I don’t know if this is a whole thing at every school, but I just got back from a school retreat. You know, that week long excursion they say is compulsory yet still send out a permission note? The one where you have an unreasonable curfew, and they keep telling you to ‘get out of your comfort zone’ which is ironic because the squeaky bunk beds with the plastic mattresses and possible infestations are about the most comfortable thing in that place.
In case you haven’t already caught on, it wasn’t exactly the best time of my life. And I’m about to tell you all the wonderful, fantastic and spectacular things I found outside that comfort zone. Buckle in, or don’t, because the bus rides are the best memories you’re going to have left after this.
Okay so here’s your itinerary (yeah we didn’t get one, thanks for that).
Day 1 – The Monday
You’re going to wake up at 6 am for no reason because we all know you aren’t going to bother to change your t-shirt and wash your face.
Look outside! There is lightning and a rainbow! If that’s not an omen for your upcoming week, then I don’t know what is.
You’ll get to school, already half drenched and you’ll pack your suitcase into the pile of other wet bags and hope to God that you’re wrong and that you didn’t forget everything you thought you did in the car.
You’re still waiting around, but you weren’t the slow one! You’re going to look around for your friends, only to find a person you were assured was not coming for their own good here and not well at all. She’s not crying yet, though. Don’t worry; the crying will come.
“No later than” 8:00 am.
You’ll run to the bus with your pre-organised bus buddy and realise she is an angel as she snags the front seat on the double decker.
One of those girls has a portable speaker, and you get to have some say in the music, although you don’t mind what it is. Spirits are up as you drive your way out of the rain but eventually right back in.
You get food! Looking forward to real food, you ran inside the eating hall and presented with the most gross-looking “chicken burgers” you’ve ever seen. You dare not to try them.
Sometime after lunch.
You get split into mini groups to do the mud course, which consisted of running about a km in your trusty fake Connie’s you got from Big W in year 8. These are the only shoes you bought. You have to keep stopping because there are about three or four people who, unlike you, haven’t had all this pent up energy from the bus ride. You will start the mud course with these people, but will quickly lose them on the way through.
Nearly two hours later.
Yeah! You smashed that. And by that I mean you finished it. I mean you and your friend Lucy finished it last, but you did everything despite the nearly torrential rain. Everyone else is all grumbly and tired, but the self-motto for this trip is not to let other bad attitudes bring your energy down, so you remain pumped all through the shared showers and throwing away of clothes which got ruined for good. You salvage your shoes, though, they will be wet all week.
After dinner, you’ll go back to your cabin for a little while. Thinking you can get away with anything, stay there even though you know w should be doing night activities (you know, all the cheesy spiritual stuff) but you get found with five minutes left. No, they did not believe you were napping, and no one woke you up. Yes, you got away with it anyway but had to attend the last five minutes, but that was all right because you really had to poop.
There was not a lot of sleeping going on that night.
Day 2 – 2sday; twice the fun!
For breakfast this morning, they had crispy bacon, and even though you don’t eat eggs, you knew these weren’t good ones. So you just took like four yoghurts and all the watermelon. Yeah, look… no one seems to mind the food but you. You realise how picky you actually are and you want to go home, where they have herbs and spices and water pressure in the showers.
Yeah, your shoes dried a little bit, but this is as good as it gets because it’s raining today and you’ll be doing activities! The activity groups they put you in mean that you’re basically by yourself. You laugh because this is ironic considering you spent all of the last week assuring worried people that their day groups would be okay and they’d have friends there. But finding someone to talk to isn’t exactly a weakness of yours anyway, so you’ll manage.
You do the giant swing first. You go third last. Before this, you run back to your cabin to grab a jumper, forgetting that you actually packed a rainproof coat. Some of your friends stayed in the cabin this morning to heal a little. There hasn’t been a time so far where a teacher has opened the door to your cabin, and no one was huddled in a corner somewhere hugging with tears making us wetter then the rain was.
So you hug your tired and rightfully resting friends and head back. You get in your harness and chicken out half way up, but they keep going until you’re about 40cm from the top and then they stop, you wish you went all the way then you pull the cord and go flying. I’m pretty sure the entire rec centre heard you scream “what the f***” on the way down, including your yr co, who remarked “well at least she’s awake” referring to the antics of your ‘nap’ last night.
The next activity was archery. Not bad for a leftie, but then, we did get the better bows.
You’re waiting in line for the best meal you’ll have this whole time. You walk up the stairs, and the Argentinian exchange student asks what we’re having, and you laugh, thinking he’s joking. Sausage sangas. You ask what they eat in Argentina, and he says very matter-of-factly “people”. You completely believe him in fear of offending your only friend for the day (and having him eat you).
We get out on the water for canoeing. This is really honestly so good and refreshing. You’re in the front of the boat, and the Argentinian (Tom) and Vietnamese (Warren) guys are busy having cultural discussions while you hold the team. Until you don’t. We flip the boat (on ya Warren) and have to flip it back over, with poor Warren dealing with his mortal fear of water. There go your shoes and Warren’s glasses. Except for your shoes just got wet, Wes never seeing those glasses again… or seeing anything for that matter. You get heaps of free time after this.
Although the food isn’t great (to you at least), dinner is really good from now on, because it’s someone’s birthday every day and they play good music and your year group discovered that we should definitely make the next High School Musical movie right here and now.
Day 3 – Wednesday… It’s sunny, and you will be inside.
You woke up bright and early. This is the first day with good weather so far, and yep, you’ll be stuck inside. You went for a shower after the best sleep of your life, where the pressure actually wasn’t too bad. And then you went and jumped in the lake. Well, you didn’t jump in the lake, but you went for a stroll with your friends which descended slowly into the water, you had to get changed.
Okay, so last year at year 10 retreat, the youth mission team they had come in for the spiritual ‘games’ day type of thing included possibly the coolest person you will ever meet. But this group does their best. It’s actually pretty fun until they stop with the games and start with the sad, deep stuff which you disagree with on every possible level. You have a nap around lunch time and come back with a headache and a worse attitude than before.
You eventually get your spirits back up, though, during free time you’re friends had the best chat by the late discovered lake spot from this morning. Then meet up with the rest of the group and go for an adventure, just living in sheer happiness and support for the hard stuff we’d endured and what we knew was coming.
Dinner was kinda great, again. And then we had the liturgy.
Now, what you’ve got to understand here is that tomorrow is the ‘would-be’ 17th birthday of a boy who was in our year group, until late last year. Our year group, I feel, was never given the proper time and environment to mourn this loss. I think the teachers were expecting a few tears from his mates and lots of prayers when they let us spread out around the hall amongst activities set out for us. We all knew what this mass was for, even though no one said it. They did not account for the emotional response the teachers would receive. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure out how that one room held that much pain at once.
That night, being our last night, we were basically told that a blind eye would be turned if we wanted to sneak out of our cabins and abuse our special circumstances. The girls chanted “fight night” over and over. I don’t know what happened after that. My friend and I went out at about 1 am, and were very disappointed by the emptiness of the site, but then, we were only out for about 20 minutes, and people said they went out later than that.
Day 4 – Thursday
We pack up rooms early and are misguided into thinking we are having pancakes for breakfast. We didn’t get pancakes. It feels really weird being around so many people that morning who you’d never spoken to before, and yet, had understood and been there for the night before at their weakest. We wore green in remembrance for the boys birthday, and we did a competition in his honour all day. His best mates won the comp, rightfully… and they lead us in the most emotional ‘Happy Birthday’ ever sung. I think it’s safe to say that getting on the bus home after lunch, everyone sat and the word ‘exhausted’ took on every meaning possible, and yet exhausted wouldn’t do that feeling justice.
I just wrote four pages and still, I feel as though I haven’t even come close to any description that could do that week justice.
“In my humble, but mind-blowing opinion,”