Unfamiliar with the ocean, not stupid

In my years as a lifeguard in Canada, I rescued maybe three or four people.  Here in Korea, as a capable citizen who happened to be in the right place, I’ve rescued around ten.

In neither case am I describing technically demanding rescues.  My frequent training at in-services and yearly testing in rescues involving spinal injuries has never been tested nor has my CPR know-how.

To be honest, I do remember rescuing a few people in Canada but the details were so minor that I don’t remember what they were.  Here in Korea, all ten people were riding inner tubes or inflatables when the wind blew away from shore with greater power than the rider could paddle against and so were carried out to sea.

I must admit I  thought the inflatable riders were stupid to put themselves at risk if they couldn’t swim.  An incident in Canada, involving an Ontario man pulled to sea by ocean tides and currents in Nova Scotia has made me consider otherwise.

Despite the callous online comments on last week’s story about an Ontario man luckily rescued after being swept to sea at Peggys Cove, the meme of the “friendly” Nova Scotian is not a myth.

Visitors might be forgiven for thinking otherwise after reading the often heartless remarks that met a Toronto man’s call for more to be done to ensure people’s safety at the iconic location after his friend had nearly drowned when a large wave pulled him from the rocks last Thursday afternoon.

Some examples: You can’t fix stupid. Darwinism. Idiots without common sense. And so on.

As if it’s not possible for someone with no experience of the ocean to be simply completely unfamiliar with the danger presented by the powerful, unpredictable Atlantic Ocean. People who didn’t grow up here and don’t live here, and who may not have seen — yes, they do get missed by some visitors — any of the warning signs, but who, according to the above “logic,” somehow deserve whatever they get.

There is at least one big difference.  Nova Scotia is famous for the largest tides in the world.  The Bay of Fundy is quite a distance from Peggy’s Cove but still runs two metres.

I don’t think I would blame a Korean an encounter with poison ivy because he or she would have no reason to be wary of it.  As a measure of my own (lack of) intelligence, I had poison ivy rashes three times in one year and not as a child, either.

I still think water is a universal.  It’s everywhere.  I don’t think all Koreans get swimming lessons in grade four as Ontario school children do, but they take baths.  I cannot fully excuse a Korean that gets in trouble in the water but I will be a little more tolerant from now on.

 

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