A lucky escape

8th June 2001 at 01:00
By Juliette Denny, 9, Western Road county primary school, Lewes, East Sussex.

I had been to Costa Rica once before, but that was when I was very little. I have a picture taken by Chito, a friend who owned some grassland close to a swamp. In it my dad is holding the whopper fish that he had caught, with an "I've finally done it" expression on his face.

The air in San Jose had been warm, and the scent of the moisturized trees had refreshed me from eight hours on a hot, stuffy aeroplane. I looked up to see my mother looking fondly at me, saying how wonderful it was. "Stunning," she said. Palm trees were everywhere as far as I could see, and behind some, the faint glowing of the sun setting under a clear blue sky.

The next day I awoke unsure of where I was. I could hear a strange chattering noise followed by deep owl-like sounds. As my mind came to itself, the noise became deafening as the whole jungle erupted around me. I remembered that I was at Chito's. My sister grunted and turned over, so I hastily closed my eyes in case she woke, but she didn't. Instead she began snoring contentedly. Oddly, my mother lay as still as steel, the middle of her bed rising and falling as she breathed. Careful so as not to wake my sister, I crawled out from under the sheet and crept towards the door. As I opened it, the fresh air closed in on me and I felt a warm surge of happiness. Suddenly, my father stirred so I quickly closed the door and got back into bed, trying to look as though I was fast asleep, just as he woke.

Later we set out for the fishing place. We were all having a great time, playing and laughing and singing a song called "I don' wanna go home". As the boat released its anchor, Chito warned us about the number of crocodiles in the water. As he spoke I thought I heard a faint buzzing in the air but I put it to the back of my mind when I got my rod. I threw it in straight away and then again and again. I kept throwing it in, trying to ctch a big fish.

We were making a terrific noise when suddenly Chito told us to be dead quiet. We thought he was joking at first, but he wasn't. His face had turned very pale (for a black man anyway) and his expression had changed totally. In a split second he had become a worried, serious person. Next to me my sister shivered, and moved closer towards me. No one said a word as Chito steered the boat away, so slowly and carefully that I wasn't sure whether we were moving at all. When we had gone a fair distance down the river, I started to wonder why we had to get away. Then Chito explained, whispering and relieved, that he had heard and seen a huge swarm of killer bees just above where we had been. They often attack if disturbed. If that happened, he went on, we would have no choice but to jump into the crocodile infested waters! I realized then that the buzzing that I had heard earlier must have been the bees.

I hate to think of what would have happened if Chito had not heard the bees in time. I think I would have jumped on to land and run away, but Chito told me that the bees would have been too fast. I wonder what decision you would have made?

Juliette says: "My parents have friends in Costa Rica and we stayed in San Jose, but we went to the swamps for a week. There were lots of crocodiles, which was a bit scary. The bees sounded very angry." She likes doing maths and playing football at school in England, but writes, she says, especially when she is feeling "down in the dumps". She likes reading - Brian Jake's Redwall books are favourites - and has read earlier TES Write Away winners in Friday magazine. Juliette's mother belongs to the Learning Support Service in Lewes, so she sees The TES regularly. Juliette was a finalist two years ago, when she was only seven, and was determined to be a winner this year. Jane Barton, who entered her work, says she is articulate, writes well - and doesn't watch television, from choice.

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