by Emily Gabbard

“Every generation has the obligation to free men’s minds for a look at the new world…to look out from a higher plateau than the last generation.” – Ellison S. Onizaka

About a month ago, I left everything I knew in Nepal for my new adventure in Bali. Leaving is never easy, no matter how much I prepare. Once I arrived in the Kathmandu airport, I was already alone; I was leaving all the friendships I had made over the past 9 weeks.

I love meeting these amazing people that come and go through my life, like water slipping through hands.

I recently received an email from the founder of Nepal Orphans Home. He sent me a letter that one of my favorite students had written for me. This letter brought feelings from immense joy to that awful feeling of “I miss this.” This is what my gap year is made up of: inspirational and heartfelt moments.

Although I have met some great people along the way, it’s always nice to have my friends and family with me every step of my journey. I am blessed with the continual support and encouragement from my hometown. It’s also makes coming home a little more exciting.

I am currently living on a remote island called Nusa Penida. It’s a 45-minute boat ride from Bali. My days are filled with feeding turtles, cleaning turtle tanks, catching crabs, and collecting seaweed. Living on a remote island with basically nothing else besides the beach is pretty amazing.

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A typical day for me begins at 9:00am when I go to the turtle center and feed the turtles. I reach into my little tin of fish guts and give the turtles their breakfast. After all the turtles have been fed we begin to clean the tanks.

Algae, fish guts, and turtle poop and are thrown onto my body as I get on all fours and scrub the tanks.

Once I’ve finished cleaning the tanks, I feel accomplished putting the turtles back into their clean home. After all the turtles are back into their tanks, I go down to the beach and collect seaweed for the turtles to eat. There are three different types of seaweed: green, brown, and white. The green is the healthiest, the brown is the next best, and then the white seaweed is their junk food. I make sure to get plenty of white seaweed for my little turtle friends. Then I have free time before and after lunch to go to the beach and relax. In the afternoon it’s time to get back to work.

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Each afternoon is different. It varies from catching crabs for the turtles, picking up trash on the beach, and teaching the local children English.

My favorite part would be the releasing process that happens every two weeks. This is what the program is all about: raising the turtles until they are healthy and big enough to survive on their own. I have really enjoyed my time on Nusa Penida.

Here are some highlights of the island life.

• I live with a variety of wildlife: rats, geckos, spiders, coach roaches, roosters, and stray dogs. These animals also like to wake up very early.

• I always feel dirty. My clothes are covered in a fish smell that is hard to escape.

• It is a rare moment when I am absolutely dry. I am sweating because it’s so hot. Drenched because I’m cleaning turtle tanks. Or I am swimming in the ocean. My skin is always wet.

• I have been parasailing, surfing, snorkeling, and diving all for the first time here!

•Living a simple life on the island away from civilization with no other tourists is quite invigorating.

These past six months have been an amazing journey. I can see a subtle change in myself, a change that will continue to grow throughout my life.

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This journey has given me the ability to realize I am capable of more than I thought. I have felt emotions that I have never felt before, from feeling extremely alone when arriving at a new place, to having my heart filled completely with love and joy, and finally the feeling when it’s time to leave a place and the heart-aching pain of saying goodbye.

I will be coming home in a few weeks. I’m both extremely excited and sad that my gap year will be coming to an end. I’m excited to see my family and friends and get back to my life in Highlands, but at the same time I will miss everything about my gap year.

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