Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's All on the Line

Today I woke up a little earlier to prepare for meeting everyone at 8:00 (instead of 9:00). I walked to the Ratty and sat with some new people from Women and Leadership to eat breakfast (I had just been sitting with ILCers and their roommates before). It was nice, trying to get to know a new group without the hackneyed conversation starters like, "What's your favorite movie?" and I'm proud to say that our interaction was not the least bit awkward. 

This is what we did with the long socks.
When we met outside the dining hall to board the buses, we were handed our lunch bags and a pair of long socks. I again sat next to a girl I didn't know very well (Vivian; she's very nice). 

I guess I should explain the socks. The ropes course is in a pretty wooded area, so ticks are pretty easy to come across there. We tucked our pants into our socks, tied green bug-sprayed bandanas around our ankles, and then put more bug spray everywhere. (Spoiler alert: I still haven't found a tick on me, at least not yet.)

We arrived at the Haffenreffer estate (I commented that it sounded like the guy who named it had had his mouth full when he did), got off the bus, and started doing activities as one giant Leadership Institute group. 

We held out our palms in front of the person to our right, then pointed a finger down and made our best explosion noise when we hit the palm of the person to our left. (I don't mean to brag, but the person next to me asked if I had practiced mine.) Then, we'd listen for a cue word, surrounded by words like it (one word was green, and he said "great" to throw us off) and when he said it, we'd have to try and grab the finger of the person on our right while escaping from the person on our left. I wasn't very good at the game, I was caught once, and never caught the person next to me. 

We split the Leadership Institute into groups, and Women and Leadership was split in half. We named our half "Team Green Machine" because of the green bandanas we tied around our ankles to keep ticks off. If you couldn't tell from my description, we as a group looked pretty darn stylish.

The bandanas on Sarah Day, an RA on my floor

Team Green Machine played Whiz-Bang, which involves a series of "whoosh" and "swoosh," "bang" and "clang," noises that are easy to confuse and only allowed to be used after certain other noises. We then played a game where you look at someone's feet, look up, and if you make eye contact, you hold a scream at each other for as long as you can. My throat is still a little scratchy. 

This is where we did the activities. On the far right, you can see a group doing a lift. 
Then we moved on to an activity where you had to touch the numbers from 1-30 randomly spread out within a circle without having two people in the circle at the same time. The game was simple, and not that much fun, but we met both of our goals through a bunch of good ideas and teamwork. 

Then we did some trust falls in pairs, learning the best way to spot someone (in preparation for the ropes course), and then took turns making a circle around one person who leaned in all directions and was caught and passed around the circle by the others. It was a lot cooler than it sounds, I promise. We even lifted people up to about shoulder-length, which was, again, definitely cooler than it sounds. 

We walked down a path to the ropes course, worried about the ticks and poison ivy that our RAs had mentioned. When we reached our first activity, though, I forgot all about them. Two wires stretched in a V-shape between three trees. Our goal: to get as far as we could, grabbing hands with the person on the other wire. Sonya and I partnered up, and we decided to go first. The wires were only a foot or two off the ground, but since we'd be standing on them, we had two spotters following us on the outside, and a "turtle" hunched over between the two wires (if one of us fell forward, we would land on the back of the "turtle"). As you got farther apart, you'd need more "turtles" to cover the widening distance between the two wires. The sudden transition from moving your second hand off the tree and grabbing your partner's hand was the hardest part, at least for me. As soon as I let go of my stable base, the line between the trees felt like it was shaking fast enough to make a bass note like a guitar string, but Sonya and I managed to push against each other and move pretty far along the line. In fact, our pair needed the most turtles between us (three). If you can't tell, I'm really proud of that, mainly because I usually have terrible balance.

Our first "ropes" activity

We ate lunch, and for one of the first times since I've been on the East Coast, I was cold. I realized too late that I should have brought a jacket when the wind was blowing off the bay towards our eating spot.

The view from the rocky beach

This is my classmate Eve and her awesome sweatshirt

Then we moved on to a different activity, where each of us picked an "animal gesture" and we passed the turn to other people by doing their gesture. Mine was a velociraptor. Then, we tried another "ropes course" activity, where all of us had to fit on a square of wood and swing on a rope from one square to the other and back, in order to avoid getting stuck in the "Peanut Butter Pit" below us and its dangerous trans fats. 

This was one of the last people to go.
 When we all fit on that board, we wouldn't have been
 able to stay on it without grabbing each other's shoulders.
Imagine a huddle of penguins, but tighter.

Sonya went last returning from the board, which was nice of her;
it's harder to get across without someone to help push you forward. 

Our final activity on the ropes course didn't involve ropes. We crammed together on one board again, and this time we were handed two planks, a longer one and a shorter one, which we had to use to cross to not one, but two other squares of wood. This shouldn't have been a big struggle, but after about a minute, we were asked to be silent unless we identified as having a South leadership style (Souths are team players, looking out for the good of the group). We only had three Souths, and because Souths tend to be the ones helping and not dictating, we had a lot of trouble with this one. Some people ended up trying to pantomime actions for the Souths to explain to the group. We dropped the boards a couple of times, and we were punished for that by being forced to sing Britney Spears and Call Me Maybe as a group. When we ran out of time, we had only made it to the second board. This taught me a lot about how important it is to be able to adapt to the situation, and to be able to become a bigger leader (North) when you need to, or to become a big-picture person (East) when you need to. We walked back to the bus in the rain, grouped together, and basically had a giant group hug in a circle. 

My Women and Leadership class had an assignment on explaining two examples of how gender was socially constructed, and I finished my essay pretty easily, but I noticed that I had gotten so wrapped up in my work that I had lost track of time and almost missed dinner (and believe me, I love dinner). It's new to me that this class's homework is just as thought-provoking as our discussions and workshops. 

It was raining on the way back from dinner, but the walk gave me plenty of time to think about how much our class had bonded as a group in one day. Each of the activities we performed together wouldn't have been nearly as fun or useful done individually or with a different group. It really shows how much each of us cares about this program and how much effort we're willing to put in, even if it's just making velociraptor gestures across a circle. 
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