I am not an outdoor enthusiastic. That is putting it a bit mildly. You will never hear me suggest "Let's go for hike." I don't like the cold, or the extreme heat, I am more of a 79 degrees without humidity type of a gal. I don't like bugs. I don't really like to get dirty. I don't like to sweat, or have an accelerated heat rate. Growing up my family LOVED to be outside. Pretty much from the time they woke up until the time for bed, they were outside. If it weren't for the fact that I look like my mother, I would have thought I was adopted. I appreciate, metaphorically speaking the beauty of the great outdoors, but it's really not my thing. My parents used to call me "Princess", and not in the affectionate way I call my girl, it was more in a sarcastic way.
When I was in public school, our school would go to the "Frink Centre". The Frink Centre is an outdoor education centre. We would hike through the forest and look at nature. On one trip we put on hip waders and took nets to catch bugs to look at. Our nature guide was named "Timber" and he knew a lot about nature. As a kid I actually didn't mind the Frink Centre. I was not a big fan of school, and so it was better outside, then learning math (not a math-athlete).
My kids go to the same schools that I did as a child. It's pretty neat. I discovered that they still took some of the same trips, namely The Frink Centre. My first trip to the Frink Centre was with Gabe's class. It was an eye opener to say the least. It was freezing cold, and yet somehow there was mud, mud that worked its way up my pant legs, and into my running shoes. I got saddled with all of the unruly kids in Gabe's class for my group. I spent most of my time trying to stay warm and locating the wanders from my group. I learned a lot on that first trip. I learned that I HATE the Frink Centre, and that school trips in the future would be challenging. That same first scene was to repeated itself, well ... repeatedly with each of the kids.
A few weeks ago I was at Grace's (she's in grade 6) school when her teacher asked me if I could go with the class to the Frink Centre. I tried to not openly shudder, even though on the inside I was practically convulsing. I assured her teacher (who is a sweetheart) that someone from our family would be there. I then went home and set about trying to trick my parents into going on the trip. After my initial attempts at trickery failed, I begged. Mom shared that she LOVED The Frink Centre, but she just didn't feel like her hip would be up for it, damn. That night when Christopher got home I told him that he had to take the day off work to go to the Frink Centre. He couldn't, too many people away, damn. It was me, I was going to the dreaded Frink Centre.
The night before the trip I had the whiney mantra "I hate the Frink Centre. I hate the Frink Centre." This mantra continued into that morning, only a bit more frequently, and with a bit more of a panicked tone to it. The weather forecast for Wednesday was cold and rainy, it figured. The morning of the Frink Centre trip I met up at the school with one of the other Mom's. This mom happens to be the mom of one of Grace's friends, and a lady who I consider to be a friend. We decided to drive together. We stopped and got Tim Horton's Coffee on our way out of town. The day was already starting to look up. It was supposed to rain, and when we arrived it was sunny and nice and warm, the day was getting a little bit better. The bus arrived just after we got there, and we were off to meet the nature interpreter, Paul. He told the kids that we were going to be doing three activities.... the survival game, shelter building and finally a nature walk. My heart did not fill with joy for any of these suggested activities.
For the survival game the kids all went to a forested area that had been roped off. In the game area were "food" and "water". 6 of the kids were "fox", and they had 4 lives. The fox needed to eat rabbits (take their wooden life token) and get water to survive. The rest of the kids were "rabbits" and they needed to find food and water to survive, and were given 6 lives. The adult volunteers (me) were "weather". If weather saw any foxes or rabbits they had to give up a life (wooden token). The teachers were "human influence". If "human influence" saw any fox or rabbit they were instantly dead, and had to return to the beginning of the game. I was not keen to chase children through the forest. I played along like the good sport I am (well more the good sport that I pretend to be). Turns out I really enjoyed the game. I have a pretty big mean side which I try really hard to suppress. I took great delight in sneaking up on the kids and asking them for one of their lives. A few of them told me that it wasn't fair, I'd already caught them once. Being the amazing humanitarian that I am, I told them "Stinks to be you, doesn't. Now give me one of your lives." Sometimes an evil laugh accompanied this. I was actually a little sad when the double whistle blew announcing the end of the game.
After the survival game we had lunch. I sat with the other mom and Grace's teacher. Lunch was nice. I had grown up talk, I don't get that too often. After lunch we walked down to another area for shelter building. The kids were divided into groups of 5, and then had to build a shelter that would keep them warm if they were ever stranded in the woods. They were each provided with a tarp, and some logs of different sizes.
It was really neat to walk around and listen to them discuss their shelter. There were the leaders, and then there were the followers. In some groups everyone got a say. For the most part the boys and girls were equally divided into groups. There was however one group of just boys and two groups of just girls. It was really neat to see how differently they worked. The boys were most concerned with function. When I was looking at the boys structure, one of them proudly wanted me to see how sturdy theirs was, he climbed up on top of it and jumped up and down. They finished theirs early and so began to find rocks to construct a fire pit. The fire pit made me giggle, it was so clever. When I went to see the girls, they were really proud of their shelter and wanted to show me the carpet that they had made using moss that they had found. They kept telling me how warm and cozy their shelter was. For boys it is function, for girls it is comfort. Both are really if you think about it, equally important.
The funniest thing in the shelter building was the one group of girls. They had no clue. For a while they just stood there. Then they decided to take action and had this huge log leaning against this fragile little branch. I walked over and asked them if they had come up with a plan before they started building. No, No they had not. I then asked them if it seemed like a safe idea to have that huge log resting against the tiny branch that was already straining against the load. No, no it was probably not a great idea. In the end I looked around to see if any other grown up was looking and went in. It was killing me to not just take over and tell them how to build it. I suggested that they build their shelter on a flat clearing. I then showed them the crook between two trees that would make a perfect and safe place to lay their large log. They all agreed and started working. I wandered to look at the other kid's shelter, thinking it was not fair, nor would they learn if I stood and helped them. When I came back I saw the other mom helping them, I giggled to myself. Apparently she felt the same way as I did, and then went off to look at the other shelters. Not long after she left, their teacher came over to help. At one point the other mom and I were both carrying logs and helping them to build their shelter.
After we had deconstructed the shelters we went on a nature walk. The weather was beautiful. The air smelled so nice, that sweet smell that the decomposing leaves give off, the smell of fall. The leaves were turning those gorgeous shades of yellow and blazing orange and rust. The walk was really nice. The guide would stop every few minutes and point out something of interest to the kids. At one point in the trip we stopped and the kids could lift up the logs and try to find creatures. They found tiny little toads and a salamander, and a tiny snake about the same size as dew worm. I desperately wanted to rip them out of the kid's hands and play with them ( I don't like getting dirty, but I like to play with frogs and toads and icky things). It was nice to see the joy on their faces as they discovered wild things.
So it turns out I don't really hate the great outdoors. It can be fun. It also turns out under the right conditions that I actually like the Frink Centre. I learned a bit myself, and really enjoyed watching the kids. This trip I did not get saddled with any bad kids, and I'll be honest, I didn't see any bad kids really on this trip. After all of the dreading, I actually really enjoyed myself. I guess I could do the next Frink Centre trip without the whining.