Monday, October 15, 2007

And I'm going to hug them and love them forever

I find it ironic that when I commit to a writing project about the environment, I am unable to come up with anything brilliant because I'm cramming for a conservation paper.

I thought I might just show you guys what I did during my conservation class this semester:

(That's me on the right, playing whale whisperer. It was real lucky I enrolled this sem. Since there were only four of us, our professor pulled some strings and got us a backstage tour of Ocean Adventure.)

Here's an excerpt from the reaction paper I wrote for the trip to Ocean Adventure, Subic Bay. I edited out some of the dorkier bits:

I caught my first glimpse of the dolphins when we were walking to the large pen for our marine mammal anatomy lesson. The emotion that welled up from my chest was so overpowering I nearly cried. Thankfully, I managed to keep myself in check. I took a deep breath and steadied myself. It would never do if I spent my first encounter with a whale sobbing...

...I was tapping my feet incessantly, trying to make small talk with my classmates. Merle beside me was expressing her discomfort with water by staunchly declaring that she was a “terrestrial animal.” Anne next to her was convinced of the powers of a life vest and reassured Merle that everything was going to be alright. Cynthia on the far end was fidgeting with her underwater camera, wondering if it really did work underwater. Our feigned nonchalance was impressive...

Finally, the trainers opened the gate for us and we walked cautiously unto a floating platform...We were split into two groups and assigned to our respective trainers...When faced with a vast expanse of deep water and the prospect of bumping into an animal almost three times the size of an adult human being, one gets a feeling not unlike awe. I was just nursing such a feeling when, without preamble, a large dark head bobbed up from below the surface. The male false killer whale was called "Tonka."

...Like children, we ooh-ed and aah-ed at all the tricks Tonka did for us. We shook hands when he held out his fins, we rubbed his tongue when he opened his mouth wide and we waved when he waved. It was all very disarming...There I was, a naïve first year graduate student, falling madly in love with a false killer whale.

Our trainer turned to me suddenly and kindly said: “Get in the water.” “Why?” I asked suspiciously. “So the whale can swallow you up and eat you whole,” Ryan answered laughingly, apparently used to this kind of doubt from guests. I took a deep breath (it was more like a sigh of resignation, really), invoked Anne’s fervent belief in life vests and dropped myself carefully into the water. I was painfully aware of my clumsiness, bobbing up and down in a dark blue life vest, my face inches away from a graceful animal built precisely for life in the water. Ryan’s voice telling me to hold on to Tonka’s pectoral fins seemed miles away. The ride lasted for all of three minutes, but it did the job. I was hooked...

During the class following the submission of those reaction papers, my professor said that some of us still needed to learn to separate the philosophy from the science. There were only three of us sitting in that room, and I reckon I was the friggin' romantic. See, what I learned in class was: to work in conservation, one needed to look beyond the cuteness of marine mammals and see the reality of their possible extinction. I remember that when I was writing my reaction, I did my best to sound as professional as possible. Still, I ended up writing a feature paper, coming off like a doe-eyed first year. My professor did say it didn't have to be a formal paper. I took him up on that and had fun telling a story. It was like blogging on paper.

Anyhoo, see you guys later. More when I'm done with my final requirements. Hope other people wrote nicer entries for Blog Action Day. Ah, time. We can never have enough of it.

2 seen below:

Talamasca said...

You gots to meet and greet with 'em, dolphins? Wow! Just... wow!

What course are you taking up, huh? Btw, I took up BS Biology and dude, even though we were always out and about and stuff, I never had a chance to canoodle with such vibrant animals. Different strokes for different err, schools or batches, I guess. ;-p

Paolo Mendoza said...

the other dolphin is smiling. :P

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