by Courtney Pasek
My story begins with three, turbulence-ridden flights. Detroit to Boston to Nassau to San Salvador... but I’m getting ahead of myself here. I decided to go on this trip with my high school's Biology Club and my father, who had gone with my brother four years earlier. I loved that it became a trip with my dad. I come from a high school were my graduating class was 63, so to have this opportunity was amazing. Our group was a mix of juniors and seniors, jocks and band geeks, boys and girls. But the cool part was we all got along pretty well. I was excited to go someplace new, exciting and warm for spring break. It, too, was my senior year so I wanted it to be one to remember. At 3:30am, our group of twenty-one set off on the school bus bound for the Detroit Airport. It would become a typical travel day full of airport naps, forgetting bags, pictures and lots of card games. The memories that were created in just those three flights are ones that I will never forget and gave a good insight on what was to come.
We arrived in San Salvador on the runway of a little airport to sunshine and 93 degrees, a heat like I have never experienced being in Michigan. The blue truck awaited us and we all hiked our luggage up, climbed in and let the wind run through our hair as we took off to Gerace Research Centre. I instantly fell in love with the island and everything (or really lack thereof) it had to offer. I knew I would be “ruffing it” per se, but I couldn’t wait to do it.
When I close my eyes now, I can still picture that first snorkel at Sand Dollar Beach. My friend Emily and I went right out in front of the group. The taste of the salty water against my lips, the neon colours of the fish and coral, and the gleam of the water on the sand below me became my new paradise. Between all the reefs doting around the island and the mangroves, I was one happy girl. Emily and I were floating along the top when we saw a sea turtle. I have never been so happy in my life! One of the things I wanted to see was a sea turtle in its natural habitat. It was truly something that I will never forget. Christopher Columbus set foot on San Salvador Island in 1492. Columbus Point would become our groups favorite place to go. There was a little shack and a few trees that provided shade when we needed to get out of the blazing sun. Body surfing became one of our favorite activities to do. Our leader, Mr. Lisowski was like a kid and would be the first one in the water, waving to all of us to get in. When we weren't napping, traveling around the island or seeing what group would win our 'DYI Survivor Challenge', tide-pooling became a hobby of mine. I loved seeing all of the different creatures who would make the rocks their home for a few hours before the tide came back. A small group of us ended up finding a octopus, another thing on my list of creatures I wanted to see.
I could go on for hours and hours about my time in paradise. I now hold so many memories, inside jokes and stories in my heart that I will always cherish. New friendships with people I never thought I would get to know and that I now hold dear. This was truly a life-changing event for me in a few ways; I found my passion and now am pursuing it as my degree at Michigan State University and I have come to realize how fortunate I am. This makes me want to go back and help those on the island, especially when Hurricane Matthew hit late last year. San Salvador will always hold a very special place in my heart and I owe it a lot. It further instilled the travel bug in me, to get out and explore more places and cultures while being grateful for my own.
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