With the start of something new, feelings of excitement, anxiety, uncertainty, doubt, expectancy, hope, and dread often accompany it. The way in which each person manages these conflicting emotions will often look radically different. Some people thrive in this environment, exuding confidence and self-assuredness, while others withdraw.
On the first day of our program, when everyone is in this place of new beginning, the social dynamics are a fascinating thing to observe. First impressions and appearance are key. For many students, this year is an opportunity to start fresh and perhaps shed some of what they were known for back home. With these complicated dynamics at play, the group briefly meets each other and then hops into the vans, heading towards Manitoba Pioneer Camp for a week of adventure in the wilderness.
This was my second year participating in the canoe trip and, while the group may have been different, I was amazed once again at how the trip has a way of bringing people together and stripping down some of the barriers, fears, and masks that can be present at the beginning of a new experience.
The canoeing portion itself provides an image of the progression of life on Outtatown. On the first day, most people have no idea how to steer a canoe, resulting in a chaotic and slow day of paddling. We start off with many canoes turning in circles or ending up on the shore. As the day progresses, the speed picks up and the lines become straighter.
This year, we experienced some strong winds on the second and third day that, while challenging, provided an opportunity to improve our skills, work together, and surprise ourselves with what we were capable of accomplishing. As each day passed, we quickly settled into a rhythm of setting up camp at a new site each day: putting up our tents, gathering wood, cooking dinner over the fire, and sharing stories and laughter together into the night.
There is a certain level of vulnerability that comes with being separated from many of the comforts and distractions we are used to in everyday life. With only nature and people around us, we engage with each other and our surroundings in an intentional way that encourages relationship, authenticity, and the beginnings of trust.
While only four days long, the canoe trip is a foundational part of our program, and it accurately encapsulates some of the hope and expectation for the year to come. When we have to live life differently and with intention, our focus is drawn beyond ourselves to both those we are with and to the God who created us all.
– Jannelle Dyck, South Africa Site Leader, 2017-18