Only a short few days ago, I was given the opportunity to partake in one of the most memorable experiences of my life. About three weeks ago, I was called into the principal’s office where he explained to me the upcoming trip. To commemorate Captain Vancouver’s 250th birthday, a Canadian Navy frigate was letting 24 students aboard as passengers.
12 students were to be from Vancouver Washington and 12 students were to be from Vancouver BC. I excitedly agreed, having absolutely no idea what I would be in for. As I walked on to the ship, I realized that this was going to be an all-new type of vacation for me.
The bunks were stacked three high, with slightly more than a foot between a bunk and the one above it. Showers could only be about 3 minutes long or less. We would have a fourth of the time I usually have each morning to get ready for the day.
Suddenly my bag, over-flowing with make-up and hair products, seemed less useful than I had originally pictured. While I’m not exactly high-maintenance, it’s safe to say I’m not very used to ‘roughing it’ or anything of the sort. Regardless, I couldn’t wait to set out to sea.
As the first evening came to a close, I collapsed into bed, but not before neatly putting on the linens and blankets. I took a picture when I was finished to later prove to my parents, once and for all, I DO know how to make my bed. I’d slept quite well in my cozy little bunk, but the next morning, ‘wakey-wakey’ (as the captain called it) still came all too soon.
I’ve never before shortened my morning preparation time to 6 minutes. I probably never will again, but I did feel a sense of pride in the fact that I could do it. The activities of the day involved demonstrations of the Navy’s weapons (though the younger boys seemed most interested, everyone was incredibly impressed, especially me!).
The officers showed us defense maneuvers and also taught us how to check rooms for armed people in another boat during a ‘code red’ procedure. Throughout the day, I was able to hold the fire hose as one of the boys from Canada held my back to make sure the pressure wouldn’t topple me. A group of the students went into a room filled with a special type of smoke that’s okay to breathe and is used in drills.
We worked together, using an infrared camera, in order to ‘save’ a dummy trapped in the room. I was scared to try some of the activities, but once I stepped out of my comfort zone, I had a lot of fun and was able to learn a lot from my experiences. Fortunately, in addition to the exciting fun times, one can also learn from the less enchanting times.
A bout of seasickness plagued many of the passengers, but I, being the roller coaster enthusiast I am, figured I couldn’t get sick. I was wrong. The hours of nausea were absolutely miserable, but from it, I was able to see the kindness of others. Before the trip, I had never met the teacher in charge of my mess room, but that didn’t stop her from walking me to the medic when she noticed I was becoming increasingly ill. The medic was one of the most compassionate men I had met in my life. His kindness really made the trip truly unforgettable for me. It still makes me warm and fuzzy inside to know that there are people in the world that are that are willing to lend a hand without hesitation and also to go above and beyond in their common courtesy.
During the voyage, I realized the importance of simple courtesy, friendliness, and also stepping outside of pre-conceived notions. In high school, students have become adjusted to the sometimes-hostile environment, where usually they’re scared to step outside their comfort zone to offer a friendly word to a stranger. Watching the crew working together was so inspiring. Meeting and spending so much time with girls and boys I’d never met before, learning about their lives, and having fun will all of them brought to me a new appreciation for congeniality as a quality. The kindness shown to me by my roommates, the medic, and the rest of the crew gave me new faith in the human condition.
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