* The title of this post is taken from the children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” by J. Viorst.
The school “Intercultural Trips” have been a highlight each year I’ve been here. This year I signed up for a trip in which kids would learn mountain biking skills. This included: studying topography maps, mapping routes, cycling about 25 miles each day, and camping throughout. Since this would be a new experience for me, I got prepared. I spent a couple weeks biking in the hills around my side of town with a friend from school, I bought padded biking shorts, I even remembered to pack a good lunch for the first day and snacks for the rest of the days.
So, why do some experiences defy our best efforts to make them awesome?
Sleep eluded me the night before we left. I finished packing before midnight and didn’t have to be at school until 7:00 … still, I couldn’t rest. The next morning I was the last teacher to arrive for our trip, and before we even got where we were going I whacked my head hard on the overhead bag rails inside the bus. When we go to our first camp, I took out my tent and went hunting for a good spot to set it up, but the grass everywhere was thorny, brittle, and hard – anywhere I put it would have cut multiple holes in the bottom and I had left the footprint (under tarp) at home. I abandoned my tent and moved my things into one of the large safari tents owned by the campsite. A little later I got out my camera to take pictures of the kids in their skill-building exercises and I discovered that I had left the battery charging in the wall of my living room – the camera was useless. I put that away and went to join the kids on the bikes for the obstacle course late in the afternoon. The students were practicing skills on a short obstacle course with bumps, racks, logs, and small jumps about every 10 to 20 feet. After a couple of wobbly turns around the course, I got caught over an innocuous looking little log which threw my bike seat up while I was half standing and I felt my tailbone crack. The second it happened, I knew my week had changed.
That night, I got even less sleep than the night before and I’m not sure which kept me awake longer: the stabbing pain in the tip of my spine or the rhythmically thunderous snoring in the tent next door. The next morning – Day 2 of the trip – I tried to ride. Everything in me wanted to make it work. I thought maybe I could spend most of the time standing on the pedals. Or perhaps I would find a particular sitting position that would be more comfortable. After about four miles of searing pain, I finally gave up and let the support truck drive me back to camp. As the jeep bumped along the road, I realized that there was nothing for me to do back at camp. I had no camera, no book, no journal, no computer, and no pen or paper of any kind – not even a deck of cards. I kept my face towards the window to hide my tears from the driver.
I spent the rest of the week sitting sideways on cushions like a Persian princess and feeling in most ways useless, while the rest of the group biked for six to seven hours each day. A kind staff member at the first camp site dug up a pen and pad of paper so I could at least keep my mind busy with some writing while I tried to stay off my tail. My principal offered to send a bus to bring me home, but in the end we all agreed that since I was the only female chaperone on the trip, and since the injury was not urgent or life-threatening, I should stick around “just in case.” I could walk without any issue. Sitting, however, was problematic.
By the end of the week, the band of the injured had grown by three or four and I had a few kids to keep me company in the jeep. I would like to say that it got better from there; that it healed quickly and I was feeling better by the end of the week and that I still managed to have a good time. That’s what I wanted to happen – what I tried so hard to make happen. Sadly, it didn’t. The breaking point came on Thursday and I was officially done with the trip. Four of us injured ones spent five hours in a canvas-sided safari truck, perched on top of luggage and other equipment, bumping across dirt tracks and deep gorges, simultaneously trying to protect our injured parts and keep ourselves and the luggage in our places. The end could not come soon enough. I endured the last day of travel and then went home on that Friday night and slept almost twelve hours.
So ended the terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad IC Trip. Even so, in the spirit of my 101 post, I can count the little blessings along the way:
* the paper and pen that came to me I don’t quite know how
* the other teachers that were compassionate and kind in the evenings
* the friend who lent me his fleece for the cold nights (another item I had forgotten)
* the kids who had a great time in spite of me
* good pain killers
* the bed that was available to me the first two nights during the worst part of the pain
* the uninterrupted time to think and reflect when the rest of the group was biking
* the dazzling, clear nights of a hundred-thousand stars
* the wonderful chocolate milkshake from Barneys on the way back to Nairobi