Hearts beating fast, pounding in our chests as if trying to escape, feet longing for a break from the torturous trek up what seemed to be an endless trail of steep, rocky ramps weaving through the old stone fort, we arrive at the seemingly skyscraping top. Panting, we come to a rather dismal looking enclosed, circular room, lit by a single opening tracing along the length of the wall opposite the entrance overlooking the vast, glistening ocean below. The white foam of the waves swirling in harmony with the water crawling up onto the light sand mirrors the bright, billowing clouds overhead. To the right lays a rocky beach on which boulders are being pounded by waves with a powerful current that can be seen thrashing about offshore in a menacingly beautiful display of aqua blue, shimmering in the sunlight as if made of crystals.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
My eyes drifting toward the left of the old building in which I'm standing, I notice a slight softness in the light waves inching up, threatening to breach the several homes gathered together along the coast, only to fall yards short of the properties.
Staring intently into the water, my eyes begin to sting from the overwhelming brightness, so I turn my head, focusing solely on the homes overlooking the sea. No longer beautified by the shimmering blue water, it is now clear that these underdeveloped buildings could barely be regarded as such. Their crumbling foundations tottering as if able to be knocked over with the lightest of breezes, the shacks look more like child-made card houses; a small gust of wind could easily be their downfall.
I, however, turn my back on the dilapidated huts and direct my attention back to the pristine water crashing along the sand. No, I do not care about the San Juan inhabitants who live in the shacks, for they do not matter to me at all. Why worry about them as I'm making my way back down to the base of the building with my family, heading back to the beach that is unmarred by the decaying homes that lie atop the sand on the other side of the fort? As I walk onto the soft sand that seems untouched by another's steps, I notice a bead of sweat trickling down my father's forehead and realize my own exhaustion from the extreme temperature. The people residing in the shacks must feel this too, but they will most likely not experience the same small comforts I will in a few hours' time. I'll be well rested below the cool air flowing from the vents in my room on ship while they endure the stifling heat for longer than I can imagine myself being able to stand it. At first, this thought does not cross my mind; instead, I'm worrying about my own petty problems rather than those of a stranger whose struggles are far more real than mine and more alien to me than conceivable. A fifteen year old girl on a summer vacation visiting San Juan, I care about little but getting a tan and having fun, ultimately unaware of people only yards from me, struggling to make ends meet. If I do not see them, they don't exist.
It doesn't occur to me until much later that I'm just like many of the other people in the world, who only care about themselves and superficial matters, but when I realize that we all seem to be wrapped up in our own so-called "problems", I decide to change that in the future.
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