The lesson of the banana boat

I went to Mombasa in Kenya last week with a bunch of other journalists. Lots of God for me to find there, but I’m going to talk about just two instances here. The most important was the banana boat. It was day 3 of our trip, and so far everything had been going right. I was receptive to experiences, food, people, events… saying ‘yes’ to everything that came my way.  My mind was wide open and eager to try out new things, without fear or doubt. And I was doing good.

Then, on day 3, I said ‘yes’ once again to jet skiing. And had a great time. And I said ‘yes’ once again to trying out the banana boat tied behind the jet ski, along with two other intrepid journos. And for a few moments I was fine… until the jet-ski operator turned sharply at very high speed, toppling the three of us over.

Down we went, and the waves were pretty high since it was high tide. I wasn’t afraid of the water, but climbing back on the boat was extremely hard for me, and I unconsciously began resisting the whole process. Once back on the boat, I became fearful of falling again, and held on for dear life as the jet ski went faster and faster along the rough waves. It was a very long ride along the shore line and where I should have been admiring the coastal beauty, I was expending all my efforts on holding tight and fearing the worst. My back and shoulders began hurting, and I couldn’t wait for the ride to end.

But it wasn’t over yet. As we neared our hotel beach, one of my co-riders yelled out, “Make us fall! Make us fall!” and the jet-ski operator was only too happy to oblige. I began to scream, “No! No! No!” just as he picked up speed, swiveled on his jet ski, and sent us all toppling again into the sea, my screams drowned out as I hurtled into the sea.

My foot twisted and locked into a spasm underwater, and once again, I had to struggle back up on the jet ski. As the evening wore on, I was wracked with body aches starting from my shoulders to my foot. Having been perfectly fine for three days of snorkeling, swimming, dancing, drinking and eating unfamiliar foods, I wondered why suddenly my body had given way.

And the answer struck me: this time, I had said ‘no’. I had resisted the process. Had I gone “Yes! Yes! Yes!” into the water, excitedly and enthusiastically, my body would have been pliable and ready for impact. As it were, I was resistant, rigid, fearful and my body had probably been stiff — a surefire way to eventual pain.

It was a lesson for life. Whenever I find myself in a helpless situation, I will always remember my banana-boat experience. “Say yes to the moment,” I now tell myself when I am stuck in a traffic jam or when my mother is sour with me. “Go with what is happening. You are going to fall in the water whether you like it or not. May as well go laughing ‘yes’ rather than screaming ‘no’.”

Yes. Oh yes.


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