What better way to start of the diploma program than take an excursion into the natural and mountainous regions of your host country. From the 2nd to the 4th of September, DP1 (class of 2017) set out on a great adventure to Borderlands, Kitulgala that moved them physically and mentally. Throughout the trip were incorporated elements of CAS and TOK, both important aspects of the next two years.
Day 1: Taking the Plunge: A Day of Action
One by one, we all slowly poured into the rear premises of our school. Everyone was dressed in casual clothing, ready for the action-packed day’s activities ahead. Soon after, we were on our respective buses and on our way to Kithugala. Three hours later, we were parking near the starting point for our rafting activity. I was unaware of how quickly the 3 hours went by. As we were having a quick snack, I was constantly thinking about what to expect next. I was in a group with Ariana, Amira, Gyungmo, Luke, and Mr. Mueller. Throughout our white water rafting journey, all of us constantly built bonds through teamwork and communication. We developed our own name, “Big Blue”, and also our own cheer. Many of my classmates had experienced Borderlands before in Grade 9 during their Week Without Walls trip, however, this was my first time. As we continued more and more down the river, we learnt how important collaboration and participation were. Without these qualities, our raft wouldn’t have been able to move quickly or in the right direction. A couple hours later, we found ourselves haroring into a calm pool of water at the side of a river. There, we ate lunch on a stretch of rock, under a bridge, surrounded by mountainous beauty, all in all calmed by the lush sound of the river. The sandwiches and orange juice we had fit in perfectly with our environment. Not long af
ter, we were hiking up with our gear through vegetation to the second activity of the day. Canyoning. We were again greeted by the three elements of safety, learning and fun by our Borderlands guide. I felt special as I made the first leap, although, this was nothing compared to the challenges I was about to face. On our way down, each of us was given a leadership responsibility to make sure our peers followed instructions and carried out the slides and jumps carefully. Although I was not afraid of the sheer heights, I did have to contemplate for a few seconds before I took a step and leaped forward. After we were done with canyoning, we went back to our rafts and headed towards camp. When the flow of the river was calm enough, we got into the water itself. This was particularly pleasing for me as I was able to float in the river, free of the limits of the raft, although, I had to be pulled back up because of my loose lifejacket. Into the evening, we were greeted by cold showers, our cabins and a delicious dinner. The longhouse everyone gathered in was very admirable. The tables and cushions had been intelligently laid out to provide a relaxed group experience. As night fell, we were able to bond and have a good time with our fellow peers, while at the same time reflect back on the day’s events.
Day 2: In the Cave: A Day of Critical Thinking
The morning greeted us with the sound of the rippling river and the sight of a cow grazing in the distance. This far into the trip, we had become so used to the sound of the crashing water, that we barely even paid attention to it, even though it was quite loud. The morning shower was cold and shivering as expected, but it was nothing compared to the day’s challenges that lay ahead. I really enjoyed the exercises and activities that the whole class participated in. Breakfast was served, and hosted us with an appetizing combination of bread, eggs, and chicken sausages. Everyone needed that extra energy to get through the physically demanding day. Shortly after, we were on our buses ready to start off the day’s events. The trek up to the cave was very challenging, as it was mostly stairs. The sun was blaring down on us making it worse. Up in the cave, we sat down for a moment of silence. I was able to relax myself after the long hike and absorb my natural surroundings. The soft sound of water dripping reconciled with the various thoughts occupying my mind. We then split up into groups to create some sort of art from the natural items found at the location. I was with Charlie, Ika, Anjulie, and Kai, and we created a so-called labyrinth out of flat pebbles, leaves, and a coconut shell. The class was also enlightened on the history of the place by a local person, and how it had changed over time. After admiring the place for a little longer, my half of the class set out in the back of a couple of jeeps that were going to take to the site of the day’s action activity. The journey seemed endless and the jeep’s rusty suspension rattled every bone in my body. By the time we reached our destination, I was completely shaken up and ready for another long hike. This one was even worse as there was barely any room to walk between the foliage and the steps were steeper. After reaching the top, I took some time to prepare myself mentally for the abseiling I was about to do. I was surprised at how well I did since it was my first time. The descent down seemed really short and I wanted to go again, but I’m sure I’ll get more and better chances in my life.By the time we hiked down to the place where we were going to have rain, it was raining cats-and-dogs. We were all drenched and had to have our food inside the vehicles. There was nothing better than coming back to camp, showering, and relaxing in the longhouse. Personally, this evening was one of my favorite time’s of the whole trip. A big group of friends sat around one table and spent time enjoying several games of Uno. It wasn’t about the winning, it was about the moments we all cherished together. This is why we were sad when it was bedtime after our last evening.
Day 3: Water Narratives: A Day for Service
Although most of our trip was thoroughly action packed, there was a small service element incorporated on the third day. Our whole class was divided into 5 groups and sent out to interview different people around Kitulgala. My group included of me, Anjulie, Qhathim, Cedric and Amasha, and we were assigned to interview a monk at one of the local Buddhist temples. Before we hit the road though, we sat down for about an hour in the longhouse and brainstormed some questions related to the 3 main topics of memory, experience and judgment. Each of the questions was related to at least one of these topics as well as the community, the monk’s personal life etc. Once we reached there, I was quite caught by surprise by the monk’s character. He was a humble, soft-spoken man with a plain sense of clothing, as expected by a religious postulant. Furthermore, the monk could speak some basic English, which was unexpected and made the entire situation a lot easier. Our group learnt about his daily lifestyle, his role in the community, and how his past had been like. It was rather inspirational as the monk seemed content in what he possessed in life and demanded no more. As we were having our last lunch in the longhouse, the whole class discussed the several things they understood from their respective groups. The end of our time there soon came, and we were awarded with our certificates of participation and completion. It was a proud moment for everyone as we had worked together and helped each other in getting through this rigorous adventure.
Everyone desired for our 3-day trip to be longer as we all enjoyed to the furthest possible limit. We all spent a lot of time together, in small groups and as a class. Each and every one of us contributed to make everyone’s journey a lot better. We built on skills and developed new ones, becoming better and growing as a whole. Our journey was short, however, the limited time we had was well-deserved and well-spent.