Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Survival Camp (See pictures below!)

There is a club my school, Haigazian, called the "Extreme Sports Club" and they do activities such as rafting, hiking, biking, caving, snow caving and others. Because the activities they do are mentally and physically challenging, you have to go through a test called "survival camp" in order for them to learn if you are strong enough to enter the club. This is my "survival camp" story...

First of all, we met at Haigazian at 11pm. We drove for 2 hours into the mountains where we were dropped off and had to hike for an hour in the dark to find our campsite. We had to do some trust activities and then we were ordered to go sleep somewhere. No tent, no fire, just the cold hard ground. Then we were woken by yelling and flashlights in our eyes at 5am (still dark) to start running. Then we proceeded to go for a 2-hour hike before the sun even came up. When we arrived back at camp we had various tasks to do. We had to make a shelter, make a raft, make traps, purify water, make fire without matches(never actually happened) and make a stretcher...all with the tools of mother nature and some rope. Also, throughout the day, they would make us stop and do races and push-ups and sit-ups and a variety of torturous activities.

When we were working on the raft in the river, I had to leave the water after about 30 seconds because my feet were so cold that they hurt. When we finished the raft we had to swing from a rope, Tarzan-style, and plunge into the river. After we all did it and were freezing, we were told that we had to stay in the water for 2 HOURS! I thought it was a joke because I honest to God thought we would get hypothermia. But once I realized it wasn't a joke and went along with it, it turned out to be SO fun. By the way, I was the only girl and all the boys were sitting on the side shivering and complaining while I swam and slipped and climbed happily ahead. It has to be the Yooper in me. You guys wouldn't believe it if you saw me. Because I was so tired and overwhelmed and not believing where I was or what I was doing, I got into that wierd mood where EVERYTHING is hilarious and so I was splashing through this river laughing hysterically at the boys and myself and just having so much fun. Probably cause it was the only option other than crying.

After this escapade through the river, we collected firewood, did some rope climbing and relaying, obstacle courses and climbing in uncomfortably high trees. After it got dark we had some reflecting time around the fire and then we were told to go sleep in our shelter. After a couple hours, a couple guys came and "kidnapped" one of the guys and took him blindfolded into the woods and tied him to a tree (please reference the picture below). Then they came back and kicked down the shelter and told us to go find our friend in the woods. When we got back we had to take an actual test (on paper). This was around 1am and I have no idea what I wrote but I'm pretty sure it was garbage which is bad because they said the results are a big part of their decision.

THEN, they told us to pack our stuff and it was time to hike back to the road. My body hurt so much that I could barely walk, my backpack was full of soaking wet clothes, so it was twice as heavy as on the way in, but the idea that it would soon be over helped...a little. We start walking back and realize that the way in had been steeply down-hill which means that the way back was steeply up-hill. I also want to explain that this trail is not like any trail you have walked before. There are points where you are actually climbing rock ledges with a backpack on your back, a sleeping bag in one hand and a flashlight in the other. It was kinda hard.

I was in the front of the group coming back and all of a sudden we heard someone screaming in the back. Someone had fallen off the trail (there was a steep ridge all along the trail) and hit a tree and badly injured his leg. The group started screaming for us to find branches(in the complete darkness) and take off our clothes to make a stretcher. All the while this guy is yelling and moaning. You bet your boots I was calling on my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Finally, we made a stretcher and the guys have pulled him back up onto the trail and start carrying him so we have to carry their bags on top of all our own stuff. The guys with the stretcher went ahead and eventually we realized we had been split into 2 groups and we were lost. For some reason, I wasn't scared...just really annoyed because we were exhausted and didn't have any food or water. We decided to keep following the path rather than sitting in hope that we would reach a road sooner or later. Eventually, after this 2-hour ordeal, we reached the road and guess what? The guy who had "broken" his leg was walking around and laughing. It was all part of the "test". I just lay down in the middle of the road and went to sleep. We still had to wait for the bus to come pick us up, drive 2 hours back to which point I had to walk back to my dorm...where I ate two tangerines and collapsed at 4:30am.

So this is the thing...I won't even find out if I am accepted into the club or not until Friday. I don't know how I appeared to them but after thinking about it for a couple days now I realized that I should be really proud of myself. I think that was one of the hardest things I've ever done and there were so many times, especially near the end, when I couldn't imagine taking one more step...but I did and I did it with spirit.This experience really made me aware of how young I am and that I should be thankful for this body I have that is capable of carrying me through such an experience. Another thing that really surprised me is that I was never scared (except for a moment in the uncomfortably high tree) and it never crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to do something. I was ready for everything and I feel so brave and confident about different aspects of my life because of what I have proved to myself.

Also, you can see from the pictures that this is one of the most beautiful places ever. On the river, under the stars of Lebanon, with waterfalls and mountains on all sides. I'm so thankful that I got to experience Lebanon this way.

All in all, would I do this again? I have honestly never felt more like my actual life was so bad that I had to be dreaming. When we were lost at the end I kept telling myself to wake up. But, since I am stupid and the fact is that I did enter blindly into this experience, I have to recognize that it was really worth a lot to me in terms of what I got to see, what I learned about myself and how it changed there.

The only thing that made the experience bearable was the other guys who were going through it with me (the five of us in the picture with the shelter and the raft). We complained to each other and made fun of everything when the others weren't around and took good care of each other.

Just hope that the next time you get lost in the wilderness, you're with me. I'll take good care of you.