Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Spirit of a Place II

Xiang "James" Zhang of China
This second of three descriptive essays by students in the Pilot class of the Loyola Intensive English Program is by Xiang "James" Zhang of China. James is a business management major. He is eager to complete his business studies at Loyola University New Orleans and to gain experience working for a large corporation.

Like Meng in our previous post, James has written his essay in response to an assignment that asked him not only to describe a significant place in or near New Orleans but also to evoke its spirit.

James has chosen to write about a recent airboat tour of nearby Lake Salvador, where he and his friends encountered alligators. 

 * * *

Airboat Tour of Lake Salvador
By Xiang James Zhang

Have you ever seen a white alligator? Have you ever seen Spanish moss, decorating the cyprus trees and dancing in the wind as if it were welcoming tourists to the swamp? Have you ever held a baby alligator in your own two hands? Have you ever seen the sunset change the colors of Lake Salvador’s water to look like fire? On a recent airboat tour, my friends and I tasted all these experiences.

Going on the airboat tour was something I had never experienced in China. I had never even seen that kind of boat before. It looks like a medium-sized boat with a large fan at the back instead of an engine. I wanted to go on the airboat tour because it was a new experience and I wanted to see wild alligators. Along with my friends Creek and Bruce, I learned many new things about swamps. Creek and Bruce are both Chinese students studying in Tulane University’s MBA program. We arrived at Airboat Adventures and saw a lot of tourists waiting. Outside the airboat center were cyprus trees covered in Spanish moss. The Spanish moss looked like people welcoming us to the airboat tour.

We went inside of the store and purchased our tickets. We saw three white alligators in the pool inside of the house. They didn’t move very much and their enclosure was dark. I thought that the white alligators were much more beautiful than regular alligators. They are white because they have albinism, which prevents them from spending too much time in the sun. Also, there were so many different sizes of alligators’ heads being sold as souvenirs. The sizes ranged from baby alligators to full-grown ones. After we visited the inside of the house, we went out to wait for the next tour.

Here comes the airboat!
After a while, the airboat approached, making a buzzing noise and parting the water. When the boat came closer to us, I saw a big power fan on the back of the boat. All the tourists and tour guides had headphones. I was confused why the boat here didn’t have propellers. In my mind, all boats have propellers; I also thought all boats have propellers in the United States. But, why is it different here? I eventually learned that the airboats use fans instead of engines because propellers would cut plants and animals floating near the surface of the water and also under the water.

Our tour was around 5 pm. We put on life jackets and headphones. Then we left to go see the wild alligators. The tour guide drove the airboat more and more quickly. The noise became louder and louder. We arrived at a dead end and we had to make a U-turn to go to another part of the river. At this time, the tour guide turned off the engine. He started to call the names, “Claws, Claws, Claws! Drago, Drago, Drago!” Creek pointed to a corner not far away from our airboat; I saw a small black alligator. The alligator swam to us and I saw a head with two big eyes.

Here comes an alligator! Can you see him in the middle of the water?
The tour guide kept calling, “Claws!” and shaking the chicken legs. Claws, a six-foot-long alligator, swam to our airboat. When Claws got close to us, the tour guide tried to feed Claws the chicken leg. Claws moved his mouth up to the water, opening it widely. The tour guide put the chicken leg into Claws’ mouth and then Claws chewed the chicken leg. At this moment, the tour guide grabbed Claws and pulled him out of the water by his mouth. The tour guide took Claws’ body halfway out of the water by pulling him by the mouth, but Claws then w w ent back to the water after he shook his mouth back and forth. Then the tour guide called another alligator’s name and tried to take him out of the water but failed again.

Reaching for an alligator
We went to a few places like the first place and every time the tour guide did the same thing. Finally he successfully took a four-foot-long alligator out of the water and held it up to let us take pictures. This alligator was not as big as others, who were around six feet.  After that, he took out a six-month-old alligator from a box on the airboat. He told us that the small alligator belonged to his wife, who had given him the name Hammer. I thought that Hammer looked like a lizard, and everyone on the airboat held him to take photos except me because I was afraid of him. I was afraid the alligator would bite me. I asked Creek and Bruce about the feeling of holding an alligator. They explained to me the way an alligator feels – scaly on top and softer underneath. We asked the tour guide how to own an alligator in New Orleans. You need a special permit to own one, and you have to get the alligator from a licensed seller.

Holding a baby alligator
Finally, we went to a pretty place called Lake Salvador. It was much wider because it was a lake and the rest of the tour had been in rivers. At that time it was sunset, which I really loved, and all the lake glowed yellow and orange. Nobody lived around the lake; only wild animals were there. The tour guide showed us patches of grass as big as a car. He told us that they were the places for female alligators to have babies.

Sunset over Lake Salvador

The airboat tour was around two hours, and although everyone was tired, I could tell that everyone was happy and satisfied. The airboat tour was fifty dollars, but I didn’t think it was expensive. The tour guides have a dangerous job and the tour was worth the money. It ended up being a memorable experience.

* * *

Our thanks to James for sharing with us his adventure on the beautiful Lake Salvador and his learnings about alligators.

Our next post will showcase the essay of Eduardo de la Espriella, who spent an afternoon in Audubon Park, just across Saint Charles Avenue from Loyola University New Orleans. Eduardo explores the park through his senses of sight, hearing, touch, and smell.

No comments:

Post a Comment