I jumped at the sound of someone screaming “eight minutes” from what sounded to be the fire circle. I had absolutely no clue what was going on and I just sat up and looked around, tired and confused.
First of all, I woke up with condensation all over the outside of my wiggie (sleeping bag). It was a little moist inside, and I realized that I was COLD. Sydnay told me to put my clothes on, shove my sleeping bag inside of it’s storage bag, roll up my mat, and stick them on my backpack on the pack line.
I must explain this ritual before going on.
Every morning, we were awakened by someone yelling “eight minutes”. We had eight minutes to jump out of our sleeping bags, put our clothes on, put our boots on, roll up our sleeping supplies, stick it on the pack line, and be at the fire circle. Sure, this sounds simple to accomplish in eight minutes, but shoving a fat sleeping bag into a small bag is not as easy as it sounds. There did come a time that my hands were so dry from the cold that when I would pack up my sleeping back, my hands would crack open and bleed from rubbing them against the bag. Ouch.
If our bags were not put up correctly or not attached to our backpacks correctly (it should always be ready for a hike), we got points taken off of our point cards. Point cards were these little papers that we carried with us through each week. They had a large list of different offenses and how many points they were worth. I cannot remember each one and their penalty, but two that I do remember were: “Disrespect: 30 points” and “Deity: 60 points”. Yes, if we said the word “God” or the word “Jesus”, we could fail our day or our weeks. So, in both of the Wilderness stages, you can fail 2 days and still pass your week. In order to fail a day in Wilderness, you had to have lost more than 60 points, which was easy. In Ranch, you couldn’t fail a single day. If you failed a day, you failed the week. If you failed a week, you had to stay another week: which meant that your parents had to shell out another $2,000 to keep you there. I failed 3 weeks in total.
So, during eight minutes, I certainly did not meet that time requirement given the fact that I was new and had absolutely no clue as to what was going on. I lost 20 points on my first morning. Great way to start the day.
We began our cleaning and inspection ritual, then we went down to the bear boxes to get our food bags (forgive me, I cannot remember what they were called. If any former MHYR students or staff remember, please comment). We went back to camp to begin breakfast.
Our food sacks contained rations of -extremely- minimal food items. It was just enough to get us through the week, and that was it. The food sacks contained the following:
-Steel cut plain oats
-1 can of vienna sausages
-1 can of either canned chicken or tuna (it rotated every 2 weeks)
-1 can of spam
-Gorp (pretty much crack to us. It was a trail mix with M&M’s and we loved it)
-2 packs of ramen noodles
-1 pack of pasta sides
-1 block of cheese in the cooler
-2 “mac packs”- small serving of macaroni
-Powdered gatorade (also crack to us)
-1 quart water bottle (they required us to drink so much water it wasn’t even funny)
I think that’s it. Feel free to add if I forgot anything.
For breakfast, Sydnay helped me prepare “oats n germ”- 4 spoonfuls of oats, 2 spoonfuls of germade. We often mixed a lot of brown sugar and powdered milk in it to make the taste somewhat tolerable. We would add water to the cup and cook our food on the fire. We had 30 minutes to eat (what seemed like a LOT of food) and drink a full quart of water. I don’t think I finished, and I lost another 10 points on my point card. We ate oats and germ for breakfast every. single. day.
Not being used to drinking so much water, I had to pee- a lot. Our “restroom” was a latrine. Every camp we went to, we dug a 3ft hole in the ground, set up a tarp in between trees, put toilet paper in a plastic bag next to the hole, and called it a bathroom. Standing over multiple piles of reeking human shit is not fun. Especially when you can see all of the lentils inside of it. I wasn’t exactly taught how to use the latrine, so I used it.. quite awkwardly the first few times. I would sprawl out with my back facing the hole, and kind of bend over backwards with my hands and feet holding me up, on all fours. While we were behind the tarp, we would have to say our number the whole time, I guess to make sure we didn’t run. Then, we would wash our hands with a blue that hung off of a tree and cheap hand soap.
We couldn’t use the latrine if the boys were using theirs (it was on the other side of camp and I still don’t understand that), and we couldn’t go all of the time. On my second day, I peed myself not once, not twice, but three times. Humiliating.
Every day was extremely structured. We had weekly packets that had to be completed, daily journals, weekly readings, tasks for each week, schooling time, therapy once a week, monthly visits from the doctors, chores, cleaning, half quart time, etc.
The weekly packets were long, and if they weren’t completed and signed by your staff for the week, you would fail the week. Every journal had to be read by the staff, and every day had a different topic. Each journal HAD TO be a page long. Each week, students had different tasks to complete that were inside of the packet. For my first week: I only remember a few tasks. Read “Who Took My Cheese” and write a report over it, achieve 10 flint and steel fires, craft something, and more that I cannot remember.
I will pick up my next post starting at day two lunchtime. There is so much that needs to be written and said, I feel that it is best if I just break these up so they aren’t a million miles long.
To be continued…