Thanks to Manjika for writing about her 15 day Rafting & Mountaineering course! Fear, marvel, meaning, happiness, pain, community are all part of her story. She got the full course experience, and we hope she keeps always searching for answers to the big questions! All photos by Dave Erbe.
A butterfly flaps its wings to kiss the bud of the flower. My first greeting was not that perfect, but it was my first meeting with people who were born here in the U.S. Everything seemed very different than my usual life and the people who normally surround me. This experience was like a small butterfly flying with open arms. Even though I am an English learner and small human being, I reached out in the wilderness to find myself, who I want to be and to find the answers to the questions I had in my mind.
The first day of rafting wasn’t exciting but it also wasn’t boring. However, the night float on the first day was marvelous. While floating on the flat water and being able to see the stars up in the sky, my heart missed my family and my teacher, Meg O’Neill, who helped me and two other fellow friends to come on this wonderful course.
Meanwhile, our instructor Dave asked us the questions about our goals, and why are we here in this course? And what we should do to help the community? At this point, early in my course, I had no goals nor any answers to the questions that Dave had for us. As we all made the progress on the river section, we had a fun time but at the same time my mind was thinking about difficult questions, like “what makes life meaningful?” There were no answers to this question in my mind.
July 10, the rapid day, we had to do 28 rapids on the Colorado River. Everyone seemed excited, but I felt overwhelmed, because of my fear of falling off the boat. Seeing big waves, drops, and obstacles was frightening to me. The hardest part for me was finding the route and making the marks because not everything is true that is seen by our open eyes.
I didn’t know when we finished our part in the rapids. Maybe I was focusing on the commands that my instructors were giving us. Maybe I was having fun with it… When I think about these moments and my fear, I feel like my action took a huge part. This taught me that, even though you have a hard and fearful time, if you tell your heart it’s okay, you will just have fun with it. You’ll never feel or see the fear that is on your way.
Likewise, I did have fear for the mountaineering section because I have scoliosis and I am afraid of heights. On July 13 while we were doing a small day hike Dave and I had many conversations about things we do in our lives. I also asked my question to him: “What makes life meaningful?” At first, he didn’t have an answer, but when I asked the same question to him again. He said “umm… anything that makes me happy. I get happy whenever I do my favorite things. I think happiness is important in life.” He seemed like he was still figuring out the answer.
Moments later, he asked me a question: “can we measure happiness?” I didn’t answer the question, but I was thinking that there is no way to measure happiness. I think in life, happiness comes in a moment and become a memory. We cannot measure how much happiness we had at that moment, and soon, it’ll just become a happy memory.
For two days, we didn’t get to the top of any mountains, due to thunderstorms. July 16, the epic day, was the important day for me because we were trying to achieve our goal and try to find a good spot to camp for one day. I was also the LOD (Leader of the Day). On this day, I had a fear that I wouldn’t be able to lead the group and we might not get to camp. I had negative feelings and other students were crying because of the heights. But when I heard crying from my back, which made me feel that I can do this. I was more focused on the pain that I had in my legs which made me forget to lead my group. I was so tired that I didn’t even have the fear of falling from the mountain. I was focusing on getting the result. Somehow we all made it to the camp on that day.
July 17, we woke up at 5:45 am and our plan was to leave the camp at 6:00 am. The day was long with the heavy backpacks on. We had a meeting at 5:00 pm, and during the meeting, Dave talked about the Solo Day starting today. Our solo was 24 hours. He talked about how solo was invented. It was nice hear the story behind it. He also talked about rules and what should we do if we see the animals near our tarps. It was the time to go. One of our instructors, Dan, shared the quote and we had to be quiet till tomorrow. For me, the solo night went so well. I slept like a tiger. On this day, I was thinking back about what we had done on course and what I’ve learned from the hiking. Did I improve personally? Also, I thought about the epic day. Thinking about these things deeper in my mind, I did not find the deeper meaning I was looking for. Maybe I will understand someday in the future. But one thing this course taught me was thinking about the process gives a better result, if you think about the result a lot before the process than your energy is wasted in gaining the result which is not worth.
I would like to thank my teacher Meg O’Neill who helped me and my friends to come on this course. I did not know before that the Outward Bound school existed. Without this help, I would not be writing this blog post. Thank you! Just 15 days had a lot to teach us. I think everybody from my group has learned something and hopefully, they will apply in their daily life. I did learn some things from this course, but still I’m figuring out an answer to my own question, “what makes life meaningful?” Also I am figuring out the way to put these things into my daily life and into my community. These 15 days brought everyone so close that I will carry them in my heart. The instructors were amazing and understanding in every situation. Thank you, Dave, Cara, Noah, Conor, Dan and Annie for being close to each and every student. Life is more than just an experience. Let’s say today a small butterfly has spread its wings to let go of old cycles of life to find new things in those new flowers of life ahead.