It's one o'clock at night. A warm wind is blowing from the sea, the full moon is reflected in the
turbulent water, which sound and flicker is putting me in a blissful mood. I have the
impression that I am the only human in the world. Just turn around. I have a million-city
behind my back. The lights are burning out in the retina and it seems like thousands of eyes
are looking at me. I have been living like this on the border of the worlds for two months.
People surround me during the day, at night - animals. I’m raising my ears waiting for the
signal to act. Somewhere nearby, I hear barking and I start running immediately. The light of
my flashlight directed the way the sound is coming from, is reflecting in the eyes of a big dog.
We are looking at each other until he gets that he should go. He is moving down his tail and
leaving my area. I’m turning off the light and getting used to the darkness for a moment, then
looking around. I work at night, because when the temperature goes down a bit, my pupils
appear. I am walking quietly to a big hole in the sand. The turtle inside is just laying eggs.
There will be maybe even two hundred of them. When she finishes, she covers it carefully
and heads back towards the sea. I am standing aloof, waiting for her to disappear. Over a
meter in length, up to five hundred kilos in weight. She is safe in the water, there are no
natural enemies. Those two hours spend on land are the most dangerous hours in her life.
And this life is really amazing. I feel sad when I think about how some of them end. Bitten by
stray dogs while laying eggs, sometimes only a meter from the safe sea. Fortunately, this
one succeeded. Once I found a turtle surrounded by three dogs, with an almost snapped off
paw. I arrived at the last minute, if I would have been there later, she probably couldn't have
been saved. A similar situation fortunately did not happen again. We took the wounded turtle
to hospital, where it was quickly cured and released into the sea. I wonder where she will go
now, where she has already been, how many adventures have happened to her. All I know is
that she was born on this beach. They always come back to the same place to lay eggs.
Nobody knows how and why, but it is obvious that for them we have to protect these few
unique, selected places. But it is not that simple. The sea currents bring here tons of garbage
from all over the Mediterranean, and the organization that I'm working for tries not to let some
companies to build a huge factory here. I take my bag and gloves for afternoon relaxation on
the beach. It amazes me, what you can find here: lego blocks, sneakers, dolls without eyes,
aluminum cans, banners, shaving machines, bottles, straws for drinks, snack packaging,
slippers, bones, wires, nets, ropes, disposable dishes, caps, clothes, polystyrene, boards,
inflatable toys, carrier bags and unidentified pieces of plastic in various shapes and colours.
And next to there are shells and colourful stones. And of course turtles nests. From the ten-
week nests, the baby turtles begin to come out at night. When looking for them, I walk on the
beach with a box and I light up the ground under my feet. I take every baby I find with me.
They are only a few centimetres long, but when I hold them in my hand, I can feel the
amazing life power that nature has put into these little bodies. They run around the box all
night, remembering that they must go to the sea no matter what. When the morning comes, I
release them a few metres from the sea and I go into the water and I direct a torch towards
them. They follow the light. There would be no need for me to be here if there was no city
with its lights. The moon, stars and flickering waves would show them the way. However,
people decided to overshadow the nature. Happily, my flashlight attracts their attention and
soon the waves take them. One in a thousand will reach eighteen years to become adult.
Maybe I'll be back here in twenty years and a little turtle that I led to the sea will come out as
a beautiful, strong mother?
The project took place in Mersin, Turkey, during the summer holidays 2019, as part of the
European Union initiative European Solidarity Corps for youth between eighteen and thirty
Text and photos by Zofia Hałas (language class III bL)