Saturday, May 21, 2011

What are my ethical obligations to sand dollars?

So in case we all weren’t sure whether or not this was the challenge of my life, it definitely is. Not only am I attempting to do the homestay thing without even the six-hour daily respite of IBEU, but I’m also attempting to do research and write like a thirty page paper simultaneously. So that’s cool.

Today at the Centro I saw the most ridiculous-looking tourist I have ever seen. Glow-in-the-dark pasty, hairy, wearing a speedo, a t-shirt, sunglasses, and a ridiculous brimmed hat with a neck flap. In all honesty it was probably the most practical thing a really white guy could wear on a  dune buggy ride, but it looked absurd. And he’s Brazilian. I had sort of thought Brazilian tourists wouldn’t look like American tourists – and they don’t, for the most part. Mostly because they wear fewer clothes, I think. But I guess the potential for ridiculousness is definitely there.

I walked on the beach today for about an hour and a half, which was incredibly beneficial. Just to not have to think about anything or understand anyone speaking any language at all was great.

And there were so many shells. They were everywhere. In California it seems like you’re really lucky if you find one, ever. Not even just shells, but live things in general. Bivalves, sandpipers, these weird things that looked like they were the back halves of fish but weren’t, and little tiny fish getting swept around by the waves. 

I picked up one shell, a little orange one. For some reason this didn’t trigger any moral doubt. When I saw the first of the ten or so sand dollar tests I encountered, though, I had this enormous mental battle. I wanted to pick one up and take it with me. I have never before just found sand dollars on the beach. There were a lot of them. And they were dead already. But if I take it, it won’t be there for the next person to enjoy it. I’ve been so well indoctrinated by elementary school trips to Californian state parks and such. It’s a little absurd. And it would probably just disintegrate on the trip back to the States, anyway.

So I compromised by holding it and walking for a while, and then putting it back and taking some pictures.

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