“Precious Planet” by Pen-Yuan Hsing
“Hello! What’s your name?” “pen-yuan hsing.” I see The Expression, then hear The response: “What?” Starting the first grade in the US without knowing a single word of English, going back to Taiwan three years later incapable of recognizing a single Chinese character is not exactly an ideal circumstance for blending in. For many years, I was always the quiet one sitting in the corner, the one who few people talked to, the one out of the loop. I was the “local alien.”
I opt to join the Earth Science Club during my first year in Lishan High School, as I always had an interest in astronomy, which happened to be the focus of that year’s club activities. I didn’t know the weekly gathering time of our club was also an elective Earth Science course that students from other high schools could attend. I certainly did not realize what a big impact this arrangement would have on me.
near the end of the first semester, I was approached by a girl from a neighboring school who attended this earth science course. She asked if I wanted to join her on an environmental survey of Taiwan’s Keelung coast conducted by an organization called Taipei Wetnet. For a moment I hesitated, I literally had no experience in responding to invita-tions. What suddenly came out of my mouth surprised me, “Sure, what time?”
For the next three years I spent in Taipei Wetnet, I gained not only a close friend, knowledge about the problems our environment faced, but perhaps most importantly found a group of people who shared the same convictions, who are passionate about the same thing, the plight of our precious planet. A year after being introduced to this organization, I was its coordinator and presented my first academic paper at an environmental education conference. I learned that I don’t always have to be the quiet one in the corner, that I do and can have things to share with everyone else. I don’t have to fear.
I often think about how I managed to say yes on that fateful day.
Was it just because of a pretty face? Or maybe there has always been a special part of me that wanted to get out, and she was instrumental in “flipping the switch.” This eye-opening experience and what I learned from it is what I desperately want to share with the world.
Perhaps, somewhere out there is another quiet person in the corner just waiting to be found. A switch waiting to be flipped. You just have to find it, flip it, and make the world a brighter, warmer place.
Pen-Yuan begins his essay with an apparent shortcoming—not being about to blend in as the “local alien,” “the quiet one sitting in the corner,” “the one out of the loop.” This introduction is reminiscent of Angelica’s essay, “No Longer Invisible,” (Chapter 7), in which she describes her intense shyness. Like Angelica, Pen-Yuan chooses to describe a weakness in order to demonstrate a gradual transformation in personality from introvert to extrovert and leader.
There is a bit of an abrupt break between Pen-Yuan’s comment about feeling like a “local alien” to joining the Earth Science Club. It is often challenging to seamlessly transition between the introductory paragraph in an essay to the first body paragraph. While it is not essential to explicitly link these two paragraphs, being mindful of this transition can make the essay read more smoothly and logically.
Pen-Yuan does a nice job of using short snippets of conversation to add a lively tone to his essay as well as a means to highlight pivotal points. For instance, he opens the essay with, “Hello! What’s your name?” and describes the confused “What?” that comes in response to “Pen-Yuan Hsing,” a short exchange that underscores his feeling of being a “local alien.” Later on, when he blurts out “Sure, what time?” in response to the invitation to join Taipei WetNet, we see another crucial turning point in Pen-Yuan’s life.
As we move from the third to the fourth paragraph, the story line jumps from Pen-Yuan joining Taipei WetNet to his concluding three years with the organization. This section could be more effective if Pen-Yuan describes some of the events in which he participated during the three years. This might give the reader a sense of his engage-ment and involvement before he concludes, “I gained not only a close friend, knowledge about the problems our environment faced, but perhaps most importantly found a group of people who shared the same convictions, who are passionate about the same thing, the plight of our precious planet.” Examples might have helped more compellingly demonstrate this passion for protecting the planet and his experiences working with a group.
Pen-Yuan illustrates his transformation from a loner to an integral member of the Taipei WetNet group when he writes, “I learned that I don’t always have to be the quiet one in the corner, that I do and can have things to share with everyone else. I don’t have to fear.” He concludes his essay by urging us to reach out to “another quiet person in the corner just waiting to be found” in order to “make the world a brighter, warmer place.” Because we know the personal story behind this request, it appears more meaningful and sincere. Overall, Pen-Yuan’s essay convincingly portrays the story of personal transformation from shy student to fearless leader using the specific, memorable example of his dedicated environmental work with Taipei WetNet.