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Silent Comfort

By Gladys Chege 

Stepping out of the cab the first thing I noticed was the smell of the ocean air, the salt, a bit of humidity and how all these elements were well blended. The view of the ocean was beautiful, with a soft breeze flowing in. My mind was focused on where we were heading not realizing the so called ‘ferry’ we were told about earlier was just a simple boat that could sit a max of 6 passengers.

I remember when I was about 10 years old I was out in a public swimming pool with my two older brothers. It was usual for our parents to drop us off at the pool in morning and get us in the evening. So it was one of those days. On that particular day I had decided I was going to learn to swim in the deep end. My brothers taught me how to swim and would play with me in the shallow end for a short while then go have fun in the deep end. I longed to experience that liberty of bravery to swim in the deep end.

So, I came up with a strategy on how to manage myself in the deep end. Of course I couldn’t ask my brothers to take me to the deep end, they were protective and knew just how much trouble they would get into if my parents found out, so I knew better than to tell them my plan. So I figured I could ask one of the life guards to make sure I was equipped with the know-hows of the deep end. I could float on my own, I knew how to hold my breath in the water, and my swimming skills were relatively good. I practiced what I needed to do while in the shallow end, then when I felt confident I matched to the steps of the deep end and lowered myself in.

I was excited and scared my brothers would notice me, but I knew the lifeguard was watching over me. I managed to swim across a couple of widths right at the edge so I could hold onto the rail. After a few rounds I felt I could try something a bit more exciting, so I moved off the rail and a bit deeper. That was perhaps one of the most exciting experiences of my childhood, learning to swim in the deep-end. My brothers non-the-wiser, I thought I was going to get away with it!

Then from across the pool over 20 feet away, and away from the pool area I heard a woman screaming “Oh, my baby! Jack, Eric save her, save her! Oh my God! She’s drowning, get her.” It took a minute before I realized the hysterical woman was my mother. I was confused and flabbergasted that that was my mother. I had never seen her so irrational. I felt embarrassed as I hurriedly swam to the edge of the pool and got out. It was a walk of shame in front of all sorts of people. That day I learnt for the first time the extent my mother’s aqua phobia. I had since improved and continued enjoying swimming, and I still love it to date.

However, as I climbed onto the boat off the Feta bay I was channelling that irrational fear from my mother. The swaying of the boat had me frightened it would roll over and everyone with it. This fear was absolutely irrational considering I had been on smaller vessels canoeing on rough waters. But this fear felt real.

Fredrick and one of the sailors assisted me into the boat. Looking at the life-vests, they didn’t seem well maintained and after exchanging a few times with Jackee trying to find one that would fit, I felt sure we were all going to drown. Moreover, there were some rain clouds not too far off from where we were, and a little drizzle began to fall. When we were all in, the boat was pushed off and the motor went on, the boat stabilized. It was a bit of a relief when it stabilized. We were all euphemistically commenting on the boat size and life-vest. Basically, everyone was beckoning fear, as though each of us was silently trembling in our boots. All but one, Fredrick who sat very calmly with no hint of worry on his face. I barely knew this man but he seemed interesting already. His sense of calmness was soothing. He didn’t have to say much –his posture was enough to change the atmosphere in the boat.

Attempting to further ease the nerves we made some jokes about how the boat would capsize and we would drown in 10 feet of water. Trying to get some, solace Ruth inquired on the duration of the boat ride. It was a 20 minute sail to the island. Looking up onto the horizon, the scene was almost surreal. A couple of dhows were spread out floating at a distance, seeming as though someone intentionally placed them there. As we kept going we noticed more islands hidden away, with many plants and trees. The view was remarkable. All traces of fear had left the boat when Jackee identified the island of the Lazy Lagoon from the thatched roofing. By the time the welcoming committee got to us, notably the manager, two dogs and Raphael the masaai man, we were all relaxed and excited about the place. We were welcomed with refreshments. The sand was spotless, the ocean was calm and beautiful, boats scattered across the horizon, and it was peaceful. And all I could think was we made it! And with an eager anticipation for what’s next I knew something amazing was going to happen on this island.