|Novigrad at sunrise (around 5am, yikes!)|
Part 1 - Adventures in growing up in less than ten minutes
I recall receiving a phone call halfway through the morning telling me what time I needed to be at the hall to begin preparations for the trip. It was early afternoon when we met in the dining hall of the school and were greeted by cheery Margaret and anyone who had, much to their displeasure, arrived early.
“Ye need to empty yer bags and pack ‘em again.” I was told. Brilliant. My mum and I had spent a whole hour of our lives – an hour that we will never be able to reclaim (but if you’re listening, God, it would be nice to have that hour, and the three hours I once spent on a broken-down train in the Channel Tunnel, back) – stuffing thick walking socks and plastic cutlery (spork, anyone?) into one huge blue 65 litre rucksack, and upon being told I was required to empty the damn thing I could’ve exploded with rage. However, apparently I had signed up for this, so I plonked myself down on the layer of dust hovering above the floor and started unpacking. “And ye need to put some team kit in there too.” I could kill.
The surface of the hall somewhat resembled a demolition site – it was as if we had all gathered the unwanted junk we had been accumulating over the years and launched it into a giant pile of tent components and, I’m shuddering just thinking about it, Beanfeast sachets. As I stood up to take in the sight, I found myself experiencing sudden feelings of relief – the only advantage to arriving after the majority of the others was, of course, that most of the team kit had gone. Me: 1, life: 0.
If I’m being honest, I don’t have the faintest idea where everybody’s baggage – both metaphorically and literally - disappeared to after that. My mind seems to have skipped a large, yet presumably very dull, period of time in which we probably sat around on the floor and did nothing while Margaret gave us ‘medication interviews’ (yes, interviews about any medication we may, or may not, have been on at the time).
After this lengthy spell of boredom ended, I recall being sent on a ‘mission to find some pens’. Somehow, I ended up in the tech block. Why? Because obviously when you’re looking for a few pens, tech classrooms are the places to visit… One thing that I definitely recall, and am reminded of every time I look at my left arm, is the moment that I found myself on the floor. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up there, other than that a puddle of water was involved, but I can report that I still have the scar to prove it happened. Me: 1, life: 1.
One large injury later, we had both pens and a role to fulfil for the next 24 hours. Somebody ‘cleverly’ invented the role of ‘checkspert’ (in other words, somebody who is rather reluctantly given the vital role of ensuring nobody loses anything), a role with which I was trusted for both the five hour coach trip and 2.5 hour flight to Croatia… you know, the most stressful moments for a person in charge of everybody’s passports.
(You don’t need to know that Katie left her passport on the plane…)
As somebody who had lived her entire life with an all-encompassing fear of being away from home, I was tense. It’s all well and good to brush the issue aside with a quick joke, but as we left the hall and saw our parents anxiously waiting for us to leave, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do this anymore. You could just run, I told myself, you can run away and hide until they all leave. But then, I’d have been wasting months and months of weary fundraising. All of the stress and struggle would have been wasted and all I’d have to show for it would be a huge rucksack and a few loose tent pegs. So, I just kept walking instead.
Sixteen suddenly felt very young. We were all, in effect, small children leaving their parents for the first time. Years of avoiding school residentials and sleepovers with friends were very much coming back to haunt me. The boys were self-assured. They were calm and confident, but there was a mutual understanding that they were all, internally, a bit of a mess. The girls, on the other hand, were quivering wrecks. One wailed and clutched her mum with the fragility and hold of a small child, another's fingers were wrapped delicately around those of her boyfriend, and even the solid bravado of a third could be seen crumbling as she watched her sisters playing in the distance. Us: 0, Life: 1000.
It was humbling, seeing everybody at their rawest. I didn’t remember them all as people who I'd argued with over fundraising and who I barely knew at all, I saw them as just people - people who make up our team.
More tomorrow! SOTD is Jack Johnson's Constellations, a song that reminds of me of Croatia...