We are pleased to introduce a post from Winterline student Maria Jimena Jurado and Media Team #3.
"I’ve heard many times that we can take ourselves wherever we set our minds to. That we can reach, and even move mountains if we want to, and that we can be as strong as we need to be. However, I never truly understood how truthful these words were until my recent NOLS survival training demanded that I get from shelter to shelter using nothing more than my feet. This past week I encountered this lesson one more time, but now, the roles were changed, and my arms were my feet and my kayak was my backpack.
What is a kayak, you might ask. Kayaks are small, narrow boats that were designed by the indigenous people of the Inuit, Yupik and Aleut tribes. They are originally from the arctic regions of Greenland, Canada, Alaska and far east Russia. The boats were originally invented for hunting purposes, but have since developed into vehicles used for tourism, racing, fishing, and--as we used them--for long distance ocean excursions.
Well, long distance for us anyway! Once our SCUBA diving adventure, and a well-deserved free day, were over, we were ready to embark on another expedition: a kayaking expedition. After being frightened by our instructor, who convinced me that we were going to kayak for eleven hours straight, I realized that it was just a five-to-six hour paddling trip that we were getting ourselves into.
First we had a training day in which we learned how to get into a kayak while in the water. Please do not underestimate this task like I did; it’s far more difficult than it sounds! And it can also be really embarrassing, especially when you're the center of attention. We practiced how to get out of the kayaks if we flipped, and finally, we tried kayaking for a short distance. Then we kayaked for about an hour. I think that I speak for a few of us when I say that we were quite nervous for how five hours of kayaking was going to feel if doing it for just one hour felt so exhausting.
The next day we put on our fashionable spray skirts, the ever-present life jackets, and loaded our kayaks with food, clothes and of course, johnny cakes. We started paddling. No more than ten minutes into the journey, Jamie had flipped his boat and managed to get stung by a sea urchin! Rumor has it that two young altruistic boys had to pee on him to relieve the sting--this is a local treatment of sea urchin stings, we learned. So far the day wasn't looking very promising.
However, after five hours of paddling that went by incredibly fast thanks to the beautiful conversations, some jellyfish, intense tanning sessions and, of course, our muscular biceps, we made our way to Isla Popa. The Island was filled with local people who welcomed us with bright smiles, cute children and roosters whose only aim in life it seemed, was to wake us up at random hours with a cock-a-doodle-doo.
We closed our eyes on that first night and even though we were sleeping on the hard wooden floor, we slept like queens and kings. The next morning, we commenced our next task: painting the exterior and interior of the local school's cafeteria. The best part of this job was not that we had the chance get dirty and that we could get other people dirty in the meantime, but the fact that the children of this island were the cutest and most loving creatures on earth. They were so helpful that one of them even got two crab spiders for Jamie so that he could entertain himself with the new show of the century: Spider Wrestling. Needless to say, the spiders never fought and the kids were disappointed. Shame on you, Jamie.
Once we were ready to say goodbye, we set our minds to another day of intense kayaking. We made it back in about three hours, an achievement we, and the instructors, were really proud of.
Actually, proud is an understatement. We were proud, invigorated, satisfied and overjoyed. It’s true, we can get our bodies to do whatever we set our minds to and it is significantly easier when you have the support and company of fifteen of your peers, three instructors and two field advisors who didn't stop cheering for you if and when you felt like you are about to give up.
My arms and feet have taken me further than I ever would have thought two months ago. More importantly, the extent to which my mind has been challenged in order to endure these situations is something that cannot be explained physically. It is something that can be explained in terms of growth. In terms of becoming more self-aware. In terms of realizing how independent and strong I can be. It is the accomplishment that I feel when I look back and acknowledge that everything that brought me there, to that place, to that moment, was nothing but myself.
We in the Winterline 2015 group have learned from each other, from the environments we have been in and from the people we have met. Nevertheless, sometimes we forget how much we can and have learned from ourselves. From pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and from becoming masters at what we are doing. On this occasion, as Oliver beautifully puts it, we became Masters of the Sea."
We've been to the depths,
to see there what lies.
With our limited breaths,
we've opened our eyes
to the beauties of the ocean
both seen and unseen
revealed by just motion
and a bio luminescent green.
We've ridden the waves.
We've paddled our boats.
We've waded through caves,
and seen that poop floats.
We've learned about each other
using only our ears,
we can know one another
and help conquer our fears.
We've learned how to swim.
We've learned how to sink.
With the help of dear Jim,
we've been pushed to the brink.
We've met kids that we'll miss.
We've painted a school.
And we've done all of these,
with just Johnny Cakes as fuel.
We've struggled and we're grown,
and now we can see
that let it be known -
we're Masters of the Sea
Maria was born and raised in the “world’s capital of salsa,” a city in the southwest of Colombia named Cali, and she is the daughter of two “wanderlusters," as she likes to call them. From them, she got her ambition to explore the world, meet people and navigate the streets of life. At a very young age, she fell in love not only with her culture, but with the world as a whole. At the age of 17 she had the opportunity to study abroad at UWC Mahindra in India where her love for traveling and people grew even bigger. Now with the Winterline Global Skills Program she expects to reaffirm herself and her place in the world.