“Where on earth are we?” someone hollered.
Loud chattering filled the air on a meager boat that sailed through the rocky, rough ocean from the unheard place of Xi’an, China. A mild salty smell was up in the air mixed with a fishy scent, which to many people’s dismay, was not appealing. I was on an adventurous school trip with my grade on a mission to save an isolated island called “Dragon Island” from eroding.
“I wonder what we’ll be doing there,” said the fidgety girl next to me. “Do you think we will be able to witness some interesting animals?”
“I have no idea,” I said slowly.
All of us were squashed in the meager boat on the mere edges of our uncomfortable seats, too eager to bolt out to what we thought was an alluring secluded island. Was it? In the distance, I could see a sliver of the bushy island. Not a single person knew what was going to be expected and everybody was increasingly anxious by the minute.
It was a scorching hot, bright and sunny day when I stepped my foot on the mushy, brown mud and sand that was found on the shore. Waiting patiently for my fellow classmates to get off the boat, I looked around and gasped. All I could see were mounds of garbage as if a whole city had just left its waste. Eventually, when everybody set foot on the island, their facial expressions went from exciting to a quizzical expression. No one had a clue. Suddenly, I heard the guides’ distinct voice with a slight Chinese accent that summoned everyone. In a few sentences, he explained what we were doing there and what we needed to do. Soon, I started to ignore the guide impolitely as I wanted to hear the slight buzz of the colorful insects and birds. Nothing. I heard nothing. I was on this deserted, solitary island in the middle of an unknown land surrounded by the grayest ocean of water. I could also feel the musty air that wrapped around me like a blanket, which made me shiver slightly. All I could think of was that the island was a sea of nothing piled with garbage and tall, dying trees that stood as still as a statue. Quickly, I came back to reality when we were ready to get to work. Since I didn’t listen, I didn’t know what we were doing. So...what were we doing?
Go.Go.Go. Everyone was scrambling to get into their group to get to work. I was put in a group where we had to pick up the mini landfills of plastics, metals and other materials and put them into black garbage bags.
“Wow, this looks like so much fun!” yelled my friend Katrina sarcastically.
“I know right, this couldn’t have been any more fun,” I said rolling my eyes.
I quickly grabbed a random bag and dragged it to an area where there was a tower of stacked garbage that was extremely revolting that I just wanted to puke.
“Ewww this is so disgusting,” said my other friend Samyudha. “Who knew such a beautiful, serene island would have everybody’s waste.”
“It smells like a farm on this island,” said the boy in front of her covering his nose.
Looking away, I picked up a piece of garbage one by one and dumped it in the bag hastily with no interest in taking a peek inside the black garbage bag to see how much I’ve contributed to help the environment. The reeking smell of the garbage wrapped the fresh scent of the giant, dark green trees as if this island was a dumping site.
“What an awful smell,” muffled Katrina covering her nose.
“I know, I can’t stand it. I can’t believe they are making us do so much work, I thought this was supposed to be an amusing trip,” I complained.
After picking up garbage for two hours or so, I was eventually so tired that I wanted to lay down in the remaining trash that was left to pick up by the other group. Even though it was an unpleasant job, it was a relief to see I was helping to contribute to a greater cause.
After picking up the malodorous garbage, I didn’t want to do anything except fool around with my friends. What was next, washing the ground of the island? All of a sudden, I found myself with my group near the shore of the brown, muddy water. Soon, we all pulled on some “stylish” knee socks that had the boys bending their knees pretending to be some fancy models, which had everyone laughing at the top of their lungs. The guide hurriedly instructed us that we were going to plant mangroves in the dirty shores for them to help stop the erosion of the miniature island from occurring. At first, I was extremely reluctant to dip my legs into the muddy mush, but what gave that confidence was the thought that I was going to save an island by planting some mangroves that would grow somewhat tall and bushy just like me in 30 years. When I put my skinny legs into the slimy, brown, mushy, mud, it felt as if an abundant amount of slimy worms were squirming around my legs all the way up to my knee. After I got in, I was ready to plant an abundant amount of mangroves and put in my good working effort. It was genuinely one of the most enjoyable experiences I have had since I got to knock people down in the mud while I was still trying to save the environment.
Eventually, it was evening time where the beautiful orange and pink sun was just setting, resting softly on the horizon. I glanced at it, taking in a long, deep breath. Feeling extremely accomplished, I smiled with such content. I stood and felt accomplished to have persevered through the jobs that I did not want to do, yet I did them for the sake of the island, for the sake of our environment, for the sake of our planet, and for the sake of all of us. From that day on, I never forgot the day I started to see the reality of the environment becoming extinct and experience the importance of life on our planet.