December 23, 2016 lia

Stillness breeds fear, movement brings courage

Pepper, one of the dogs on the resort, recovering from a broken foot.

Hearing nothing but rain pounding down on the roof, I sat in darkness in the beaten down van that had picked us up in Manila. The lights of houses and shops endlessly lining the roads and the glow of jeepnies ferrying passengers between stops. The baby wakes up and immediately starts crying. ‘Five more minutes’ our driver Jessie relieves us.

Ten minutes later our van pulls over on the side of the road at an unsigned door. The baby is now at a full howl, the rain heavy enough to bounce off the pavement. The door opens and a dozen dogs bark angrily from behind a wall. A flurry of people arrive to take our bags, carry our children and lead us down an unlit broken path through dark vegetation. I’m trying to keep up with the man with a flashlight carrying my toddler, but not go so fast that I’ll slip and fall on the the baby on my chest. Almost at the bottom is a bright light shining directly into my eyes blinding me. As I shade the light with my hand I see an old familiar face welcoming us: Reinier’s old roommate Mouk. Our 25 hour journey had ended and our sabbatical had begun.

Mouk’s diving resort in Anilao would be our home for the next 12 days.

A Week to Recover

Amsterdam was cold. We were staying at a half renovated friend’s house across town as our place was rented. Christmas was nearing and we had extra social engagements. My toddler had a cold. Nothing was where we thought we had left it. Which bag are the diapers in? Did you pack the mosquito nets? Where’s the toilet paper? Plus we had a new baby, so we had extra sleep deprivation.

Our first week on sabbatical we didn’t move more than 25 metres from our room to the veranda. The baby had a cough so we spent a whole day in bed under a mosquito net together. Our toddler’s cough had turned into an ear infection.

Mouk had expected to be reunited with his wild old university roommate, and instead was hosting an exhausted 37 year-old father of three and his ailing family.

Stillness breeds fear

Awake with jet lag all night laying still and quiet in bed with a feverish baby next to me, I was becomming enveloped by my fears. I faced my fear that the baby was too young for a trip in the tropics, something I had been very defensive about in the weeks leading up to our departure. I feared everything I didn’t know about our surroundings. I found myself suddenly distrusting the staff at the resort. Distrusting Mouk’s promise that there was no malaria or dengue fever in this area. Distrusting the decaying state of the resort and doubting whether the ineffectual rope railings could actually prevent my toddler from falling onto the rocks. Or in the sea which sat at our doorstep. Are there any tsunami warning systems in the area? What about typhoons?

Each morning I would wake up with certainty in our decision to come here, but each night in my still solitude that confidence was cracking. And the less we ventured out — and the less we physically moved our bodies — the smaller my comfort zone was getting.

Movement brings confidence

Mouk had to go to Manila to see his family and we were left on our own with his staff to help us with feeding and enjoying ourselves. Being on our own meant we had to step up and take things into our own hands rather than relying on our host to cryptically take care of everything for us. Our washing would reappear over the course of three days. Our meals too, three times a day. The cook, Lovely, would disappear and reappear with food, a charging cable and ear drops for our toddler, but there were no shops in sight. The whole operation was shrouded in mystery.

But this particular morning it was finally cool enough to comfortably exert myself. I suddenly felt inspired to stretch and did my Jane Fonda workout at the edge of the veranda overlooking the sea. The baby was taking a nap and, rejecting my initial hesitation, I put on a wetsuit and went snorkelling.

The movement in the water felt fantastic. The water a perfect temperature. The stunning view underwater was a stark contrast to the crumbling state of the resort. After just 20 minutes in the water I felt stronger and assured that the girls would recover soon and that this first chapter of reclusiveness was almost over.

There’s a time to be still and focus on recovery, but don’t lay there any longer than needed. Walk away from your fearful winter towards your bold spring.