Amal Aslam

Grade 9, Dubai GEMS Private School

As I peered ahead, all I saw for miles was a queue of people snaking around the block, waiting to enter the designated zone. The ground, the trees and the bushes all lay covered in snow from the previous night and the grim, grey sky promised nothing but worse weather and frigid temperatures. Gleeful children played amidst frustrated parents, who impatiently tapped their boots against the slate pavement. These, along with exhausted elders bundled up in scarves and gloves, and exasperated teenagers, all had one thing in common-the crimson blinking lights on tubes connected to their bodies. After every dozen people stood a man in a black jumpsuit with a charcoal grey vest. His vest adorned a badge and the laser gun which slung on his shoulder certified his authority-the patrol. In these glacial temperatures the only sounds audible were the occasional chirping of birds and muffled conversations. Round the corner, faces of pure bliss came into view, as thousands received their weekly tank of oxygenated air, disconnecting their tubes at the O2 zone.

=When had we gotten to this level of distress and despair? Clean air levels deteriorating by the day, weekly oxygen tubes, and no certain existence of another generation? I thought back to a time when I refused to walk to school insisting on using the bus. Then there was the time I continued to buy products despite the presentations in school about the amount factories contribute to C02 emissions. I continued to use electricity and power mindlessly. I recalled thinking,

“These oxygenated zones they talk about are far-fetched and would never happen in a million years”.

=I regretted these decisions as I got to the front of the line only to see an elderly man with greying hair and a raspy voice. He wobbled as he leaned on his walking cane, struggling and wrestling against the patrol only because he had taken an extra 15 cubic centimetres of oxygen than was permitted.

Being the next one to enter the zone, I reminisced to a decade ago when I waited in an equally long, or perhaps even longer queue, with the same level of anticipation. The only difference was that the queue of ten years ago was to enter a concert arena, whereas this one was to acquire a substance vital to my existence ... oxygen.

What is more fun: Playing outdoors or with gadgets?

“Playing outdoors is far better as it not only keep you in touch with nature, it also keeps you mentally and physically fit.”