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SCUBA Diving

14 Nov

Peering over the edge of the pool, my mind was racing. “Why are you doing this? You’re not a strong swimmer. You’re not even that comfortable around water. Why are you doing this?” I was perched on the edge of our W&L pool, getting used to the feel of a mask and flippers, not to mention a giant oxygen tank hanging on my back. Spring term of my freshman year I had lucked into enrolling in the popular PE Scuba Diving class, and was about to take the plunge.

The two week class turned out to be one of my favorites I’ve taken at Washington & Lee. Our first weekend was spent in the W&L pool, adjusting to the awkward tanks and flippers as we practiced rescue breaths and gradual ascents, surrounded by stark white tile. Although the days in the pool left me feeling a bit nervous and uneasy, that disappeared the next weekend as soon as we splashed into Lake Rawlings, a man-made lake only a few hours away. Almost as soon as we reached the platforms at 20 and 30 feet we were surrounded by schools of curious fish, so close we could almost touch them before they darted away. Fascinated I watched the swarm of bubbles streaming out as I cleared my mask and felt my ears pop with the increased pressure. I was too entranced to worry about being underwater; the same skills we’d practiced in the pool a week before seemed like second nature. With our certifications complete we explored the lake’s cars, “computer garden,” basketball court, and myriad of other sunken sights. The experience was unbelievable, and I can’t wait for my next opportunity to dive! Just one more reason to love the PE programs here at W&L.

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane

29 Oct

It started out as an inside joke among my fellow Resident Advisers: could there be any bigger, better, or crazier hall program than skydiving?  On our slim budgets the most exciting hall programs most of us had hosted were pizza parties and fitness classes. The idea of taking our halls of freshmen and upperclassmen skydiving seemed hilariously impossible. But somehow over the last year word of our joke had trickled up to the Student Affairs office, and they decided to make it happen! Four of my upperclassmen residents had the chance to go skydiving in nearby Orange, VA for half price this Saturday, subsidized by the school.

Despite Hurricane Sandy sweeping up the coast, in Orange the skies were clear, with no sign of the storm besides a cool breeze. As the plane climbed one of the guides asked me if I was nervous. When I answered “not yet,” he told me to check my wrist altimeter for how high we were. When I answered him, “About 4,000 feet,” he laughed and said, “Well we’re only about half way.” That’s when the nerves kicked in. As we shuffled to the open door and stood looking over the edge it seemed impossibly surreal: that patchwork blanket of fields dotted with tiny cotton clouds certainly couldn’t be the ground. That feeling was lost in a sudden rush of air as my tandem partner and I stepped into the open sky. Free-falling I felt too much adrenaline to be scared at all, and my exhilarated yells were lost in the roar of air that pulled at my hands and face. All too soon there was a sudden yank on my shoulders, and the parachute billowed open above us. Hanging almost still in midair after such a rush was scarier than jumping out of the plane to begin with, and I suddenly wanted to get to the ground as soon as possible. The guide took my mind off things with a series of acrobatic spins, and the slow descent became a dizzying flurry of tricks as he maneuvered the chute over our heads. With a gentle thump we reached the ground again, where my residents and I giggled for the next hour as the adrenaline wore off. We’ve been talking about the experience non-stop for the last few days.

It was amazing! Thank you W&L for giving me yet another unforgettable college experience. (And we can even say we skydived in a hurricane!…at least the  very edge of one.)