A couple of weeks ago Senegal celebrated Tabaski, a day set aside for remembering Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. The whole Muslim world celebrates this event – except they believe that Ishmael was the one that was almost sacrificed, not Isaac. This is also the time period that Muslims who have the means travel to Mecca. The commemoration includes prayers at the mosque and every male head of the household must purchase a ram and sacrifice it. They slit it’s throat, skin it, quarter the meat, and then roast it. The family feasts all day and into the night.
Since this is such a big deal, all of Senegal shuts down and everyone has the day off. That afternoon the Jones’ invited me to go to one of the beaches on the northern side of the peninsula, not far from our homes. It was a gorgeous day, absolutely perfect beach weather. The wind picks up the waves quite a bit on this beach, so the waves were big, beautiful, and came in fast. Lissa and I decided to go body surfing – it was great fun – and we got so into it that after riding one wave in, one of us (I really don’t remember which) did a great impression of this guy:
We go so into it that we kept going out farther into the water, hoping to catch some really big waves. And we did. We were able to walk out pretty far – in fact, I’ve never been able to touch the bottom so far out in the ocean. Then all of a sudden my foot didn’t touch anything – at the same time Lissa called out, “Holy cow! Drop-off!” Yeah, that had definitely registered with me because the tug of the current was really strong and there was absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G beneath my feet. I felt a little like this:
However in all actuality, there wasn’t a “butt” for me to touch (a.k.a. a boat). Shucks. But almost immediately, I got a little bit scared. Ok, really scared. Do you know why I got scared? Because I got caught in the riptide. It was terrifying how strong it was. I’m a pretty good swimmer, but even as I was swimming my hardest in an attempt to get back to shore, I wasn’t going forward. No matter how hard I kicked, the sucking, almost magnetic-like pull of the waves and the current held me fast. Lissa had made it safely back to solid ground and I looked at her almost-near sheer panic and called out, “I’m not going anywhere!!” I was actually going backwards, but that didn’t really register at the time. Fortunately I wasn’t getting carried away very quickly, because she was able to swim out just a bit farther and grabbed my fingers. But our grasp didn’t hold. I felt a really strong pull and I thought for sure that I was going to get sucked away and under, but miraculously, I was caught up in a huge wave that pummeled both of us back to solid ground. Hats off to Lissa for a valiant effort to save my life. I’m sure that the experience only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity to me. Yeah… I was scared. But fortunately, I didn’t do this:
From then on, we stayed much closer to shore. And we had a blast. It wasn’t the cleanest of beaches (but it was still pretty nice), and every once in a while something floated by that reminded me of one of my favorite lines from Finding Nemo:
Just before we left for the day, Lissa and I noticed that Darla and Mariah were no longer at the beach. We found the rest of the kids and asked where they went. Darla had to rush Mariah home because believe it or not, the parallels with Finding Nemo hadn’t stopped with my “squishies.” No sir, they didn’t. Nope, no chance. Mariah had been playing in the shallows of the water, not far from the lawn chairs, when all of a sudden the residues of a wave came in and swirled up around her legs. Then she started screaming and crying – she’d been stung by a jellyfish. No joke. The poor thing. It scared her and Darla half to death. Both of them rushed home, poured vinegar all over the back of her leg, called the doctor, and waited to see if the stings got worse. Fortunately they didn’t, and Mariah still lives to tell the tale. Although I’m not so sure she’s proud of the experience yet. But if she ever wants to get into grad school, she’ll have something unique to write about herself in her personal essay…
And that was our day at the beach. And it proves that Finding Nemo was based on real life – it’s not fiction.