hunting has superseded most things as the Passion that occupies my brain the most when I daydream. Obviously, I didn’t bring any guns here (although there are a lot of guns here), so I didn’t bring any expectations of pursuing my favorite pastime–(again, a theme of this trip has been to be willing to let go of things we love to answer the Call to serve Jesus). Despite my understanding that I wouldn’t be doing any Hunting down here, I still poked around a little with the long-term missionaries to see if anyone dabbled in the pursuit of wild game.
“Hunting? No, we don’t really do any of that down here. But Spearfishing, yeah you should really try it.” Instantly, I felt my pulse quicken just a hair. “So wait, do you throw a spear at the fish from shore?” “No, you use a GUN. Underwater…” “OK, I’m in!” Both Peter and Isaac highly endorsed this diversion, and so Peter invited me down to the beach at 5:30 AM yesterday to give it a go.
He pulled up before dawn, and I hopped in his rig. The sound of his diesel engine provoked the Howler’s nearby and they started heckling us their irritation. Doug, who is a physician assistant here for a short term stay, joined us on his moto and we made for the beach. When we arrived it was still somewhat dark. Peter gave me a few brief directions, I strapped on a knife and grabbed my gear, and slid into the silty lukewarm water.
I have to say that I haven’t done a ton of snorkeling, and on top of that, I have a healthy fear of the sea. You see, the Ocean is all connected to itself. while I know there are not any great white sharks around here (I think?), I am still technically getting into the same body of water as all the great white sharks in the world. So that makes me somewhat nervous. Also, I am using some gear that I’m not familiar with, and oh yeah, Peter warned me about several different types of jellyfish that I might encounter that will sting me. My adrenaline was pumping a little.
We had to swim about a thousand feet out to get to the reef. It was still slightly dark, and there was poor visibility (Peter said it was about a 4/10 day for clarity), which meant I could only see about 10 feet in front of me. On my way out I encountered some of the jellyfish that Peter mentioned. One species in particular I found interesting. They are pink, and look a lot like the ones in the Pixar movie ‘Finding Nemo.’ see here. Remember Crush? “Takin’ on the Jellys!” Anyway, they often had 5-10 little fish swimming very closely around them. I assume they were hanging around them for protection and maybe to glean bits of food that might escape the tentacles. But I’m not entirely sure. The combination of this pink ball about the size of a cantaloupe, and these tiny fish orbiting it tightly, brought to mind pictures of a planet with moons circling about. Cool…
So, finally I got out there and found the reef. Peter started hunting, so I followed suit. He told me some of the fish we might find: Tilapia, Bonita Tuna, Travally, Barracuda… Wait, what? Barracuda? Uh, don’t they have teeth? Didn’t one eat Nemo’s mommy? Alright then, I guess there’s Cougars out where I’m hunting deer.
After a bit I saw some fish, although in general I couldn’t see a whole lot. Pretty soon I looked up and couldn’t see Peter. Nor Doug. I looked back to shore and could see his rig there, but it was a tiny white ‘Hotwheels’ jeep on the sand, backdropped by jungle. Then, a few larger swells started rolling in and breaking on the reef, which made me think the ocean was revving up, and It occurred to me that I forgot to ask Peter about the tides–are there those ‘Rip-Tidey thingys’ here? Crap. I felt that little panic feeling leak out of my blood vessels into my chest. It’s the feeling one gets when they are a 1/4 mile out in the ocean seemingly by themselves in a body of water they don’t know, and they can only see about 10 feet around them. You know the feeling, right?
I swam around a bit looking for Peter or Doug, but couldn’t locate them anywhere. I waved my speargun up in the air a little bit in hope of one of them spotting me. I thought about going back to shore, since that was my Ace in the hole. On the other hand, I was out there for the first time with ‘this cool guy Peter,’ who was taking me hunting. Did I really want him to think I’m a total Pussy? (definition of pussy: momma’s boy, one who flees danger, quitter, lil’ kitty cat) So I swam some more. Kids, first rule when you get lost is to just start running around, farther and faster.
Finally, I threw in the towel. I’m going’ in. I started swimming for shore when I heard a sound. It was Peter, yelling, for me… He was a couple hundred yards closer to shore. I waved my gun in the air, yelled, and swam to rendezvous with him. “What, we have to go in? OK, man, but I was just getting warmed up.”
We swam in and headed back to the ‘compound.’ I survived. As I mentioned, Peter said it was a poor visibility day. But tomorrow would be better, ‘wanna come?’ “uh, yeah?”
Needless to say, I got Klostered. for those of you who are not familiar with this term, it is a verb that indicates a situation where you experience something for the first time, and it’s the worst experience you could have.
Now, I’m lying a little bit. It was actually really amazing to be out in the Carribean Sea snorkeling in the early morning, seeing the sun crest the jungle mountains while floating above a beautiful reef. God is so Good, and He makes such beautiful things. He is so very creative and I truly enjoyed experiencing his wonderful creation.
But let me tell you, this is not the end of the story. Because this morning, I got back on the horse. Peter, Isaac, Doug and I went back down there and had an epic morning of excellent clarity. And, I bagged 3 fish! A tang, a parrotfish, and some sort of maybe snapper. I missed 6 others. After I pulled the trigger on that first pescado and saw the spear poke through, felt the jiggity tug of the line hooked to my gun, and pulled in the wild game at the end of the line, I was hooked! I have a new pursuit to daydream about!