The air was crisp when we boarded the school buses Saturday morning. Nostalgia consumed my thoughts and feelings: fall, yellow school buses, field trips, being overly tired- it felt too familiar. Everyone was exhausted at the hour we climbed onto those buses, but I could still feel the excitement. Being a freshman, my expectations for Eagle Village were vague. I heard about the high ropes course, but nothing specific, or even a mention about the other elements of the weekend. So, I sat in an uncomfortable state of eager unknowingness the entire ride.
When we arrived, we were quickly orientated with the staff and the village. We were even more rapidly broken off into groups with our mentors, and started “initiatives.” Initiatives are group activities that test your ability to communicate as a body. These activities, or challenges, really, could be anything. As I walked through the woods at Eagle Village, I passed multiple large wooden contraptions, some of them resembling similarities with medieval torture devices, and wondered, “Whelp… what are we going to do with this?” Giant wooden logs, posted at strange angles and scraping the top of the woods, large teetering platforms, and plenty of little posts poking through the ground at different heights, all made these woods feel like an old-school playground. I was a kid again, and this was recess. Our facilitators, Jolly John and Handy Hannah, front-loaded each element with a unique creativity that sometimes had our group questioning what our over all objective actually was. Our group worked together to watch dolphins, make it through the Bermuda Triangle of Death, and cure cancer, all in one evening (We were particularly confused by the Bermuda Triangle of Death). Each activity tested our abilities to communicate as a group. From the moment you step onto an element to the moment you step off, and everything in between, it is important to communicate every detail with your group. This first seemed monotonous, like really, why do I need to tell James that I’m stepping on the log… He can see me? But after utilizing the suggested tactics, such as asking for group-permission before starting and then every other step of the way, I noticed a more engaged group dynamic. This helped us take on challenges with more confidence and group involvement. I see this being applied to group work outside of eagle village and being highly affective. Take a group project, for example. It is important to ask permission from the group before starting a certain portion. One thing our group was natural at was encouraging. I have been identified as a leader who encourages the heart, so I felt comfortable in a support position, but I learned all sorts of new ways to express support and encouragement from my group members. I see encouragement as vital in every day life, whether it’s applied to friends, family, or even yourself.
The next day, James and I got up in the air. We first tackled the giant’s ladder. It’s exactly what it sounds like: a giant ladder that reached from the floor all the way to the ceiling in the adventure room, suspended by cables. Each rung was a slim log, spaced progressively further and further apart from each other, the higher up they were. We were instructed to use different forms of support for each rung. We watched group after group go before it was our turn. In this time, we made our game plan: we didn’t care what rung we got to, how long it took us to get there, or anything else: all we were concerned with was being the most photogenic pair on the ladder for when Dan or Jesi took pictures. This goal made it a lot funnier and easier to take on the ladder, which in all honesty, I was intimidated by. However, we made it to the third rung, which was a pretty huge success in my eyes. It was a nerve-wracking experience, but we made it humorous. I almost started crying from laughter when James flopped over one of the rungs and made one of those strange noises he makes: it’s like halfway between a grunt and a hiccup… I’m not positive why he does it, but it made me laugh and made the obstacle a lot less stressful. I think laughter is essential for making it through life. When conditions become uncomfortable or chilling, it’s good to find something to laugh about in order to loosen tension.
When we moved onto the high ropes course, I didn’t know what to expect. I am a gung-ho roller coaster person, so I thought the whole “being suspended high above the ground” thing woul
d be no issue, but then I got to the top. Yup- I was shaking with nerves. James and I made it across a couple elements before our facilitator, Hanna
h, called to us from below and asked us to challenge us further. I laughed at this, because to me, I thought that making it across these elements was challenge enough. But she suggested trying to make obstacles even harder, by closing our eyes, or by letting go of our ropes. One element I remember distinctly was the two-platform jump (that’s what I call it. Not sure if it has a real name…) Basically, between the two platforms were two other raised-pedestals. I could barely get across them without white-knuckling my ropes. Hannah came over and suggested I redo the obstacle, but this time, let go of the ropes. I laughed and basically told her: “Uh, no.” She was persistent and supportive enough to the point where I felt obligated to try again. I let go of the ropes; I kid you not, I could not physically lift my foot in the air. My body had been so struck by nerves that I was immobilized. Hannah kept encouraging me from below, to the point where I no longer felt obligated to her, but now, to myself to tackle this challenge. I finally picked up my foot, reached it across the gape between the pedestals, and planted it firmly. I froze, split across two platforms, looking at James in disbelief of what I was doing. That’s when I realized… I wasn’t believing in myself. In life, I have very firm beliefs and usually a solid view of what I stand for. Rarely do I lack belief in myself, so why was it on this course that I was different? I started to muster up the courage to believe in what I was doing, to believe in James as he guided me across other obstacles, and believe that this was all just a test of my character.
My favorite memory from the weekend, other than playing Foursquare with Jurassic Parker, had to be the moment we all sat around the fire and shared what we appreciated about the weekend. Listening to the upper class men share their gratitude for their mentees and vice-versa, others thank the administrative staff, and even more others being grateful for other reasons truly warmed my heart. James volunteered to speak, and began to thank me for all that I taught him in the short tim
e that we’ve been working together. I struggled to contain myself as the shivers shot through my body: the sensation, causing my hairs to stand up tall, rattled me inside. I was in awe of the things he said about me, feeling over-sold, and couldn’t help but spring from my spot on the log, run over to him, and hug him like a brother.
Sitting in the dark, cool, night, looking at all the faces around us glowing in the fire’s light, and breathing in every ounce of positive energy that was emitted that night solidified my belief that I am where I belong. With this group, I have already created memories that will give me a whole new feeling of nostalgia. And with my mentor, we have formed one of the strangest, funniest, and over all greatest, mentor-mentee relationships I could have ever imagined.
Thank you LI for this amazing trip. Thank you Sophomore Class, for taking us under your wing. Thank you Group Three, for an awesome weekend. Thank you James, for a lifetime of knowledge.
A song to accompany my feelings while writing this post:
A video to accompany this post: