The Words of the Alexander Family
It was three o’clock in the morning on December 28th when I realized I couldn’t feel my feet. I wiggled and waggled my toes as I stretched my legs deeper in the sleeping bag. I was sleeping in a makeshift shelter at Camp Bernie in Port Murray, N.Y.
‘Wow! It’s freezing,’ I thought.
The inside of my sleeping bag was as cold as an ice box. As I shivered like a naked Chihuahua in this huge freezer, I tried to recall why I was sleeping outside in the first place. First, I am considered to be an older sister of the tribe, so whatever happens with my younger brothers and sisters, I want to be there for them. The second reason is similar to the first -- I believed that within our fort which ten of us had built with our own hands, we could create a cozy, beautiful bond as brothers and sisters.
Within the short period of the time the participants of the Face-Off Winter Charge workshop had together, there was a lot done. Everyone there (participants and staff), came home with a new and different experience; far more different than all the other high-schooler retreats and workshops in the past.
What was different was that it was about “taking your face-off, ” that is, learning to be honest and even vulnerable. Lately, it has become a fad to meet our brothers and sisters on Facebook or Myspace. Our older brother, Dave Hunter explained that it was more of a surface relationship, in fact, even though you are meeting and chatting with your friends online, you’re not exactly meeting the person. Inserting emoticons, LOL’s, and sending e-hugs is not exactly as heart-warming as the real thing. At the Winter Charge, everyone there worked on the direct brother and sister relationship. By taking our “faces-off,” we were able to experience or see the real emoticons, LOL’s, and experience real live hugs. Then, once we had experienced all the hugs and love, we couldn’t help but feel exceedingly, extremely, and tremendously charged. So, in a sense, instead of “retreating”, we were “charging” into the New Year. We are charging into 2010 with our “faces off.”
On our first night, we were divided into our so-called tribes, where we had to come up with tribal names. There was the “Kitty Cat Club,” the “Mufasa Kong,” the “Mighty Panduck Express,” the “Lost Boys,” “BAM,” “the Woolly Mammoth,” the “Chenachea Tribe”, and others. We were also given different colors of bandanas and made some beautiful and awesome flags the following night. The next day (December 28th), each of the tribes had to build its fort. We were given one tarp, and ropes; if we wanted more materials and a shovel, we had to complete challenges, such as climbing a tree, interviewing the staff in the tribe, or finding out what the entire clan had in common.
It was delightful to see what everyone in the Winter Charge could offer. There was a bit of creativity and ingeniousness in many of the forts. Most of us used leaves and leftover hay as insulation and dry vines in place of rope to keep our walls stable. One of the tribes built its fort around a tree as the support. How ingenious and creative we all are! We were so proud of our forts that some of us couldn’t wait to sleep in them that night. I was impressed and admired those who were able to endure this, even though it was freezing. Because we all were able to endure the wretched cold weather for that one night, our relationship with each other developed.
Although we own different faces when we are with our family, or friends, the purpose of the Charge was to uncover all of those so it could reveal our real one. We were able to meet new faces at the camp. The experiences we were able to create together, we’ll look back on ten years from now and probably say to ourselves, “man what a heck of a time we had then. We built a fort and even slept in it. It may have been cold, but it was worth it.” And yes it was worth it.
Contributed by Soin Alexander, who is 19 years old and a 2nd year college student living in Clifton, New Jersey. She was a group leader for the Face-Off Winter Charge.