I can't believe it is nearly one year since I was making arrangements and leaving for South Africa. I have reminders of "the best experience / trip of my life" everywhere: I have " I Love Gansbaai" and the South African flag stickers plastered on my laptop, the ubiquitous Carcharias-fleece-sweater dangling from my chair, and loads and loads of Michael Scholl Copyrighted pictures hanging on my walls. Needless to say, the interim between now and leaving South Africa has been one continuous withdrawal syndrome.
A brief history about me. Like many of the other assistants, I have always had this intrinsic propensity for sharks, especialy great, Great White ones. However, living in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Ca, USA was not conducive to exploring my fascination as I was always forced to concentrate on things like school, college, and ways to support myself into old age.
I finally finished my undergraduate career at the University of California at San Diego with a B.S in Animal Physiology & Neuroscience in the fall of 2004 and finished applying for veterinary schools and had 6 months to kill before I would start graduate school. After doing much "google-related research", I came across WhiteSharkTrust.org, and the rest is history.
I ended up spending March-June 2004 in South Africa; the first 6 weeks were with the White Shark Trust and the last 4 were spent traveling around the country with visiting family and friends. Like I previously said, this was a life changing experience for me. Its a bit difficult to write about this experience because all I really want to do is jump up and down and gesticulate wildly and rant and rave about what an extremely COOL experience this is, and how extremely fortunate and blessed I feel to have been a part of Michael's team. Its often hard for me to revisit the pictures on the WST website because I get rather "sharksick" for the sharks and jealous of the current assistants. I miss the (almost) daily rides on out of the harbor on Michael's little yacht "Lamnidae" and the Rutzen's "Barracuda." I miss standing for hours on the baitline, feeling sunburned, hungry, needing to pee (girls, beware of "the bucket"), feeling listless and then...the first shark is spotted. And you forget everything you were complaining about. I miss the comraderie with the fellow assistants/Michael, the stupid jokes about President Bush and Texas, the beautiful dolphin pods, Frank's pub, Tracy, Max, Billy, the braais, watching the worst TV known to mankind... I miss everything. (man, i even miss toothless joe.)
So after reading this, I hope you, the vacillating traveller/conservationist, will realize that there really isn't a decision. Just say yes!, buy the exorbidantly expensive plane ticket, sit on your bum for the 10-15hr plane ride, and realize that your life really will never be the same. The hardest part about this experience is deciding 1. if you should ever return home and 2. when you will go back...
Thanks again Mike and Tracey! You guys are the best. =)
Letter received January 2005