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When you are a child, your days are full of firsts. First ice cream, first snow, first fight in the sand box. But as you grow older there are not so many firsts left, unless you are into sky diving or willing to travel to China to try fried snake with a strawberry jam.

Until two years ago, I’ve never seen an ocean in my life. We live in Central Europe and the most one gets here are rivers, lakes and a sea if one travels far enough. Two years ago we went on vacation to Portugal. We travelled through various places and finally reached Sintra, a small city away from tourist rush. This should have been the place where ocean and I were finally going to meet.

We went to have a look at it from a cliff the day before, but postponed the main encounter till the last day. It was supposed to be like in a movie: endless beach with the softest sand, ocean waves roaring from afar, but falling to our feet as they reach the shore, and us, walking barefoot towards the sunset, holding hands. Well… Sometimes I suspect that whatever they show us on TV is not how it usually happens in the real life.

It started as a beautiful sunny day. Have you noticed how many disaster stories start on a beautiful sunny day?

We had lunch in a local restaurant and were overexcited to finally take an hour bus drive that should bring us to the beach of our dreams and the ocean. Have you noticed how sometimes “overexcited” is not really a good thing?

We have been travelling for an hour already, when we saw IT! All roary and sandy, like imagined. So we got off, no, jumped off the bus right at the next stop only to realize it was one stop too early. The beach looked deserted, also smaller that it was supposed to be, but the strangest thing was the WALL. Just for you to imagine: if you turn your right side to the ocean it would go like “ocean – 800 feet sand – WALL”. High, long, thick wall.

Have you noticed how later, in retrospective, you think about certain things and go like, “It was so obvious! Why didn’t I think about it then?”

But at the moment we didn’t care. A wall. So? Peculiarities of Portuguese beach architecture. Now let’s go finally touch the ocean.

Have I told you that I’m afraid of water? Everything that is not bottled is already too much, even swimming pools. My special respect goes to things with waves. They seem like alive beings to me, and somehow I have a feeling they don’t like me very much. I don’t know when it started. As a kid I used to swim and dive like a fish. Speaking of which, fish is not making it any better. I don’t trust fish. Who knows what they are plotting down there, in the deep darkness, while nobody’s watching. Unless I can keep an eye on their slippery business, my imagination will drive me nuts. Although if I could see them all I would freak out even earlier.

Yes, I know, it’s a perfect combination: open water anxieties and a great wish to bond with the ocean. But hey, we are human beings – complicated creatures, basically kings of evolution. We don’t need to make sense. Besides, I wasn’t going to swim, but to walk towards sunset holding hands, while the ocean would gently touch my feet.

So, as you remember, there we were, at the beach. Ocean – sand – wall. My husband started taking his shoes off and rolling up his jeans, while I staid closer to the wall, making some pictures. The ocean seemed to be really far away, so my husband started walking towards the waves, completely nonchalant. He has little respect for oceans. He eats that fish for dinner. I switched my camera to the video mode to picture the moment in its full length. There was he walking. Further, and further, and further, to the point that I was already worried, as I could barely recognize him through my camera lens. The waves were still further away, but he finally stopped and decided to wait till a wave or two would come “falling to his feet”.

He didn’t have to wait long. The next thing I saw through my camera was the water level rising quickly. Suddenly I realized that there wouldn’t be any gentle feet touching action, but rather run as fast as you can kind of exercise. I turned around and started running away from the wave, holding my camera over my head. Five steps later I’d already reached. The Wall! Ah, this is what it was for! To shield the coast from the waves (and people trying to escape from them)! How thoughtful.

Luckily, the water only went up to my waistline, so the damages included “only” wet shoes, wet pants and sand in all pockets. My husband was less lucky. I turned back and saw him trying to reach for his floating shoes and the jacket. I can still see this picture in my head: He trying to walk, up to his belt in the water, and the shoes swimming away – one escaping him on the left side, another on the right. I bet the shoes were together with the ocean on this, as their escape maneuver seemed too sophisticated to be spontaneous. The jacket however swam right into my hands.


It all happened within seconds. The wave was gone, and the ocean was again far away, pretending it had no idea what all the fuss was about. It was not pretending good enough though, as we could clearly see the shoes still floating out there. It felt like a tease, seeing them riding the waves, coming closer just to be pulled back the next moment. “Which shoes? Theeeseee shoooeees? My shoes!” Bad, bad ocean!

The first thing we did when it was over, we laughed. We had a stroke of a hysterical laugh and just couldn’t stop for quite some time. It was unbelievable. We spend days anticipating this moment, and it was over within minutes. We were wet, basically robbed, and now had to return to the hotel as soon as possible, some of us barefoot, all of us dripping water and sand.

The bus came in half an hour. We had to explain the bus driver what happened for him to let us in looking like this. He got a hysterical laugh stroke, too. We reached the hotel two hours later. On our way we made the day of two more people: a kind pharmacist who let us stay in her drug store while we waited for a taxi, and a guy from our hotel who had to come pick us up when the taxi didn’t come. They all had a hysterical laugh stroke when they heard the story. Otherwise, very nice people.

As soon as we reached, we jumped under the hot shower and stayed there for what felt like forever. Maybe that’s why we didn’t get sick, that already seems like a wonder after all the wet barefoot walking in the cold.

The jacket was dried on a heater, the shoes were paid the deserved respect by remembering how awesome they were through the coming several days. The surviving sock was promoted to the Sock General and granted a (hypothetical) medal for outstanding courage. Unfortunately, his further destiny is unknown, as he went undercover on his next laundry mission and got mixed up with the crowd of other, less remarkable socks.

Well, what do we learn from this story?

First and most important: DO NOT MESS WITH THE OCEAN! I would also include all waters that are not bottled, but that’s just me, I also have trust issues with fish.

Second, always have a second pair of shoes when you travel even for couple of days. Actually, have a second pair of everything. You never know.

And third and my favorite: Every story is whatever you make of it. For us, it became a story of hysterical laughing and me rubbing frozen feet of my husband and warming him up with my jacket while waiting for a bus on a cold November evening somewhere in Portugal.

P.S. If it was not for Sara from the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge, I would have probably never written this story down, as it is so long and I am so lazy. This is what happens when one makes hasty promises. And as today is my lucky day, this story also fits the Daily Prompt of the Daily Post “First!”