My mother is a "hippie" in every sense of the word. Therefore, as a young child, I spent a lot of time in the Great Outdoors. There were even some years in which we traveled around living on commune farms. I remember the huge gardens where you could always find my mom, and where I earned my nickname "Beans". I recall the cats and goats that were always roaming around, and I remember falling asleep in rooms stacked to the ceiling with bunkbeds, where all of the kids on the farm slept.
So what in the world does this have to do with a reflection of the first day of class? Simply put, it reaffirms the old adage that we become exactly like our parents. When I reached my adolescent years, I hated being outside and going camping with no water or electricity for days--for fun. But now that I am an adult, I find myself becoming exactly like my mother. I enjoy a life of simplicity, and I love being outside--whatever form that may take--be it work or taking a class such as this. Therefore, my single most vivid reflection of this entire first day of class is that fact that I wish my mother was here with me. She would absolutely adore the information being learned, and the contact with nature that occurs (i.e., mucking around and seeing alligators in the wild). As my mother lives in Alaska, she has only been to Miami to visit me once since I moved here, and unfortunately it was within the first few months that I lived here, so I was unable to adequately provide her with answers to her inquiries of the local plant and animal life. But now, even after only one day of class, I feel the need to call my mom and tell her all about the plants and animals I saw, and which are native to Florida and which are exotic species. Furthermore, I am excited to call my grandparents, who still live in Wisconsin, and explain to them the wild edible berries that I ate (cocoa plums) and tell them how much I thought they tasted like wild Wisconsin blueberries.
However, I am also drawn to reflect on the grandest part of the afternoon--the illustrious airboat ride, equipped with illustrious tour guide. I am almost ashamed to admit that this man is exactly the type you would find in Wisconsin, and his command of the English language is also quite similar. But seriously, he was able to provide valuable insight into the areas we were viewing, which can only be gained by living right in it, as he does. And as far as his marshmallow tossing habits, I find no serious wrongdoing. Just as animals who perform in zoos are reinforced for doing backflips with a piece of raw fish, or children who behave well are given candy, I feel these men are reinforcing the alligators and gallinules "good" behavior. They are showing the animals that they really have nothing to fear of these airboats, that the animals do not need to react defensively. And yes, this behavior provides these men with monetary gain, to be sure, but I think also it provides those on the airboat with valuable experience. By this I mean to say that if I were to take an airboat ride and not see one alligator or one bird, I would wonder 1. Why am I out here? 2. Why are there no animals to see? 3. Why should I care about preserving the Everglades if there aren't even animals in them? By allowing common man to see these animals in their natural, wild environment, it gives the common man the opportunity to appreciate these animals even more, versus never having experienced the sight of an alligator casually swimming in a swamp, or a red-tailed hawk perched on a branch. One cannot value what one does not know. And while airboat rides may be considered a "tourist" activity, I feel more strongly that these rides are not just something for tourists, but something for native Floridians, as well. To live in an area like Miami and never see the grandeur of the Everglades which are literally right outside, one cannot be expected to aspire for the preservation of this natural wonder, since one would not have any personal knowledge to draw from.
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the airboat ride, and I loved seeing the birds and the alligators and the plantlife. These are experiences I would never have had if I were still living in Wisconsin, and it makes me a better-informed resident of this area.
My mother would be proud.
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