Taking a dive

I’ve always been fascinated by that stuff. I want to experience what it’s like to be in a war

OK, I know I’m banging on about the war but ’twas not my intention when I came here for a nice weekend of diving. Bali, the island of the gods of mass tourism, complete with underwater traffic jams and prepubescent Legong dancing girls. Yet even here the war catches up with you, well me, in unexpected ways. And by the way, for someone used to the Middle East Bali’s supposedly strict security measures may seem touchingly low-key at the moment.

Anyway, on my first dive trip, and the drive to the site of the wreck of the USAT Liberty, I was joined by two gregarious young Americans, students at Wharton who just started a six month stint in Singapore, Ben and Arman. They duly asked me what I did for a living followed immediately by, “ever been to any war zones?”. For the next four hours, except underwater where talking is frowned upon, they continued to question me relentlessly on the subject. One of them in particular unhesitatingly expressed an interest in the mechanics of war, the personal danger etc. including the desire to actually be in a war. Short of joining up that is. I suppose because you don’t squander a degree from Wharton on the army.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with either of these seemingly reasonable and well-travelled business students. They sounded sincere and very well-informed. Who says that today’s students don’t follow the news?

What did strike me was their interest in my war stories. I’ve written before that usually people’s eyes start glazing over when I talk about my job and what I did in some conflict areas. I always thought it was me, the way I told it. But these two, a bit too long only to be polite, seemed genuinely interested, in the physical reality of the journalist, in the details of war and in some broader policy questions. They asked why journalists keep doing it if so many get killed. So sue me, I may have hammed it up a bit. Or maybe not so much. Maybe it’s an age thing and the people in my cohort have heard it all before. Who knows. Maybe it’s just that war is indeed a young men’s game and the younger we are, the more we’re fascinated by it.

We did two dives to the wreck of the US Army Transport Liberty, an American warship that was torpedoed off Bali during WWII. The two war-curious Wharton students thought the first dive a bit dull,we stayed well clear of the structure and just watched the marine life. But they went all hooyah over the second one when we ducked through some openings and hovered really close. None of it means much, except that I went for a dive.

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The Balinese coast at Candidasa

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Ferry

Journalist, analyst, aspiring thinker.

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