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The definition of serenity. Photo by Hannah Richter (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Finalist), Indonesia Semester.

Bak (Boat Yak)

While we’re busy in Langa, we wanted to share a bit about the boat trip we went on last week.

We left port in the early morning.
The ocean was eerily calm, broken only by sharp, scattered mountain slopes on small islands. It looked almost like an apocalyptic world where the Rocky Mountains had been flooded, leaving just the peaks exposed. We all agreed it also looked a bit like Lord of the Rings, or somewhere dragons would live.

Many of us left our technology, books, or journals behind to avoid the risk of water damage. I left all of those behind, so in between our stops, I spent hours watching, chatting, and napping.

Our first stop was on Rinca Island, one of two places in the world komodo dragons live in the wild.

It was dry and barren, and the sun beat down; a rare climate for a rare creature.

It took us several minutes — and Olivia telling us — to notice the half dozen komodos napping in the shade of a building, perfectly camouflaged. Their rough scales and small black eyes were intimidating, but they were more interested in napping than anything else.

We headed out further into the sea, noticing smooth circles and strange currents on the surface formed by warm underwater jets.

Over the course of the trip, we stopped at several snorkeling spots: long lines of bright blue sea framed by white or pink sand. The water was pale and teeming with wavering fish.

Each time we dove underwater, it was as if we found a free place untainted by humans. Thousands of fish of every shape and color would dart up to us, completely unafraid. There were dozens of types of coral, too. Some were like delicate, swaying feathers; some like the twisted cords of a brain; some like sheets twisted into spirals, a rose cut in half.

It was only here that we realized how damaged the previous coral ecosystems we visited were, reminding us of the importance of conservationism.

On our September trip, a guide in Bansring had taught me how to dive down by flipping over so that the change in weight distribution would sink my head down close to the coral. Here, I dove like that over and over, holding myself there as long as I could before popping up for air.

That’s also a (somewhat cliche) metaphor for Bridge Year: getting the skills to push ourselves further and further into uncertainty and staying there as long as we can, to make discoveries in that space of newness and wonder.

Other snorkeling highlights were following giant manta rays and a sea turtle as they glided across the ocean floor.

We also did a sunrise hike, played lots of games together on the boat, and watched (arguably) the most beautiful sunset of our lives fall across the water.

On our night on the boat, we all lay on the top deck together, after the sun had set. The sky was so expansive, you could see the curve of the Earth and feel as though you’re floating near the top of this great big bubble looking outwards.

Grady described the sky as a big velvet cloth draped over everything, with holes poked in it so that tiny pinpricks of light could shine through.

Aneekah mentioned how lucky she felt, and how unfair it seems that we can’t really share this place with all the people we love.

Instead, we were surrounded by dozens of boats filled with people living distinct and discrete lives. Each boat was a spot of light mimicking the millions above us. We all, by some stroke of chance, ended up in this magical pocket of the world together, and sat together in quiet wonder.

After the two days on the boat, I felt saturated with sea, salt, and sun, as well as with joy and appreciation.

In the book I just finished reading, poet Eileen Myles writes:
“There’s no mystery why poetry is so elaborately practiced by the young. The material of poems is energy itself, not even language. Words come later. Eventually I stood, a big human, the day spinning all around me.”

Her attempts to capture life through poetry parallel how we process Bridge Year.

Instead of the structure of academia, we’re exploring, with broad, wandering minds, the world spinning all around us, (the world we spin on), and gather as much as our minds can hold on to.