Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Traveler's Journey

(Winner of the High School Group, Teen Essay Contest 2008)

“Blink Twice, Look Once”
by Melissa Tsang

Living in a world filled with terror and fear. We all want to break loose and cast out the world once and for all. The scorching summer is to burn in rage and havoc.

As I lay down in the open grassy plains, I look up to see the clouds above. Then, I close my eyes one last time, before I drift away. Until Armageddon, the sun will never rise in my world every again. Not ever, again.

A little while passed until I awoke to the sound of chimes in the distance. It rang in my ear like no other sound I have ever heard before. Still partially sleeping, I rose and brushed off my pants. But there was no grass on it like I expected. I looked at the floor and was astonished to see that I was really sitting in the middle of what looked like an open ocean not far from ashore. But how? I stood there pondering on the spot because I did not know what would happen if I walked across the completely still transparent water. I could see the bottom of the ocean. I didn’t know that to do. Three more chimes sounded and I desperately searched for where they came from. I couldn’t quite locate the sound, but I then saw something shiny. The shiny object reflected on my eyes and I cautiously took one step towards the shore. That was a big mistake. A gaping whirlpool opened up under me and I felt like I was being pulled into the depths of the unmerciful waters. I figured that one step off my spot would trigger this and shatter the shatter the enchantment the water was under. My last memory before I was completely sucked in was that I could not trust anyone, or anything.

Am I conscious? Well, I don’t really recall how I got to wherever I am now. Did I drown in the abyss? I am here, alive? My surroundings felt different this time. I felt calm and relaxed sitting on a soft surface. I opened my eyes and saw that I spit out onto what appears to be a giant mushroom. I see the sun high overhead. I can infer that it is around noon. A monstrous caterpillar peered out of the leaves above. It towered over me menacingly. The caterpillar wasn’t gigantic, it’s just that I was small. I quickly hopped off the mushroom and dashed for a nearby swamp. I wasn’t quick enough. The next thing I knew, I was swallowed up, but not chewed, by the caterpillar I thought would give me a break. Everything was pitch black and I did not want to keep reliving this cycle over and over.

My eyes automatically flung open and my sense of awareness grew sharper because of the constant environment shifts. Under the large fronds of a palm tree which provided me shade, I laid on the soft silky sands of time. It felt somewhat familiar to my touch. A coconut dropped and barely missed me. I looked up and atop the tree stood a half-monkey, half-bird like creature. It spotted me and jumped on my head, digging its talons into my scalp. I tried to swing it off, but it didn’t work. It suddenly hopped off and dashed into the forest of palm trees ahead. I thought it was nothing to worry about so I kicked back and absorbed the sun’s rays and the tropic air. I couldn’t care less where I was or how I got here. I just wanted to relax and be left alone. As I was about to close my eyes and doze off, I looked into the waves in the distance. It seemed like they were rushing faster and faster to touch the shores. The currents blew harder and I was almost blown away. The powerful crashes against the cliff increased. The tide was coming in, a lot more than I expected. I turn around to see a 60 feet wave heading towards the shore about to smother me. Tsunami! I ducked behind the palm tree and crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. I said my prayers one last time before I was swept away again. The roaring waters engulfed and I gave in to Poseidon.

An instant impulse caused me to awake once more. This time it was different. I had landed atop a tall skyscraper in a more modern era, but not even close to my time. It was nighttime and I was trying to stay steady. I balanced on the tip and held on tight. The gusts of wind sent dust in my eyes and I could not hold on much longer. From where I was standing, I could tell it would be a far jump up here down to the busy city streets below. The lights illuminated the darkness of the night. The weather shifted, I could tell. Suddenly, I slipped and before I know it, I had scaled down 80 floors of darkness. I shut my eyes, trying not to look, but I didn’t need to see to know my fate was sealed.

The vast field of colorful flowers spread over the terrain. And I could make out gophers hard at work and butterflies fluttering the air. Bees were busy pollinating and making honey. I was safe and unscarred from the fall. How did that happen? Leaping up on my feet, I slowly danced through the beautiful petals, but watching carefully to make sure I don’t fall into a hole or anything. It felt like no one was here on this side of the world with me. After dancing, I was exhausted, so I flopped on the ground care freely. Staring into the clouds above once more, I saw the wisps of white cotton candy that I long to devour. I reached up and try to grab it by the handful, but that didn’t work. My eyes dropped and I heard a hymning melody of a bird I don’t recognized nearby. As I was lulled, I couldn’t resist but to dose off.

Floating amidst the clouds, I was actually just walking on thin air. Disbelievingly, I pounced on a cloud and it was stable enough to hold my weight, yet it looked so light and airy. The tickly sensation overcame me and I felt like I could do anything. The clouds formed a pattern that seemed like they were stairways. I was curious, so I walked up on each cloud that spirals up into more clouds. I hope the Giant isn’t up there. Well, this isn’t a beanstalk anyways. There was a key hovering straight ahead and I grasped it with two hands to ensure that it won’t slip away from me. The key glowed in my hands and I held on tight and kept following the increasingly narrow clouds up to the beyond.

As I climbed higher and higher, I approached two silver gates. I wonder where they lead to. To the left of the gates, there was a keyhole. And where there’s a keyhole, there’s a key to go with it. The key I was carrying matched the keyhole, so I slowly slipped it in and turned it. The lock clicks, and the gates open. I am free, to another realm where I can escape to. This is my home. There is no danger. There is nothing to hide from or be afraid of. This is my subconscious. This is the world we recoil to when there is nowhere else to go.

A Traveler's Journey

(Winner of the Middle School Group, Teen Essay Contest 2008)

by Anna Skovajsa

Imagine, being able to travel to many places on a hot summer’s day or cold winter’s day. Instead of just being at home playing video games, or watching television, imagine yourself traveling to far away, exotic places that can be both pleasant and horrific for you. A traveler has to both give up their time to go travel to these places, and may carry so little things with them, or lots of things. Travelers are very lucky to go traveling and meet new friends, or even just to taste delicious foods they never had before. They can have it very tough, although it may be very exciting.

I have traveled to Japan, the country where my mother is from, and it is very beautiful there. They have good food, cool monuments, and even wonderful places to shop all you want! Traveling is very exciting, and very fun but is very tiring since in order to go to Japan, it takes about ten hours to get there. After a while, you get used to the long flight, but the first time I went there, I could not stand it and wanted to get off the plane. Excluding the plane flight, when you get there, you land at: Tokyo, Osaka, etc, you can go shopping after a long plane flight, and get something yummy to snack on as well.

Japan has a lot of history behind it, and has monuments that are over 100 years old! Like other Asian countries, Japan contains primarily a Buddhist religion, and a little bit of Christianity. Japan also has temples, that have Buddha in them, and there is this one temple in Kyoto that is famous for touching Buddha’s belly to grant you a wish if you are being good. Green tea, a famous tea in Japan, is very healthy for you, and originally comes from Shizuoka. Kyoto is famous for a lot of good green tea, and as well as sweets that go well with the tea. Not only does the tea in Japan sparkle, but the entertainment is so towering, it can blow you away starting from Rakugo, a Japanese comedy. Kabuki is a theatre performance, and people participating in this event, wears heavy white makeup with red makeup all over their faces. The costumes of kabuki are very elaborate and sometimes can show emotions like anger, sadness, or happiness.

Now, to the shopping or mall experience, you need to have myriad amounts of money on you, or you will miss out on things. Everything in Japan is so cool, that you will want to buy it; you will spend your money on things that you may not even use, but think it’s so cool, so you buy it. For example, there is everything “smelly” there, like a smelly pen, a smelly eraser, markers, and pencils, high lighters, led for led pencils, staples, and things you can’t even imagine. The clothes there are funky, and groovy, and not so much like American outfits, but is very cool. Nail salons usually have long lines outside of them since a lot of the nail salons hold fake nails that every Japanese female would want since it is the “in” thing in Japan, currently, Anime, or manga stores sell many comic books, and is really popular in Japan; likes in America, manga and anime is very popular, that they sell out as fast as Japan does these days. The shopping is pretty tiring after a while, but it’s worth it because you can get many things that you have never seen before.

When you’re too tired to go shopping, and look at things on sale, why not just relax at the restaurants, or cafés? Again, the restaurants and café’s are excellent, but are pretty expensive. There are things like cola floats, melon floats, gigantic parfaits, cream puffs, gelatin that can refresh you on a hot summer day in Japan. Sushi is really good, but don’t just look at the sushi course, but you should try the “donburi” course. A donburi is basically a rice bowl with numerous amounts of toppings, likes eggs, chicken, fish, etc. There are many restaurants that do special things on your birthday, graduation, and many other events and even special things like eating near the window from the 13th floor, and enjoying the magnificent view. There are many famous restaurants that have “all you can eat buffets” that are kind of different than other country’s buffets because in Japan, there are lots of them that you can make your own ice cream, or sweets, or eat all for a very low price like $5! Make sure to stop by at the little booths at the cellar of Japanese malls since there are booths filled with food that have free samples for everything they sell. Don’t get too carried away, or the power of food will swoop you away into being full.

When you are pretty tired from all the hard shopping, and easing, or traveling alone, there is always wonderful hotels, and resorts to stay in. The spas in Japan can put you to an ease from a long day. The hotels are gorgeous, and room service can be enjoyable. Some hotels even have a special thing to them like having a raffle to people who stay in the hotel the longest, and many more.

When you know you loved Japan so much, and don’t want to leave, you know that you have to leave; you can store memories from there. Whichever season you plan to go there, each season is very wonderful. Traveling is really fun, and can be tiring, but it’s worth it, and instead of just staying home and not wanting to do anything but watch TV, traveling can be very educational at some point, and can put smiles to the faces of each family member. Talking about traveling makes me want to go somewhere even more! Sayonara, a Japanese word that means goodbye, I say to you, and hopefully you can enjoy the fantastic experience I enjoyed; all you need to do to travel is to get a suitcase, and some family members to enjoy it with or alone, along with a traveling ticket, and a great attitude!