My spirit animal is a flying fox. Probably my patronus too.
To many, flying foxes are adorable winged animals but others may find them intimidating. Living throughout Australia and Pacific Asia, they are an offshoot of bats with a wingspan of over a meter and foxlike faces.
On my most recent trip in Indonesia, one stop was at Pulau Koaba (translation: flying fox island) at dusk. The Sunda Flying Foxes took off from their home into the heavens, leaving their small island to be flooded by the tide. It was one of the most magical moments during my time in Indonesia, to see their flight while standing on a small overnight tourist boat off the coast of Labuan Bajo, Flores. The sky, painted an array of pinks, purples, and oranges by the setting sun held hundreds of the magnificent creatures.
The entire trip was a fascinating look into the unique wildlife of Indonesia. My Peace Corps bestie Leigha and I choose to take a two night/three day tour of Rinca, Komodo, and the surrounding islands to fully explore their natural beauty. On land we took guided walks, discovering the majestic komodo dragons only native to Flores. The immense creatures are famous for injecting their pray with venom and following the horse/monkey/water buffalo until it succumbs, then feasting on it: bones and all. While one did try to chase after us, they are quite slow, so a quick power-walk kept us a safe distance away.
Our less terrifying excursions were our various snorkeling stops, six of them over three days. Equipped with a mask and fins that left blisters on my index toes, Leigha and I explored several coral reefs and pink beaches. While I sang “Under the Sea” into my snorkel, I came to the conclusion that Finding Nemo must be based on the waters of Flores; seeing Dory, Nemo, the school of direction-giving silver fish, and even Mr. Ray, the teacher with dozens of small fish riding his back around the ocean floor. At one stop, thousands of fish played in open water, swimming in schools or alone. As I floated by, the fish would avoid me, except the devilish light pink ones that tried to nip my legs. Brownish-purple fish the size of my head with moss-green lips curiously came close to my face while tiny sparkling neon blue beauties flitted away.
It was a dream come true to explore the small islands off of Flores and see the wildlife first hand, and a welcomed short break from site while my students took their midterms. Most importantly, the trip gave me the rest and determination I needed to complete my final 2 months of service with energy and finesse.
The contents of this editorial are of Emily Hough and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.
Emily Hough is a 2012 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas, majored in Philosophy & Religious Studies as well as Social Science. At STAC, she served as Editor-in-Chief of The Thoma. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments.