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Island Expeditions Story Contest - 3rd Place Winner - by Sophia Muelenberg

Island 911 It happened on the third day of our vacation. My family and I were on an adventure with Island Expeditions, visiting Half-Moon Caye, an island off the coast of Belize. Our first two days in this paradise had passed quickly, filled with snorkeling, lazing in hammocks, eating delicious meals prepared by our cook Philippe, and not a small amount of beach volleyball. The other members of our group were an eclectic bunch, but everyone knew how to have fun. My sister and I spent hours making hemp bracelets and playing soccer with the other teens, while my parents discussed the merits of travel and exotic places with the other adults and the guides. Isolated on this small island, we had no concept of time. The only things we had to worry about were hermit crabs and the occasional falling coconut, as our guides jokingly told us. When my dad inquired if anyone had ever been hit by coconut, our guide Jack quipped, “Not yet!” Each day we were up with the sun, and went to bed at dark; with only a small generator to power lights, no one stayed up past 9 pm. We were truly on “island time.” On the third day, I awoke to the sun streaming in the mesh windows of the wall tent I shared with my sister. She had obviously forgotten to close the flaps. I pulled out a sundress and slipped it on over my swimsuit, quickly pulling my hair into a pony-tail. Slipping on my flip-flops, I unzipped our door and stepped out into the sunshine. As the sand covered my feet, I smiled and thought about my poor friends who were stuck back in rainy and cold Northern Idaho. I reached back inside the tent to grab the book I had brought along and headed to a hammock. Forty-five minutes later, I heard the conch shell summoning us to breakfast. Though I was loathe to leave the relaxed position I was in, I hurried to the wooden pavilion once I smelled the fragrance of caramelized plantains. As I sat down at the wooden table, I waved to Philippe who was bringing in the food he had prepared for us all. Damasco and James, two of our Belizean guides were helping him, and Javier, one of our other guides, was just climbing down a tree after having retrieved a coconut. I saw Kate and Jack, our guides from Island Expeditions, sit down at a table nearby. As people trickled in from their various places on the beach, I stopped the other teens to suggest a volleyball game after breakfast. Plans were made and challenges were given. My sister and parents joined me at the table, eyeing the bountiful feast we were having for breakfast. “Boy,” my dad remarked,” I love being a doctor, but it’s been so nice the last few days to not worry about patients or being called to the hospital. I can finally relax.” I nodded, leaning over to tell my sister about the volleyball game after breakfast. We got up to get in line for food when all of a sudden we heard a “WHUMP!” Startled, I looked over to see James, our guide, lying in the sand, bloody. A coconut lay nearby. “Oh no!” Damasco yelled. “He needs a doctor!” Jack exclaimed. I was stunned to see that James had been hit by a falling coconut…..was this really happening? Getting injured several miles out from the mainland of Belize was a serious problem. Medical help was not available. My dad, seeing James passed out in the sand and realizing that he was the only doctor there, rushed over to the man. “Can you hear me? Can you see anything? Where does it hurt?” my dad frantically asked. Moaning, James weakly gestured to the back of his head. A crowd had now gathered around him. We looked and saw blood in his hair. I could see this was not a good situation. James could be permanently injured, with a blow to the head. What were the odds of him being hit by a coconut, really? What a horrible thing! Suddenly, James sat up. The group looked at him in astonishment. “Wha…..?” my dad exclaimed. “APRIL FOOLS’!!!” Jack yelled. Stunned, we started to laugh. We had all been suckered and fooled by Jack, who had set the whole episode up. “Look,” said James, pointing to the blood, “It’s just ketchup.” Damasco helped him up, grinning from ear to ear, a willing accomplice in Jack’s trick. What had made it all the more convincing is that no one had had any idea of what day it was. Not a single person realized the date, having been so caught up in “island time” that the days didn’t matter. We had been duped! For the rest of the week, we retold the story over and over. Looking back now, I still smile every time I remember. I can’t fully describe my amazing week on Half-Moon Caye. To truly understand, one must experience it for oneself: the sun, the warm sand on the beach, the awe-inspiring sunsets, the clear water flowing over the reefs, and the sound of the waves lulling you to sleep. Belize is a place filled with vibrant culture and beauty. A place where I found fun, laughter, friendship, and just a few surprises!