So I made this blog entry below and saved it as a draft the day before the SST students were due to return from their marine conservation trip with The Dorsal Effect…little did I expect the turn of events since the initial blog post (everything did not go off without a hitch actually) and how a volcano can wreak such havoc and keep the group in Lombok for 7 more unintended days of stay. The days since this blog post up until the group’s return late the night before, proved harrowing, stressful and stretching for me as I felt as if The Dorsal Effect was going to fall apart before my very eyes with the students’ and teachers’ bad experience of being stranded there for longer than they should.
But, I must say I was really humbled and definitely awed by the dedication of the trip leaders and the immense support that Lik from X-Trekkers provided in those day of inability to come back home, helping the students to learn valuable lessons in the those extra days as well. As I Skyped in on the second extra day’s night reflection session, Wei Yuet addressed the group and gave the group and me a very valuable lesson in life, that we cannot control everything even though we live in a Singapore where everything must usually move like clockwork, and that we can never underestimate the powers of nature.
I cried a lot each extra day the Lombok airport remained closed and by the time I got to the airport on Thursday the following week where the group finally made their way back via Bali, I was feeling so guilty for the whole thing I was just apologizing to every parent and spouse who showed up to pick up their precious dear ones and broke down when Lik exited the baggage pick up area first. What really threw me off was that some of the parents still thanked me for their child’s experience and the students’ spirits were definitely high and I think I couldn’t have asked for a more understanding and magical group. They broke me, they really did, in a good way. Sure, there were unforeseen circumstances, but do I want more students to get to experience this? Yes, I think I definitely do, and this keep me living and breathing – the magic of hearing how these little marine conservationists are delving deeper into the very issues that I feel deeply for, and thinking about being more responsible global citizens for a more environmentally sustainable world with deep respect and awareness for nature, the oceans and wildlife. Thank you so so much, Hoe Teck, and SST, for believing in the value of this program first last year and chose to continue with it this year, I have been fired up, inspired and moved by your takeaways from the trip.
Here is more details about their trip:
and here is the initial blog post I made a week ago:
I like Miley Cyrus. I really do. In spite of the disdain some people may have towards her, she champions many beliefs and causes I hold dear, and she doesn’t give a shit about what others think. That is definitely something I would like to pick up from her, not giving a shit about the haters and keep doing what is right. I love her for her compassion for animals and her choice to go vegan, to adopt and not shop for pets, to speak up for the homeless and the LGBTs. And I have We Can’t Stop on repeat on my playlist. The title itself drives me forward alongside some things that have happened and which moved me tonight.
Thanks (or no thanks) to the volcanic ash, I wasn’t able to join the School of Science and Technology group of students in Lombok this week for their marine conservation trip with The Dorsal Effect. But thanks to technology, I was able to Skype in with the group 2 nights of their 4 nightly reflections and it moved me deeply what I heard from the students, the teachers, and my beloved trip leaders who added so much value to the sharings and reflection sessions. Tonight, the students reflected on their boat trip and as they each ended their individual sharing with a question, the very same questions I keep asking myself over and over again, somehow hearing it from all these junior conservationists fires me up all over again. This journey has felt long as I trudge into the 3rd year of The Dorsal Effect’s existence of keeping afloat. My blog posts have dwindled as I get weary in the fight. When I feel smaller and smaller in this fight and frustrated at how slow change can be. As I start to doubt over and over if I am even making a difference the right way.
But when schools with amazing teachers like SST show up and light the path, and have such great faith and belief in me by coming back again for another run of a marine conservation trip 2nd year running, I know I can’t stop, as Miley says. The program for the students went on without a hitch in spite of Mt Rinjani’s spews, that’s proof enough that I can’t stop. When the students speak with conviction about what can be done to inspire and wake people up from being indifferent to the environmental ills of the world and the urgency to conserve what little we have left, I know we can’t stop. Each life moved has a potential multiplier to move more lives to want to live more responsibly, to have more awareness of the impact we create with our every actions, to make conservation and compassion for nature and animals more and more mainstream.
I have been very very very lucky in meeting amazing people like Nikola, Ruby and Wei Yuet and have them be able to come on the trip with SST as trip leaders who added such magical value to the students in different ways. Complementing one another with expertise in their different fields of marine biology, anthropology, responsible and ethical tourism as well as environmental studies and photography, they added such value to the trip bringing forth deeper thought to the table for the students to question and reflect on. Their deep convictions in conservation evident in the way they speak to the students and I just wish I could keep them forever. I guess the fact that I relentlessly keep meeting good people and angels along the way in this journey is probably proof enough that I cannot stop in the vision for The Dorsal Effect, no matter how frustrating it can be.
I want to continue to light the path, to keep the vision of ending shark hunting alive, to inspire in more and more youths and tourists alike, the need to respect nature and champion conservation through responsible ecotourism of The Dorsal Effect. Conservation needs to be mainstream and without the restricting label of conservation itself. And we can’t stop trying to make that happen. Let’s go, SST, you have inspired and fired me up to want to keep prospecting to as many schools as we can.
What do we dream? We dream no more shark markets in the world, just once shark hunters educating the rest of the world about responsible tourism. We dream bigger portions of the oceans being marine sanctuaries. We dream more and more young people being responsible for the oceans and nature. We dream a world where everyone can swim free with sharks in the oceans. And we will do everything we can to make this dream a reality.