Gabby and Allen are going to University of Pennsylvania. Nadia is interning at UC Berkeley’s Daily Cal. Sarah got accepted into a San Jose Mercury News Journalism Workshop. My competitive insides were burning with vigor. I will not be left behind. I will not be studying SAT vocabulary words while the rest of the world is learning and experiencing new ideas and adventures. I will not.
The next day in AP Statistics, I glanced over a flyer about a summer program in UC San Diego. Hallelujah! I’ll be doing something with my summer.
Later that night when I signed on Facebook, my eyes grazed upon an ad: “Volunteer Overseas.” My brain then indulged into one of those “tug-a-wars”, where one side was a Global Works volunteer program and the other was the UC San Diego academic program.
The next couple of days were convicting. I realized that sure, I could be sitting in class and learning about new theories and formulas but if I can’t experience it, that what’s it to me? With my competitiveness, taking classes would only force me to focus on my own studies while a community service trip would force me to focus on others. At the end of the day, it’s more important who I am as a person, than what I know as a person. A community service trip would really shape my morals; it could really influence me.
Four months later, I found myself on a plane to Puerto Rico. Scared I was, yes, but excited, adventurous. For the next two weeks, I was experiencing the trip of a lifetime. Mornings consisted of service work: everything from pouring concrete in Vega Baja to painting murals in Luquillo; afternoons meant great Puerto Rican cuisine and white-sand-blue-water beaches; nights meant great fellowship time with my diverse team of sixteen teenagers and counselors who were from all over the United States.
While mixing cement and wanting to take a break, I learned a valuable lesson of perseverance and humility. While working with new friends that were so different from friends at home, I learned to be open. While hearing the political problems of Puerto Rico as a commonwealth, I learned the difficulties and controversies of a government’s relationship with citizens. But the one memory that remains clear in my mind, the one thing I will take away, is the turtle lady.
As she passionately campaigned her case for the leatherback turtles, I found myself in awe at how someone could talk about turtles for thirty minutes. But as dull as the topic could have been, she sucked me into her “go green” world of saving the turtles and the precious rainforest land. She intrigued me with her love of the six-foot long leatherback turtles from the dinosaur ages: because they always lay their eggs in precisely the same spot year after year, their home beaches of Puerto Rico must be saved. After some people began stating how boring she was, Allison replied, “Yea, but we people like her.” It came upon me that as foreign and sometimes even foolish these ideas seem to me, society needs people passionate about every single thing; that the world is just maybe a system of yin-yang, a push-and-pull of polar ideologies and lifestyles. Without the vitality of people’s variety of passions, the balance scale would simply tip to one side; we need the life and energy in anything and everything to keep the global balance. We need the turtle lady.
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