Hope From the Eyes of A Tukik

The rough road to Pangumbahan Beach was nothing compared to the emotional experience that greeted me the end of it.
I used to think that hope was something absurd, intangible and mysterious. But that day, I learned that hope is concrete; something which can be touched by fingers and magically brings tears to my eyes.
The ojek (rented motorcycle) dropped me off a way from the beach and the walk towards the sea felt good after the long ride. I joined dozens of other visitors who waited for the conservation park rangers to arrive with their buckets full of the newly hatched baby green sea turtles called tukik.
The cool salty sea breeze filled up my lungs while the tides slowly raised. Kids played in the sand, eagerly waiting for their chance to release the baby sea turtles --one of the world’s endangered species-- into the ocean.
When the rangers finally appeared, we followed them, like bewitched rats following Pied Piper of Hamelin. The rangers ordered us to stand in line before he handed us the buckets to give each visitor a tukik.
I grabbed mine. It was so grey and no bigger than my palm. I touched its soft skin and held the baby turtle's shell between my fingers. Its paddle-like flippers moved frantically.
Suddenly a thought came to my mind. This little baby that had never known its mother was going to travel the vast ocean alone. It did not know what kind of dangers it would face during the trip. There are many dangers for tukik in the form of crabs, seagulls, sharks and the most dangerous predator, human beings. Here in Indonesia, some people tend to believe sea turtle eggs are aphrodisiacs.
This little creature might live for years if it is lucky enough. If she was a female, she would come back to the same beach 30 years later to lay her eggs and bring more hope to its species. If it is not fortunate, it may live only for days before ended in the bills of a seagull or jaws or a shark.
“It’s just a baby.” A tear started to form in my eye.
Just when I was about to wipe my eye, the little turtle stared at me with its clear black eyes. It looked into my eyes as if to say, “Hey, I will be fine. Mother ocean is my destiny and that is where I should go.”
We slowly released our tukik as the rangers told us to. Under the cool smile of sunset, they skittered towards the waves to embrace the ocean that welcomed them home and face their destiny.
I waved goodbye to my baby and wished it good luck.
“Please, do come back here in 30 years,” I whispered while the breeze slowly dried my tears.

A Afriatni

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