- Academic Departments
- Et al. Journal
- Volume VI: In My Own Words 2016/2017
- Imperfect Paradise
I could feel the sand squish between my toes as the radiating sun began to set. The sun reflected its golden glow onto the ocean and I felt as though I was in heaven. I was at peace with the soothing sound of the waves crashing against the shore. The light blue sky was like a curtain of silk. I had never seen an ocean so clear and glistening as this. I could see the thousands of shells that had washed up onto the shore, each one unique. The palm trees were as tall as skyscrapers it seemed, and the mountains that were afar seemed never ending. This was indeed heaven; A five-star resort in the Dominican Republic. Our resort had a stadium sized swimming pool and each room had a breathtaking view of the ocean. This would be my home for the next week, and my eight-year-old self couldn't have been more excited.
I remember each morning waking up to the fresh ocean breeze that crept into our room when my mother opened the window. The smell of newly cut fruit and fluffy pancakes covered with the tastiest maple syrup overcame me as we entered the dining hall. This was a typical morning in paradise. I had none of the responsibilities that an eight year old would have. The sounds of the waves crashing onto the shore intrigued me while I ran as fast as I could to the beach. There were hundreds of people laying out on their vibrantly colored beach towels soaking up the sun. Servers brought them fruity drinks with an umbrella and whatever snack they desired. Surfers wearing their skin tight suits grabbed their boards and set out into the unknown. Everyone looked relaxed and happy just like me. I thought to myself "they must be on vacation!" The warm sand and the joyous people surrounding me made me feel safe. Every day at the beach I tried to build a sandcastle grander than the day before. Every day I tried to swim deeper than I had before. Every day was an adventure. Every day was magical.
We met a family while on the beach who had a little girl just like me. Her name was Annabelle. She had long chocolate hair and hazel brown eyes. Her freckles fell perfectly on her face, and she looked like one of my Barbies. I remember how envious I was, even as a child, seeing Annabelle at the beach. Each day she had a new beach toy and her bathing suit was bubble gum pink and sparkly. I marched to the edge of the ocean and sat, hoping to make a statement.
My mother ran over to me, "What's wrong, dear?" she calmly asked.
"Why don't I get to wear a sparkly pink bathing suit and have more beach toys?" I whined.
My mother stared at me for a minute. I felt a bit of embarrassment after these words slipped from my mouth. I quickly got up and ran back to the sandcastle I had started building. I hurried to try and build my sandcastle to be the biggest one on the beach. Every child's sandcastle on the beach looked different. Some were lanky, stacked perfectly with magnificent seashells used as windows, doors and a trench surrounding the castle so that the ocean couldn't wash it away. Others were not as appealing, simply one tower of sand and a couple shells and rocks placed haphazardly. However, I wanted mine to be the best.
The following day my mother stole me from another beautiful day at the resort.
"We are going to explore the island today!" she exclaimed.
Although I felt most safe at this resort, I was eager to see the wonders that this island had in store. We took a cramped, faded blue bus to the local city. The seats were ripped, as if a wild savage had torn the leather right off. There was a decaying scent that clogged the air, like the smell of rotten fish, and the windows were fixed shut. The humidity was dreadful, and the heat coming from each body compacted next to one another added an extra 20 degrees. This was nothing like the spacious, air conditioned taxi we took to the resort. Because there were not enough seats available, a woman, pale faced, shriveled, with bloodflecked eyes stood next to me. She was bent over carrying a hefty bag of groceries, shaking because of the weight. The man a couple seats down, although I couldn't see him, had a cough so distinguishable, it echoed throughout the bus. It was a sickly cough, as if he was hacking away at what life he still had left. This was nothing like the paradise I thought the Dominican Republic was. This was hell. The bus came to a screeching halt and my mother tightly grabbed my hand as we got ready to get off. I stepped off the bus excited to feel the ocean breeze at last. Instead the same musty, rotting smell filled the air.
"Let's explore the city honey. Make sure to never let go of my hand okay?" my mother said, seeming uneasy.
I was apprehensive. This island was nothing close to paradise. All I saw was suffering. We walked only three blocks before I saw despair. There was a strange looking man standing outside a liquor store a couple feet away from me. I could only assume he was homeless , although I did not know what this meant at the time, because his clothes and actions were erratic. He was yelling gibberish, and in his left hand he had a crumbled old bag, occasionally taking a sip from the bottle inside. His eyes were sad and gloomy, and hair was straw like. His clothes and face were wrinkled away. As we passed him, the sadness of what he had become became a reality as he kneeled before my father and begged for spare change.
The town looked run down, as though it had been abandoned and uncared for. There was trash on the street that rodents had discovered. The sandy beautiful beaches I once loved were now deserted and filled with litter. Children weren't building sandcastles with beautiful shells and beach toys. Instead I saw two little boys helping their mother carry bags of canned foods along the sidewalk. Their flip flops were torn and had a hole in the sole. I knew this because of how they both struggled to walk. For a moment I cringed at the thought of me being envious of Annabelle from the resort. We visited some shops while exploring the island, most being run down with antiques for sale. However, nothing shocked me more than the faces of the people who lived there. They were tanned, beaten by the sun. Their faces were discolored and their clothes grim. They looked as if they were barely getting by, as though life had kicked them to the curb and they had given up. My heart ached and I just wanted to go home.
After several hours we finally made our way back to our resort. Although I was only eight at the time, I felt disgusted. The burning image of people suffering on such a magnificent Island that felt like heaven to me was forever stuck in my mind. I questioned how children just like me had poorly sewn clothing and had to carry pounds of canned foods back to their homes. I questioned why no one was enjoying the sandy white beaches, or soaking in the rays of the radiant sun. I felt tricked by the deception of what they wanted us to perceive as paradise, and yet beyond the stadium sized swimming pool and luxurious suites, was a city crying for help.
The next day my mother opened the window to let the fresh ocean breeze sweep through our room. However, all I felt was bitter coldness brush across my skin. We made our way down to the dining hall, where the smell of crispy bacon and fresh fruits filled the air. However, I wasn't hungry. In the back of my mind sat the startling image of the people of the Dominican Republic begging for food, food that I had sitting right in front of me. I got up from breakfast and ran to the beach, where my delicate sandcastle from the day before still stood. The tide was getting closer and I knew shortly that my sand castle would vanish. I stood there looking out onto the clear glistening ocean, never ending, and waited. My heart ached for a moment. Maybe I should have done something, anything, to try and save my precious sandcastle. However, I just stood there, trapped between the guilt I felt enjoying this beautiful island, and knowing about the suffering that surrounded this perfect resort. But I just stood there, and watched as my sandcastle was taken by the sea.