Author: Delaney Nolin
Living near the coast for nearly my entire life has made the ocean central to who I am. Coming to the Galápagos islands was a dream come true, to spend a semester on a tiny piece of land surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean. With the beach just steps from the school, this study abroad program has been a paradise for me.
One other benefit of this program has been that the proximity to the ocean has rekindled my love for swimming. Throughout my childhood, and even into my adult life, I was consistently the first one in and the last one out of any body of water. We used to have an above-ground pool at my house, and when I was little, I used to try to hide under the water — my delusional five-year-old year old self thought the clear water might somehow shield me from my mother’s eyes — when my mother told me it was time to get out. But pools were not my only domain. The ocean is my true love, and no freezing temperatures (try swimming in one of the coldest beaches in Maine in March) or barnacled rocks could keep me out.
It was not until my first year at the University of Vermont, where I decided to join the club swim team, that swimming became a larger part of my life. My mother has always been a swimmer and encouraged all of us to participate. I even used to do laps with her at 5:30 a.m. for almost two years from fifth to sixth grade. This was back when I had a lot more energy and a lot more motivation. My younger brother has been on a swim team since he was five years old. Thus, as timid first-year me walked around the huge field littered with tables advertising their clubs, I was drawn to the club swimming table. The students at the table seemed engaging and kind, and they said no experience on a team was necessary, so I figured this sounded like a great place for me. The team was a wonderful place for me to improve my strokes and technique while meeting an amazing group of students.
Sadly, since my first year, I had not done much swimming. I always planned to, but it was one of those things that I never quite got around to. Coming to the Galápagos, however, I had absolutely no excuse. The largest pool in the world was just steps from the university and filled with warm, clear waters. As a bonus, the waters are also populated by all manners of beautiful fish and other marine organisms. Finally, one morning, I got myself together enough to wake up early (around 6 a.m.) and walk to the school to swim laps before breakfast at the school at 8 a.m.
At first, I was a bit nervous to swim alone in the ocean, but once I dove in, I was so happy. The ocean always washes a sort of calm over me and can make almost any worry or pain seem to melt away, at least momentarily. I did laps in the harbour in front of the school to a chorus of sea lions, and it was the perfect way to begin my day. Besides the sea lions, there were also countless fish below the surface. Half the time I think I was not actually even doing strokes, but rather diving down to look at various beautiful fish.
From that morning on, laps in Playa Mann became an integral part of my days. I most enjoyed swimming in the morning, which gave my day a wonderful start, or during the evenings as the sun sets. Going at sunset is really special to me, it becomes an almost magical time where it is just me and the ocean as it melts from the deepest turquoise to a brilliant bronze and finally becomes a deep blue as the light fades beyond the horizon. During the sunset, everything shines an ebullient gold, like something out of the castle of Midas. Swimming at this time gives such a feeling of peace and oneness with nature and the sea, I almost feel like I could melt away with the golden foam. All of this I get from swimming, and I am so happy to have rediscovered it.
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