There are many ups and downs in the program, but the most dramatic one happened this week. A few days ago, I was appreciating the Himalayas right in front of my eyes, and this weekend, I was swimming in the Dead Sea, the low point on Earth. Yes, we have arrived in our last destination of this semester – Amman, Jordan.
On our first weekend, we took a group trip to the Dead Sea, which is an hour drive away from Amman. Because of the altitude difference, the Dead Sea is ten degrees warmer than Amman! Also, it was pouring in Amman when we got onto the bus, and then, it was sunny when we arrived at the Dead Sea (geography always surprises me)! We rushed out of the bus, heading straight into a resort. There are public beaches around the area, however, we were suggested to go to a private beach for a more pleasant experience (on the public beaches, there are crowds of Arab men, and thus, they are highly sensitive about women’s swim clothing).
We walked down to the beach, everyone was so excited to jump in. The sand was smooth, but there were also rocks on the beach and seabed. I slowly dipped my toes into the water, carefully watching every step I took. Then, when I looked up, my friends were already sunbathing in the middle of the sea. Seeing everyone joyfully playing with the saltwater, I rushed and took a big step, and then suddenly, my feet could not touch the ground anymore!
There I floated, straight like a pencil in the water. To be honest, it felt so strange! I was scared to move, and so, Rafa, the fellow in our program, came to help me. She grabbed my hands, trying to turn me to float on my back. I slowly followed her lead, but it was so difficult to pull my legs up from the saltwater. Finally, two more friends came over and grabbed my thighs and brought them above the water. I was already disoriented by this point.
After I adjusted a little bit, Rafa held my hand and tried to lead me deeper into the Dead Sea. I tried to do a few strokes, but because I could not put my face down into the water, it was more challenging. As I went farther from the beach, my fear came back to me, and then, I panicked! What if I drown in the Dead Sea? What if I cannot swim back to the shore? What if I float all the way to the West Bank? I know, according to physics, no one will sink in the Dead Sea; but at that moment, science could not comfort me. It is like when people are walking on the glass bridge over a canyon; scientifically, we all know that the glass can support thousands of pounds, but we still imagine “what if it breaks?”
Anyway, I freaked out, making giant water splashes everywhere, and I felt even more insecure and out of control. Unfortunately, I got the saltwater into my eyes; and yes, it was so painful. I miraculously swam to the shallow seabed immediately and sprinted to my towel on the beach to wipe the salty tears pouring out of my eyes.
For the rest of the afternoon, I played in the shallow water, sunbathing on my back, while having one arm touching the ground. Even though I did not get to enjoy the magic of the Dead Sea like everyone else, it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
Disclaimer: please don’t be scared by my story, because I am a terrible swimmer!