BARBADOS: Do All West Indians Sink Like A Brick?

1 Life 196 Countries

Growing up in what’s called “Lakes Country” I learned to swim at an early age. On summer holidays I would leave the house early and not even consider coming home until my mothers’ panicky voice traveled waves of  spruce-scented breeze and wafted itself into my water-logged ears.  “KELLY!” I heard dully, among bubbles and pops as I bent sideways, shook my leg and tugged at my lobe to release a small puddle of lake onto the beach; and begrudgingly carried my shriveled little body home.

I think I was a fish in another life and have – had – no fear of the water. I ignorantly assumed anyone who grew up near water could swim, until I went to Barbados. Whenever I travel an unwavering fetish consumes my thoughts, I have to swim at night. In a little cove in Bermuda I painted green, phosphorescent aquatic artwork that lasted mere seconds with the help of the minuscule dinoflagellates as they lit up in alarm at my swishing and flailing arms.

On my wedding night I woke up naked, sputtering and spitting on a beach in Oistins, (the South Coast in Barbados) when the surf brought my unconscious brain back to reality. Apparently one shouldn’t consume too much rum punch before the night fetish kicks in! In the buff, I wandered back to my room to find my hubby oblivious to the vacant side of my bed – but that is another story!

So it was night time in Barbados and I coaxed my Bajan friend into a midnight frolic. I had found a little cove that was lit up by hotel lights, about ten feet out a large flat rock was slightly submerged under the water. The perfect place to plant my bottom and let my mind run amok with wonder at the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean evening. The mystery of the dark causing goose bumps on my skin and feeding my in-the-moment thoughts.

I was on that rock for a good five minutes, lost in myself before I realized I was alone. “Wait! Where was my friend?” Lost in his own thoughts on dry ground wondering who this maniacal Canadian woman was who dare go into a body of water at night that has, “No Back Door!”

That’s what they’re taught, that the sea has no back door. Once your in, you can’t get out! They even have a name for the sea, a ladies name, but I simply forgot it as I was baffled by his fear and not hearing his reasoning.  It took a lot of energy but I finally won him over. Into the tepid water I guided him. He shuffled on stick-like legs that didn’t seem to have knees and he wasn’t breathing.

I was killing myself laughing! I think I even snorted! He had a perpetual grin, though I’m sure it’s wasn’t founded on the glee and excitement I felt. We entered waist deep water, I demonstrated and assured him it was so salty it was impossible to sink – I couldn’t no matter how I tried. As we stood there, shadows of aquatic night creatures teased our legs and bumped our toes when he confessed with a sharp screech, “Bajan’s can’t swim, they sink – like a brick!”

Well….This certainly wasn’t a deterrent but a reason to teach! And teach I did, but to no avail. They do sink! Hard and fast!

I even went so far as to lay down in the shallows, sand exfoliating my butt-cheeks while he lay on his back atop my chest and I crab walked him into what he thought was the abyss. I had to coax him to breathe, he tried but then sank us both. Over and over we repeated this, he almost floated once, then BAM! I pulled his water-logged carcass off the bottom and we headed for home! I thought it was great! He, will most likely never do it again; use the experience as a learning tool for his future grand children when he explains why they will sink like bricks too.

But, do they all sink? I spent the next week giving lessons and discovered the majority of them do. Many tried to assure me it was a physical difference but I feel it is psychological …

A few days later while body-surfing a dangerous rip-tide at Brian Talma’s wind-surfing beach I discovered how the sea differs from a lake in Central B.C. and how in an instant, via one errant wave, it can turn a crazy Canadian into a frog in a blender.

Fortunate enough, the lady had a backdoor that day and indignantly spat me out, she taught me a lesson. Bloody, sore and scratched, sand and coral embedded in my scalp I was thankful she showed me mercy. Now, when Bajan’s tell me they sink like a brick, I know it stems from a fear-based wisdom I sorely lacked.


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