The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

"The Plunge"

Karina Figueredo
IDH 4007
Fall Semester 2005

   As the airboat tour began, I was in complete awe. Having never been to the Everglades, I had no idea what to expect. I was enjoying the breeze on such a hot Miami day, trying to take in all the beautiful aspects of the nature around us when the airboat came to a stop. I thought to myself, "Well this looks like a nice place to stop and look around." After all, there were no big trees around us and it seemed as though the sky went on forever. I became distracted from the view, when suddenly one of my professors exclaimed, "Well this looks like a nice place to get in." I immediately turned my attention to him and thought that he was joking, because there was no way we were going to jump in the water on the first day of class. The first day of class is one of introductions, syllabi, and getting to know one another. I hardly believed we were going to get this hands-on after just a few minutes of the class. Besides, I had not brought a change of clothes today. No one was going to get me in that water.

   Then it happened. My professors jumped in and actually expected us to go in with them. I figured a few will definitely stay on the airboat. Someone has to be feeling the same way I do, right? Well, the way I felt didn't seem to matter. As I saw my classmates, one by one jumping in, all I kept thinking was "Someone please don't jump in. Stay in the airboat with me." At that point, it became clear to me that staying in the airboat was not an option. I reluctantly began taking off my socks and shoes, doing so with extreme calmness hoping that maybe everyone would get back in the boat quickly and there would be no time for me to go in. But that did not happen. Then it came time, almost everyone was inside the water and I had to go in. I did not want to be the prissy girl who stayed in the boat and refused to get wet or dirty. So, 1, 2, 3, I jumped. There I was, in the middle of the Everglades, submerged in water from my feet to almost my waist. I could feel the marshy, slimy ground below me, the pieces of earth sliding between my toes. And guess what? I actually enjoyed it. I had worked it up so much in my mind and told myself that this was gross, that I didn't realize just how amazing this was. I was "in" the Everglades. Not just looking at it from an airboat or driving past it in a car. I was inside the Everglades. The area of land that is so unique and so astonishing that travelers from across the world come to visit every year. I'm so lucky to have it right in my backyard and I've never appreciated it. This very moment instilled in me a new sense of pride for where I live. Living in Miami with all its traffic and man-made structures can get to me sometimes, but at that moment I was so happy to be a part of something so great. To have right in my town an ecosystem so distinctive that it doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. As I continued to walk around the water, trying hard to keep my balance and not fall, a sense of pride came over me, pride for my home. This is where I live, and I couldn't help but smile to myself.

   I can honestly say that I now did not want to get back on the boat. I wanted to keep exploring. I listened attentively as my professors discussed the different plants that lived in this water. Up until that point, sawgrass to me was just an outlet mall. Now, as I ran my fingers through the plant and passed around the periphyton, curiosity came over me and I wanted to see and know everything about the Everglades at once. I kept turning my head in every direction trying not to miss an ounce of what was around me. I looked up at the birds flying by and I even looked down into the water thinking to myself "Could there be alligators swimming by?" While we were on our way, back on the boat, with the breeze once again running through my face, I thought to myself "I'm so glad I took this class. I can't wait for what's to come." The car ride home was a silent one. I didn't even have the radio on. I just kept thinking back to this very precise moment and I once again could not help but smile. I still couldn't believe I had jumped into the water and walked through the swampy land. I could not wait to get home and tell everyone about my experience that day.

   After class, I saw a lot of my family and friends at an event and I couldn't keep my mouth shut. By the end of the night, everyone who had walked by me knew of my adventures of jumping into the Everglades. I have never been prouder of living in Miami. My family has never been to the Everglades and I told them that after this class, I would take them and be their personal tour guide. Before going to sleep that night, I remember lying down in bed thinking of what a day it had been. Throughout my three years at FIU, never have I had a day of class like this. If only all classes could be like this, I thought. Before going to this class a co-worker told me that I would love the Everglades and that maybe I would find a new hobby for myself. I think she was right. I know I've only tapped into a small piece of this amazing ecosystem, but I already feel as though this is something that I will enjoy for the rest of my life. I look forward to the upcoming year and I can't wait until the next day of class. Who would've thought that just from a single jump into the water, I would have a different outlook on the world around me. I feel as though I appreciate it more and I go a little slower now to stop and look at all the nature that surrounds me.

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