Thursday, June 14, 2012

The loon’s majestic call over the misty still waters of the pristine bay was jarringly drowned out by shrill shouts and cries of excitement. He looked towards the land and saw that an enormous yellow animal had appeared. He wasn’t sure what kind of animal this was but he knew that he should stay away. Suddenly, its mouth gaped opened (or at least he assumed it was, even though it appeared to be in the side of his head!) and people came out. The loon squinted his beady little black eyes. The people were kids and were wildly streaming out of this great yellow beast. This startled the loon all the more and he did what any loon would do in a scary situation: he dove under water and hoped that when he came back up, everything would be peaceful and pristine once again...

Fair Glen – The Story

A few weeks ago, the grade 7&8 class of ORCS boarded a bus and rumbled off towards Fair Glen, which is located in the small town of Beaverton, where we would spend the next three days witnessing the grandeur of our Creator. It is an epic trip and is not for the faint at heart.

In the wise words of Maria Von Trapp (the Hollywood version, mind you) “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...” The story of Fair Glen began on September 6, the very first day of school (I remember the date because the first day was also my birthday).

The class was nicely seated in their clean shiny desks. The whole year stretched before us! I looked over the class and wondered if some of the students had stumbled upon a secret potion of sorts that made them grow a foot over the summer.

“Welcome back! Let’s begin.” I said. Instantly, 27 hands shot up. They probably all wanted to wish me happy birthday, I thought.

“Yes, what’s your question?” I asked the first student.

“When are we going to Fair Glen?” she asked. The other hands went down.

“Oh. Not until the end of May.” I replied.

I could see some of the students begin the calculations to figure out how many days away Fair Glen was.

And so, the year carried on, as did the questions.

“Which cabins are we getting?”

“Who will be chaperoning?”

“What will we eat there?”

“Are there bears in Fair Glen?”

“Are we allowed to stay up all night?”

“Are bears nocturnal?”

Before we knew it, it was the week before Fair Glen. The students became as busy as bees as they began planning for this highly anticipated trip. Lunch time became trip planning central. I could tell when nefarious plans were being made when I saw students gather in small circles whispering with each other and continually glancing in my direction. Then a spokesperson would approach my desk very nonchalantly.

“Hi Mr. S. How’s it going?”

“I’m having a great day. How are you?” I responded.

“Good. We were just wondering what time you will be going to bed in Fair Glen.”

“Bed?” I said. “I don’t plan on going to bed.”

The student then casually backed away from my desk and rejoined the hushed circle.

“What did he say?” said one voice.

“He’s not going to go to bed!” hissed the spokesperson worriedly.

I suppressed a smile.

The day before Fair Glen was one of those days when you wished that desks came equipped with seat belts. The student’s every thought was consumed with Fair Glen, and a countdown had begun.

“Only 18 more hours...”

As we waited for the bus that afternoon, the students were beside themselves. The use of the English language had gone out the window, and students communicated by grabbing each other on the shoulders, shaking each other, and screaming and yelling incoherently.

And then the day of departure had finally arrived. The yellow school bus was loaded up with bulging suitcases, pillows, and sleeping bags. A group of parents stood on the sidewalk and waved us off. We were off!

After driving for four hours, the bus finally came to a halt in front of two cabins on the Fair Glen grounds. I directed the girls into one, and the boys into the other. Thankfully I had some very brave and teenager trained chaperones along with me, which helped tremendously.

The bus was unloaded quickly and the students brought their belongings to their rooms. The cabin’s consisted of four rooms: a common area, a room for the grade 7 boys, a room for the grade 8 boys, and a room for the chaperones. Most of the boys made quick work of putting their stuff away. They simply stood in the doorway of their room and heaved their bag onto a growing pile of suitcases, pillows, sleeping bags, and maybe the odd student.

We hit the ground running, and started off with a climbing wall and then canoeing. It was great to be out on the water again with the students. Some of the student’s were naturals in the canoes – regular courier du bois’, while other’s floundered and went in circles.

Like a great native war party, we thundered down the lake in our canoes; wildlife scattered out of our path as our armada of canoes invaded the waterway. We floated into one of the locks of the Trent Severn Waterway and were given instructions to hold onto the sides of the lock walls. Once we were all in the lock and the huge doors were closed, the water was let out of the lock. As the water level was lowered, we noticed that the walls of the lock were bedecked with Zebra mussels that spat water at us as we were lowered down into the lock.

After dinner, some of the students tried their hand at archery while others ventured out onto the water again. It was a magical time to be out on the water at dusk. The sun was slowly sinking in the sky, and the water was as still as glass. We lazily made our way around the bay while witnessing the glory of God in the western sky.

When the sun had set, the moon emerged and, with the help of some spot lights, illuminated our soccer field for a late night game of soccer. I hoped that a good late night soccer game would waste away any remaining energy the students would have and that come bed time, they would just drift away into a sleepy wonderland. Wrong. It turned out that it just wasted away my energy.

As we got ready for bed, excited shouting erupted from the grade 8 boy’s room. “A MOUSE!” someone yelled. “GET HIM!” The hunt was afoot.

My heart sunk as I realized that these students – brave as they were – would never be able to catch this mouse. They would be up all night racing around the cabin, uprooting everything in sight, in an effort to capture the creepy little fur ball.
Suddenly the mouse scampered into the common area of the cabin. Out of nowhere, one of the grade 8 boys sprang at the mouse like a cat. I think I may have even heard a meow. “I GOT IT!” he yelled. He got up off the floor, opened the door, and threw the mouse outside. The great hunt was over as quickly as it started. The other boy’s respectfully patted him on the back.

A few hours later, the sun was back up, and it was time for another action packed day. We headed for breakfast, where the chaperones and I fortified ourselves with voluminous amounts of coffee. The day’s activities included a study of a beaver dam and a canoe scavenger hunt.

The beaver dam study was very interesting, but even now as I write, I am still reminded of its travails. I had thought we would be canoeing to a beaver dam, but instead, we walked through a swamp to the dam. We unwittingly tramped into the world’s most densely populated mosquito colony (a very malnourished colony too), who welcomed us by swarming all over us. We were amazed at the size of the dam and at the size of the trees that a beaver could fall, but it was a relief to get back to our camp.

By now, we were all canoeing pros. There were still a lot of canoes tipping and swamping, but the students were getting good at using the bailing bucket too. One of the favourite canoeing spots was the tunnel that went under the road leading to Fair Glen. It was a long, cavernous tunnel. It echoed, was dark, and best of all – was filled with hundreds of spiders. The roof of the tunnel was literally covered with arachnids and webs of all shapes and sizes. National Geographic could easily do a whole issue on just this tunnel. Some of the spiders were as large as Frisbees and made a ‘clunk’ noise if they landed in your canoe. Some were friendly and waved one of their legs at us, as they dismembered insects and small rodents with their other legs. If you and your canoe stayed exactly in the middle of the tunnel and you kept your head low, no spiders would touch you. The tunnel was not a place to stop and chat – it was more like a speedway. One glance at a spider with fury legs and red glowing eyes would cause the paddlers to churn through the tunnel in warp speed. Students would come launching out of the tunnel wide eyed and relieved. A thorough check would then take place to ensure that none of the creepy crawlies made it into the canoe.

My students, as mentioned before on this blog, are fast eaters. Some of them have learned to somehow bypass the tasting and chewing process involved in eating. Fearsome appetites were produced on this trip and the speed at which they ate increased as well. The food was passed around and put on their plates. As if by photosynthesis, the food vanished off of their plates and was relocated in their stomachs.

On the final night of our trip, I wondered if the students would be able to stay up late into the night again. After devotions, we had another late night soccer game which ended just before midnight. Bedtime was the next item on our agenda. I was worried that the students would try to pull another all-nighter on this the last night. Shortly after midnight, I sent them to bed. I asked one of the Dad’s that was chaperoning to keep an eye on things while I went to take a shower. When I came back, the cabin was completely dark and quiet. I wondered if all the students had escaped and were hiding out in the spider tunnel or something. They were all in bed though – fast asleep.

We woke up early the next morning to rain. After packing, loading the bus, and cleaning out the cabin (which was no small feat) we ate breakfast, had chapel together and got ready to say goodbye. Our visit to Fair Glen was over before it began it seemed. Reluctantly, the students boarded the yellow bus and prepared for the journey back to Oxford. The trip was a success – great students, amazing chaperones, no serious injuries, lasting memories, and best of all, we witnessed God’s brilliant signature emblazoned on His creation.

The loon drifted towards the shore. The great yellow beast had reappeared and seemed to be swallowing up the students. He did what he did best – he dove underwater...

1 comment:

  1. Loved this Greg, had me laughing out loud. Your writing reminded me of Gordan Korman and I could picture Rudy Miller hanging out at arts and crafts while you all were mosquito infested. :)