Everybody has those days where they just don’t want to get out of bed. Those days where you know that nothing is going to go in your favor. That used to be everyday for me. I’d wake up, lay around and watch some Netflix because all of those errands and bills can always be done tomorrow. Then I’d go to work, which would be at some sports bar, bartending all night. I was stuck in a rut. A never ending cycle of boredom and a feeling of being lost. That all changed when I took my first breath underwater.
Ever since I became open water certified, my life has been filled with nothing but new adventures and dreams. I never once imagined myself as a PADI dive master, and now I have my own little string of numbers that deem me as a pro. Scuba diving has had such an impact on my life, and now I can’t imagine myself without it.
I recently went down to Port Lucaya, Grand Bahamas where I spent a week scuba diving and experiencing a whole other realm than what Northern Virginia can offer. One of the dives that we did was a shark dive. Our dive master wore the chainmail and corralled the sharks, meanwhile demonstrating the sense of hypnosis that the sharks experience when their noses are caressed. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Im being bumped, slapped, and nudged by dozens of Caribbean reef sharks. I was the one hypnotized! In that experience I witnessed a couple of the sharks that had hooks stuck in their lower jaw. For the most part, these sharks swam outside of the circle. You could see that they wanted to eat, but the hook was a major discomfort. At that moment I knew that I wanted to help them. I knew that protecting them, and saving them, is what my ultimate goal is in life.
I always said to people that I want to be a shark biologist. I want to ban shark finning! Well that sounds great and all but I never realized just how ignorant I was to the matter, until I sat down and spoke with Cristina Zenato. Cristina has managed to achieve protection for all shark species in the Bahamas, but she didn’t just jump right out and say “NO SHARK FINNING!” When I sat down to have lunch with her, I felt like I was meeting my childhood role model. I’ve only known about her work for two years now, but in those two years she became the woman I wanted to be. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and help continue her work. So mind you, I’m totally shy and just staring at her like a moron while she is explaining to me what she has done. Instead of just waving her finger at the locals and berating them for shark fishing, she proposed alternative means of income. She explained to me that the locals survived off of shark fishing. They provided for their family with the money they would receive. It just opened a whole new world for me. Here I am, running around like a fool, saying “DON’T SHARK FISH! YOU’RE A MONSTER!” Yet, I never stopped to realize that that was how they survived. I don’t know what I would do if someone came up to me and said “Christina, you are no longer allowed to bartend.” Well...I’d be screwed.
I still have a long path to becoming a shark biologist, but I keep asking myself what I can do now to help. Which is why I’m reaching out to any one who reads this. If you’re walking down the street and see a piece of trash, just pick it up! I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve ignored the trash and kept walking, but that trash will eventually end up in some river, lake, or ocean. If you’re on the beach, don’t just burry your wrappers, actually take them to the trash can. I may not be able to do much, but I will make sure to do my part in keeping the waters clean.
Scuba diving has changed my life. I want others to be able to experience that same calmness that overwhelms you while swimming over a reef, or the sense of freedom when the current pushes you along. Let’s keep our waters clean, and my shark babies happy! - Christina