She can read, write and swim and may or may not have children (I never asked)
She is married to a dutchman, doesn't earn all that much, visits family in Japan or Amsterdam once a year depending on which place she wants to go.
And yes she has a name, but I don't know what it is.
And I? I'm a doctor, studying under some of the most learned people I know, earning decently , with a family reasonably well off, amazing friends..........
But at this moment, I'd give anything to be that quaint lady from Japan, married to a dutchman (figuratively).
Because the lasting image I'll have of her is her body suspended in the ocean 40 feet below the surface, hands held against her chest as if in prayer, with the flippers on her feet gracefully cleaving the water.
And me- only slightly above- thinking Damn this is going to end soon!
And it is in that moment- that revelation strikes me with a blinding flash with all the ferocity of a bullet hitting its target- This was what I was born to do.
The diving session ends all too soon. Surrounded by huge moray eels, giant turtles and a riotous festival of colour, time almost becomes irrelevant at the coral reef. Only on ascending to the choppy ocean surface does regret set in.
The quaint Japanese woman looks exhilarated. At my 'success' she called it. At being able to dive with no problems. We set out to the dive school and she says something that makes my insides lurch.
'I'm so lucky to be doing what I love.'
How it must be to feel like that I can only imagine. For there- underwater, with no means of talking, where your survival depends on an oxygen cylinder in your back and the mercy of sharks and manta rays around you- it is there that I finally know- that this is where I want to be and this is what I want to do.
That medicine for me is wonderful in its complexity, but intellectual stimulation is not what I seek anymore. That medical school has killed whatever enthusiasm I had for the subject- was it ever really passion? Can one really enjoy having to make decisions everyday about another human's life (too grandiose- perhaps) or health? Knowing that your quest for knowledge is not for the sake of knowledge itself, but because you want to know enough so you do not screw up?
The Japanese woman is beside herself with excitement because she saw a turtle. A turtle. And I can understand why. Because there in the watery depths surrounded by life, by the graceful giant turtles swimming around you, there amidst life so infinitely varied- constant only in its continuous change- it is there that -dare I say- spirituality exists.
And tomorrow I go back to the hospital- to a life full of panic and deadlines never met- a life of endless academic pursuit.
All the while knowing I'd be happier- much happier- earning less but diving more.
While the nameless Japanese woman takes the next visitor to Lankanfinolhu down into the waters where she can glide once more amongst those she loves the most.