How do I begin to write about the first week of ACTS? Starting a new life in a new state on a new coast with new friends, at a new church and sabbatical program is kind of a lot to recap. And it seems kind of a blur of activities and team building and outdoorsyness all rolled into one glorious week. First, the “campus” which is basically a few buildings smack in the middle of 20 acres of apple orchards. The following pictures are of the Suttons’ house, our dorm, and some of the orchards. In a word- beautiful.
We got all our books. We did the name games. We all said our ages and home states. We learned obscure tidbits about one another in get-to-know-you games (why oh WHY will I ever need to know 18 people’s favorite ice cream flavors or best Halloween costumes? Blackmail?). We got orientated. We got oriented. In a word- campy.
I suppose the best way to recap is to recall a few noteworthy activities from the week- hiking to (and through) Boulder Cave, going to a ropes course for team building activities, camping (my first time ever!), and repelling down a cliff into a ravine 150 below. That would summarize our first week. In a word- naturey.
So, I had a lot of ‘firsts’ in my first week of ACTS- as stated above, my first time camping, which I loved tremendously, except for the actual sleeping on the ground part. Small detail. Then there was repelling, which was easily the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but also one of the most amazingly adrenaline-inducing activities of my life. For the first time ever I am living in a room with four other girls. And we’re not in a hostel in Europe. Also for the first time in my life I am in a place where no one cares that I went to an Ivy League school or lived in the biggest city in America. Which is not to say people are not INTERESTED in that information and inquisitive about my life, they just don’t oooh and aaah like it’s some big grand thing like people back east do. And I think this is good for me. Because I think subconsciously I have come to lean on that for some kind of identity and meaning in life. Which is not to say I shouldn’t value those things, but they should be kept in perspective of what is ultimately worthy and valuable, which I believe to be the awesome love of God and his son Jesus. My education and job have never defined me, but it’s a change to be in a place where they are literally unable to define me. In a word- refreshing.
And now, a little more detail, in words and photos, about our Week 1 activities. First, Boulder Cave. It was a short and easy hike to this beautiful cave that was quite literally filled with boulders. A lovely waterfall added to the serenity. After exploring a bit, we then walked through the cave as a team. In the pitch black darkness. Presumably there was a trail to follow underfoot, but we were not so much able to see said trail because of said darkness. Also presumably we could have avoided the stream in which I stepped up to my calf in icy water, had I stayed on the “trail.” It was a great way to be stripped of our natural coping strategies and work as a team to avoid hazards and make our way through. Once out the other side, our fearless leader Dan decided it would be more fun to hike out through the creek bed rather than the nice simple path on which we came up to Boulder Cave. So we adventured around rocks and trees and generally got wet as we followed the creek back to the vans. It was awesome.
Then there was the ropes course. Having never done one, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it was most certainly an excellent team-building day. We had to solve all kinds of quirky and random problems, mostly physical, mostly requiring the entire team working together to solve. From balancing on wire ‘rope’ courses helping one another along, to swinging one by one on a rope to a 4x2’ platform on which all 15 of us had to stand, we learned about our group strengths and, more importantly, weaknesses.
The whole team!
That brings us to camping. Setting up tents. Roasting marshmallows. Brushing our teeth with river water. Eating camp food (oh how I loved those sausage links for breakfast!). Enjoying nature. Enjoying each other. This must be what life was like before the internet.
Setting up my first tent with my tent buddy Emily!
Last, but certainly not least, was repelling. This was another venture spearheaded by the ever-adventurous Dan Hayes. Basically he and some other people discovered a waterfall that drops over into a ravine/canyon, the bottom of which you can’t see from the top, unless you get dangerously close to the edge. And keep in mind, with all of these outdoorsy activities I’m talking about, there aren’t fences or man-made barriers that are so common in today’s lawsuit-prone America. It’s just nature. Undeveloped and unstructured. And I find it to be unbelievably refreshing. And also, no one in ACTS is forced to do any of these things, it is all optional, so don’t think that we’re all lemmings marching off of cliffs. It’s also completely safe, and I know that without a shadow of doubt. Right, so, we repelled. I didn’t particularly understand the concept of leaning back into the harness, and every instinct in my scared body was screaming to stay upright. Which of course made for some particularly difficult repelling. I just remember saying to myself, “Liz, DO NOT look down until you are no longer scared.” Because I knew that if I looked down into the 150 feet of air I would probably have nothing short of a heart attack right there and then. Eventually though, I settled into the idea of leaning back into the harness and I was able to enjoy the beauty around me. Much of the drop was just a free “fall” on the rope, which was much more manageable than walking down the cliff.
Really really dirty
Once down in the ravine we of course had to make our way out. And we weren’t going back up the way we came. So we hiked along the river and then rock climbed freehand up about 20-30 feet to get out. And oddly enough, I enjoyed that WAY more than going down. Maybe it was the challenge of finding places to hold or places for my feet, or maybe I just prefer going UP than down, or the intellectual challenge and strategy involved, but it was a perfect end to a day filled with getting “outside my box.”
And that, in a not-so-short recap, was ACTS Week 1. Though I am writing this during the end of my third week, I thought it best to be chronological with my posts about ACTS, even if not much about this blog has been orderly of late. For the next week we are going to the Oregon coast and I will be without internet. Posting will resume when I return. Thanks for reading.