Coincidence, chance, and comraderie

Whew. It has been awhile since my last post…I can explain…(famous last words). Thursday had me facing the trip of new student orientation. Luckily, someone had dropped out last minute, and Helen Kang asked me to go, little did I know it was the best decision to say yes! 🙂 After school Friday, we boarded buses to travel to Picocanoa, <!–acheck out…http://www.picocanoa.com.mx/. We have three coach buses, basically one for seniors/freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. This allowed us to have an empty seat as teachers, (Thanks Helen!) On board was Dan (FROM SLIPPERY ROCK! I found out there are 8 of us from SRU as they also do an internship here from SRU!) and Chris who was a 10th grade counselor. We were in good company!

I figured 2-3 hours away, right? (LONG LAUGH) ….When I realized this was the bottom tip of Vera Cruz, 7 hours away, I was amazed! 🙂 We left at 3:30, along the way we saw the scenery change to only landscapes you could imagine on a postcard or a film. We stopped around 5:00? at a small rest stop to gather a bite to eat as well drink bathroom, etc. Turns out one of the students left his iphone and cell phone on the counter top, in the store, 😦 and Dan, who was behind the student, grabbed it in time before someone noticed it or had a chance to steal it. This was the plan, play dumb and teach him NOT to leave important things laying around…we’ll see how that goes…;)

On the bus, back on route, love the fact this bus had a dvd player! 🙂 We started to watch X MEN, but it kept freezing, so we watched I am Legend, 127 hours (WHAT A FILM!), ******, and Despicable Me. Why the *****? Okay, well let me explain, as we were watching I am Legend, I explained to Chris, who is from the UK, what an AWESOME and UNBELIEVABLE film 7 Pounds is, perhaps one of the best…what are the chances of this film being with us? Seriously? This was like 2-3 hours BEFORE that film appeared as one of the choices, seriously? it was HERE! I was shocked! AMAZING, so we watched it, it was AWESOME….Weird coincidence but thankful! An hour after we left the rest stop, the student came back inquiring about his iphone and cell phone, and I felt so guilty not saying anything, I played dumb, as did Dan, but eventually he told him and I was amazed such expensive hardware could be left lying around. I know how guilty I felt as I have done the same thing, and realized sometimes it is easy to take for granted the technology we can get our hands on!

It was around 9:00 PM and we were climbing a huge mountain, the fog was so thick we had to pull over at one point, and when we looked down we realized how far UP the mountain we were, below was a dot of a road, and the fog obviously delayed our travel, scenery still enough to take your breath away.

We finally arrived, and the MOST amazing picture, we were driving into an encampment of grass huts, cabins, lighted torches, I swear I was entering the show Survivor, EVERYTHING, I mean EVERYTHING, resembled the show survivor! Were we being kicked off? (Really everyone was starving!)

Here was our arrival location!

We left luggage at the parking lot, walked to a large grass thatched covered area for eating, and began eating. You name the type of Mexican food, and they had everything. From Thursday night late until Sunday afternoon when we left, amazing. Drink, appetizer, even pancakes mixed in, the food was unbelievable, the coffee even better, the workers, counselors, directors, AMAZING.

This was my first injection of all Spanish conversation. I spent so much time paying attention to body language and my surroundings to pick up on bits and pieces of Spanish, as well as those students around me who knew strictly Spanish, it was amazing to be in Mexico, not a native speaker, and have all this around you, I cannot put it into words.

We headed to the boy’s side of the camp a little walk, and found while the women’s cabins were thatched, the boys were huge canopy tents, canvas-like with bamboo supported poles, with the bathroom completely open on the top and the rest enclosed, it was, WOW. Plants I had never seen before growing everywhere, plants growing from and hanging down in the showers, it was a mini paradise.

Aside from the MONSTER spider, larger than any spider I ever saw, Wait until you see the picture I post, all was awesome! We managed to get the spider into my backpack and I slid him outside safely. It managed to fall on my face briefly, not a great moment, but it was the question, “Are you afraid of spiders” Dan asked me that freaked me out at first, lol…..

The morning we went right to it, we were green team, pitted against yellow, orange, and blue. We received bandannas to represent out teams and broke into our respective groups. Our first day would be team games to work together, green versus yellow team, orange and blue heading for the river to white water raft. we needed to use 5 people to slide a tire up over a telephone pole, then back on without touching We were enclosed in a square of rope, an had to get everyone out the first, we had to walk with huge plank-like boards in a relay, others type exercises helped us realize we needed to work together as a team. Imagine coming from Mexico City, no humidity, about 80 degrees tops Fahrenheit, and arriving in Picocanoa, total humidity, similar to Delaware, at least 90 degrees. You can imagine how it felt after these difficult and challenging exercises. It was rewarding to meet our teams, and work and compete alongside each other, but we were all soaked to the bone!

We received a break, changed, showered (one of many that day!) and headed back for lunch. I could go on for HOURS about the food, but alas, imagine the best home cooked and original spread of Mexican food available, and you would have a slight % of what it was like!

Onto some late afternoon opportunities at the pool, the pool, ohmygosh, well, look at the link above and you can see how resort-like everything was, amazing! We were scheduled for ziplining in the evening. I couldn’t believe my ears, seriously? ZIPLINING! SCared to death but wanted to do it for so long! YEAH!

We rode in a bus to the site, walked a bit to the first platform, and COWABUNGA! Holy high up we were! I did this as a practice run in D.C. with my cousins, but never imagined the real thing with trees and clouds and the mist right in front of us, almost as high as some of the smaller mountains, gulp! Elizabeth, one of the students in my green(Verde, I got to know that word very well from chanting it all weekend!) group had never done this and was petrified, ( I was too I just showed it better!), and she was very afraid of heights, but had the guts to be up there and try it! 🙂 I was the last one, hooked on, and was so nervous I kept pulling the break. But by the third platform, I realized, RELAX (is that possible that high up?!) and I let go of the break and began to really see what it was like to zoom through the tree. The Next to last platform was a little freaky, we are in one of the highest trees, I mean the highest!, and had to climb a wooden ladder up to another tree platform….I have to admit I was shaky and sweaty scared, but the experience was unbelievable. The guides with the equipment spoke straight Spanish, but somehow, I knew what they were saying, indicating, I was so nervous it just took me a while…

On the way back, we were waving to everyone we passed. Imagine the buses in Delaware that are school buses, but have the tops cut off to store the watermelons. This was similar to the bus we had, it had to roof and seats, but sat up high where the driver was sitting below where the passengers sat. A small ladder on each side, about 4-5 on each side, where we climbed up and got into seats that held about 5 across. We were all happy that we did the experience and enjoyed each other on such a phenomenal day!

The evening brought on of course, more good food. Being the first real full night, lots of energy! We played a cool game of capture the flag, several of them! Also, if you still were up for more, we had the chance to take a late walk (from 11:30 PM – 1:30 PM). I backed out of that as I was afraid I would not be able to get up the next morn for the RIVER RAFTING! 🙂 SO I packed it in and headed to bed.

Next morn, I was raring to go rafting! Ate breakfast, ran over to get the helmet and life preserver. Cool thing was we practiced being tipped in the raft in the pool, then practiced being hauled in the raft. (Not that any of us were going to tip over, right?) We readied ourselves, switched raft partners a few times, and I noticed how large these waves were compared to the waves we experienced in Ohiopyle, they were so small compared to this, lol…

As an omen, the third or fourth rapid, I saw the rapid coming, towering over us, bloop, over and all I could see was river water, I went under, went under, and grab! Felt the raft rope, and hung on, was pulled in. 🙂 Yeah! However, the fourth/fifth rapid got me again, and this time, I felt for the rope, no rope, felt the raft above me under the water, felt shoes in the raft above me, but the rapids carrying me, under, I went under, over, around a few times, maybe 5?!, finally, after swallowing half the water it seemed, the kayaker guide was right on me, I grabbed the rope on the front of his kayak, and held on. I was head above water again, but, whew, knew I was going to go through a another rapid hanging onto his kayak, wow. I was just glad to be above water. I was ferried over via kayak to the nearest raft, hauled in, so weak, I fell backwards again, lol, then hauled in again. I looked back and saw two others in our raft had also fallen out. Elizabeth, the brave zipliner, had disappeared from view for several minutes and I am sure was more panicked than I was! I was trying to regain my breath from injesting so much water! I never thought there would be repercussions later from that water…:) FORESHADOWING! lol…We finished the rest of the raft trip through the rapids perfectly, the scenery was beautiful and we calmed down from out scares….:)

The ride back was awesome as the students broke into all kinds of songs, and we were all glad to be on dry land, but despite the near scares, it was an incredible experience and we realized the “professionality” of our guides kept us together! They were awesome!

Lunch was GREAT, we then moved to rock climbing! Watching some of the smallest students performs climbs I never knew they were capable of was AWESOME! We cheered each other on and throughout all these days the counselor assigned to our team kept thinking up new cheers, including cheering VERDE, Tsunami, and may others! We also participated in many name games that helped us know all of our team members perfectly, including a late night game of charades which was awesome. For the first time I knew all 14-15 students names in one day thanks to the cool games we did! 🙂 The night was early though, we had flashlight hide and seek, where one one team had to go and find all the other members, we did alright! We had a rough couple of point days the first day, but overall, we did well and really came together as a group. The night ended with a bonfire where the classes reflected on their experiences there, and I felt the need to pitch in and told them what a great class they were as sophomores and told them what a fall down it would be once they returned home, it was important they kept in their hearts the feelings they had at camp. The pool party, dancing, traditional people thrown into the pool was awesome and although events waned into 1:00 at last, it was unbelievable to be a part of it.

Coming home was so fast, we woke up, had a GREAT breakfast, packed on the buses, (yellow team won overall the competition…:( but we still had a BLAST! We zoomed on the way home, and returned much faster without the fog, and the return into Roma hit us hard as we realized how much of an experience we all had. The rain pouring gave us each a challenge to hold what we learned and experience in our hearts long after the camp.

That night, Sunday the river hit me in other ways I did not expect. Sickness from ever corner, I will not go into details, hit me long into the morning. I found myself taking my first day off, and I could barely get out of bed. Somehow that day passed, and here is Tuesday and I am able to eat and drink again….:) The river had it’s revenge, but what I took back from this experiences was the comraderie and chance of knowing a truly GREAT group of students….:)

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About Harry Brake

Employee of ASF in Mexico City, Librarian, Media crazy! :)
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