The Great Barrier Reef was everything, honey. The Crayola colors of fish and coral left me in awe and in peace. A two hour boat ride from the coast to The Reef, I’m humbled just by being able to say that my one (and only) time scuba diving was at The Great Barrier Reef.
I REFUSED to let go of my instructor’s hand the entire time. Every under water picture is with me holding tightly to her. I digressed to the likes of a five year old. And I have no shame about it either. Well, maybe a little.
While the rest of the group ventured out in pairs, the two of us swam around together; she pointed out the various animals and coral. Somehow we ended up in the middle of a school of fish—but they didn’t scatter off in surprise. The fish just continued their lazy swim around us. I also saw a sting ray skidding away from us along the ocean’s bottom. One set of coral had these purple obtusions (yes, I think I just made up that word) sticking out of them. When you snapped your fingers close to them they sucked all that purple goodness back inside their hard shells. That right there reminded me of The Little Mermaid, a childhood classic.
Even though I was nauseous after scuba diving and snorkeling, this picture sums up how the day left me feeling. It was the beginning of my Crown Jewel of Memories. It was the beginning of Australia.
Looking back, it was in Cairns, Australia that I first decided it could be exploitative to post pictures of people.
Day two in Australia found me with 100 Australian Dollars in my pocket (thanks to the airline misplacing my luggage) and Aboriginal/Indigenous Australians in front of me. I was at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park watching a performance that included a two-year old. Jamaica Kincaid’s words ran through my head as my tired brain equated this cultural park (whatever that means) with the Native American reservation visits of my childhood.
“An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, an ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that, and it will never occur to you that the people who inhabit the place in which you have just paused cannot stand you.”
I did not want to be a tourist. At least that’s what I thought while watching people snap photos of the toddler without bothering to ask the parents who stood silently behind him. I took about nine pictures in the entire park, one of which was these:
I can’t lie. There are some of the performers while onstage. But, to this day, I don’t have them posted online.
Other non-documented events included a chance to throw a boomerang and a spear. Take that as you want. As a woman of color who was beginning to understand her identity I’ll give you one chance to guess how I felt about it.
The zoo was much more innocent. I even got to hold a koala for five seconds (which was all I needed).
That evening I managed to find a mall to buy some clothes and an ill-fitting swimsuit because tomorrow would be The Great Barrier Reef.
Clothes or no clothes, I wasn’t missing that trip.
I knew there was a problem when the pilot began spelling out my name over the intercom.
I had just completed a 14 hour flight from LAX to Australia and now the pilot was telling me to report to a desk in the international terminal.