i was a mermaid

I was a mermaid : A true story

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Did I ever tell you my mermaid story? Maybe. 🐳

“There’s a Mermaid School?”, I squealed to my inner Ariel.

From the moment I spied grown ass women wading in the waves with blinging tails on, I was hooked. Frantically jumping on Google to discover how I could book immediately. Boracay, Philippines. Tropical paradise. Sold! The website boasted images of what my dreams were made of; a gaggle of fabulous, globe-hopping women communing on the shores of paradise, diving through the waves, getting their little mermaid ON! And the tails…glorious. Take. My. Money.

That brings me to Phase 2: explain to @masaotama why this was not a revolting waste of cash. “Think of all the awesome people we will meet” “we could work too; so many video shoots” “there are hoopers over there, I could teach” (spoiler: the last two things on that list did NOT happen)

Suddenly planes, buses, boats and a hotel was booked. The excitement was real. Days were being counted down. Leaving grey Melbourne for paradise was a no-brainer, the fantasy was now becoming a reality. Soon I would be a mermaid.

3 planes, one crazy hectic Manilla taxi ride, a wild shuttle bus across an island, one boat ride later & we were THERE. The home of a crystal white beach, super, stunning sunsets and Mermaid School!

Bookings were to be made at a dive shop; my first stop after we landed. Luckily I only had to drop off one bag at our hotel as Masa’s had been conveniently stolen at Manilla airport. He, surprisingly, did not see this in the same positive light as I did. I should have taken this as a sign of things to come but I was far too blinded by the thoughts of trying on my first mermaid tail.

Eagerly arriving at the school’s booking center, which turned out to be a shop desk in a clammy little bikini store, I anxiously asked when the next spaces in the class were available. We were on the island for the whole week just in case mermaid school was extra busy. My excitement was met with a lackluster “book any time” Scoping out weather forecasts, asking all the questions, double-checking details I decided on the Thursday morning. I was told to be a few minutes early on the day and meet back at the shop. A few minutes? She must be mistaken, I thought. Surely it takes hours to transform into the glorious underwater creatures I fell in love with on the website.

When Thurs arrived, to be safe I turned up about an hour early. Strangely no other global sea-loving creatures were there yet. As the start time approached I got more excited about meeting all the other Merpeeps. As time went on I began to think “They must have all gone directly to the beach” A few mins before class was to start I was ushered to follow the shop assistant. “Is everyone else already at the mermaid school?” I giggled. “No just one” What? No global sea beings? No epic photo shoots of the School of Mer? The fantasy began to slightly morph into a new reality. It was going to be just me, a tail and my Mermaid mentor. Well, at least I would get to pick a tail that matched my bikini. I was looking for all the positives at this stage.

My teacher was less of a Mermaid and more of an Olympic swimmer. Trying hard not to let my body image demons devour me as I slopped around on the shore dragging my tail behind me while my svelte and chiseled instructor gave me a few tips on how to swim like a real mermaid. Sensing this was not what I had in my visions, Masa took a few quick snapshots while I tried not to take in massive amounts of seawater. It is harder than it looks to remain still and relaxed while your legs are bound together by metallic lycra and you are being dumped by waves. Still, I had come all this way and I wasn’t going to let low Mermaid student numbers get me down.

Out in the ocean, tail on, I listened to my Mer teacher give me a few vague instructions on how to flipper myself around and then decided just to have a bit of fun, have a workout and swim around for as long as I could. Honestly, I felt less like the Little Mermaid and more like I was tangled in my surfboard leg rope…but lucky for me, I love to swim so I had a fun 45 mins.

In no time the class was over, the metallic lycra was peeled from my body and I was up and Walking around on those – what do you call ’em? Oh – feet!

After class we decided to sit up on the most picturesque ban=mboo hut, overlooking the Sibuyan Sea, Insta models diving off pontoons and coconut cocktails glistening in the Sun. Things weren’t so bad after all and we were immensely grateful to be in such a stunning part of the world. Now that the Mer Fantasy was out of the way, despite it not being quite what I had built it up to be in my mind, it was time to kick back and enjoy the rest of the time on the island.

As I looked out at the horizon, counted my watery blessings and gave Masa a squeeze for being such a beautiful travel buddy; I felt a sensation come over me that I had not felt in such a long time. The kind of stirring that only comes at moments like this, far from home, in exotic locations.

It started as a gurgle, escalated to a shivery sweat and swiftly upgrading to violent gut pains. Not wanting to make a scene, but knowing that Masa would never be able to keep up with the Olympic sprint that I was about to make back to our hotel room, I mentioned I was not feeling well, grabbed the room key, said I would be back in a minute and took off like a rocket. Back past Mermaid School, past the corn on the cob guy, past the 20 or so sweet ladies trying to sell me sarongs, past every hawker trying to sell me fake Gucci, cheap drinks or snorkeling trips. They were all suddenly a blur as I sped past with terror in my heart and warmth heading for my undies.

AS I exploded through the door of our hotel room with wild, intensity so too did the top and bottom openings of my digestive system. Yup, simultaneously…and just as cheap, nasty and painful as the fireworks show our little hotel had demonstrated on the beach the night before during dinner. Nope, wait, far more painful.

I spent the next few days on the island either hugging the toilet, laying on the cold tiles or writhing semi-conscious in a sweat-soaked bed. Thoughts of mermaid tails were now distant, all I could think about was how to get off the island alive and without pooping myself in public.

But if you looked on my Instagram at the time this was all happening, apart from the several days when I was having outer body experiences due to whatever gut poisoning demons were inside me, you would be forgiven for being a little envious of my hashtag blessed life hashtag digital nomad (two terms that give me as much gut pain as that severe food poisoning did)

The reality is Social Media is not real and I’m still not entirely sure that mermaids are either. Gasp, don’t tell anyone I just said that.

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Fierce clarity.  Wild creativity.  Spirited courage.

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