I never thought I’d have to call on my acting skills to save my ass in the middle of the forrest.
A few weeks ago, I assisted my friend B in a trek across Waiheke island with a group of young people (about age 14). The students were completing the two-day camping trip in exchange for a bronze medal for the Sir Edmund Hilary Award. This was their first time carrying camper-packs, cooking over camp fires, and setting up their own tents. Since there were 39 young people, B called on myself and two others to supervise the trek. The planned timetable was a three hour hike across the island, camping over night, then hiking back the next morning… Here’s how it actually went down: My group got MAD LOST.
The group of students split in half and another supervisor and I got the girls group (19 total). Since it’s New Zealand’s rainy season, we expected the rain. We didn’t expect the tramp to be so confusing. Once we reached the first dead end, we realized we had been going the wrong direction. In total, we probably made the girls turn around 5 or 6 times at least. Every time I had to say to myself, “ok – don’t let them know we’re so lost. Your objective is to keep them calm.” I used tactics like making jokes, telling stories, asking the girls questions about where their from, and allowing them to sit down for food (while the other assistant and I figured out where we were). One time we stumbled upon a vineyard when we realized we were going the wrong way AGAIN. At this point, I turned to the girls and said, “Ok- we wanted to show you guys the Waiheke vineyards! Waiheke wine is actually very special because it…” to which the girls replied with a roaring sigh of disapproval and a “we’re lost again, aren’t we?” look. I felt terrible for them – they had to carry these huge camper-packs that probably weighed half their own body weight and it had taken us 2 hours to get through the first third of the trek. The rain wasn’t letting up either. Somehow we managed to get back on our way.
I realized as we walked that everyone was watching their feet rather than looking up to see what surrounded them. Everyone, including myself, was concerned with getting from point A to point B rather than observing and enjoying the process of getting there. I thought about acting and the rehearsal process here. It’s so tempting to be focused on product and the end result… but in all honesty, the glory is in the journey it takes to get there. In theory it sounds like a cliche empty
gesture, but I think this journey made me put it into practice. Especially under the circumstances it was easy to get wrapped up in the troubles of the hike – but I managed to remind myself I had the wonderful opportunity of hiking through an island bush on a beautiful New Zealand day. I mean, come on.
As it began to get dark, we finally made it to the campsite as the rain was pouring down. B may or may not have had to find us in the bush and lead us the last 15 minutes of the trek…. but that’s subjective…. The night in the tent was a rough one due to the mini monsoon happening outside. The next morning B told me there was a King Tide that night in addition to a full moon which caused the weather to be pretty rough that evening.
Though the girls complained a lot while we were walking (I don’t blame them), I interviewed them after we returned to the shore for the final time and heard positive reviews. It seems that the trip was something that was enjoyed upon reflection rather than while it’s happening. This could be due to the amount of physical labor it requires? When I asked them the most important thing they learned, common replies were in regard to unity, community, cooperation and listening.