This week the Goannas had many joyful times. A mixture of intimate talks with each other and staff occurred throughout gatherings, focusing on our morals and fundamentals for what the Goannas want their group’s culture to look like. We pondered our thoughts on being vulnerable with our peers, our identity and how we portray our personas to others, talking about self-care and the new pillars – M.E.R.I.T. – Motivation, Empathy, Respect, Integrity, and Trust. The group all worked together to try and hold one another to these beautiful high standards. They even established a code phrase of “hot dog water” to emphasize when the conversations might be turning unproductive and/or creating discomfort for any member of the group.
As a whole, the group learned about their own sense of integrity whilst playing games during the day. We played one fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish, games of DOGS, and mafia. We also spent a lot of time posing riddles to one another. While some of the students shared some challenging moments as they attempted to solve the riddles, all were able to band together to try and find the answers as a team.
The group also took the time to enjoy the nature around them, such as going on a day hike to a creek and star gazing with one another. The creek was a major highlight for the Goannas this week, exploring under the shade of some larger willow trees and appreciating the running stream with lots of different flora abound. The day hike was a unanimous hit, and good exercise for the group.
The Goannas took time to appreciate the many benefits to the natural resources of this weeks’ campsites; collecting and expanding their busting sets and crafting materials for skills. Skills sessions were a major focus this week, with lots of intentional work on leather and woodwork including several possibilities bags, keeper’s pouches, A-shaped backpack frames, and spoons for meals and for gifts for family. One of the guides also spearheaded the unique skills project of a primitive bow and quiver full of arrows out of willow collected on our day hike. The students took turns learning about what was involved in the making process, as well as practicing stringing and shooting the lightweight arrows fletched by and under the supervision of the guides. Overall, the week was a productive one of mileage covered and skills honed.
This week the Kangaroos were excited to welcome in new students and everyone took turns teaching them new things such as how to pack, tie knots, make fire and how the overall day to day looks. With the welcoming of new students came the opportunity to restructure the group and its culture. Together everyone decided on new pillars to represent the Kangaroos and what values they would like as their foundation. The acronym they decided on is L.U.M.I.C.E: Loyalty, Unity, Motivation, Integrity, Communication, and Empathy. Throughout the week when collusion cycles would arise, several students exemplified several of the new pillars which was cool to witness because of the domino effect that occurred when one student led by example and the rest of the group were inspired to do the same.
Two of our fellow Kangaroos received their trail names this week, Admirable King Salmon, because many others look up to him and he is willing to “swim upstream” and work hard for a greater cause. Goofy Baboon was chosen for another member of the group because he brings so much energy into the group. He is constantly making others laugh and drawing them in with his sense of humor.
Therapeutically, the Kangaroos held space for some hard, beautiful and thought-provoking gatherings such as the gathering held on “letting go”. Each student was given three pieces of paper where they were asked to answer three different questions:
What is something you had to learn the hard way this year?
What is something valuable that someone else has taught you?
What do you need to let go of?
The group went around and shared what they had written down and then tossed their papers into the fire. Another great gathering we had was a game of copy-cat where everyone secretly picked another person and mimicked everything they did. By the end everyone was doing the same things as each other. It was both entertaining and led to a good conversation about how sometimes in life we copy others around us or follow their path instead of following our own. In each gathering everyone was both Vulnerable and supportive.
Throughout the week, the group also played games such as zoogle stick, D.O.G.S (a form of hacky sack/dodgeball), and Laser (a game where a rope is tied between 2 trees, and everyone must work together to make it over the rope without touching it). The group also completed amazing hikes during our backcountry expedition week where we saw wild horses, and at night enjoyed a symphony of coyotes with the surrounding packs howling in unison.
Altogether, the group experienced a variety of challenges, moments of genuine connection and shared laughs. Signing off on another good week in the Kangaroos.
Adventure Expedition for Ulurus was full of triumph, learning, and fun!
Our Adventure Expedition was kicked off with some rock climbing! Everyone got on the wall, meeting their individual goals to do things that push them out of their comfort zone this week and to try new things. During our debrief that night, the students were able to make connections between their real-life challenges and those faced while climbing, and we discussed how we can push through the challenges that come outside of outBACK and grow from them.
After our day rock climbing, we had tons of fun paddleboarding. Most of the Ulurus were apprehensive about standing, so they started off sitting. After a bit of a warmup, most were kneeling and eventually started standing. As we discussed the process with them, they were able to draw parallels to trusting themselves as they navigate their own lives. When we had them attempt to stand with a second student on their boards, they saw that it can be easier to stand when they have the support of someone else to stabilize them. Overall, a very meaningful activity for everyone involved.
Our last Adventure activity was disc golfing, which was a calming activity to round out the week. The Ulurus began by practicing putting it near the entrance to the course. After honing their skills, we began the 9-hole course. Each student improved with every round; their throws became increasingly precise. The lessons expressed were about being calm, planning, and envisioning the throw before stepping up to the tee. On the final hole, each student saw how much they had improved, and felt a sense of accomplishment. Overall, this activity gave the students some insights about reaching for their goals and the course corrections that are sometimes needed along the journey.
During our transitions from one activity site to another, students listened to the audiobook The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. The book follows the journey of a young man seeking a new path in life and his mentorship with a spiritual guru. It is filled with fun anecdotes and deep insight about the nature of life and self-mastery. They all expressed that they enjoyed the book, and several students shared with guides that they had learned lasting lessons from it.
When we came back from our week of living large and rejoined our newer members fo the Ulurus group in the field, each of our Adventure Expedition crew effortlessly flowed back into the group and were able to get the other students excited about the next Adventure Expedition.
Alrighty BoomURU! Boom celebrated the start of Mending Velvet Ant’s next chapter to a therapeutic boarding school with a heartfelt goodbye ceremony with the Ulurus group. Kind memories, words, and impactful experiences were shared. The next morning the Ulurus prepared to depart for their adventure expedition and new members of the Ulurus were introduced into the Uluru Boomerang group for the week. Spoons were crafted. Spoons were lost. Though nothing is ever lost when you can carve a new spoon.
The group learned how to read maps and plan out their backcountry expedition, working together to figure out the best routes to take to get to their destination the fastest. The group went on a day hike to a scenic overlook where a meaningful gathering about having a heart at war or peace was held. The group discussed a lot of concepts from the book, The Anatomy of Peace, and discussed what it means to “be in the box” and how to look and identify collusion cycles in relationships.
The students learned how to make Italian bread with roasted garlic and another day some made cookies. A staff member brought a guitar to the group not knowing one of the students had been playing guitar for years. The whole group bonded over sincere songs written by a staff member and student. The group was able to talk about real life struggles and victories. The guides held a ceremony to honor both students and staff for genuine qualities they admire and appreciate about each other. During this ceremony we made strong cord (cordage made by wrapping sinew together in opposingly twisted lines). We discussed how this conflict of two things working against one another can make a stronger cohesive whole. This represents how the differences within ourselves, and even within our family structures, do not have to mesh perfectly for us to come together as a stronger whole. The group was able to recognize greatness in each other and build better communication through intentional conversations. The students were presented with openness and the giver tokens. The students were able to talk about the magic of the desert and look for goals to become better.
Rhythmic Fireant went on out on a Boomerang expedition at the start of this week for his own personal journey under the guidance and support of outBACK guides. When we got to our personal campsite, Rhythmic Fireant found a metal frame and we used the magic of the high desert to transform it into a “TV”. Throughout the week we watched sunsets, firelight, and nature documentaries through the metal frame of this primitive “television”. With each new cable we found on the ground we got another channel!
Rhythmic Fireant spent lots of time working on crafts, specifically his custom designed –sock hat; one he would have to show you himself! We also attempted to peak a nearby mountain, but as we made it closer to the top Rhythmic Fireant experienced the various internal struggles that can come when the stillness of the desert lets the distractions of life, we have grown accustomed to, fall to the wayside and all that we were avoiding floods into our thoughts. It was a lot for one day and so we turned around before summiting the peak to head back to camp. For a few days, we stayed around our camp playing games like Zoogle (which Rhythmic Fireant became an expert at), going for short walks, and making our own personal gym in the desert with natural materials around us. Throughout the week we spent time having intentional conversations where Rhythmic Fireant began to show growth through his struggles and the guides were also able to make him some stylish flip-flops to wear around the campsite.
One chilly morning, we woke up at 5:30am to peak that same mountain that got cut short last time. We made it to the top by sunrise and spent time taking pictures, writing, and exploring rock formations. We reclaimed the peak as a positive, full-circle experience, naming the mountain Fireant Mountain. After exploring, Rhythmic Fireant received the Letting Go token from staff to honor his growth throughout the week. We ate a late breakfast on the peak then made our way back to camp to nap, draw, and eat. The week ended on a high note, acknowledging the incredible progress made and looking forward to the continued growth that is yet to come.