I am Calista Noel

September 12, 2010
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I am Calista Noel and I was in Uzbekistan for a total of 54 days, from April 3, 2010 to May 27, 2010. This is my story.
Day 1: I boarded the plane. Businessmen in suits were all around me. I boarded the plane with an uneasy feeling. I guessed it was excitement, because I was ready to leave Uzbekistan. I was ready to get back to Chicago and tell all my friends what I did in Uzbekistan. Wait I should tell you why I was here in the first place.
It all started when I wrote an essay. We all had to write an essay about a certain country, and I got Uzbekistan. Then one of the rich school board people said that they will pay for one adult and the student who had the best essay to go to their selected country and then write another paper that would be posted on the district’s webpage. I worked every night for two weeks on this essay, writing and re-writing. I had my doubts, but I got picked and they flew me here. I travel a lot because my mom and dad love vacations, so I like planes and I’m used to planes. I traveled with a member of the board because my mother couldn’t come and just leave my baby brother at home, and my dad had an important business meeting to attend to. When I got home, I was supposed to compose a four page essay on Uzbekistan. Now I looked around, it was an older model of a Boeing-737, flown by Uzbekistan airways. I know this because my older brother is obsessed with planes. I went to my seat, which was in the back since they couldn’t afford good front seats; it was seat 30 B, and Ron, the board member sat in 30 F.
The doors closed and the plane taxied for 5 minutes, circling around the Tashkent airport. We were going to Frankfort, and then I have an hour lay-over and then catch a plane back to Chicago. There was a slight rattling as the plane started up the engine. I guessed it was just the seating placement; I’ve never been this far back in a plane before. The plane rattled and roared as I took off. I looked suspiciously out the window and I saw we were approaching the clouds. I turned back and sat in my seat starring at the surroundings. On my right there was an elderly woman, but there was no one to my left. I looked across the aisle to the other three chairs and I saw Ron close his eyes to relax. Next to him a woman with a baby was sitting. Her baby looked like it would burst in tears any moment.
Then we hit some turbulence. The baby next to me started wailing. The mom looking around and looking so embarrassed, and quickly tried to calm her baby down. Ron trying to grasp the last minutes of tranquility he could get. I looked outside and we were going over the valleys and soon going to past them and then go into the vast desert. Then more turbulence hit and I heard a small banging noise. The elderly woman clutched the arm rests, I could see the veins on her hands and how she was breathing heavily with excitement, bad excitement. The deserts were vast, but covered with shrubs. The plane suddenly jerked up and I could feel the tension in the plane. The sudden upward jerk made us go down, a stall I thought. We went down; I could feel the pilot doing his best to stabilize the plane. Everything was so surreal, the baby’s faint crying, the shouting of young women and the rattling of the baggage compartments. I looked outside and saw us heading down the clouds just above us. I went into a brace position. It seemed like after that everyone followed my lead.
“Three…two… one… crash” I thought. My eyes opened, I took my first breath, and dust filled my lungs. I pushed the fallen seat off of me. I looked around and I saw people all around me, dead people. It was crazy, the screaming women were now silent, the stressful board member, Ron, now had no tension at all. The baby, the baby! It was still alive! I could hear the loud sobs its tiny little mouth threw out. I took my seat belt off and climbed through the fallen luggage and other debris, where I saw the mother had taken a fallen piece of metal for her baby. I pried the dead hands off of the sobbing baby and there I held the sweet innocent baby. I looked around and saw the front half of the plane was smashed into the ground. The nose of the plane was crushed down while the tail stuck upward. It was about a 7 ft jump from where I was standing. I couldn’t stand to see the other dead bodies so I held on to the baby and jumped. All I could think of doing was going to sleep because even though it was the middle of the day, I just couldn’t stand much more of this nightmare. So I made two parts of the tail into a lean-to kind of shelter and I lay down, the baby next to me dozing off in the desert sunlight.
I thought about where any safety packet would be. I also thought of mom, dad, and my two brothers at home. In six hours mom would be driving to the airport and expect me to come, luggage and all, for me to blabber on about how I explored one of the nicest and cleanest subway systems in the world, or how I visited ancient mosques. I drifted away into a sleep.
Day 2: I woke up hearing the cries of the tiny baby. I forgot where I was, and even who I was. The chilly morning air got to me. I realized I had a dry feeling in my mouth. Water, you always need water for survival. I remembered what I learned at the mosque, they used the tree plant for water. I searched and all I could see were calligonums, which looked like tuffs of greenish-beige hair sticking out of the ground. Then out about 300 yards I see a haloxylon, which looked like calligonums with a trunk. I ran over to it and just pulled a piece of its soft bark down. I squeezed delicious juice out of it. The water ran down my throat. I grabbed a few more pieces then went back to my lean-to. I gave the baby some water and then drank a little more for myself. I made sure the baby was safe and then I climbed up into the plane and looked around. Around me I saw faces that starred at me with they’re half decaying eyes. I threw all the carry-on and luggage to the desert floor. A few times I had to feel the cold hard dead bodies. I searched for the emergency safety kit. I couldn’t get into the first class because the plane was crushed there and it was too much of a drop to risk. I would go for it later.
I jumped down on to all the carry-on and luggage. I looked through all of them. Some had medicines and other necessities, most had clothes, and of course, the mothers had 15 diapers and baby wipes. I didn’t know how long I was going to be there but I had to use the diapers sparingly. Then I realized that I had to get a fire starting. I searched and searched for some kind of lighter. Then I knew what I had to do, I would look for a lighter in everyone’s pockets. So I climbed up again and searched for a lighter. I found three. I also found some string and tissues. I used some Calligonum and lighters to start the fire, which turned out to be a pretty good fire starter. When I saw the sun was still halfway to setting. So I went back onto the plane and searched for anything I could use. I got blankets for the night and wrapped us both in blankets so the cold couldn’t get us.
Day 5: 3 days of more days of standing out in the cool air. The baby cried a lot and on the 5th day he looked like he was going to get a rash on his bottom, so I had to change his diaper. “14 diapers left” I thought to myself. Sometimes I would just talk to the baby, one day he’ll learn how to talk, and walk, but right now he stays right next to the fire and he eats mostly whatever we have, like airline peanuts and snacks the people brought.
Today I was going to venture down into the darkness, or first class. So I climbed up on the plane and watched as the slowly decaying bodies starred at me. I had to jump a little ways. After I explore first class I would never set foot in this cursed airplane again. The jump was about 4 ft., and it scared me half to death. I sunk deeper into the darkness and I lifted up the carry-on bags, and tried to throw them up-wards, the first two times didn’t work but then the third time I used all my strength to push it up. I did that with a few others. I tried not to pay any attention to the crushed passengers. I had a hard time climbing out but I made it. So I went down the aisles and I put the baggage on the cool desert floor.
“GOOD BYE AIRPLANE!!” I screamed as I jumped. I didn’t know what I was screaming at but it felt good. Most of the luggage had the same things as the old ones, and I didn’t find a rescue pack.
Day 10: The next few days passed on like normal, I tried not to look at the plane even though it was my home now. I went in there once though and got the seat I was sitting in and the one I threw off when I woke up in the crash; the ones without any people, and used them for me and the baby to sit in. I fed the fire what seems like millions of Calligonums. I always walked over to the water tree, as I call it, and got water to feed to us, but I had a desire to eat something more then water and peanuts. I wanted to hunt. I’ve seen a few birds around, but they were small birds, and they were usually in groups. I decided that I would get a thorn branch from a tree and whack it with the branch. I saw that some Calligonums had braches with little spikes. I went and looked at the birds, when I got close enough to hit them, they squawked at me and then almost started to attack. Around my fifteenth time I struck one bird, but the others started attacking, so I struck all of them. In the end I had 6 birds, and 10 scratches.
Day 16: For the past five days I ate the Shrikes I captured and drank water. My water tree was running low on water, but I still had many water bottles I got from the plane. When I ate the shrikes, I cooked them over my fire, and then I first experimented with the meat, seeing what meat was the best and what was the worst. I gave the best meat to the baby. The baby needed food more than I did. But today I was on my last Shrike. So I needed to hunt again. There was a pretty good chance there was some good meat out here since its mating season. I think. Well its spring and spring time should be mating season. So I went out to find some meat. There was nothing here. I must have searched for about two hours in the desert, until I saw a figure in the far distance. I crept closer and closer to it. I saw this, beast. It was one of the most hideous creatures I’ve ever seen but all I thought then was food.
It was like an antelope, but its mouth was like a manatee. It had big horns on top of its head. It also had slick beige, neutral-colored coat. It looked big, bigger then a horned branch would kill. I later found out that it was a Saiga Antelope and it’s very rare, but I would have to make some type of arrow.
I went back to the camp and gave the little baby some water and put him to sleep. The baby looked really sick, so I changed his diaper and tried giving him more water. I unpacked a few suitcases and then in one I found a mirror. I threw the mirror on the ground. It didn’t work. I threw it on the ground again. Still didn’t work. I threw it five more times, still nothing. Then I stood up on the chair and threw it down with all my strength. BAM! The glass shattered into pieces. I picked up a big piece and I found the thickest branch I could find, and I started sharpening the branch. Then after I examined the branch, it was poorly done. I looked at my hands and they had a few glass cuts on them.

Then I set out to find that antelope. I searched and searched and searched. The farther I ventured from my camp, the more creatures I saw. There were salt cedar beetles, which were little green beetles climbing trees. I even saw a glimpse of a hedgehog, but it was way too fast for me to catch. Then I saw in the far distance, the antelope. I crept closer and closer, and the antelope didn’t even know I was there. I tried hiding behind the transparent-like plants. That didn’t really work but it gave me a partial cover. Then I got about 100 feet away from the animal. I crept closer and closer, but slowly. I was about 70 ft, 60 ft, 50 ft. and then it looked up from its marking its territory, and then went back. 40 ft. I thought I was close enough and I threw my bow, it hit the animal at the side and the antelope was furious. It screamed and kicked. I quickly went into the area where the antelope was kicking and got the arrow out. I then stepped inside again and jabbed it, pulled it out, and jabbed it.
It was finally motionless, and then I had, bones for better arrows, skin for… skin needs, meat for eating, and the feeling to know that I took down an antelope. I dragged the dead antelope back to my camp, it took along time because it was so heavy and the camp was so far away. That night I had a feast, in the dim light of the campfire.
Day 30: I was on day thirty. I survived thirty days in the desert. Cool days and cooler nights. I used the antelope in many ways; I saved its horns for encouragement, used its skin for blankets, took the bones out to dry first then sharpen with my piece of broken glass, and ate the meat plentifully. Even though fourteen days had passed since I caught this, I still had half of it to go.
This was my daily routine. I woke up, and I ate a small piece of meat, and then gave a small piece to the baby. I talked to the baby, and I changed the baby if it needed changing. Sometimes I would get a carry on bag with clothes in it and change my clothes. Then I set out to look at the desert, because I could live here forever, but most of my time I was sharpening bones or looking through what people had. Once on day… 23 I think, I heard a plane fly over me. I waved for help but the plane just flew past me. So I usually was sitting down in my chair, and sharpening, or contemplating.
Day 40: I needed more meat, or something else to eat because I almost used up all my antelope meat. I had a lot of arrows this time, 23 to be exact. I made a cut in it so that I could put the bottoms inside my pants but the dent would keep it out while the point was sticking out. I looked around, but there were no animals. Then I saw this animal run across the desert floor. It was a grayish black color. I saw this animal in the distance, and it was a Brandt’s Hedgehog. I stepped towards it and it eyed me. I crept closer and without taking my eyes off of the animal, I grabbed one of my arrows. Then when I thought the timing was right. I threw the arrow, and I scared it, and it went into a ball. I came closer and I threw another arrow which bumped off of it. Then when it was rocking back and forth I threw another arrow at it and it hit right in the under-belly. I picked it up by the arrow and took it back to the camp. It was way easier then the antelope. That night I ate just antelope. The next night I ate the hedgehog.
Day 50: Today I woke up and I found the baby it was stiff. It was dead. There was no more pulse in it. So that morning I buried it the best I could. I dug a small hole with my fingernails and I put it in the ground and I said a prayer. I sung a song to try and lift my spirits then the rest of the day I rested.
Fifty days. Fifty days I’ve been here. I laid on the desert floor thinking of what would be on the news. “Flight Number 582 bound to Frankfort reportedly gone missing...”
I also thought of what my mom was doing or thinking right now. She was probably caught up with my baby brother, and then at night crying herself to sleep. It made me sad just thinking of it. I thought about my dad, what he would do. He would think I was alive. He knew that I would survive. He taught me the basics of survival; he was a boy scout when he was a kid. I thought of my two brothers.
My older brother would be famous around school; people would be saying “I’m sorry for your loss…” He would…. Well I don’t really know what he did, and then my baby brother. Well I don’t know if he remembers me, but I bet he knows that everyone is sad in the house. When I got up from lying down, I saw this squirrel. It was a Long-Clawed Ground squirrel. It just ran past me. I lay back down and thought about my life some more.
Day 54: It was like any other day. I woke up, and I ate the last piece of meat. I looked through the bags for something to wear when I found, another mirror. Then I suddenly got the idea. I would use the mirror as a signaling device. If a plane passed I would shine the mirror light on it. So all day I shined the mirror.
Then when it was about 1:00 (by the looks of the sun) I heard a low rumble. I looked through the clear blue skies and then I spotted a small plane in the distance. I put a lot of plants in the fire, I used the mirror to try and signal. I screamed. I did whatever I could to show the plane I was there. Then when it flew over me, it looked like it tipped its wing and did a 180 degree turn and went back. My spirits fell, the chance of getting rescued were about 10,000,000 to 1.
I fell to the floor. I just sat there. Then I heard the rumble again. I was so tired, I didn’t want to get up, and it wouldn’t rescue me anyways. I thought. Then I saw it getting bigger and bigger. Before I knew it, it made a touchdown and it landed far away from me. It was a rescue helicopter. They greeted me and then took me in. I couldn’t remember the rest of it; I got to eat a big meal after that, and I drank tea. Then they sent me home on a private plane. I went home to a crying family and a huge audience.
For the next few weeks I was on the headlines “Ordinary city girl survives in the desert for fifty-four days” and “Amazing courage by a city girl” I couldn’t really tell them anything, I told about all I remembered, about my only friend there, the baby which was actually named Muhammad, His mom was American, and His dad was Uzbekistan. I told about the crash and what I drank and ate. I later wrote a book on it.
I am Calista Noel. I lived in the desert for 54 days, dated from April 3, 2010 to May 27, 2010. That was my story.

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