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Stop and think . . .

Tara Cousineau

 • If the ocean current had dragged you away from the group, what would you have done?

• When you find yourself in scary situations, do you typically call on God for help?

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Hello everyone! What are some of your favorite things to do on Sabbath? I like to watch nature shows, listen to music, and read! :)

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Snorkeling Scare in Aruba

by Tara Cousineau

Breathing heavily, I fought my way to the waters edge, determined to get out of it before another wave took me away.

 With my hair still dripping wet from the shower, I bit into a cold bagel smothered in cream cheese. I would have preferred fresh fruit and eggs, but because I was on vacation, I excused my poor food choice since I was in a hurry and my food options were limited.

I washed down big bites of bagel and cream cheese with a large cup of water and a small glass of juice. Then I grabbed my room key and decided that I’d let Aruba’s tropical breeze finish drying my hair. I was ready to go.
In front of the resort I saw my best friend, Nancy. “Hey, Nancy!” I said.
Even though we now lived in different states, our families had managed to plan this awesome trip together.
“Hey there, Tara! How are you?” she replied. We gave each other a great big hug. (We’ve been best friends since age 2, and we were devastated when I had to move.)
“I’m great, and I’m so glad to see you! We’re going to have so much fun!” I said through a big smile.
“Yep, you can say that again!” Nancy agreed.
Smiling from ear to ear, we waited with Nancy’s mother for the shuttle to pick us up and take us to a recreational ranch. Swaying back and forth, we stood there bursting with excitement. Not only were we going horseback riding—we were heading to one of Aruba’s natural pools, where we were going to have our first scuba diving lesson.
After traveling down many dirt roads and around sharp corners and turns, we finally reached the ranch decorated in white stucco. Wasting no time, Nancy and I ran to get in the front of the line to ride the horses so we could  pick the best ones. The horses were surprisingly skinny, but they were just as pretty as the horses I rode back home in New England.
“Well, let’s go!” I said to Nancy as the tour guide signaled for us to follow on our horses. Remembering to correct my posture and relax my hands, I sat up tall as we inched our way toward the Caribbean coast. As the path narrowed, I became more nervous with each step. Saying a little prayer, I gave my horse, Frisky, an encouraging pat on its neck. Slowly but surely we reached our destination.
After tying our horses in a long straight line, we followed the tour guide over to the natural pool, where we received not scuba gear, but snorkeling gear—a mouthpiece with a tube long enough for one end to stick out of the water, and a mask for our eyes and nose. It turned out that we were going snorkeling, not scuba diving. It didn’t matter to me.
Our guide instructed us to head toward the water. Giant black lava rock walls surrounded the natural pool on all sides except for the side next to the Caribbean Sea, which was splashing wildly. I admired the island from its nontouristy side, and I felt grateful to God to be there, experiencing such beauty.
Then I heard the instructor say, “Now remember, when you’re in the pool and the waves come in, you must stay underwater until the waves go out. Otherwise, the current can drag you out with it! So is everybody ready? Are there any questions?” he asked.
“Are you ready?” Nancy asked me, smiling, as she placed her goggles over her face. Having been on a swim team for years, she was especially fond of the water.
“Yep, here goes nothing!” I answered.
Our group waded into the pool. While we swam around and adjusted our snorkeling gear, the instructor suddenly called out, “Here comes a wave! Go under!”
I ducked under the water, which I’d done a billion times before. Only this time I panicked. I had been unable to grasp the concept of breathing through the mouthpiece, and so instinct made me rise to the water’s surface. And true to the instructor’s warning, the current immediately dragged me out to the edge of the pool. Suddenly I was separated from the rest of the group and heading straight toward the Caribbean!
In an act of desperation I clung to a big rock.  Hanging on for dear life, I was unable to utter a word. With the swimmers underwater, my cries would have likely gone unheard anyway, so I did the only other thing I knew to do: I prayed.
God, please help me! Help me, Geod! Please help me! I begged.
Convincing myself to hold on to the rock, I flexed my muscles to their greatest potential (which, for the record, wasn’t much). Then I just prayed and prayed. Knowing that the outcome of this situation could be bad, I determined not to let go of the rock. The strong current kept pulling my legs toward the turbulent waters, and I dug my fingernails deeper and deeper into the rock. It hurt, but I prayed and kept holding on.
Fortunately, after what seemed like forever, the waves subsided, and the water in the natural pool calmed. I wanted out! I was no match for the Caribbean!
Breathing heavily, I fought my way to the water’s edge, determined to get out of it before another wave took me away. Discouraged at my inability to snorkel, I accepted it and enjoyed the rest of the time from the safety of the beach. While basking in the hot sun and relishing the warm, tropical breeze, I thanked God for getting me out of the water alive.
As for my friend Nancy and her mom, they never saw what happened to me. I explained everything to them when they finished snor-keling.
Ever so grateful to be on land, I enjoyed the horseback ride to the ranch, even though my knees were still knocking.
Tara Cousineau is a freelance writer and counselor. This story happened to her when she was a teenager. She writes from Washington State.

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