It’s still cold and desolate at Brat Camp(actually, an outback experience for troubled teens called Sagewalk), and the kids seem to be mostly coming along. After learning how to make fire by “bow drilling” last week, the campers are finally starting to have the tools for surviving on their own in the wilderness. If only there were a way to test those skills….
A Hiking We Will Go
It’s day 31 out in the central Oregon desert…that’s 10 days until Christmas to you and I. Yet the campers are still pretty clueless as far as survival skills go. And boy are they going to need those skills to get through the next few days. So the counselors decide to go into survival skill training overdrive. After some heavy review of everything outdoors, the students have 45 minutes to break camp for their next hike into the wild. Derek is breaking down and holding everyone up. He relies too heavily on everyone else around him, and not enough on himself. He needs to understand exactly what it means to truly be self reliant. The counselors are having none of it, and continue to encourage yet discipline Derek by making him realize that he isn’t a weak little kid, but more able than he thinks. They point out that, while he thinks he can he can take care of himself, he can hardly pack his own backpack.
The group hikes through bone chilling cold, slogging along a muddy trail the entire time. They actually make pretty good time…a far cry from their first hike where everyone was sucking wind and bitching and moaning the entire time. Derek has a small breakthrough while hiking and talking with Boulder. Boulder helps him realize that, to be a success in life, you can’t continually give up on yourself. He finally gets his chin up and hikes like a champion.
This Stuff is Wrong, Dude!
After everyone arrives at what they think is their final destination, Little Big Bear drops the bomb on them. They will not be setting up camp, they will not be making a fire…what they will be doing is going out on solo camp…for three days…by themselves…solo. They will get a chance to use their camping skills, and also to meditate and reflect on their lives and why they are where they are right now. Each camper is blindfolded and led by a counselor to their “home” for the next three nights. While everyone is separated from each other by quite a distance, the counselors have their camp in a central location in order to keep an eye on the solo campers. They are given an emergency whistle for use in extreme emergencies only. I’m thinking we will probably see a lesson in the vain of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”, unless they have all read that before. The counselors are confident in most of the campers to do well during their solo. However, they are concerned about Derek and Lexie, as both of them are not so used to being alone.
Mommy! Mommy! I need My Mommy!
After all of the campers are dropped off by themselves and left with some last second tips for being comfy in their camp, everyone is pretty worried about what they will do for 3 days by themselves. Heather likens her camp to being in “The Blair Witch Project”, which, to me, makes a lot of sense. I won’t be caught dead in the woods by myself after seeing that movie…and I saw it a really long time ago! As the moon sets, Derek is struggling to set up his camp and deal with his loneliness. He cries often, and seems very frustrated by a task as simple as digging a hole. Mountain Wind shares that she can see that Derek is going through a “learn how to swim while you are drowning” type of conflict. As we watch Derek on night vision cam, he constantly whines for his mommy from his sleeping bag. He talks out loud the entire time, and begs for his mommy to come and save him. Buck up camper, morning will be here soon.
The next morning, all of the campers relate their experience of their first night on solo via their “Solo Cam”, a camera provided to each of them for diary type entries. Shawn and Lexie both see the value in solo camping as a good way to reflect on themselves and who they are, and who they are going to be. Derek gets a visit from the counselors to reassure him and help him cope with the loneliness. It seems like just that one night alone has done a lot to build some inner strength and character in him.
Jada’s Parent’s Need a Backbone
On day 2 of solo, we get to check in on Jada. The drama queen is obviously complaining about her situation—as usual—and thinks her back is breaking out here. She writes songs for her parents, and sings them into her “solo cam” for all to hear. I must say, I was impressed with Jada’s voice and song writing ability—she actually does have talent in that area. But her greatest talent lies in manipulating her parents. She writes letter after letter home to her parents trying to make them feel guilty about sending her to Sagewalk. The sad thing is, her parents still buy her BS, even though the Sagewalk counselors constantly reassure them that she is lying. Jada even relates how easy it is to manipulate her parents, calling them suckers. Here’s a $1 for you Jada’s Parents…buy a clue and give me the change please. Seriously, these people really need to stop coddling this girl and learn to give her some tough love.
Lexie Finds a Kindred Spirit
It is day 3 of soloing for the campers, and this is typically the most emotional day. The camper’s are realizing that they don’t need their corrupting friends or anyone else to take on the world…they can do it all by themselves. Lexie, however, is still having a lot of problems dealing with her past molestation, and in a moment of extreme sadness, blows her emergency whistle for some much needed talk time with a counselor. Glacier runs over to her immediately to offer her some support. She relates all of her emotions with him, and in a surprise, Glacier tells her that he too was molested by a neighbor when he was young. Glacier and Lexie bond over their mutual bad experience, and really work through her emotions and issues. After he leaves her, Lexie writes a letter home, and we get to hear her actually pick up the pieces of her life, and decide to move on.
I Am Snarking Recapper!
As the sun sets on the last day of solo, all of the campers are gathered up in silence and led to the fireside in the counselors camp for a solemn rite of passage—receiving their “Earth Names.” Each student will be given a name based on their background and their demeanor around camp, along with a story about the creation of that name. Frank is the first to receive his name, and is told the story behind his name. His name is Reluctant Bison Charging. After receiving their name, the student yells out their name for all to hear. Heather is emerging from her cocoon, and is named Painted Butterfly. Derek is next, and since he is often separate from others, his name is Emerging Frog. Isaiah really feels that his name of Obsidian Snow Leopard is very appropriate for him, representing the Yin Yang. Lauren is told a story of a fox escaping from a forest fire, and is called Flying Fire Fox. Jada is the only one who dislikes her name and thinks the whole ceremony is kind of stupid. She is called Spring Robin Searching. To me, Jada is the only brat in Brat Camp. Nick, who is a slow learner, is called Insightful Young Hawk. Shawn is next in line, and is told a story about the underlying power in the beauty of rivers. He is called River Carving Canyon. Finally, Lexie is approached by Glacier, her kindred spirit. He has named her, and is also handing over his pawaka—the pouch in which each person’s Earth Name story is carried—to her. He tells her a story of a fawn who climbed a great mountain, and was met at the top by a great demon. The fawn showed no fear, and actually pitied the demon in her way. She is called Insightful Fawn Growing. Of all the students at Sagewalk, Lexie is the one who seems to have grown the most.
The next day after the naming ceremony, the students hike back to base camp in silence, contemplating their new names and stories over the entire hike. The solo experience and naming ceremony has really had a profound experience on all of the campers—save one. Jada still has not come to realize all of her insecurities and issues.
Next Week, On Brat Camp
Will anyone get home by Christmas? Will Jada figure it all out? Will Jada’s parents ever have a clue? Be sure to tune in!
If you have a better earth name for me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org